Friday, September 26, 2008

Navistar Classic Friday: Oh, How Things Have Changed

Lorena Ochoa shot her 2nd straight 67 today at the Navistar LPGA Classic to become the 1st player to get to double digits under par. She "only" closed with a 32 on the front (2 shots worse than her opening 9 yesterday), but handled the closing 4 holes on the back much better this time around (-1 vs. +1). Early in the year, this kind of performance would have intimidated her competition and gotten them out of their comfort zones. But as I write veterans like Michele Redman (who's made 2 eagles as she's gone -7 over her 1st 11 holes today), Janice Moodie, and Jill McGill are threatening to pass her, not to mention Super Soph Ji Young Oh, who's gunning to become the 1st in her class to win twice on tour. Only 3 shots back are Cristie Kerr and Ya Ni Tseng, each of whom has gone 1 shot lower than Ochoa's best in 1 of their opening rounds. And threatening to pass them are Christina Kim and Song-Hee Kim. Even though Jane Park and Jeong Jang are struggling today, they still have a bunch of birdie holes ahead of them on the front before their days are done. So that's 10 players who could well be within 3 shots of Ochoa heading into moving day. Any wonder that the world #1 hasn't won since May?

[Update 1 (4:58 pm): And it's not just her LPGA peers catching up to Ochoa. Ji-Yai Shin just won her second major on the KLPGA this season, bringing her majors total on the year to 3 and her win total to 7. That's tops in the world this calendar year.]

[Update 2 (5:46 pm): Song-Hee Kim closed with her 2nd straight 68; Moodie's -10 with 2 birdie holes to go on the front; Redman is hanging tough on the tough closing holes, just needing a par on 18 for a bogey-free 65 that would put her 1 back of Ochoa; McGill's 1 back with a few birdie holes to go before she hits 15 through 18; Christina Kim's -6 on her round and 2 shots back of Ochoa with 17 and 18 (both of which she bogeyed yesterday) to go; Ji Young Oh bogeyed 15 for the 2nd straight day to erase her birdie on 14 and fall 2 back again; and Shanshan Feng has birdied 14 and 16 to get within 3 of the lead.]

[Update 3 (5:57 pm): While Jane Park and Jeong Jang continue to struggle, they each have 2 birdie holes to go, so could still salvage their rounds. Meanwhile, In-Kyung Kim fired a 67 today to move to -5 for the tournament, the same as Na On Min and Michelle Ellis, but 1 behind them (and Teresa Lu, Mikaela Parmlid, and Louise Friberg, who join them at -6) for the tournament. Speaking of nice moves, Morgan Pressel's 67 brought her to +1, which could end up right on the cut line, as she's T67 with fellow Junior Mints Seon Hwa Lee and Brittany Lang, who also broke 70 to give themselves a chance to keep playing on the weekend. But it's curtains for their classmate Kyeong Bae, Danielle Downey, Minea Blomqvist, H.J. Choi, Sun Young Yoo, and Meaghan Francella, as well as Nicole Castrale, Stacy Lewis, Se Ri Pak, Lindsey Wright, Laura Diaz, and Sophie Gustafson. Moira Dunn's going to need a serious miracle not to join them....]

[Update 4 (6:02 pm): OK, Moodie's 67 keeps her 1 shot ahead of Ochoa, while Redman's 65 moves her to -9. McGill's still there with 5 holes to go and Christina Kim and Ji Young Oh are playing the final holes 1 more behind.]

[Update 5 (6:26 pm): Christina Kim's 66 puts her 3 off the lead. She's one of 8 golfers to go lower than Ochoa so far this week--for 1 round. Of course, two of them--Jang and Jane Park--really blew up today. But one difference between the Ochoa of this spring and the Ochoa since then is that she hasn't been able to continue going low all 4 rounds. So far, only 4 players in the field have even broken 70 twice, with only 2 more having a realistic chance to do so still playing. Ochoa's going to have to really bend probabilities to stay under 70 all 4 rounds--and if she goes into neutral or reverse, there are plenty of players ready to zoom past her.]

[Update 6 (7:26 pm): Jill McGill did it--broke 70 and matched Ochoa over the 1st 2 rounds. Ji Young Oh ended up matching Kerr and Tseng, now 4 off the lead. And Shanshan Feng dropped back to -6, becoming the 14th player to pull within 5 shots of the leader Janice Moodie. And it looks like the folks at +1 will end up T69, leaving 81 (or so) players on the right side of the cut line.]

[Update 7 (8:54 pm): has all your overview and interview needs covered.]

[Update 8 (9/27/08, 7:24 pm): Even travelling, Hound Dog can run circles around the AP.]

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