Friday, October 24, 2008

Grand China Air Friday: Laura Diaz Makes 10 Birdies, Takes 3-Shot Lead

Laura Diaz got off to a good start in the Grand China Air LPGA event on Hainan Island today, making 4 birdies and a bogey for an opening 33, but she had an even better finish. With only 3 pars on the back, she shot a bogey-free 30, capped off by back-to-back birdies, to get to -9. Suzann Pettersen, meanwhile, who predicted lots of low scores this week, also got off to a good start with birdies on 2 of her 1st 3 holes, but only sits at E with 1 hole left to play. But that's good enough for T24 right now, as scoring hasn't been quite as low as she expected. Sure, her playing partner Seon Hwa Lee has made 3 birdies and no bogeys each side thus far in her round, fellow Junior Mint H.J. Choi and Karen Stupples shot bogey-free 67s, and Ji Young Oh and Candie Kung posted 68s (the latter with a double bogey on the back and the former with 2 bogeys on the front), but so far only the Ladies Asian Tour's Tao-Li Yang has broken 70.

Sure, In-Kyung Kim and Christina Kim headline the 7 players who shot 70s thus far, while Jeong Jang and Juli Inkster are the biggest names among the 5 who have posted -1, but about half the field finished over par. More on them next!

[Update 1 (4:06 am): Well, first I should report that in the time it took to write my JLPGA story (Q-School bound Shiho Oyama shot a 65 to take a 5-shot lead into the weekend), Seon Hwa Lee failed to match Diaz's closing birdies, so sits 3 back at -6. And Shanshan Feng bogeyed the 18th to fail to break 70. So unless Shi Hyun Ahn can birdie the 18th, only 8 players broke 70 today.]

[Update 2 (4:10 am): So who struggled today? Only the likes of Hee-Won Han, Brittany Lang, Katherine Hull, and Jane Park at +1 (T33), Cristie Kerr, Se Ri Pak, Mi Hyun Kim, Eun-Hee Ji, Laura Davies, and Pat Hurst at +2 (T38), Morgan Pressel and Angela Park at +3 (T47), and Inbee Park and Sun Young Yoo at +5 (77).]

[Update 3 (4:14 am): That leaves Annika Sorenstam, Ya Ni Tseng, Suzann Pettersen, Song-Hee Kim, Hee Young Park, and Hong-Mei Yang, among others, holding the fort at E (T24). Na Yeon Choi joined the big group at -1 (T18), while Ahn joined the even larger group at -2 (T9). Not very impressive scoring. Time for a quick check to see where the big numbers were coming.]

[Update 4 (4:40 am): Wow, Jimin Kang made 5 birdies in a row on the front but a double-bogey on the par-5 17th dropped her back to -2. Both Kims at -2 shot bogey-free 33s on the back. Among those who finished under par, the 2nd, 8th-10th, and 18th were the most troublesome holes. When you look at the course map, you can see why: the 2nd is a longish par 4 with bunkers that can grab an errant tee or approach shot; the 8th is a long par 3 with a pair of bunkers guarding the front; the long par-4 9th puts a lot of pressure on your driver, with bunkers on the right and water on the left, as well as on your approach shot, with the water continuing all the way up to the green; the long par-4 10th has truble on the left off the tee that seems fairly easy to avoid, but lots of bunkers around the green; and the 18th is a long par 4 with a creek running through it, much like the 17th, which caused a good number of doubles among those lower down the leaderboard. (I'm surprised scoring was so comparatively good on the 5th and 16th, a pair of long par 3s with a water carries, as well as the par-5 3rd and par-4 6th, each of which have water running down the entire hole.)

The pattern continued among those right around par; Ya Ni Tseng bounced back with 4 birdies in her last 6 holes after doubling the 9th, for instance. Se Ri Pak also doubled the 9th, but parred every other hole. Katherine Hull, in turn, bogeyed the 1st and then made 17 pars in a row.

Wonder what happened to Sun Young Yoo...she shot a 42 on the back! Maybe trying to make Inbee Park and Carin Koch feel good? They got their 42s on the front!]

[Update 5 (4:50 am): Just noticed that Annika, Ya Ni Tseng, Shanshan Feng, and Hong-Mei Yang got added to the pre-tournament interviews. Don't expect to see notes and interviews up that quickly for the 1st round.]

[Update 6 (10:21 am): Here's Hound Dog and]

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