Friday, June 20, 2008

Wegmans LPGA Friday: Charge!!!

Scores are low this morning at the Wegmans LPGA, not only at the top of the leaderboard but among several who were near the projected cut line at the start of the day--or even far below it.

It's great to see Laura Davies shooting one of the best rounds of the day today after shooting one of the worst yesterday; she's made 5 birdies in her first 11 holes and by improving from a 43 on the back yesterday to a 33 today has moved herself all the way back to +3 for the tournament with 6 holes left to play in which to get to +1 (definitely in) or +2 (maybe in). Getting to play on the weekend would be a great tune-up for the U.S. Women's Open, a win in which would qualify her for the LPGA Hall of Fame.

Another player fighting to make the cut thanks to a morning charge is 2-time Futures Tour champion Vicky Hurst; she's got a bogey-free round going with 2 holes to go and her 3 birdies today have helped offset all but 2 of her bogeys from Thursday's round.

China's rookie sensation Shanshan Feng may finally be getting her LPGA legs under her; she's also got a 3-birdie, no-bogey round going and has moved all the way up to E (T40 thus far) with several birdie holes on the front coming up.

She'll have to take advantage of those opportunities to match Super Soph Irene Cho, who's coming off her surprise T6 at the LPGA Championship with the best complete round of the day thus far, a 68 67, and has leapfrogged all the way to T16 at -2 T11 at -3 for the tournament [updated 12:11 pm].

The fact that players like these can make such big moves (thanks in part to big moves in the wrong direction by others that I'll get to later) means that the top of the leaderboard is pretty bunched. There are many players who have done great things and made big mistakes. That'll be the subject of my 1st update.

[Update 1 (11:59 am): A quick look at the leaders before tuning into the noon webcast. Morgan Pressel and Christina Kim have -4 rounds going today that completely reflect their personalities. Pressel has not bogeyed a hole in the entire tournament and leads at -7, while Kim birdied 3 of her 1st 4 holes, bogeyed 2 of the next 3, eagled the par-5 17th and birdied the par-4 3rd to get to -5 for the tournament with 6 holes left to play.

Then there are a bunch of great players bouncing around between -2 and -4, among them Stacy Prammanasudh (-3 on her round and the tournament with 7 holes left to play on the front), Il Mi Chung (also -3 but with 6 birdies on the day and a good chance for another on the 17th), and Natalie Gulbis (who's got a 17-hole bogey-free streak dating back to her last 9 on Thursday going in which she's made 5 birdies--3 of them today). More after the webcast!]

[Update 2 (12:44 pm): Before getting back to the leaders, it's worth taking a look at former leaders moving in the wrong direction, not least because it highlights how hard this course can be and how difficult it is to stay near the top of the leaderboard.

The biggest surprise to me thus far is Super Soph Song-Hee Kim, who birdied the 10th hole to start the day with a bang (she had the lead for awhile at -5 for the tournament), but has since proceeded to make a double and 5 bogeys to get on the wrong side of the projected cut line at +2 (T74 thus far). She's been having one of the best seasons of anyone on tour, but she's in danger of missing her second cut in a row thanks to an inability to get off the bogey train on a Friday. She had a tough rookie season after dominating the Futures Tour the year before, but has experienced the opposite of the sophomore jinx thus far in 2008. Here's hoping she fights her way back.

Speaking of the Futures Tour, Vicky Hurst pressed on the 18th, doubling it to fall back to -1 on the day and +4 for the tournament (T101). Still, it's been a great learning experience for the teenager and a gutsy comeback. The same can't be said of pros with higher expectations and more experience who are in danger of getting beaten by her, among them Hall of Famer Juli Inkster, Solheim Cupper Brittany Lincicome, and European Junior Mint Linda Wessberg.

Laura Davies, meanwhile, is passing a lot of people--she's now -6 on the day and with 3 holes left to play is back to +1 on the tournament (T56). That's 1 shot better for the day than leader Morgan Pressel (-8), the only player from the morning groups who's currently on pace to match Irene Cho's tournament-best 67.

Back to those moving in the wrong direction, Na On Min had a terrible start to her day, falling from -3 to +1 in her 1st 5 holes, but she held it together for a 75 that keeps her at E (T40). Last season as a non-exempt rookie, she made over $300K in 19 events, thanks mostly to great finishes in the LPGA Championship and the British Open, the 2 majors she qualified for that year, but this season has been a struggle. It's good to see her breaking her MC streak and giving herself a chance to fight again on the weekend. Just to show how things can change from day to day, Shanshan Feng's 69 ties her with Min!

Another pair moving in opposite directions are Seon Hwa Lee and Hee-Won Han. Lee was below the projected cut line after her uncharacteristic 74 Thursday, but she's got a 3-birdie, no-bogey run going today with 3 holes left to play. At -1, she's tied with Han, who herself was at the top of the leaderboard at -5 just a few holes ago but has proceeded to go bogey-par-bogey-double midway through the front.]

[Update 3 (12:59 pm): Pressel has now pulled even with Davies at -6 on the day. They are on fire! More people from the morning are finishing their rounds. Heather Young's fine 68 helped her join the -2 club (T16 thus far). Il Mi Chung doubled the 18th like Hurst, but it'll hurt her a lot less, as she's still T10 at -3.

Meanwhile, Cristie Kerr birdied 2 of her 1st 3 holes on the back to fight back to -5 for the tournament (T2) after a rough patch on the par 3s on the front. And Eun-Hee Ji, a KLPGA star last season who had an even better record than Min as a rookie on the LPGA, has a bogey-free round going with a few holes left to play and has climbed to -4 (T4).]

[Update 4 (1:46 pm): It's official: Morgan Pressel (-10) has shot the low round of the tournament, a scorching 65 that brings her bogeyless streak to 36 holes of near-flawless golf. She eclipsed the 66 Laura Davies (+1) posted just a few minutes earlier. Meanwhile, Christina Kim matched Irene Cho's 67 to get to -6 (T2 for now with Cristie Kerr, who added a 3rd birdie to her back 9 with the 18th left to play). Catriona Matthew birdied her final 2 holes, the 8th and 9th, for a 69 that moved her into the -2 club (T15). Janice Moodie and Seon Hwa Lee were on track for bogey-free 68s until they both bogeyed the 18th to drop back to -1 for the tournament (T24).

So there are definitely low numbers to be had by those from the afternoon pairings looking to get in contention or just make the cut. Jeong Jang has already joined Kim and Kerr at -6 after making birdies on the 11th and 12th to start her round.]

[Update 5 (1:54 pm): Poor Jee Young Lee! She had fought back to E for the tournament through 35 holes when she tripled the 18th to fall way below the cut line (T85 with fellow Junior Mint Brittany Lang, both of whom I expected to do much better this week). Song-Hee Kim, meanwhile, got off the bogey train with a bang, making birdies on the 8th and 9th for the 2nd straight day to fight back to +1 (T55). 68-77 is ugly, but at least she'll have a chance to build on her late charge's momentum early tomorrow morning.]

[Update 6 (1:59 pm): 2007 Rookie of the Year Angela Park continues to struggle--her 74 dropped her to +4 (tied with Vicky Hurst), well shy of the cut line. She just hasn't been the same since that slow play penalty when she was in contention in Hawaii. She was sunk by a double-birdie-bogey finish on the front. Lindsey Wright and Karen Stupples, both of whom had been having great seasons, also missed the cut, along with Juli Inkster. That's a host of cautionary tales for Paula Creamer and Annika Sorenstam!]

[Update 7 (2:18 pm): Standing still doesn't do you any good, either. Jane Park's 74 dropped her back to E, tied at 38th with Mi Hyun Kim (71), Angela Stanford (72), and Sophie Gustafson (72), among others. Laura Diaz again squandered a good start; her 73 dropped her back to -1 (T27), joining Prammanasudh, who also finished weakly for her 71. With Pressel raising the stakes, all these players will need to take advantage of warmer weather on moving day tomorrow to have a chance to contend as expected of them!]

[Update 8 (2:25 pm): Another pair who moved in opposite directions this morning: Junior Mints Sun Young Yoo (69, -1, T27) and Teresa Lu (74, +1, T56). They've been neck-and-neck all season in the race to join the best of their class. BTW, fellow '06er Jee Young Lee's missed cut was only the 3rd of her career.]

[Update 9 (2:59 pm): Inbee Park is exceeding my expectations by far this week. She's off to a Pressel-esque start, with birdies on 4 of her 1st 8 holes on the back this afternoon to take possession of 2nd place at -8. I had pictured her in the streaky vein of players like Laura Davies, Sophie Gustafson, Christina Kim, and Jee Young Lee, but this Super Soph who struggled as Song-Hee Kim and Jane Park did in their rookie years is showing she can contend on all kinds of courses. There's still a lot of golf left to play, but color me impressed!

And how about that Rookie of the Year race leader, Ya Ni Tseng? A bogey-free 3-under-par 34 on the back has propelled her all the way to T10 already. Another player to watch besides the usual suspects in the afternoon groups.]

[Update 10 (3:25 pm): A few big names near the cut line who will have to dig deep as they enter their final 9 holes, potentially of the tournament inclue Annika Sorenstam (+1 today, +2 overall), Jimin Kang (-1 today, +2 overall), and Shi Hyun Ahn (-2 today, +2 overall). Fellow Junior Mints and NYers Danielle Downey (+3/+3) and Meaghan Francella (+3/+3) will also have to make moves in the right direction if they want to be playing on the weekend. Meanwhile, Suzann Pettersen is playing Christina Kim to Inbee Park's Morgan Pressel this afternoon. After birdieing her 1st 2 holes on the back, she bofeyed the 16th, eagled the 17th, bogeyed the 1st, and then birdied the next 2 holes; with 6 holes to go, she's at -6 and rising.]

[Update 11 (4:44 pm): I think I figured out why the leaderboard is surprising me so much, with bombers like Pettersen and Kim joining precision players like Pressel and Park at the top of the leaderboard. The wet, cooler conditions and soft greens favor those who a) can bomb it out there with a decent amount of accuracy and have a short iron they can fire at the pin with, knowing the greens will hold, and b) the precision players who are at the top of their ballstriking and short game. With the rough as tough as it is, and the trees as close to the fairways as they are, it's hard for both kinds of players to excel, as witness the indifferent or inconsistent play of bombers like Ochoa, Gustafson, Davies, Maria Hjorth, Michelle Wie, and Jee Young Lee and the struggles of Sorenstam to make the cut and Creamer, Mi Hyun Kim, and Seon Hwa Lee to get anything going.

That said, let's add another precision player to the list of those who brought their 'A' games this week: Meena Lee, whom it seems I've been waiting 2 seasons for to get it back. With 3 birdies on the front and 3 straight birdies on the middle holes on the back, she's -6 today and -4 for the tournament. But Pettersen, with her birdie on the par-5 8th, just joined Inbee Park at -8, so distance has its privileges when the rest of your game is on. Ochoa just birdied the same hole to get to -3 on her round and for the tournament, good enough for T12 thus far, so don't count her out, either.]

[Update 12 (5:21 pm): Wow! Pettersen kept pace with Pressel: 65, -9, 1 shot back. Now that's a classic match-up between different styles and generations on the LPGA.... Inbee Park's gotten to -5/-9 with the 9th left to play, too....]

[Update 13 (5:28 pm): And how about that Meena Lee shooting a 65, too? Amazing! Plus the cut line's inching toward +2--but will it get there? Gotta run to a picnic. More later.]

[Update 14 (8:12 pm): Purposely didn't want to mention Ai Miyazato until she was done for fear of jinxing her--and good thing I did, because she shot her second straight 68. At -8, she's only 2 shots behind fellow Junior Mint Pressel, 1 back of Pettersen, and tied with Inbee Park. Not half bad! Same goes for Annika Sorenstam coolly birdieing the par-5 8th to get back to +1 for the tournament. Nice 69s by Paula Creamer, Ya Ni Tseng, and Candie Kung to build some momentum for moving day. And a sweet 68 by Giulia Sergas to make the cut and more. I'm thinking conditions will be perfect on the weekend for people to go even lower than they have so far. But adjusting to changing course conditions will be the order of the day tomorrow and Sunday. Tseng won her 1st major because she adjusted better than anyone at the LPGA Championship, particularly with her putter. Don't count out anyone who made the cut just yet.]

[Update 15 (10:18 pm): I somehow missed Shi Hyun Ahn's 66 earlier--yet another huge turnabout from Thursday, when she shot a 76--it's not quite Laura Davies's 13-shot improvement, but it sure beats the 10- and 11-shot improvements of Alena Sharp and Kris Tschetter, respectively, that still left them stranded on the wrong side of the cut line (+2 and +3, respectively). Moira Dunn, by the way, was the picture of steadiness with her 2nd straight 71; at -2 she's tied for 17th with the likes of Lorena Ochoa, Michelle Wie, and Ahn, among others.]

[Update 16 (10:42 pm): Check out the extensive interviews at! And Hound Dog's recap and highlights. But Ben Dobbins is still struggling to find his voice for the AP. For better coverage, go to the Democrat and Chronicle tomorrow morning for the good stuff, but this overview isn't half bad for now.]

[Update 17 (11:22 pm): Golf Channel tried to compete with Hound Dog.]

No comments: