Friday, June 6, 2008

LPGA Championship Friday: Ochoa Leads Morning Charge

Lorena Ochoa lead a morning charge in round two of the LPGA's second major, the LPGA Championship. Her bogey-free 65, the low score of the tournament thus far, certainly gives yesterday morning's leaders something to think about as they begin their rounds this afternoon. Can anyone join her at double digits under par?

Everyone else in Friday morning's pairings lost ground to Ochoa, but many of the ones who lost the least started the day wondering if they would make the cut. Lindsey Wright lead the chase pack with a 68 to get to -9 and stay within a stroke of Ochoa. Brittany Lang (67) and Rachel Hetherington (69) followed on her heels to -7. Momoko Ueda (67), Laura Diaz (68), and Gloria Park (69) were the next-best of this bunch, leapfrogging all the way to T8 thus far at -5. Young-A Yang (-2, T25), Candy Hannemann and Brittany Lincicome (-1, T39), and Ai Miyazato (+1, T79) all shot 68s, as well. Ai-chan's 5 birdies over her final 10 holes (most on the easier front) ended up being too little, too late to offset her +6 run over 4 holes on the back yesterday--she's unlikely to make the cut (as is Carin Koch, who shot a fine 69 to get to +1 as well).

A pair of players still on the course from the morning groups tell quite a tale of 2 Super Sophs: Ji Young Oh is -4 with 1 final birdie hole on the front left to play; at -7, she could put herself in contention once again this year. Song-Hee Kim, playing in the same pairing, is at +3 for the round and +1 for the tournament--she needs a birdie on the 9th to make sure she'll keep playing on the weekend.

[Update 1 (1:54 pm): I'd be remiss if I didn't highlight 69s by Jane Park (-3, T18), Morgan Pressel (-2, T25), and Mhairi McKay (E, T60). That brings the total to 15 players from the morning pairings who broke 70. Stacy Prammanasudh (70), meanwhile, joins Miyazato and Koch in hoping the cut line rises to +1.]

[Update 2 (2:03 pm): Jeong Jang (72) birdied 2 of her last 4 holes to get back to E on her round and the tournament. Song-Hee Kim couldn't get that birdie she needed on the much easier closing holes on the front and ended up at +1. Ji Young Oh couldn't keep her birdie train going to her 4th-consecutive hole, but at -7 I doubt she's complaining.]

[Update 3 (3:34 pm): Stupid, getting my hopes up! Ai-chan actually shot a 69--they missed her second bogey early in her round. On the bright side, Prammanasudh actually had a 69, so she'll make the cut. More on the afternoon rounds after imoto falls asleep!]

[Update 4 (7:31 pm): Ah, she never slept long enough for me to check in on the action. Oh, well! Looks like once again people lower down the leaderboard had some of the best rounds, while those at the top couldn't keep pace with Ochoa. Lorie Kane's bogey-free 32 on the front got her even with Ochoa for a time, but her birdie-free 38 on the back dropped her to -8, alone in 3rd place.

Michelle Ellis (67) made the biggest move of the afternoon, thanks to 4 birdies in 5 holes late on the back side; she's now T7 at -6 with none other than Annika Sorenstam (68), who made 5 birdies over her final 12 holes of bogey-free golf to keep Ochoa within sight (they are joined by Jin Joo Hong, who birdied 2 of her last 3 holes to close out her round as strongly on the back today as she did on the front yesterday).

Suzann Pettersen (68) lead an afternoon charge to join Ueda, Diaz, and Gloria Park at -5 (T11); joining her were Junior Mints Jee Young Lee (69) and Julieta Granada (69). And Jimin Kang and Irene Cho shot 68s to lead a large afternoon charge to -4 (T18).

Na Yeon Choi (67) not only stormed back to make the cut, but at -2 also took a 1-shot lead on Ya Ni Tseng (70), the closest classmate behind her in the rookie of the year race--and their classmate Carolina Llano matched her! They are now only 1 shot behind Jimin Jeong (68), 2 shots behind Sandra Gal (70), and 3 behind the head of their class over the first 2 rounds, Momoko Ueda.

Meanwhile, recent ROYs Angela Park (70) and Seon Hwa Lee (71) did just what it took to make the cut (as did Moira Dunn [72] and several others), but at E they're 10 shots back and at the back end of an 82-player field for the weekend.

A truckload of strong players joined Koch, Song-Hee Kim, and Miyazato in missing the cut by a shot or 2: Christina Kim (74), Meena Lee (74), Catriona Matthew (73), Natalie Gulbis (72), In-Kyung Kim (72). Ouch!

As for the other bigger names on tour, Se Ri Pak, Karrie Webb, Mi Hyun Kim, and Candie Kung are T31 at -2, Paula Creamer and Cristie Kerr are hanging out at -3 (T27), and Hee-Won Han and Maria Hjorth are T18 at -4--not out of it yet, but needing a fantastic round and a great round over the weekend to have a hope of catching Ochoa.]

[Update 5 (7:42 pm): Hound Dog usefully cuts to the chase with his 2nd-round recap.]

[Update 6 (7:57 pm): Your friendly neighborhood ADT watch of the players on the bubble for qualifying for the winner-takes-$1M end-of-season 32-player shootout (if Ochoa, Sorenstam, or Lee wins, everyone up to and including #12 is in; if not, it's the winner plus the top 11):

8 Karen Stupples 373466 (T31)
9 Inbee Park 361219 (T52)
10 Christina Kim 356421 (CUT) [in trouble]
11 Jee Young Lee 353766 (T11)
12 Sophie Gustafson 348466 (CUT)
13 Angela Stanford 334491 (T52)
14 Jane Park 333672 (T27)
15 Leta Lindley 332814 (T62)
16 Teresa Lu 330769 (CUT)
17 Brittany Lang 328595 (T4)
18 Sun Young Yoo 317568 (T62)

Right now, Lang and Park have the best chance to make a big move. See my Waggle Room post for more, and stay tuned!]

[Update 7 (8:00 pm): By my count, there were 30 sub-70 rounds today, up from 17 yesterday, so conditions were even better for scoring; as Hound Dog points out, the course was playing shorter but the greens remained very receptive. As the course continues to play shorter over the weekend, it'll be interesting to see who gets best in tune with the firmer and likely faster greens.]

[Update 8 (8:44 pm): Hound Dog's highlights are worth a peek!]

[Update 9 (9:55 pm): Doug Ferguson interrupts his laser-like focus on the top of the leaderboard only to talk about Morgan Pressel's lack of length compared to Ochoa. Wow, this guy is the master of the obvious!]

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