Friday, August 1, 2008

Women's British Open Friday: London's Burning

As you can see from's recap of the 2nd round of the Women's British Open, the world's best women golfers are burning up Sunningdale's Old Course. The biggest fires come at the top of the leaderboard and the bottom of the cut line. There are 16 players within 5 shots of co-leaders Yuri Fudoh and Ji-Yai Shin, who tied Jeong Jang's 36-hole WBO record of -10. Meanwhile, Se Ri Pak, Morgan Pressel, Inbee Park, Song-Hee Kim, Angela Stanford, Lindsey Wright, Amy Yang, and everyone else at +2 or worse will not be playing this weekend, along with Jang herself, who withdrew from the tournament.

Although there are many experienced players at the top of the leaderboard, they are once again facing another onslaught from the world's young guns. To be sure, the Old Guard--including Fudoh, Juli Inkster (who finished strong despite heavy afternoon wind gusts with 2 birdies in her final 5 holes for a 70 that brought her to -9), Cristie Kerr (whose awesome 65 brought her to -8), Natalie Gulbis (who got to -7 early and ended up there after once again losing momentum over the final 8 holes), Lorena Ochoa (who closed with a 33 to get to -7), Laura Diaz (who stayed at -6 despite eagling 3 holes), Sophie Gustafson (who made 6 birdies but could only manage a 69 that brought her to -6), and Candie Kung (who bogeyed the last hole to turn a 66 into a 67 and fall back to -5 for the tournament)--accounted very well for themselves. In fact, 4 of them (Fudoh, Gulbis, Ochoa, and Gustafson) have broken 70 twice, outgunning the Young Guns (of whom only Shin, Bo-Bae Song, and Ai Miyazato have matched the feat).

The best of the rest of the young guns have come close to going below 70 twice. Momoko Ueda bogeyed her last 3 holes to drop like Diaz did back to a 72 and a -6 total for the tournament. Eun-Hee Ji made her 3 straight bogeys earlier on the front, sandwiched between birdies on the 10th and 14th, to end up with a 70 (-6). Jane Park bogeyed 2 in a row on the front and ran out of holes on the back, where she closed with a great 33 to shoot a 70 (-5). And Ji Young Oh had a ghost of a chance to break 70 today after eagling the 10th, but finished +2 over her last 8 holes for a 73 (-5). They got caught by In-Kyung Kim (who fired a 33 on the back on the way to her 68), Seon Hwa Lee (who birdied 2 of her last 5 holes for her 68), and Ya Ni Tseng (who birdied her 1st 5 holes in a row on the back to come back for a 69). These players had better stay hot, as vets like Suzann Pettersen, Mi Hyun Kim, Hee-Won Han, Stacy Prammanasudh, and Karen Stupples and young guns like Na Yeon Choi and Hee Young Park are lurking at -4, while Paula Creamer and Karrie Webb are at -3.

With the Olympics fast approaching, the fires of sports nationalism are also burning. There are 6 American (counting Kung, who's a U.S. citizen), 6 Korean, 3 Japanese, 2 Taiwanese (counting Kung twice here, as well), 1 Mexican, and 1 Swedish player in the top 18. While the majority of them make their home on the LPGA these days, 4 are or have been affiliated with the JLPGA, 3 that I know of who are or have been affiliated with the KLPGA, and only 1 who has been affiliated with the LET. Most of the LET's current top players faded badly today. Sure, Paula Marti (-4), Anja Monke (-4), Marianne Skarpnord (-4), Trish Johnson (-2), and Gwladys Nocera (-2) are exceeding expectations, but Johanna Head (76, -2), Becky Brewerton (73, -1), and Rebecca Hudson (76, -1) fell off even the chase pack's pace today. Even Europe's battle-tested LPGA veterans are having trouble at Sunningdale this year. Maria Hjorth (-1), Catriona Matthew (-1), Annika Sorenstam (E), Becky Morgan (E), Janice Moodie (+1), Mhairi McKay (+1), Laura Davies (+1), and Helen Alfredsson (+1) barely made the cut. And promising young European players like Karine Icher, Louise Friberg, Louise Stahle, Linda Wessberg, Sandra Gal, Melissa Reid, and Kiran Matharu joined Yang in missing it.

So much for any notion of an anti-LET bias in the Rolex Rankings or that the JLPGA is overrated. While the badly-slumping and perhaps injured Miki Saiki missed the cut, as did Yukari Baba, who really underperformed at Sunningdale, Eun-A Lim (+1) barely made it, and the normally-steady Ji-Hee Lee stumbled to a 75 today (-1), Bo-Bae Song, who had no momentum entering the WBO, having missed the cut in her Evian Masters and Stanley Ladies tune-ups, has joined Fudoh, Miyazato, and Ueda at the top of the leaderboard. We'll have to see how the weekend play influences these international and cross-tour comparisons.

Me, I'm just overjoyed that Moira Dunn (-1) battled back to make the cut and that my 2 other favorite players, Ai-chan and the Stone Buddha, are in contention, along with others I really like from Momo-chan to Inky and Jane Park to Ya Ni Tseng. It's going to be a very interesting moving day tomorrow!

[Update 1 (7:21 pm): Robert Millward does a decent job for the AP, but I appreciated most his information that the reason for Jang's WD was her wrist injury.]

[Update 2 (8/2/08, 10:01 am): Much more worth your reading time are posts by Daniel Wexler, Average Golfer, Geoff Shackelford, and Golf Girl. And please devote a visit and a note of appreciation to Mulligan Stu, who's stepping away from Waggle Room.]

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