The way the pairings have been reshuffled for the 3rd round of the LPGA's Q-School underscores what a huge advantage it is to have gotten off to a good start. The top 70 are playing the Legends course today, which means that those who make the Saturday cut will play the Champions course 2 days in a row. Even for those near the bottom of the top 70 who might struggle there today, I'd much rather be trying to make up ground on the Champions course than the Legends tomorrow. There's an even bigger advantage for those who started on the Champions course like Shiho Oyama, Stacy Lewis, Amy Yang, Mollie Fankhauser, and Mika Miyazato: they'll get to play the Legends course two days in a row. Good players playing well should be able to improve on their Thursday performance (although it's hard to imagine that even Lewis could top yesterday's 66!).
Of course, for those looking to make up ground after a bad 1st round and break into the top 70, it's not such a bad thing to get 2 rounds in a row on the Champions course. But that's a lot of pressure on people way down the leaderboard like Melissa Reid (+9, 9:21 am off the back) and Alison Walshe (+7, 8:48 am off the back), who will need a very good round today to put themselves in position to make the cut on Saturday, as well as a good round tomorrow to give themselves a chance at the top 20 on Sunday. On the other hand, players already inside the probable cut line like Song Yi Choi (+4, 8:59 am off the front), Martina Eberl (+4, 9:10 am off the front), and Miki Saiki (+2, 10:05 am off the front) have a great chance to get under par today and build some serious momentum heading into Saturday for their 2nd shot at the Legends course. Still, if I were JLPGAer Saiki, I'd be a little disappointed that I didn't get the same shot at the Legends course today that LETer Beatriz Recari (+2, 10:05 am off the back) and KLPGAer Sun-Ju Ahn (+2, 9:54 am off the back) got. But there are plenty of people at +2 who join her on the Champions course, among them hotshot amateurs Jaclyn Sweeney (in her group) and Paola Moreno (2 groups ahead of her) and LPGAers Liz Janangelo (in the group ahead of her), Tracy Hanson (in the group after her), and Jackie Gallagher-Smith (ditto).
In the end, of course, the only thing that matters is what you shoot. Everyone will get 2 shots at each course before everyone left plays the same course Sunday. But golf is a game of momentum. We'll soon see who goes with the flow and who makes it against the current.
I only have time for a post-round recap today, but follow the LPGA Insider as she follows the final pairing of Oyama, Wie, and Lewis.
[Update 1 (4:24 pm): Got unexpected lake effect snow all day here, so I'm heading off to pick up the girls from day care early. Just have time for a quick overview of how my predicted top 20 did today:
1. Shiho Oyama 64-70-71 (CLL) yay!!!
2. Sun-Ju Ahn 78-68-???? (LCL) did she just WD?!!!!
3. Miki Saiki 74-72-70 (LCC) moving in the right direction, at least
4. Anna Nordqvist 74-71-73 (LCL) at least she plays the Champions tomorrow
5. Amy Yang 67-71-70 (CLL) yay!!
6. Michelle Wie 69-65-72 (LCL) yay!!
7. Stacy Lewis 69-66-71 (CLL) yay!!
8. Melissa Reid 79-74-65 (LCC) wow!!!
9. Alison Walshe 79-72-64 (LCC) wow!!!!
10. Mika Miyazato 66-74-72 (CLL) ok...on to the Champions!
11. Martina Eberl 80-68-73 (LCC) uh-oh, she needs to get it done on the Legends now
12. Dewi Claire Schreefel 74-70-74 (LCL) needs to go low on the Champions tomorrow
13. Charlotte Mayorkas 75-67-66 (LCL) wow!!!
14. Anna Rawson 71-71-68 (CLL) well done!!
15. Tania Elosegui 79-66-71 (LCL) on to the Champions!
16. Onnarin Sattayabanphot 70-74-75 (CLL) needs to go low on the Champions tomorrow
17. Song Yi Choi 77-71-68 (LCC) keep it going!
18. Hannah Jun 74-70-78 (CLL) uh oh
19. Carolina Llano 70-70-71 (LCL) on to the Champions!
20. Pornanong Phatlum 75-69-72 (LCL) on to the Champions!
[Update 2 (9:01 pm): Here are Hound Dog, Brent Kelley, and Average Golfer on the 3rd round. Plus, Bob Smiley got an exclusive interview with Michelle Wie! (Psych!)]
[Update 3 (12/6/08, 3:52 am): LPGA.com confirms that Ahn WDed before the round started.]
[Update 4 (4:34 am): Here are the Golf Channel highlights.]
[Update 5 (4:44 am): GC's Tom Abbott files a great report on Friday's final threesome.]
[Update 6 (4:52 am): Ron Sirak writes a half-decent 3rd-round preview, but misses the key fact that the leaders would be playing the Legends course. What will really tell if they have a mind to turn conservative is when they get to the Champions course later today.]
[Update 7 (4:55 am): Sirak gets the course right in his Day 3 story, but gets the new priority status system completely wrong, still using the old categories of exempt and non-exempt. It's almost as if he doesn't read this blog!]
[Update 8 (5:20 am): Dan Mirocha of Golfweek outdoes the LPGA Insider.]
[Update 9 (5:25 am): Eric Adelson comments on the Wie hoopla but also participates in the boring meme of Wie's "newfound maturity" and "ability to bounce back from mistakes," whereas the facts are, if anything, even more boring: she trusts her game now as she didn't before; she's hitting her irons well enough to give herself loads of birdie chances this week; and she has 2 shots at the easier Champions course still ahead of her. Given that she got off to a great start, there's no need to panic over a bad drive and a putting lapse.]