The LPGA's Super Sophs have done the impossible thus far this season: outshone 1 of the best rookie classes in LPGA history, the Junior Mints. Inbee Park has matched Morgan Pressel's major, and while Eun-Hee Ji, Ji Young Oh, and In-Kyung Kim haven't yet matched Seon Hwa Lee's pair of wins this season (much less her generation-leading 4 career victories), they not only have beaten Jee Young Lee, Ai Miyazato, and Brittany Lang to the LPGA winner's circle (to be fair, Lee does have a non-member win), but also have outplayed Junior Mint winners Julieta Granada and Meaghan Francella by a country mile. And the Super Sophs are beating the Junior Mints 7-3 when it comes to placing their players on the top 30 of the money list thus far this season. If I were to redo my latest Young Guns ranking as of last week, the Super Sophs would have 4 of the top 7 slots in it. With Angela Park, Song-Hee Kim, Jane Park, and Kristy McPherson knocking on the door this season for their 1st career wins, often repeatedly, I would have to admit that the Class of '07's elite talent pool goes deeper than the '06ers'--even in the face of the great seasons of Sun Young Yoo and Teresa Lu.
Let's not call the 3rd round of the Kapalua Classic a comeback just yet, but it's got to give the Junior Mints hope that they have 6 of the 24 players with a legitimate shot to become the 1st champion of this inaugural event, including 4 within 1 shot of the lead. Morgan Pressel's 67, which included 2 birdies and a rare eagle for the short hitter after she had made back-to-back bogeys at the turn, leapfrogged her all the way into a tie for 1st at -5 with classmate Jee Young Lee and 2nd-round co-leader Brittany Lang. 1 shot back is Sun Young Yoo, while Seon Hwa Lee is only 3 behind, despite making 3 bogeys on the back, and Linda Wessberg is still within reach at -1. Sure, these Junior Mints will have to beat the likes of Carin Koch (68, -5, T1), Suzann Pettersen (72, -4, T5), Cristie Kerr (70, -3, T9), Laura Davies (67, -2, T12), Helen Alfredsson (72, -1, T17), and Lorena Ochoa (73, E, T21)--and these are just the biggest names who could win this thing later today. But with no Super Sophs in sight, things are looking up for their class.
In fact, if Ai Miyazato can build on her strong finish that pulled her back to +3 and into a tie for 37th with Ya Ni Tseng, Juli Inkster, Stacy Lewis, and Moira Dunn, the Junior Mints might be able to place 9 players ahead the best of the Super Sophs this week (Eun-Hee Jee and Ji Young Oh are T25 at +1 with Momoko Ueda and Jane Park is T31 at +2 with Annika Sorenstam), as Sarah Jane Kenyon and Allison Fouch are +1 and +2, respectively. Heck, if Karin Sjodin, Katie Futcher, and Virada Nirapathpongporn (all at +4) can pull it off, it'll be an even dozen. How cool would that be for the Junior Mints?
So while I would love to see Ai-chan and Moira go super-low tomorrow and Momo-chan and Seon Hwa post some good numbers early, I'm most interested in seeing how the Junior Mints in the final pairing--Morgan Pressel and Jee Young Lee--handle the conditions and the pressure. Sure, Ai-chan is going 1st off the 10th with Stacy Lewis, so she'll benefit from hopefully quieter morning winds and being able to set the pace of play (for the back, at least), and Moira gets to play with Juli Inkster, but Morgan and Jee Young have had such equal accomplishments over such short careers with such contrasting styles of play that the 1st final round in this event will be quite a treat.
[Update 1 (2:02 am): Here's LPGA.com's notes and interviews.]
[Update 2 (3:33 am): Is it just me, or is Jaymes Song making a run lately at becoming the AP's regular LPGA guy?]
[Update 3 (3:43 am): Now Golf Channel is practicing anti-blonde bias! Their highlight reel focuses on Pressel and Pettersen (Morgan's missed 2-footer on 18 would have been a nice complement to Pettersen's histrionics, btw), but ignores Carin Koch and Brittany Lang. Of course Jee Young Lee is going to need to win to get any face time on Golf Central, but isn't it odd that they couldn't add another 30 seconds to their 2 minutes and change to cover, like, the co-freaking-leaders?! Never mind mention that 16 are within 3 of the lead and 24 within 5 heading into the final round!]
[Update 4 (10/20/08, 6:32 am): Here's Hound Dog!]