Some fascinating pairings for moving day at the U.S. Women's Open. Of the 32 players who went under par Thursday, only 11 were able to repeat the feat Friday. Who among them will continue their under-par streaks?
Katherine Hull will have the 1st shot at this feat. She's been playing the par 3s badly (+4), but making up for it with fine play on the par 4s (-3) and solid play on the par 5s (-3). She's playing with In-Kyung Kim and Nicole Castrale in the 10:49 pairing, 2 players who have been making a bit of a comeback this week after fairly disappointing seasons to date. Hull bogeyed the par-5 2nd hole to drop to -1 for the tournament.
Mi Hyun Kim will have the next chance, going off at 11:00 am with Song-Hee Kim and Louise Friberg. She's been playing her usual precision game, making 3 birdies and only 1 bogey in 36 holes. If she gets her putter going, watch out! She birdied the 1st hole to get to -3.
Playing together with the next chance to stay under par each round will be 2 of Japan's best golfers, LPGA Junior Mint Ai Miyazato and rookie Momoko Ueda, in the 11:11 am pairing with first-round leader Ji Young Oh. Miyazato is not driving the ball particularly well, but is -3 on the par 4s and -2 on the par 5s, while +2 on the par 3s. Ueda, by contrast, is hitting her tee shots very well and playing the par 5s well (-4), while the par 3s (E) and pars 4s (+1) aren't hurting her. Both have been among the best putters in the field thus far.
Teresa Lu in the 11:22 am pairing with youngsters Stacy Lewis and Maria Jose Uribe has the next chance to keep her under-par streak going. Lu has been playing the par 3s very well (-2) and is holding steady on the par 5s (-2) and par 4s (E). If she starts driving better, watch out for her!
Cristie Kerr and Candie Kung in the 11:33 am pairing with Ji-Yai Shin are next off. Kerr has been taking advantage of the par 5s (-5), but has struggled on par 3s (+2) and held steady on the par 4s (-1). Kung's been striking the ball very well this week, playing the par 4s strongly (-3) while holding steady on the par 5s (-1) and par 3s (E).
Paula Creamer and Helen Alfredsson in the 11:44 am pairing with Jeong Jang have the next chance to remain under par each round. Creamer's been playing solidly all around, -3 in the par 5s, -1 in the par 4s, and E in the par 3s, while Alfredsson's been rocking the par 5s (-6) and playing the par 3s well (-1), but struggling in the par 4s (+2).
Inbee Park and Minea Blomqvist will have the last chance to keep the good times rolling, playing in the final group off the 1st tee with leader Angela Park. Inbee Park has been playing the par 3s great (-3), while hanging in on the par 5s (-2) and par 4s (E), while Blomqvist has played the par 5s well (-4) and hung on in the par 4s (-1) and par 3s (E), despite spraying her drives a bit compared to the other leaders.
If the trends continue, fewer than a handful of these players will be under par today. Odds are it'll be others taking advantage of Interlachen on moving day. It'll be interesting to see how many players can get under par for 2 of their first 3 rounds.
[Update 1 (6:59 pm): Then there were 4! Paula Creamer (69, -8), Helen Alfredsson (71, -7), Inbee Park (71, -7), and Mi Hyun Kim (70, -5) were the only ones among the 11 who had a chance to actually keep the under-par-each-round streak going. But they're not alone at the top of the leaderboard because a couple of young guns played their hearts out. Stacy Lewis shot a bogey-free 67 to jump all the way to -9, while In-Kyung Kim's 7-birdie 69 vaulted her to -6. Wow!]
[Update 2 (7:04 pm): By my count, there are only 8 players who have stayed at par or better in each of their 1st 3 rounds, and only 18 who have gone under par in 2 rounds thus far.]
[Update 3 (7:16 pm): Let's survey some classic Open moving day carnage. Nightmare Finish of the Day goes to Ji-Yai Shin, who was -2 for the tournament with 5 holes to play. She finished bogey-bogey-bogey-double-bogey for a 42 on the back, a 79 for the day, and +3 for the tournament (T36). Rachel Hetherington's damage came in the middle of her round, when she went bogey-par-bogey-bogey-double between the 8th and 12th holes (she also shot a 42 on the back, but her 78 dropped her to +5 overall [T50]). So did Louise Friberg's: she followed up her triple on the 316-yard 7th with a bogey on the 9th for a 41 on the front; her 79 sent her all the way back to +3 (T36). Candie Kung's troubles came at the start, when she got on a bogey train that started on the 3rd and ended on the 7th (she bogeyed the 9th for a 41, and didn't do much better on the back; her 79 dropped her all the way to +2 [T31]). Most disappointing 71 of the day goes to Sherri Steinhauer, who finished bogey-double after having a chance for the best round of the day; her finish dropped her from the top 20 to T31.]
[Update 4 (7:22 pm): But some people had good finishes: Maria Jose Uribe birdied the 18th to get back to -4 (T7); Momoko Ueda and Teresa Lu birdied it to hold steady at -3 (T9); Seon Hwa Lee and Na Yeon Choi birdied it to stay at and get to -1 (T16), respectively.]
[Update 5 (7:36 pm): The race for the win is narrowing down, with only 7 players within 5 shots of Lewis and only 10 within 5 shots of Creamer, while the top 6 have not yet gone over par. Most likely the winner will be the 1 or 2 of them who manage to extend their streak another day, unless someone goes nuts from back in the field.... They're going off in twosomes tomorrow, so the action should be fast and furious.]
[Update 6 (7:45 pm): Wow, a million great pairings, from Ji-Yai Shin and Karrie Webb at 9:10 am (repeating their playoff battle from the first tournament of the year in Australia), young gun major winners Morgan Pressel and Ya Ni Tseng at 10:10 am, Junior Mints Jee Young Lee and Ai Miyazato at 10:40 am, Super Sophs Song-Hee Kim and Ji Young Oh at 10:50 am, plus the last 9 pairings from 11:10 am to 12:30 pm, each of which have something remarkable about it.]
[Update 7 (6/29/08, 3:22 am): Brian Hewitt reports that the wind will be up today!]
[Update 8 (8:33 am): Hound Dog's 3rd-round recap is up, but don't expect highlights from him for awhile. Apparently, as penance for attending a tournament, he's hosting friends on Open weekend....]