Saturday, July 5, 2008

NW Arkansas Championship Saturday: Join the Birdie Train, the Birdie Train

I don't know why I have "Love Train" going through my head while looking at the leaderboard of the NW Arkansas Championship as the "morning groups" finish their rounds. The song was a hit before most of the players at the top of the leaderboard were born, after all, but somehow the opening

People all over the world, join hands
Start a love train, love train
People all over the world, join hands
Join a love train, love train

rings true for me.

Angela Park certainly knows about birdie trains. She scattered 4 birdies over her first 7 holes, but then made her second pair in a row to start off the back and finished with 4 in a row. When she was done, she had birdied 7 of 9 holes on that side to match Jeong Jang's 30 from the previous (part of the) day and surpass Seon Hwa Lee's and Kristy McPherson's first-round 64s by 2 shots. Her 62 brought her to -11 on the tournament (not -13, as people relying on yesterday's post for their LPGA news might have screwed up, again, by giving her an eagle when she had actually made par), but not to 1st place.

That belonged to Meena Lee, who birdied 3 holes in the row on the front as part of a closing stretch for her in which she made 5 birdies in 8 holes to shoot a 65 and get to -12.

Cristie Kerr's 3 consecutive birdies came on the back side, helping bring her total to 7 in all for a bogey-free 65 that brought her to -7 for the tournament (T9 for now, with Helen Alfredsson, who could only manage a 72 today).

A pair of rookies were next to board the birdie train. Louise Friberg made back-to-back birdies twice on her way to a 66 that brought her to -8 for the tournament (T6 for now), while Eunjung Yi matched her to make the cut and move at -4 (T21 for now).

One veteran scoffed at mere pairs of paired birdies, though. Michelle Ellis made a hat trick on the back on the way to her 67 that vaulted her to -6 (T12). Jill McGill simply shot a bogey-free 67 of her own to get to -5 (T18).

Right now, however, there are only 3 players who got to double digits under par for the tournament. Kristy McPherson birdied the par-5 18th for a 69 to tie Angela Park for 2nd for now at -11. Jeong Jang extended her run of bogeyless holes to 32, but could only manage 3 birdies today, so joined Jee Young Lee at -9 (T4), who made 7 birdies (including 3 in a row at the turn) but could barely match her 69.

Depending on how the "afternoon" groups finish their rounds early tomorrow morning, the cut line could come as low as -1, which means that Mi Hyun Kim will definitely fall victim to it and that a host of big names definitely could.

More later, but while I'm gone, you should definitely check out Hound Dog's second-round highlights, which close with a runway clip of Natalie Gulbis and Anna Rawson.

[Update 1 (7:37 pm): Speaking of must-see .com TV, just came across the following on to feature live streaming of Sunday's final round.
Following CBS' live broadcast of the P&G Beauty NW Arkansas Championship Presented by John Q. Hammons on Sunday, will continue to cover the live action in Rogers, Ark., with a video stream. Once the 1-3 p.m. ET live window on CBS is finished, will pick up the action at 3:01 p.m. and will go to the conclusion of the event.

While it speaks badly of CBS that they won't cover this shootout till the last birdie is fired, I don't care, as I don't have any tv feed, but I do have an internet one!]

[Update 2 (7/6/08, 7:20 am): Ah, I knew if I waited, Hound Dog would give the 2nd-round recap and keep me from jinxing Ai-chan, Seon Hwa, and Eun-Hee before they finish their last 2 holes today!]

[Update 3 (8:54 am): Great interviews up at And great finishes by Na Yeon Choi and Inbee Park to post 65s and get to -8 and -9, rspectively. Ai-chan parred out for a 68 to join Park at -9, Seon Hwa parred out for her 69 to pull even with McPherson and Angela Park, and Eun-Hee parred out for her 65 to match Meena Lee. Moira Dunn has 5 holes to go and is fighting to stay under par and (hopefully) make the cut--as Hound Dog pointed out, it could get as low as -2!]

[Update 4 (10:08 am): Moira did it! Her bogey-free 69 brought her to -2, tied with Momoko Ueda and a bunch of others at T56. Meanwhile, H.J. Choi has a chance to become the only golfer to be at -10 after 2 rounds...]

[Update 5 (10:35 am): Some very interesting numbers thus far this week. 76 players made the cut at -1, so everyone playing today had at least 1 under-par round; in fact, only 23 players (I think) have failed to break 70 once, while 14 broke 70 twice. Whereas 9 shot 65 or below one day, only 4 were able to break 70 the other day. If Eun-Hee Ji, Meena Lee, Kristy McPherson, and Seon Hwa Lee can keep up that pace, one of them will be the winner. If not, there are 16 players within 5 shots of Ji and Lee, 9 of whom who haven't (yet) broken 66. If the leaders don't break the -15 barrier, the winner will most likely be 1 of those 9: Jeong Jang, Jee Young Lee, Ai Miyazato, H.J. Choi, Louise Friberg, Karen Stupples, Na Ri Kim, Heather Young, or Il Mi Chung. If it's not Seon Hwa or Eun-Hee, I'm rooting for Ai-chan (but I'd be happy for Jee Young or Jeong)!]

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