If the struggles of those in the morning groups today at the Longs Drugs Challenge are any indication, this tournament is gearing up for a classic free-for-all on Sunday. In-Kyung Kim looked like she was going to run away from the field when she followed up her eagle on the tricky 360-yard 8th hole yesterday with her 4th birdie of the morning, but after bogeying the 10th she reeled off 8 pars in a row to settle for a 69 that brought her to -8 for the tournament. And Mollie Fankhauser birdied 3 of her last 5 holes for a 68 that got her within 1 shot of the lead. But I would not be surprised at all if they turn out to be the only players in the field to shoot 2 straight sub-70 scores. Of the 17 players who broke 70 yesterday, most are having trouble staying near par, much less trying to go low. Everyone from the morning with a chance to break 70 is making a move from lower down the leaderboard. More on them when their rounds are complete.
Actually, most of the most compelling drama this morning has not come from the leaders but instead from the players trying to avoid the ignominy of missing a cut in a limited-field event. Eun-Hee Ji birdied her last 2 holes to salvage a 76 after going bogey-double-par-bogey-double between the 17th and 3rd holes earlier in her round. She joins a large group at +4, including Violeta Retamoza, who followed up her 72 yesterday with a pair of double bogeys on the back this morning helped her balloon to a 41, but came back with 2 birdies in her last 4 holes. Gloria Park was +8 for the tournament thanks to an early bogey and double bogey, but she played her last 13 holes in -4 to go 78-70. All these players and more are right on the bubble at T69 right now, with Retamoza looking to break an oh-fer streak that extends the entire season. Meanwhile, Jennifer Rosales is hoping that her birdie on the 18th to get to +5 for the tournament will give her a chance to move up the LPGA money list (she's #81 with only 1 more event--next week's in Hawaii--that counts when determining 2009 eligibility status). She'll need a lot of help from the afternoon groups, as the 1 shot separating her from Ji, Retamoza, Park, and the rest at +4 puts her at T81 right now.
More later--maybe much later! The grandparents are coming into town any minute!
[Update 1 (5:13 pm): A call from my folks suggests I have time for one more installment in Tales from the Cut Line. Morgan Pressel was cruising until the very end of her round today: on the 7th and 8th, she went double bogey-bogey, just like yesterday, to balloon to +2 on the day and +4 overall (this after a birdie on the 1st had finally brought her back to E for the tournament). How about 3rd-place rookie Hee Young Park, who had been sitting pretty at -1 on the day and for the tournament after her 1st 7 holes on the back? Well, she proceeded to make 4 pars, 3 bogeys, 2 doubles, and 2 birdies--yup, that's +5 in an 11-hole stretch--but will most likely still make the cut, as +4 is now T68 and there aren't enough players doing worse right now who could improve enough to knock the huge group at +4 out. The real question is whether the cut will go as high as +5. Stay tuned!]
[Update 2 (5:25 pm): Belay that last comment. Only 2 more people need to get to +3 to drop all the +4s out of the tournament. But Christina Kim birdied 3 of her last 5 holes on the front to claw her way back to +5, so I'm really hoping she and J-Lo make the cut. Two last tidbits for now. In case you didn't know already, Angela Stanford is tough--her 69 today brings her to -5 for the tournament, bad shoulder and all! And congrats to Joo Mi Kim, only the 4th player to break par in her 1st 2 rounds thus far--and she did it despite doubling her last hole, the 18th!]
[Update 3 (5:26 pm): Oh, and I couldn't leave you hanging on Pressel--she parred the 9th to stay at +4 (T69 now). Her playing partner Paula Creamer, by the way, went -5 over her last 13 holes to get all the way back to E (T31 so far).]
[Update 4 (10/11/08, 3:10 am): Oh, yeah, Lorena Ochoa. She certainly gave it the ol' college try yesterday when it came to answering my title question, going -4 over her last 5 holes on the front (with an eagle) and -3 over her last 4 holes on the back, but even that amazing effort was only good enough for a 68 that brought her to -6. The 6th and 7th people in the field to break par twice were Kristy McPherson (70, -4, T5) and Charlotte Mayorkas (71, -4, T5), while Il Mi Chung (69, -3, T9) was the only other plater t break 70 yesterday. Where there had once been 17 players at -3 or better, now there are only 23 players under par at all. But among them is Ai Miyazato, who birdied the 18th for a 71 that brought her to -1 (T19). On the down side, Maria Hjorth followed up her 66 with an 80, thanks to a 42 on the back that included 3 doubles. And Juli Inkster and Laura Davies shot 77s. But even though she shot a 78, Michelle McGann made the cut, along with everyone else at +5. It was not meant to be for Seon Hwa Lee, though, as a bogey-double-bogey-double stretch from the 17th through the 2nd holes dropped her to +6 for the tournament and she couldn't find a birdie the rest of the way. For Kyeong Bae, it was a triple-double on the back for a 42 that ejected her from weekend play. Ouch!]
[Update 5 (4:58 am): Here's Hound Dog's 2nd-round recap.]
[Update 6 (5:59 am): Nice to see In-Kyung Kim and Mollie Fankhauser gets interviewed! Kim gets some good lines in.]
[Update 7 (6:36 am): Apparently I've underestimated Golf Channel's ability to keep Asian faces off their highlight reels. Yes, Lorena Ochoa's 68 was big news, with great drama and great reactions, but nothing on Kim besides the fact she's hit 26 greens?? I guess it's fitting that Fankhauser gets no mention, either...equal-opportunity discrimination!]