Thursday dawned cold, blustery, and wet for the morning groups in the Corning Classic, but scores have been surprisingly low thus far. With intermittent showers, some heavy, and temperatures in the mid-40s, there's been some impressive golf from some unexpected quarters. Playing together in the first group off the back, rookies Liz Janangelo and Anna Rawson put on a show over their final 5 holes, going -3 and -4, respectively, to post the first under-par scores of the day. Janangelo's 71 won't put her high on the leaderboard at the end of the day, but Rawson's 69 has a chance to be among the day's 10 best. Yet an eagle on the 2nd helped get Sandra Gal to -2, ROY race leader Na Yeon Choi was -3, and Super Soph Na On Min was -4 as they all entered that very same birdie alley.
Now, the veterans haven't been standing by with their hands on their hips while the Young Guns go off. Sherri Turner followed up her excellent pre-tournament interview with 4 straight birdies on the front and heads into her final 4 holes at -3. Wendy Ward is right there with her, having matched Rawson's eagle on the 5th to start off -4 through the 12th before succumbing to a bogey on the 13th. And Dina Ammaccapane was -4 through her first 11 holes before a bogey dropped her a stroke back--but she's also entering birdie alley.
And yet the golfer everyone is chasing is none other than Erica Blasberg, who's rattled off 6 birdies in her first 13 holes without a single bogey.
This may affect strategy for those just starting in the afternoon groups. We'll see!
[Update 1 (12:41 pm): Watch out! After a rough 38 on her first 9, the back, Mi Hyun Kim has fought back to E and she hasn't even entered birdie alley yet! Others with chances to go low as they finish out the front include Katherine Hull, Becky Morgan, and Katie Futcher at -2 and Ji Young Oh, Irene Cho, Meaghan Francella, and Johanna Head at E. Meanwhile, Karine Icher is making like Blasberg--she has 5 birdies and a bogey in her 1st 13 holes. And the birdies have started coming for Min (-5), Choi (-4), and Ammaccapane (-4).]
[Update 2 (4:50 pm): Well, as soon as I tried (unsuccessfully) to get imoto down for a nap, it's seems as if birdie alley closed for business. Or maybe the conditions ended up being tougher for the afternoon groups. Blasberg ended up shooting a flawless 65, 2 shots better than Min and Icher and 3 shots better than Choi, Gal, and Turner. The only afternoon player to get as close as that latter 3some so far is Jimin Kang and she started on the front like Blasberg, Icher, and Turner. Paula Creamer also started on the front, and she just birdied 17 to join a large group at -2 thus far in their rounds--the only person who started on the back to match them so far is Eva Dahllof. With most of my picks struggling to get out of (or stay within) the +1 to -1 range, I have to assume that conditions took a turn for the worse in the afternoon--or that the greens are getting harder to putt the more moisture they take on. More after I pick up onechan from her friend's house!]
[Update 3 (5:18 pm): In the time it took to type that, imoto decided that our playroom floor reminded her of her day care nap mat and put herself to sleep, so my friends will be bringing onechan back. If only she could put together sentences longer than 2 words, she may have been able to help me figure out better what she wanted--as it was, I thought she was just being her usual revved up, rebellious self when it comes to going to bed! So I've used the extra time she's given me to check out my assumption that birdie alley is closed, and while it's true that few players have taken full advantage of it and some have even messed it up badly (I'm looking at you, Yoo!) or mildly (Inbee, you too?!), the real problem seems to be the amount of bogeys and worse the afternoon groups are taking outside it. The 1st is the biggest culprit here, although it seems like we're seeing more bogies throughout the first 4 holes from the afternoon groups and the 9th is playing tougher than in the morning. Still, there's no clear pattern that explains why it's likely there will be so many fewer sub-70 rounds in the afternoon than the morning. Again, I have to fall back on the assumption that some greens have taken on more water than others and are rolling at different speeds. Or perhaps there was some severe weather that rolled through and lead to a lot of bogeys.
With 5 birdies on the front after a birdie-free 39 on the back, non-exempt Junior Mint Virada Nirapathpongporn epitomizes why the afternoon scores aren't as low as the morning ones; she has a chance to outdo Laura Diaz's 6-shot improvement from the back to the front.]
[Update 4 (5:29 pm): Or perhaps the Mostly Harmless jinx is rearing its ugly head again? How else do you explain the results of my people whom I thought would have the advantage starting in the afternoon (I bolded them for emphasis)?
1. Creamer: 35-35 70 (-2, T17)
2. Choi Na Yeon: 34-34 68 (-4, T4)
3. Jang Jeong: 35-36 71 (-1, T29)
4. Lee Seon Hwa: 34-38 72 (E, T46)
5. Kim Mi Hyun: 33-38 71 (-1, T29)
6. Han Hee-Won: 34-38 72 (E, T46)
7. Kim Song-Hee: 34-37 71 (-1, T29)
8. Kim In-Kyung: 36-36 72 (E, T46)
9. Park Inbee: 37-37 74 (+2, T86)
10. Kim Young: 35-39 74 (+2, T86)
11. Kang Jimin: 34-34 68 (-4, T4)
12. Yoo Sun Young: 40-34 74 (+2, T86)
[Update 5 (5:34 pm): Ouch! Moira finished with a double on the 9th to match her earlier double on the 16th and erasethe effects of her 2 birdies on the front. Talk about not taking advantage of birdie alley! Her very rusty 76 puts her at T124, 1 shot ahead of Danielle Ammaccapane and 2 ahead of Cindy Rarick--and 2 behind Rosie Jones, who's come out of retirement just to play in the event one more time. Moira!]
[Update 6 (7:49 pm): For the must-read first-round recap, who ya gonna call? Hound Dog!]
[Update 7 (8:19 pm): Nice job for the AP by John Kekis! See what happens when you put a guy who's not phoning it in on the LPGA beat?]
[Update 8 (8:39 am): Gonna be the stereotypical English prof and remind the good people who update LPGA.com's notes and interviews page that "it's"="it is"!]
[Update 8 (5/23/08, 1:20 pm): Hound Dog's going all-out on highlights this week, as he'll be attending the Ginn Tribute next week--and liveblogging it!]