Saturday, September 13, 2008

Bell Micro Friday: Kerr Leads an American Charge

Cristie Kerr 66
Angela Stanford 67
Laura Diaz 68
Paula Creamer 69
Reilley Rankin 69
Heather Daly-Donofrio 69
Mollie Fankhauser 69
Allison Hanna-Williams 69

Not every sub-70 round yesterday at the Bell Micro LPGA Classic was by an American, but it sure seemed that way. To be sure, Aussies Katherine Hull and Sarah-Jane Kenyon continued their fine play of late with fine 69s. And Jin Joo Hong was the lone Korean player to join them. Not every American played well, of course, but these kinds of performances should soothe fears of an "Asian invasion" or "foreign takeover" of the LPGA just a little bit, at least for those who need such soothing.

These scores were even more impressive when you take the overall scoring trends into account and consider how many really excellent players struggled with the course and conditions. Creamer's Thursday 78 makes a lot more sense in light of Stacy Prammanasudh's Friday 80, Candie Kung's 79, Teresa Lu's 79, Meena Lee's 78, Jane Park's 78, Ya Ni Tseng's 76, and Stacy Lewis's 76 (only the last 3 made the cut). That's golf: even great players having good to great years "nod," as someone once said of Homer. (No, not Homer Simpson!)

So heading into the weekend Kerr has a 2-shot lead on Rawson, a 3-shot lead on Michelle Ellis, and a 4-shot lead on Rankin. Let's see how she handles the pressure of her own and others' expectations. And let's see how Shanshan Feng, Angela Park, and Song-Hee Kim, who all shot disappointing but not fatal 73s, bounce back on moving day. With only 32 players at par or better and only Kerr to go below 70 both rounds, the odds are against this being a walk in the park for the leader, but the size of the chase pack is at least likely to be fairly small come the back 9 Sunday. Back-to-back wins would be an amazing feat, especially separated by a 2-week break. But there's a lot of golf left to be played.

[Update 1 (2:32 am): Here's a great example of the national media submitting a blah game story and cmpletely missing the opportunity to introduce some drama into the leaderboard. You have Kerr going for her 2nd win in a row after a 2 week break, Stanford looking for redemption after dropping out of the top 10 earlier this season, and Ellis playing for her dad, who has terminal cancer, as well as for her card (she's #105 on the money list right now)--and that's just the top 3. Yet another top 5 for Hull is well within reach. Irene Cho is #74 on the money list, so this week means quite a lot to her future on tour. Fankhauser, Daly-Donofrio, and Hanna-Williams have that "out of the blue" quality to their rounds today, while Kenyon joins a resurgent Aussie contingent (who even knew Ellis is also Australian?). You basically have to go to the local media for any of these stories. Why is that?]

[Update 2 (9/13/08, 7:54 am): Stacy Lewis got hit with a 2-stroke penalty for slow play, according to the local media. Welcome to the LPGA! Ask Angela Park how to bounce back from those things.]

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