Early in the day, Laura Diaz, In-Kyung Kim, and Paula Creamer showed everyone there were low scores to be had today. Diaz went from +1 to -5 in her first 10 holes, but a double bogey on the par-5 14th ended her run and she had to settle for a 68 (-3, T21). Kim went from E to -6 in her first 13 holes, but like Diaz doubled the 14th and ended up with a 67 (-5, T11). Thanks to an eagle and 3 early birdies, Creamer zoomed from -1 to -6 in her first 7 holes. But she bogeyed the 10th and 11th and couldn't muster a birdie from then on, finishing with a 69 (-4, T15). Although nobody else from the early groups really threatened to go super-low, several shot fine rounds, including 69s by Sandra Gal and Janice Moodie and 70s by Meena Lee and Kyeong Bae to join Diaz at -3.
Then it was the later groups' turn. Jang took control of the tournament in the first 5 holes with 2 birdies and an eagle on the par-5 5th to get to -11 and put pressure on the rest of the field. Hee-Won Han shot a 33 on the front to get to -6, 4 shots back after Jang bogeyed the 9th, but the best she could do was extend her 23-hole bogey-free streak to 41, as she couldn't find a birdie the rest of the way (T8). Song-Hee Kim was -6 by her 2nd hole, but couldn't get to -7 until the end of her round (T6), while Meredith Duncan was -7 at the turn, but could only get to -8 by the end of her round (5th).
So by the middle of the day it was clear only 3 players had a realistic shot at Jang. Sun Young Yoo was -7 at the turn thanks to a birdie and eagle on the 2 par 5s, but then rattled off 3 birdies in her first 6 holes on the back to get to -10 with 3 to play. Unfortunately for her, she couldn't gt any lower. It took a birdie on the 18th, her sixth of the day, for Mi Hyun Kim to pull even with Yoo in the double digits under par club. Around the exact same time a hole earlier, Lindley made Kim's and Yoo's 66s academic with a birdie of her own that brought her to -11--and Jang matched it with her own birdie on the 16th.
Whoops--LPGA.com just updated and Lindley won the playoff! Another heartbreaker for Jang! More after the Golf Channel coverage is over and the girls are asleep!
[Update 1 (5/26/08, 4:10 am): I nominate John Kekis to get the LPGA beat for AP. Every single one of his stories this week was top-notch and the Sunday one was no exception. Can he outdo Hound Dog? You be the judge! Oh, and while you're thinking, check out the notes and interviews from LPGA.com.
I want to apologize for getting the order of the closing birdies wrong: it was actually the reverse of what I gathered from the LPGA.com leaderboard and scorecards. Kim's fantastic approach on 18 for a tap-in birdie came after Lindley's which came after Jang's.... Another thing LPGA.com can't make clear from scorecards alone is how close Sun Young Yoo came to winning this: she just missed a hole in 1 on 15, had a ball do everything with the lip but drop on 17, and almost chipped in from an impossible position on 18. Any 1 of those things happen and she's also in the playoff; any 2 and she wins outright. Wow! She has come alive in the past month or so, hasn't she?
On to the main topic of discussion at Seoul Sisters: did Jang lose this one? I say no way (don't make me bust out the CAPS). She made pressure putts on every single closing hole I can remember, she made 2 sandies on 18 after less-than-perfect drives lead to difficult approaches, and she forced Lindley to beat her. Take nothing away from Lindley: this victory was not handed to her. She went out and shot a 32 on the much tougher back 9 under Sunday pressure. She made a perfect drive, perfect approach, and perfect putt in the playoff. She absolutely deserves the win. While I'm absolutely crushed on JJ's behalf, she has nothing to be ashamed of and I can't help but be happy for Lindley, who has 2 cute kids (although her son got all the tv time, I'm assuming her 22-month-old daughter is kawaii, too!), hadn't won in 294 previous starts, and is part-Vietnamese. Especially when she says stuff like this in response to a question of whether she expected her first win to take so long:
LETA LINDLEY: I wasn't that good when I started, to be honest. When I started I was 20th conditional my rookie year. And I got in 20 events and I actually played in the U.S. Open and I finished fifth. It was my very first U.S. Open. I never tried to qualify before. I won $30,000 and I was thrilled. I thought, wow I kept my card I can buy a car. I was just happy to keep my card. I didn't know if I could stay out here one year let alone 14 years.
And I was lucky when I came out, you know, I don't know that the Tour was as deep then as it is today. And I was able to learn about myself and my game while playing on tour. I don't think you can do that now. You have the Tour's the depth of talent is so great that you either have it or you don't, to be out here.
Q. Considering the depth of the talent on the Tour like you talked about, did the doubts start to come into your head if it would ever happen?
LETA LINDLEY: It was getting harder and harder. I feel like each year like this year we were trying to stay in the top 35 to qualify for the U.S. Open without having to go through the 36 hole qualifier. There just seemed like each year it's getting harder and harder and harder to stay in that top 35 or that top 40 than it was 5, 6, 7 years ago. And each year I would tee it up wondering, I wonder how things are going to go this year. I know I'm working hard, but I do have two children so it's little more challenging for me.
But there's new talent coming out each year, and it just gets tougher and tougher. So to win this year, my 14th season on tour, with the talent as great as it is really makes it so special.
So true. Congratulations, Leta!]
[Update 2 (5:26 am): I won this week's Pakpicker--what a shock! Would like to say I considered putting Lindley as an alternate, but no, not even close. Hmmm, Leta's 1st, my 1st. Maybe I should pick her every week from now on!]
[Update 3 (11:45 am): Hound Dog tips the scales in his favor with his epilogue. At least with me!]