Ai Miyazato gave herself a great birthday gift this morning at the Wegmans LPGA: her -4 round has kept her the leader in the clubhouse thus far today, with a good chance of having the best score among all 72 golfers in the morning groups. Playing 4 days after her friend, rival, and LPGA rookie Momoko Ueda won on the JLPGA on her own birthday, Ai-chan fired the 1st sub-70 round at Locust Hill in her career, a bogey-free 68, thanks to consecutive birdies on the tough par-4 18th and 1st holes.
But former champion Jeong Jang has eagled the 12th and birdied the 17th to get to -4 and Super Soph Inbee Park has her own 4-birdie, no-bogey round going as she also heads into the 18th hole, so Ai-chan's lead may be short-lived. Young-A Yang, who birdied 3 of her last 4 holes after double bogeying the par-5 4th, and Kyeong Bae, who fired a 3-under-par 34 on the back, are the next closest competitors, with matching 69s.
It's looking like I won't be able to take onechan to Rochester in the next several days for her first live LPGA event, after all, which is really too bad, as my old college golf team buddy Dennis Williams is a co-anchor on the tournament webcasts. He and I finished next-to-last and last in an ECAC Championship held at Bethpage Black over 15 years ago. Speaking of blasts from the past, Moira Dunn is under par, despite making an early and late bogey. At -1, she's currently T12 with Michelle Wie (who shot 71 despite hitting only 4 fairways) and many others, including Rookie of the Year race leader and LPGA Championship winner Ya Ni Tseng, who's made a furious comeback to get there after a shaky 37 on the front.
Speaking of shaky starts, Paula Creamer's woes at Locust Hill continue: she shot a 74, matching local Danielle Downey. And Lorena Ochoa finished double bogey-birdie-par-bogey-birdie-birdie to end her roller coaster round at even par. That's more than Annika Sorenstam can say: she birdied the first 3 holes on the back to fight back to 2-under-par, but then bogeyed 3 of the next 4 and failed to birdie the par-5 17th. She needs a birdie on the 18th to match Ochoa's 72.
More later--off to a meeting!
[Update 1 (3:59 pm): Well, Jang and Park ended up tying Ai-chan at -4, Helen Alfredsson eagled the 17th for a bogey-free 69, Sorenstam ended up with a 73, Tseng bogeyed the 18th for a 72 (beating Annika head-to-head), and Suzann Pettersen fought her way to a 70 with birdies on the 16th and 17th. So far the afternoon scores are better, but I won't jinx anyone by mentioning them just yet. It is worth noting, however, that there are almost as many people right now at or on track to shoot 75 or worse today as 71 or better.]
[Update 2 (4:06 pm): Among those struggling are some very big names and very good players: Laura Davies (+7 through 15), Karen Stupples (+6 through 12), Shi Hyun Ahn (76), Vicky Hurst and Angela Park (+3 through 9 and 13 respectively), and Grace Park, Jimin Kang, Gloria Park, and Sarah Lee (all 75s). Meena Lee and Birdie Kim joined Creamer at 74, and Natalie Gulbis, Sun Young Yoo, and Linda Wessberg are on track to join them. And Juli Inkster, Mi Hyun Kim, Seon Hwa Lee, and Lindsey Wright are at +1 on their second 9s. Yikes!]
[Update 3 (4:19 pm): Pat Hurst made a good comeback to get back to E, making birdies on 3 of her last 8 holes to salvage her round. Maria Hjorth had her typical roller-coaster round: -2 after the 3rd hole, she didn't get back there until the 9th; then went double-bogey-par-par-bogey to start off the back and birdied the 17th to finish at +1. Yeesh! Sophie Gustafson is following suit, offsetting birdies with consecutive bogeys on both the front and the back. And they weren't alone--a lot of 3- or 4-birdie 72s out there today....]
[Update 4 (4:44 pm): Hee-Won Han had a 4-birdie, no-bogey round going all the way up until the 18th, but she bogeyed it for a 69. With Blogger having a schedule outage in a few minutes, I won't be able to update any of the other 6 players at -3 or -4 with a few holes to go in their rounds. Probably won't get back to this until tomorrow....]
[Update 5 (8:08 pm): Just enough time to link to Hound Dog's recap and Ben Dobbin's AP story (don't blame him for the title Golfweek gave it!).]
[Update 6 (11:21 pm): One quick correction to Dobbins's piece...he claims Ai-chan has 13 top 10s in 56 career LPGA starts, but it's 14 and 59 as a member and 17 and 67 when you include non-member stats. He got the 13 right by qualifying it with "in the last 2 years," but she actually has 67 "career starts."]
[Update 7 (11:26 pm): Here's the Golf Channel's recap. Their print story features a photo of Ai-chan while this video clip features Michelle Wie. Hope you have better luck loading it than I've had!]
[Update 8 (6/20/08, 10:41 am): The Democrat and Chronicle continues to shine: Sal Maiorana's overview is fantastic, as is his story on the Tour and tournament's 10-year commitment to Locust Hill (which hints at some juicy details in the negotiation process); Jim Mandelaro breaks down Ochoa's round (but passes along the mistake that she only has 8 top 10s this season--it's 9 in 10 starts, and her other was a T12!) and does the requisite Wie story; Nicole Russo adroitly covers Annika Sorenstam's induction into Oak Hill's Hill of Fame; and that's just the tip of the iceberg!]