The leaderboard for the 1st round of the Lorena Ochoa Invitational has been fun to follow (all too intermittently) this afternoon. Karen Stupples birdied her 1st 3 holes to jump out to an early lead, and she got to -5 when she eagled the par-4 14th hole. Meanwhile, Jee Young Lee, who was -4 through 11 holes, and Christina Kim, who was -4 through her 1st 12 bogey-free holes, started to put pressure on Stupples. Starting later in the day, Laura Diaz birdied 3 of her 1st 5 holes, Meena Lee fired a bogey-free 32 on the front, and In-Kyung Kim was -4 through 16 bogey-free holes. Angela Stanford, Helen Alfredsson, and Annika Sorenstam got into the act even later in the day; the first two were -4 through 11 and the last -5 through 12 bogey-free holes. But a 72-hole tournament is not a race only for the swift.
As many of these players struggled over their closing holes--Stupples and Jee Young Lee bogeyed the 15th and ended up with a 68 and 69, respectively; Christina Kim bogeyed the 13th and 18th to fall back to a 70, while In-Kyung Kim ended up there thanks to a double bogey on the 17th; Meena Lee closed with a 37 for a relatively disappointing 69; Sorenstam and Stanford dropped to -3 with pairs of bogeys on the back; and Diaz and Alfredsson bogeyed the 17th to drop to -2 and -3, respectively--other players were making their moves late in their rounds. Sophie Gustafson's walk-off birdie gave her a bogey-free 69; Nicole Castrale birdied her last 2 holes for a bogey-free 68; Hee-Won Han closed with a 33 for a bogey-free 68; Brittany Lang birdied 4 of her closing 5 holes for a 68 of her own; Seon Hwa Lee made 5 birdies on the back, including on her last 2 holes, for her 68; and Na Yeon Choi finished birdie-eagle for her 69. And Ya Ni Tseng has a chance to join Alfredsson, Sorenstam, and Stanford in the under-70 club as they all play their final hole.
What this suggests to me is that the talent level is so close in this tournament that even those like Lorena Ochoa, Paula Creamer, and Suzann Pettersen are not out of this thing despite being likely to finish over par. There are too many places for the leaders to make mistakes and too many birdie opportunities for those chasing them--on both sides--for the 1st round to mean all that much. Since no one was able to go super-low today, a couple of rounds in the high 60s or one round in the mid-60s could bring even Pettersen back into contention. This thing may be a 72-hole free-for-all!
[Update 1 (7:20 pm): Wow, with Tseng going -4 over her final 13 bogey-free holes for a 68, she caught Stanford and Sorenstam in a huge logjam at 68 and pulled 2 shots ahead of Alfredsson, who bogeyed her final 2 holes. Ain't golf weird?]
[Update 2 (8:30 pm): Here's Hound Dog's overview.]
[Update 3 (11/14/08, 12:42 pm): Here are LPGA.com's notes and interviews.]
[Updat3 4 (12:48 pm): Here's an ESPN.com pre-tournament interview I missed.]
[Update 5 (12:50 pm): And here's Golf Channel's 5-minute highlight reel.]
[Update 6 (1:31 pm): Just noticed that they shuffled the pairings for today's round. Very nice! Anyone know why Morgan Pressel isn't playing this week?]