No, no, I'm not talking about my timing for getting this post out. I'm talking about the play of rookies Shanshan Feng and Anna Rawson in the 1st round of the Bell Micro LPGA Classic. Rawson rode a bogey-free 32 on the back (her 1st 9) and Feng a birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie finish on the same side (also her opening 9) for a field-leading 31 to post rounds of -5. For that matter, my title also refers to the play of late bloomers this season in a tie for 3rd so far at -4: Angela Park (who barely averaged 205 yards off the tee but only needed 24 putts) and Nicole Castrale (who matched Feng's 31 on the back and got it to -6 before bogeying 2 of her last 5 holes). Both have been making charges during the second half of this season (the former 4 top 6s in her last 7 events and the latter 5 top 12s since the Sybase in May) as impressive as Jeong Jang's at the end of 2007.
Speaking of Jang, she made a charge of her own--4 birdies over her last 6 holes of the day on the front--to post a 69 and join Ya Ni Tseng, Cristie Kerr, Song-Hee Kim, and Junior Mints Katie Futcher and Danielle Downey (Auburn grad by way of Rochester, NY) in a tie for 7th. While all of them left shots out on the course--Kerr a double bogey on the par-5 16th hole, Downey a double on her 1st hole (the 10th) and a bogey on her last (the 9th), and Futcher a double on the par-3 17th, to name a few--they're all in far far better shape than quasi-defending champion Paula Creamer (78), 56-year-old Jan Stephenson (78), Junior Mint Jee Young Lee (77), NYer Moira Dunn (75), Hall of Famer Se Ri Pak (74), recent winners (on the LET and Futures Tour, respectively) Minea Blomqvist and Sarah-Jane Kenyon (73), and favorites Seon Hwa Lee, Suzann Pettersen, and Stacy Prammanasudh (73).
When you check out the LPGA's notes and interviews page and the unbylined AP story, you can get a sense of just how tough the afternoon scoring conditions were from player comments here and there, what with the wind coming up from the late morning on. Still, plenty of players handled the weather just fine and remain within striking distance of the lead, including Jane Park, Stacy Lewis, Sun Young Yoo, and Angela Stanford (-2), Christina Kim, Katherine Hull, and Hee Young Park, and Lorie Kane (-1), and Teresa Lu, Brittany Lang, Laura Diaz, and Karen Stupples (E). With 37 players going under par but only 12 breaking 70 and nearly 50 failing to break 75, it's very unlikely the winner will shoot 4 sub-70 rounds as Paula Creamer did last season here in the Tournament of Champions. So 1 round of 67 or better this week should be good enough to get you in the hunt if your other 3 are pretty decent.
But with an unpredictable major hurricane like Ike in the Gulf, who knows whether they'll get 3 more rounds in, much less complete them on Friday and Saturday? Best to play like each hole could be your last of the tournament. Perhaps with another gap in the LPGA schedule coming up next week, the tournament organizers will take my title to heart and finally agree to a Monday finish if the weather forces their hand....
[Update 1 (3:09 am): Not a bad job by Golf Central, except for their only-non-Asians policy when it comes to highlights and notables. Sure, it's news that Se Ri Pak shot a 74, but to leave Ya Ni Tseng and Jeong Jang, much less co-leader Shanshan Feng, off their highlights, is positively criminal in light of the media's criticism of the LPGA's language policy in previous weeks.]
[Update 2 (10:33 am): Here's Hound Dog's 1st-round recap.]