Friday, October 31, 2008

Hana Bank/KOLON Championship Friday: Trick or Treat

They're off at the Hana Bank/KOLON Championship and it's looking like the move from tropical Hainan Island to brisk Incheon is already taking its toll on the LPGA's finest. 2007 Rookie of the Year Angela Park has opened with a birdie-less 40 on the back. 2006 ROY Seon Hwa Lee is +3 through 7 and struggling to get off a 3-hole bogey train. And 2008 ROY contender Na Yeon Choi (whom I picked to win this thing!) just got off a similar train but is also +3 through 7. Paula Creamer, Suzann Pettersen, and Morgan Pressel are all over par early in their rounds, as well. But LPGA rookie and LET standout Amy Yang is making a bid to avoid Q-School with 5 birdies in her 1st 11 holes and stands alone at -5 through 13. Katherine Hull is also playing bogey-free golf, at -3 through her 1st 7 holes. More soon!

[Update 1 (12:45 am): Now In-Kyung Kim birdied the par-5 9th to open with a 34. Hull finished the front with a 33. Contrast that with 39s for Lee and Choi... (Yes, the leaderboard updates quite erratically.) BTW, the KLPGA stars aren't exempt from big numbers, either: Ji-Yai Shin, Hee Kyung Seo, and Hye Jung Choi are all off to +2 starts.]

[Update 2 (1:07 am): Yikes, Pettersen opened with a birdie-less 40 on the front! By contrast, Ji-Yai Shin birdied her last 3 holes on the front to battle back to a 36. And Hee Kyung Seo has started a little 2-hole birdie train to begin the back and join the 29 golfers at par or better thus far. Junior Mint Allison Fouch has a chance to close her round with a 4-hole birdie train as she plays the 18th....]

[Update 3 (1:21 am): I follow the KLPGA a little more closely than the average bear, but I have to admit to not having heard of the leader in the clubhouse, Chae Young Yoon, whose birdie on the 9th gave her a 69 and put her only 1 shot behind Amy Yang, who just bogeyed the par-5 14th to give new hope to In-Kyung Kim (who's started a little birdie train of her own on the 12th and 13th). Katherine Hull was chugging right along until she bogeyed the par-4 11th and got caught by Hee Kyung Seo, now on a 4-hole birdie train--they're only 2 behind Yang.]

[Update 4 (1:28 am): Don't look now, but Helen Alfredsson is making a little run of her own with consecutive birdies on the 12th and 13th to fight back to E. That's where Fouch ended up when her birdie train came to an end on the 18th. A late double bogey by Sun Ju Ahn on the par-4 7th derailed her round and lead to an opening 74. But she's in very good company at +2 thus far--too many big names to list, so I'll just name 1, Brittany Lang, whose lone birdie on the par-4 15th got her there.]

[Update 5 (1:51 am): Ouch! Poor Ha-Neul Kim, who followed up a bogey on the par-3 3rd with a triple on the par-4 7th, but salvaged a 73 with a walk-off birdie on the 9th. Nice little charge by Karen Stupples, though; she's got a 2-hole birdie train going with 2 holes to go on that same side and at -3 is only 1 behind Yang.]

[Update 6 (2:10 am): Aaargh! Yang got back to -5 with a birdie on the par-5 16th, but gave it right back on the very next hole with her 2nd bogey of the day and then dropped into a tie for the lead with Yoon when she also bogeyed the par-4 18th. She had a real chance to put some distance between herself and the field, but still will be one of the few players to break 70 today. Kim will need to keep playing well to stay on a sub-70 pace. Stupples couldn't sustain it, as a walk-off bogey on the 9th dropped her to -2. Christina Kim needed her 3rd birdie in a row on the 18th to break 70, but couldn't get it. The KLPGA's Ji-Na Lim fired a bogey-free 70 to match Kim's achievement. So Yang should still be proud of her round. But Katherine Hull just birdied the 13th and 14th to get to -4; if she can play the last 3 holes solidly, she'll have stolen Yang's thunder!]

[Update 7 (2:24 am): Nothing illustrates the changing of the guard among the top Korean players this season like recent events in this round. Mi Hyun Kim, who's coming back very slowly from off-season knee surgery and planning a humongous wedding, battled to -1 through 11 but then proceeded to get on a 3-hole bogey train to join new mom Hee-Won Han at +2. Meanwhile, Hall of Famer Se Ri Pak and close-but-no-cigar-wrist-wrapped Jeong Jang are battling to stay at E and -1, respectively. But Hee Kyung Seo continues to impress at -2 and Ji-Yai Shin is now -1, while Inbee Park and Song-Hee Kim are fighting to join Hee Young Park at E. Na Yeon Choi has fought back to +1 and Seon Hwa Lee to +2, along with Super Sophs Eun-Hee Ji and Ji Young Oh. They all have a few holes to go, so it's too soon to tell where they'll end up today. But one thing's for sure: the days when you could bank on top 10s from the Big 4 are starting to seem like the old days, indeed.]

[Update 8 (2:39 am): Got a little late correction on Teresa Lu's scorecard--she had been in for a long long time at 72, but it was actually a 71. Even with a double bogey on her very 1st hole, she bounced back with 2 birdies on the front and 2 in her last 3 holes. Minea Blomqvist joined her with 2 straight closing birdies on the front, which brings the Junior Mint total now at T11 to 3. And look who's making a bid to join or pass them: Alfredsson birdied the 16th and 17th and Pak the 15th to climb to -1. Meanwhile, Jang birdied the 7th and 8th to climb to T4 at -2. With In-Kyung Kim falling back there with a bogey on the 17th, and Hee-Won Han fighting back to +1 so far, maybe I was too hasty with my "changing of the guard" comments above!]

[Update 9 (2:43 am): Tough 77 for Angela Park, mitigated only by her lone birdie on the 9th, her final hole. Shanshan Feng's birdie-less 76 has to be even more disappointing--it's her 1st really bad round in a long time (and the only one besides her 77 in the 3rd round of the Longs Drugs since mid-August). Things aren't looking much better for Suzann Pettersen or Paula Creamer right now. Golf is cruel.]

[Update 10 (2:50 am): Eun-Hee Ji made a couple of birdies down the stretch on the front (her back) to salvage a 73, while Song-Hee Kim bogeyed the 9th to end up there. With Katherine Hull now -5 through 17, that's a lot of ground to make up in 36 holes. In-Kyung Kim fell back to a 70 in the end and Hee Kyung Seo to a 71, while Inbee Park and Helen Alfredsson joined Seo within striking distance of the leader.]

[Update 11 (2:55 am): Ji-Yai Shin got it to -2 through 14, but bogeyed the 15th to fall back to -1. If she and Se Ri Pak can make a move over their last 3 holes, this could be an even more interesting tournament. Mi Hun Kim sure made it interesting on the front: she only had 1 par on the side (on the 1st hole!), but birdied her last 2 to pull back to E for the tournament!]

[Update 12 (2:59 am): Well, Seon Hwa Lee joined Jee Young Lee at 74--disappointing starts, to be sure, but not as bad as they could have been, at least. That's 3 Junior Mints at 74. Contrast that with Hull's opening 66--which included 4 birdies in her last 6 holes--and you'll see why it's so hard to stay at the top on the LPGA.]

[Update 13 (3:03 am): Add Hee-Won Han to the list of those finishing at +1 (T30 so far).]

[Update 14 (3:27 am): Hold the phone! Yang didn't bogey 18, after all. So she's only 2 behind Hull heading into Saturday's round. It's Shin's turn to try to become the 4th player to break 70 today--all she needs is a birdie on the tough 18th that has eluded just about everyone else, Candie Kung included, stuck at -2. Surprise, surprise: it eluded her, too. Nice 71s for Pak and Lindley and good fight-back by Pressel for her 72. Creamer salvaged a 75, while Pettersen blew up to a 77. Wow.]

[Update 15 (10:32 am): Speaking of wow, Hound Dog reports that Eun-Hee Ji and Joo Mi Kim were disqualified and Angela Park and Ji Young Oh assessed 2-stroke penalties for accepting a ride between the 18th green and 1st tee when making the turn. See his post for the explanation and pithy overview!]

[Update 16 (11/1/08, 4:50 pm): Here are's notes and interviews.]

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