Saturday, May 17, 2008

Sybase Classic Saturday: The Wall

The decision to erase Friday's scores at the Sybase Classic will be remembered fondly by some and not so much by others. Rachel Hetherington, for instance, will be in the latter group. Her 77 today has dropped her from T1 when play was suspended (and when her scores were washed away) to T33 right now. Song-Hee Kim is another: 2 late birdies are all that kept her from matching Hetherington's disastrous moving day, but she still fell from the top of the leaderboard to the middle of the pack, T17 so far at -2. H.J. Choi, on the other hand, will be in the former group. She was well on her way to missing the cut--badly--when she was given another chance yesterday afternoon. And thanks to 3 birdies on the front and an eagle on the back, she took full advantage this morning. Her 68 brings her to -6 for the tournament, T3 so far. Catriona Matthew will be somewhere between the two groups. For most of the day, she was doing 4 shots worse than her -2 start to Friday's round that had brought her into a tie for first, but a late eagle on the 5th hole brought her back to -4 (T7 for now). Still, the mightabeens have to be buzzing around her head.

But enough second-guessing the tournament organizers. Today's theme is the way many of the people playing the best golf in the field--like Hetherington and Kim--have nonetheless hit a wall and squandered their momentum. Na Yeon Choi was -5 through her first 10 holes, but finished weakly on the front, bogeying 2 of her last 4 holes to offset a late birdie. At -6, she's tied with her namesake, but could easily have been close to double digits under par. Her playing partner, Ai Miyazato was at -5 for the tournament with a handful of holes left to play, but double bogeyed the 6th to fall off the lead pack's pace (she's T10 right now). Teresa Lu, who's alone in 2nd right now at -7, failed to follow up on her front-9 33 and had to settle for a 69. It even happens to living legends. Annika Sorenstam was cruising along on the back at -6 until she double bogeyed the 18th--she has 6 holes left to try to make up ground on the few players who haven't (yet?) hit the wall.

Leading that elite group is world #1 Lorena Ochoa, who's -5 on her round with 4 holes left to play on the front and has opened up a 2-shot lead on Lu. Just as impressive has been Japanese rookie Momoko Ueda, one of a few players in the field who's enjoying a bogey-free round today: she's -5 on her round with 3 holes left to play on the front. Fellow bogey-less sharpshooter Brittany Lang has also been birdie-less since the 5th hole but is still -6 for the tournament with 3 holes left to play on the back.

Some players have been bouncing off and demolishing walls all day, though. Take Christina Kim's round--please! She started on the back with an early triple but offset it with her 2nd, 3rd, and 4th birdies of the side to fight her way back to -4 on the tournament. Then she bogeyed 2 of her first 3 holes on the front and offset them with an eagle on the 5th to get back to -4. But she just bogeyed the 6th to fall back to even par on her round.

That's golf! More soon.

[Update 1 (4:42 pm): Make Pat Hurst's round another brick in the wall: she was -5 on the tournament with 7 holes left to play after a roller-coaster 3-birdie, 2-bogey start, but the thrills and spills had just begun for her. She tripled the 12th and bogeyed the 13th and could only manage a 14th-hole birdie the rest of the way to keep pace with Song-Hee Kim at -2. Na On Min shot a 34 on the back to get to -4, but followed it up with a birdie-free 39 on the front to fall back to the middle of the pack at -1 on the tournament (T25 so far). And Sophie Gustafson has 2 holes left to offset the only blemish on her round--a 13th-hole bogey that erased part of her 11th-hole eagle--and get back to -6 for the tournament.]

[Update 2 (4:49 pm): Kyeong Bae is another player who hit the wall this morning, after getting to -4 on her round--and the tournament--in her first 6 holes. But despite only managing 2 bogeys the rest of the way, she can't be too disappointed. She is another one of the players who would have missed the cut badly if yesterday's round had not been aborted. As opposed to Kim and Hurst, she'll be relatively satisfied being in the middle of the pack. In the afternoon groups, Jee Young Lee also has hit a wall: 2 straight bogeys on the front after shooting a 33 on the back have brought her back to -1 on the day and E for the tournament with 3 holes left to play.]

[Update 3 (4:54 pm): Lang's 30-hole bogey-free streak just snapped on the 16th; she's fallen back into a tie with Sorenstam, who just birdied the par-5 5th. Both players are T5 at the moment with Gustafson. Ueda's 23-hole bogey-free streak also snapped on her 16th hole--she bogeyed the par-5 7th for the second time in a row. That leaves Ochoa as one of the few players to avoid the wall thus far--but she still has 3 holes left to play!]

[Update 4 (5:15 pm): While we wait for the leaders to finish out their rounds, it's also worth noting those near a different kind of wall-the cut line. Karrie Webb is making a late run to get on the right side of it; with birdies on the 5th and 6th to get back to -1 on her round and +3 for the tournament, 1 more in her last 2 holes would clinch it for her. Carin Koch, Candie Kung, and Hee Young Park have not shown as much fight as the Hall of Famer and will miss the cut for sure. Joining them will be Anna Rawson, who seems to be trying to make her countrywoman Hetherington feel better. We can only hope that Shi Hyun Ahn isn't headed in that direction after her 41 on the back to start her moving day. It's too late for In-Kyung Kim, thanks to a quad and a double on her closing side, but not for Natalie Gulbis and Jane Park, who ae just on the right side of the cut line with a few holes left to play. If enough of those a +2 fall back a shot or more, though, the cut will rise to +3, which would give new life to 10 or more players.]

[Update 5 (5:32 pm): Looking back to the stories I was interested in back when I thought Friday's round would be played in its entirety, it struck me that Meaghan Francella is another victim of the decision to wash away yesterday's scores. She had been having one of her best tournaments since picking up a parasite when defending her title in Mexico and in pre-tournament interviews had been talking about how good it feels to be healthy again, but with her luck she'll probably catch pneumonia during today's 75 that dropped her below the cut line. Be that as it may, it'll be Bae at -2 and Morgan Pressel and Ai-chan at -3 chasing Lang at -5, Choi at -6, and Lu at -7 for the best Junior Mint of the week title tomorrow (although Katie Futcher might play a role in that race, as she7s already -2 with 7 holes left to play). Na Yeon Choi, as usual, leads the rookie race, but right behind her are Momoko Ueda and Taylor Leon at -3 (and Carolina Llano has a chance to pass them with 5 holes left in her round, as does Eunjung Yi)--but don't count out Ya Ni Tseng at -1. The Super Sophs are surprisingly un-super this week--despite her bad start today, Song-Hee Kim still is only 1 behind Kristy McPherson, who has 3 holes left to play, and nobody else is under par.]

[Update 6 (5:34 pm): Wow! Gustafson eagled the 18th (her 2nd on the back) to get into T2 at -7. Take that, wall!]

[Update 7 (6:01 pm): Here's why the wall matters: you can usually count on Ochoa or Sorenstam or both to avoid it. This time, Annika ran smack dab into it--her bogey on her final hole, the 9th, drops her 5 back of Ochoa, T7 unless McPherson can birdie the 9th. But Ochoa's only bogeys in the tournament have come on the 12th hole--and she's offset them with 11 birdies. Even with her 2 eagles more than making up for her 2 bogeys, Gustafson is still 2 back! The same goes for Lu, who's offset her 2 eagles with 4 bogeys. To catch and pass Ochoa, they'll likely have to play even better than they have been already....]

[Update 8 (6:10 pm): Nice moral victory for Karrie Webb, who did end up making the cut with a 70 today. And if 3 more players mess up their last few holes, Julieta Granada and In-Kyung Kim will have new life.]

[Update 9 (6:13 pm): Junior Mint Futcher is one of those players, thanks to a double bogey-bogey stumble early on the back; by contrast, McPherson ended the day as the top Super Soph after a 69 brought her to -4 on the tournament.]

[Update 10 (5/18/08, 4:38 am): Shi Hyun Ahn battled back to make the cut on the dot--at +2. Futcher righted the ship to also make the cut. Good for them, bad for those at +3....]

[Update 11 (4:49 am): Hound Dog congratulates me at the end of his second-round recap for getting lots of good details, but how did I miss the one that 3 people who shot 69s Thursday missed the cut yesterday? Sorry, Leta and Cindy, I should have included you with Anna!]

[Update 12 (5:14 am): Have to congratulate Tom Canavan of the AP for the best use of passive voice to sidestep controversy over the missing Friday round: "After Friday’s round was washed out by steady rain, Ochoa showed she was more than ready for the challenge at the traditional Upper Montclair Country Club." As he points out, it's really Lorena who's changed the subject. My efforts at Waggle Room and Seoul Sisters have been met with resignation, for the most part, and the always level-headed Mulligan Stu only thinks it's "somewhat controversial" and tells a great Nicklaus-Palmer wash-out story. So I'll let this go.]

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