Monday, March 31, 2008

I Can Do That!

Follow the bouncing baby:

The Young Guns: Ranking the Class of '07, March Edition

The Super Sophs are no more (being juniors now and all); long live the New Super Sophs! That's my motto in 2008, as I track the career achievements of the LPGA classes of 2006 and 2007. Why not the class of 2008? There's always a lot of attention to the Rookie of the Year race, so besides including some in my pre-season survey, I'm making them wait till the end of the season to join this ranking.

Here's my season schedule:

February: '06ers
April: top Super Sophs, Old and New (pre-SemGroup)
May: '06ers
June: '07ers
July: '06ers (pre-British Open)
August: '07ers (post-Safeway)
September: top Super Sophs, Old and New (post-Navistar)
October: '06ers (pre-Korea Championship)
November: '07ers (post-ADT)
December: all 3 Young Gun classes (post-Q School)

So with the year's first major around the corner, who among the New Super Sophs can we expect to excel at the Kraft Nabisco Championship?

Simply the Best

1. Angela Park: Even with a disappointing start to the 2008 season by her Rookie of the Year standards, she remains head and shoulders above her nearest competitors.

The Contenders

2. In-Kyung Kim: Outplayed Angela Park in the Lexus Cup and off to a slightly better start than her in 2008, but still not yet in her class, a fact emphasized by her MC at the Safeway International.
3. Eun-Hee Ji: In only 9 career LPGA starts, on an Angela Park-like pace, stats-wise--and the top-ranked player in her class in both the RR and the GSPI (once she gets enough events in to be official on the latter list). Not all that surprising, given her 4 wins on the KLPGA and her winning of exempt status in only a handful of events as a rookie.
4. Jane Park: The top golfer in her class in 2008 is rocketing up the charts, despite having only 15 career LPGA starts to her name.
5. Inbee Park: A disappointing Sunday at Superstition Mountain in her only really strong start of the season confirms for me that she has been passed by Ji and Jane Park.
6. Na On Min: A non-exempt golfer last year who played her way into a lot of tournaments, she has 2 top 20s and a MC so far in her first season with a card.

Quantum Leap Candidates

7. Ji Young Oh: Had great chances at the MasterCard and Safeway International to make the leap, but disappointing Sundays at Bosque Real and Superstition Mountain did her in.
8. Charlotte Mayorkas: Great finish at the Safeway International puts her a nose ahead of Hong at this point in their careers, despite Hong's greater success at breaking into the top 10 and top 20 thus far.
9. Jin Joo Hong: Got passed by Oh and Mayorkas early this season, but the potential is definitely there for this 2-time KLPGA winner (including, like Jee Young Lee in the class ahead of her, a surprise win at the late-season joint KLPGA-LPGA event).
10. Song-Hee Kim: Has yet to hit her stride in the LPGA, but this Futures Tour sensation has begun to show signs of life in 2008.

On the Bottom Looking Up

11. Su A Kim: Hasn't taken much advantage of her surprise Q-School performance that leapfrogged her into exempt status for 2008, but it's a long season and she's got the second-best made-cut rate in her class, so time is on her side.
12. Sophie Giquel: Would rank behind several in the next category, except for her exempt status.
13. Seo-Jae Lee: Ditto.

On the Outside Looking In (non-exempt in 2008)

14. Irene Cho: Has moved to the head of the non-exempt class this season, but every MC makes it that much harder to get into the next event. May still be able to pass several in the next ranking in a couple of months if she can get enough starts.
15. Kristy McPherson: Ditto, except for the head of the class part.
16. Paige Mackenzie: It will be interesting to see how many Futures Tour events she plays this season, and how well she does.
17. Becky Lucidi: Ditto.
18. Cindy Pasechnik: Ditto.
19. Sarah Lynn Sargent: Ditto.
20. Jeanne Cho-Hunicke: Ditto.

For your reference--and mine--here are the stats on which I'm basing the March ranking.

2008 LPGA Money List (rank), stroke average (rank), birdies per round average (rank [in total birdies]), greens in regulation rate (rank): I'm going to focus on four key indicators of how well someone is playing this season--how much money they've made, how they've scored, how many birdies they've averaged per round, how many greens they've hit in regulation on average per round, plus how they rank in each category. (I figure I can figure out how well they're hitting their irons and putting by comparing the last three figures, so I won't include putts per green in regulation here.) Some of the figures Hound Dog thinks are most important I'm looking at in the career stats (below), where I think they belong. These stats are all about the present and future.

1. Jane Park $157.8K (#10), 70.83 (#11), 3.25 (#45), 77.8% (#4)
2. Eun-Hee Ji, $84.5K (#16), 71.93 (#42), 3.00 (#30), 72.2% (#20)
3. In-Kyung Kim, $76.4K (#21), 72.29 (#55), 3.21 (#30), 65.9% (#75)
4. Angela Park, $64.3K (#28), 72.07 (#46), 3.36 (#21), 72.8% (#18)
5. Ji Young Oh, $57.3K (#30), 71.15 (#18), 3.15 (#38), 67.2% (#62)
6. Inbee Park, $40.8K (#41), 72.50 (#62), 2.75 (#64), 63.2% (#94)
7. Charlotte Mayorkas, $36.9K (#45), 72.44 (#59), 2.94 (#21), 67.3% (#59)
8. Na On Min, $32.9K (#50), 73.14 (#86), 2.71 (#49), 66.7% (#67)
9. Irene Cho, $30.3K (#52), 72.64 (#69), 3.27 (#55), 58.3% (#120)
10. Jin Joo Hong, $25.3K (#64), 72.92 (#75), 2.62 (#61), 57.4% (#125)
11. Song-Hee Kim, $24.0K (#69), 72.60 (#65), 3.00 (#77), 65.9% (#75)
12. Su A Kim, $15.8K (#88), 73.33 (#92), 2.75 (#64), 54.9% (#135)
13. Becky Lucidi, $13.4K (#94), 74.00 (#111), 2.82 (#75), 65.3% (#79)
14. Kristy McPherson, $13.2K (#95), 74.44 (#126), 2.56 (#101), 57.4% (#125)
15. Cindy Pasechnik, $8.5K (#112), 73.50 (#103), 2.13 (#126), 48.9% (#145)
16. Sophie Giquel, $7.1 (#115), 73.14 (#86), 2.43 (#126), 69.0% (#42)
17. Paige Mackenzie, $7.1K (#116), 73.00 (#76), 2.60 (#137), 74.1% (#10)
18. Seo-Jae Lee, $5.8K (#124), 73.38 (#96), 2.88 (#101), 58.7% (#115)
19. Jeanne Cho-Hunicke, $2.5K (#148), 76.33 (n.r.), ?, ?
20. Sarah Lynn Sargent, $0 (#153), 78.00 (n.r.), ?, ?

Career LPGA Money List (rank), # of LPGA events entered/majors/wins/top 3s/top 10s/top 20s/cuts made (made cut rate): About the only thing these stats are useful for is comparing people who entered the LPGA in the same year (although if you count generations by 3 years, it can be interesting). Between inflation, changing purses, and length/timing of careers, it's very hard to compare and contrast winnings across generations of LPGA greats. Fortunately the '07ers have been at this for barely over a year, so the career money list is a decent stat for comparing them, even if it's a bit unfair to people who have not been exempt each season. What would really be great is if we had a world money list in inflation-adjusted dollars, with inflation- and exchange-adjusted other cash denominations added in (or just totalled up separately to avoid comparing dollars and yen), which included all each golfer earned as a professional on any tour. But even the guys don't have that, so that'll have to remain a dream for now. I include these other ways of seeing how the '07ers finished relative to their competition in the tournaments they entered because they reveal a lot about how well someone is able to compete at every level, from just making cuts to grinding out top 20s and top 10s to contending for wins. So here's how they stand:

1. Angela Park, $1.05M (#150), 32/0/0/4/9/13/31 (.969)
2. In-Kyung Kim, $.53M (#236), 30/0/0/1/6/9/24 (.800)
3. Inbee Park, $.42M (#259), 30/0/0/1/3/6/19 (.633)
4. Na On Min, $.34M (#282), 24/0/0/1/2/5/16 (.667)
5. Eun-Hee Ji, $.33M (#289), 9/0/0/1/3/4/7 (.778)
6. Jane Park, $.22M (#346), 15/0/0/2/2/4/12 (.800)
7. Ji Young Oh, $.21M (#355), 26/0/0/0/2/3/14 (.538)
8. Charlotte Mayorkas, $.19M (#364), 26/0/0/0/0/3/19 (.731)
9. Jin Joo Hong, $.19M (#369), 25/0/0/0/1/5/15 (.600)
10. Song-Hee Kim $.10M (#434), 23/0/0/0/0/1/12 (.522)
11. Kristy McPherson, $.09M (#445), 22/0/0/0/0/1/12 (.545)
12. Irene Cho, $.09M (#449), 23/0/0/0/1/1/12 (.522)
13. Paige Mackenzie, $.06M (#497), 21/0/0/0/0/1/10 (.476)
14. Sarah Lynn Sargent, $.04M (#540), 21/0/0/0/0/0/9 (.429)
15. Su A Kim, $.03M (#550), 7/0/0/0/0/0/6 (.857)
16. Sophie Giquel, $.03M (#551), 9/0/0/0/0/0/5 (.556)
17. Jeanne Cho-Hunicke, $.02M (#575), 9/0/0/0/0/1/2 (.222)
18. Becky Lucidi $.02M (#598), 6/0/0/0/0/0/3 (.500)
19. Seo-Jae Lee, $.01M (#615), 6/0/0/0/0/0/2 (.333)
20. Cindy Pasechnik, $.01M (#629), 11/0/0/0/0/0/3 (.273)

Other Career Measures: Rolex Ranking (as of 3/31/08) and rank, Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index (as of 3/30/08) and rank, International and Non-Member LPGA Wins (as of the end of the 2007 season): This is a way of seeing how those Super Sophs who sometimes or regularly or always compete on other tours stack up over the course of their careers to date (the RR includes results over the past 104 weeks on the LPGA, LET, JLPGA, KLPGA, and Futures Tour; the GSPI includes results over the past 52 weeks on all these tours except the KLPGA).

1. Eun-Hee Ji, 3.29 (#29), 70.62 (n.r. [not enough events in database as yet]); 4
2. Angela Park, 3.29 (#30), 70.90 (#18); 0
3. In-Kyung Kim, 2.47 (#42), 71.94 (#41); 0
4. Na On Min, 1.69 (#56), 73.14 (#92); 0
5. Inbee Park, 1.58 (#62), 73.07 (#89); 0
6. Jin Joo Hong, 1.55 (#64), 72.93 (#82); 2
7. Jane Park, 1.29 (#80), 72.25 (#52); 0
8. Ji Young Oh, .86 (#122); 72.88 (#79); 0
9. Charlotte Mayorkas, .79 (#131), 72.14 (#48); 0
10. Sophie Giquel, .74 (#140), 73.08 (#90); 1
11. Song-Hee Kim, .56 (#181), 73.50 (#117); 0
12. Irene Cho, .37 (#240), 74.14 (#174); 0
13. Kristy McPherson, .32 (#252), 73.79 (#148); 0
14. Paige Mackenzie, .26 (#289), 74.88 (#231); 0
15. Seo-Jae Lee, .14 (#390), 74.42 (#191); 0
16. Su A Kim, .13 (#391), 73.93 (#158); 0
17. Sarah Lynn Sargent, .08 (#463), 75.46 (#292); 0
18. Jeanne Cho-Hunicke, .07 (#488), 76.40 (#363)
19. Becky Lucidi, .03 (#592), 74.99 (#246); 0
20. Cindy Pasechnik, .02 (#688), 76.02 (#331); 0

J-Drama Update: Bara no nai Hanaya

As spring break ends, I thought I'd recommend another J-Drama that the Full Metal Archivist and I have gotten into on Veoh: Bara no nai Hanaya, or The Flower Shop Has No Roses. This one is not nearly as funny and self-consciously postmodern as Hottie Paradise (or rather, Hanazakari no Kimitachi e); no, it's much more Dickensian in the convolutions of its plot and Hawthornesque or even Morrisonesque in its exploration of the risks and costs of love and revenge. For a glimpse of the show's different strands, check out what its fans have been putting up on YouTube:

Trust me when I say go to Veoh as often as you can the next few nights and catch up on the first 10 episodes--the final episode's fansub should go up in the next few days. You can be the first kid on your block to experience in almost real-time what prime-time audiences in Japan did on Monday nights this season. And yes, there's a SMAP connection--how could there not be when it's a) super-popular in Japan, and b) something found by the Full Metal Archivist online?

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Safeway International Sunday: Ochoa Wins by 7--Any Questions?

Once again, Lorena Ochoa has shown that when she's on, nobody can keep pace with her. Sure, it can happen for a good many over a 9-hole stretch--few in the field didn't surpass her worst 9 of the Safeway International, a closing 36 from Saturday's round, at some point in the tournament, and even a very few outdid Ochoa's low of 31 from Thursday's front 9. It can happen for a good number over an 18-hole stretch--such as between the 7th hole Saturday to the 6th hole Sunday, when she made 3 birdies and 3 bogeys and it seemed the tournament was in danger of becoming a free-for-all. And for ever-decreasing numbers of players in a given week, it can happen over stretches of 27, 36, 45, and even 54 holes. But over 72 holes? Let's face it: that's a very tall order.

Just ask Angela Stanford. You think it's any coincidence that her 3 worst 9s came on Saturday afternoon, Sunday morning, and Sunday afternoon? It's tiring keeping pace with the world #1! That's how you break the course record in the first round but only finish T4 at -13.

Or ask Jee Young Lee. Her 56-hole bogey-free streak ended on the third hole Sunday--at exactly the wrong time, for Lee only ended up making up 3 shots in that 18-hole stretch from Saturday to Sunday when Ochoa seemed human. When Ochoa hit the nitro button over her closing 12 holes, it was Lee's turn to give in to gravity.

It's not even fair, really, to ask Christina Kim (71, -12, T6), Lindsey Wright (73, -11, T9), or Inbee Park (73, -11, T9). They started Sunday too far behind Ochoa to have much of a chance, really, not that they helped their causes in the opening 6 holes, either.

Better to ask Annika Sorenstam (70, -11, T9) how it feels to get dusted by 11 shots, uh, again. Or Suzann Pettersen (73, -7, T22), Cristie Kerr (71, -6, T29), Paula Creamer (72, -3, T46), Mi Hyun Kim (75, E, T60), and Karrie Webb (MC) how it feels to try to chase Ochoa when you can't even get your own game in gear.

As Jee Young Lee put it, "I mean, she's a great player. She never loses her pace, and that's something that I really need to learn from her to keep it steady all the time."


[Update 3/31/08: Hound Dog's final-round overview gives the key play-by-play for those who missed it and also shines the spotlight on the rounds of several players I skipped here. I recommend it, not to mention his highlights. Who needs the Golf Channel?]

Sparkychan Flix

Sparkychan has authorized me to release the following pictures of her Grandpaland adventure:


Is she looking for a Fill-Oz-of-Her or is she pretending to ride a pony? Or both?

Here she is thinking and contemplating. Maybe's she's wondering when she'll have ice cream and tea with Gojochan and Onechan and Imoto:


And here she's giving reality the Old Test:


The Continuing Adventures of Sparkychan in GrandpaLand

When last we left Sparkychan and Gojochan, they were trying to figure out the difference between dream and reality. Had they really been rescued by onechan and imoto from the meanies who had imprisoned them in a space-faring box, or was it all a dream?

Well, Gojochan will have to speak for herself, but I can report that Sparkychan has been pursuing such metaphysical questions for the past several months in a super-duper top-secret adventure of her own. You see, the last time onechan and imoto visited their grandparents in Clinton, Sparkychan heard tell that Grandpa was a FILL-OZ-OF-HER. She didn't quite know what that meant, but she thought it had something to do with playing with grandchildren a lot and telling a lot of funny stories. So she decided she would stick around central NY instead of heading back to western NY with Gojochan, onechan, and imoto in the Super-Prius. But she forgot to tell anyone! We all were worried sick about Sparkychan when we realized she hadn't made the trip back to Dunkirk with us. Fortunately, on our last trip to Clinton, Sparkychan, her mission complete, made contact with us via Grandma, who had found her in the Drop Zone underneath papa's old bed, but didn't know who she was or where she belonged.

After the reuniting celebrations were complete, onechan, imoto, and Sparkychan had the following conversation (which might make more sense to new readers after checking out the following playbill):

Onechan: So where were you and what were you doing? We were missed you! And we were worried about you!
Sparkychan: I was on a super-duper top-secret mission.
Onechan: Huh? What's a mission?
Sparkychan: It's when you're trying to do something important.
Onechan: Like what?
Sparkychan: Like find out what a Fill-Oz-of-Her is. And figure out what's Really Real.
Imoto: Gojochan!
Sparkychan: Yes, I missed Gojochan a lot. But I had to complete my mission!
Onechan: You must have been lonely.
Sparkychan: Yes, but it was all worth it. I found out that Fill-Oz-of-Hers tell great stories.
Onechan: Like what?
Sparkychan: Like about the dog who goes on a walk every day and every day something funny happens. And about the man who forgets how to do things. And about Aki and Aya who live on a planet with four seasons, just like ours--winter, spring, summer, and up--except that in the last one, leaves fall up.
Imoto: Up!
Sparkychan: I know--funny, right?
Onechan: What does telling funny stories have to do with figuring out what's Really Real?
Sparkychan: Hmm, I'll have to think about that question!
Onechan: You don't know?
Sparkychan: Well, that's one thing I learned from listening to the Fill-Oz-of-Her's stories. Sometimes you have to stop and think.
Imoto: Dora!
Sparkychan: Yes, like Dora.
Onechan: But why didn't you come back to us sooner?
Sparkychan: I wanted to, but then I realized the Fill-Oz-of-Her needed my help.
Onechan: Huh? Why?
Sparkychan: Well, it turned out that there's a lot of heavy lifting involved in all that thinking--grandpa got a Fill-Oz-of-Hernia and needed an operation.
Onechan: What's an operation?
Sparkychan: It's when you go to the doctor and they help you get better.
Imoto: Byoin!
Sparkychan: Yes, at a hospital.
Onechan: Ooh, I play hospital all the time with my friends in Dunkirk!
Sparkychan: Really? I think playing hospital is kind of like telling stories.
Onechan: It's fun to pretend!
Sparkychan: I think that's why your grandpa is a Fill-Oz-of-Her. He gets to pretend every day!
Onechan: Hmm, maybe papa is a Fill-Oz-of-Her, too.
Sparkychan: I don't think so. I heard grandma telling her friend that when your papa was going to college, she told him he could be anything he wanted to be, except a Fill-Oz-of-Her.
Onechan: Why?
Sparkychan: She didn't say. She just thought it was funny he majored in Math and English.
Onechan: Why? What's majored?
Sparkychan: I don't know. I've been hanging around here trying to find out.
Imoto: Gakko!
Sparkychan: Yes, it has something to do with college, but I don't know what.
Onechan: I'll find out. I go to school at papa's gakko lots and lots and then sometimes I go up to Japanese school at mama's gakko!
Sparkychan: Cool! Thanks. So after your grandma told the joke I didn't get, that was when I found out that your grandpa needed my help.
Onechan: Not just with the Fill-Oz-of-Hernia?
Sparkychan: Nope, he was doing fine after the operation. This has something to do with a Pee-Essay test. It's the kind of test where you're supposed to score a zero.
Onechan: A zero! What kind of test is that?
Sparkychan: I'm still not sure. But grandma told her friend he wasn't getting zeros on his tests.
Onechan: Hmm, maybe that's like making a bogey.
Sparkychan: A bogey? What's that?
Imoto: Shikaku!
Onechan: Yeah, it's when you make a square instead of a circle on the golf course.
Sparkychan: Huh?
Onechan: One more than you should instead of one less.
Sparkychan: That's neat. I wonder what's one less than zero.
Imoto: Birdie!
Onechan: Yeah, one under par.
Sparkychan: Par?
Onechan: That's it! The Pee-Essay test is par zero! Grandpa needs to start making pars and birdies--and stop making so many bogeys!
Sparkychan: Oh, I think I get it. That's probably why he was taking out his golf clubs and making holes in the carpet.
Imoto: Swing!
Sparkychan: Yeah, he called it working on his swing. Didn't seem like work to me. But he sure did it a lot.
Onechan: Hmm, did he try to roll golf balls at chair legs a lot, too?
Sparkychan: Yes, he did, come to think of it.
Imoto: Putt!
Onechan: Yup, it's called putting. I'm very good at that. Better than papa. I think next time I visit grandpa I need to teach him how to roll the ball into the hole.
Sparkychan: The hole that goes to Kansas?
Onechan: Yeah!
Sparkychan: I have an idea! Maybe Gojochan and I can try to find The Little Worm and find out the secret to making birdies on the Pee-Essay test!
Onechan: The Little Worm knows that?
Sparkychan: The Little Worm knows lots of things. It comes from getting into so many computers.
Onechan: Oh.
Imoto: Oh.
Sparkychan: Maybe then, Grandpa won't have to drive to Syracuse so much this spring.
Onechan: Where's Syracuse?
Sparkychan: I'm not sure.
Onechan: We can ask the Super-Prius later.
Sparkychan: OK.
Onechan: Won't you two be lonely, going on an adventure all by yourselves?
Sparkychan: If it helps your grandpa, we can do it!
Imoto: Gaman!
Sparkychan: That's right, imoto. Sometimes you just have to tough things out.
Onechan: That's what mama tells me all the time.
Imoto: Gambare!
Onechan: That's what papa tells me all the time.
Sparkychan: What's it mean?
Onechan: Go for it! OK, so, I'll help grandpa with his putting next time I see him and you two try to find the Little Worm.
Sparkychan: OK! I'll go tell Gojochan the plan. Let's get back together for ice cream and tea in a few minutes.
Onechan: OK, see you soon! [To imoto:] We'd better tell our other friends. Sounds like Gojochan and Sparkychan will need lots of help!
Imoto: OK!

Sounds like a lot is going on. Stay tuned!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The nose knows

Can you do this with your nose?

Safeway International Saturday: Break 70 or Get Passed!

The low scoring continues on moving day at the Safeway International!

Let's start with the rounds of the day. Grace Park shot a 65 today to move into the top 20 at -7. Over her last 27 holes, she has made 9 birdies and no bogeys. Inbee Park, meanwhile, has rattled off 14 birdies and only 1 bogey in her past 36 holes. Her 65 matches her namesake for low round of the day and gets her to 4th place at -12. Teresa Lu may be able to top them both, however. With 2 eagles--including a hole-in-one today on the 8th hole--to go with her 9 birdies and 3 bogeys in her last 45 holes, Lu has vaulted herself into the top 13 at -8, despite "only" shooting a 66 today. Thanks to a bogey-free 30 on the back, Lindsey Wright matched Lu's 66 and leaped into a tie for 4th with Park.

All that's well and good, Jee Young Lee is likely to say, but have they been able to chase down Angela Stanford and Lorena Ochoa the way she has? With 15 birdies and an eagle--and only a lone double bogey marring her scorecard--over the past 54 holes, Lee has fired off 3 straight 67s and ends Saturday tied with Stanford and one back of Ochoa, despite the fact that both have made 20 birdies in their 54 holes.

By the way, Hee Young Park (-9, T8), Sun Young Yoo (-9, T8), Maria Hjorth (-8, T13), and Natalie Gulbis (-6, T29) matched Lee's 67 today, but they--and everyone else among the 29 players within 10 shots of Ochoa--will need to break Stanford's course record to get in the mix on Sunday. Only 7 players end Saturday double digits under par, and even Ji-Young Oh (-10, 7th place) and Christina Kim (-11, 6th place) are probably too far back to have a realistic chance to contend tomorrow on the back 9. At best, then, we'll have a 5-player race, but if Ochoa, Stanford, and Lee get off to fast starts on the front, Park and Wright will have to do something truly special to be factors in the stretch run. I can't see anything less than -18 winning tomorrow and it's likely to be the first person to get to -20 who walks away with the trophy.

[Update 3/30/08: As usual, Hound Dog provides the double whammy of overview and highlights. Thanks, HD!]

Safeway International Friday: Notes from the Halfway Point

Hound Dog has hit the high points of Friday's play at the Safeway International, so I'll just jot down a few things I happened to notice here (on tv at my folks' place) and there (on the site), in no particular order.

I'd sure love to see a clip of Ai Miyazato's eagle on the par-4 6th that vaulted her from the wrong side of the cut line all the way up to T54 (-1). When you look at all the great players who started on the back, got it to E somewhere in the middle of their rounds, then fell back below the cut line, you've got to figure that Ai-chan's grit (and luck) show she's on the comeback trail. Plus, her driving average for the tournament is now 251 yards--sounds like she busted out the driver today. I'm celebrating her first made cut in this hemisphere this season and hoping she can end this week surpassing her season-best results in Australia and Singapore (top 15s). When you look at the number of birdies people are making and how far people who didn't go under par today fell down the leaderboard, two good rounds from Ai-chan this weekend could net her a top 10.

With doubles on two of the last three par 5s--the 7th and 18th holes--offsetting her 4 birdies in yesterday's round, Moira Dunn had to figure she had blown her chances of making the cut, as the line was bouncing back and forth between -1 and E all day. But now she's only 5 shots behind the big group tied for 12th place. To keep her card this year, Moira's going to have maximize prize money every cut she makes, so I'm looking for her to take serious advantage of her break this week.

Looks like Cristie Kerr (74-64, -6, T8), Inbee Park (73-66, -5, T12), and Jee Young Lee (67-67, -10, 3rd place) are breaking out of their early-season slumps at just the right time. Nothing like a great moving day to continue their momentum and build their confidence, though. Today's round is going to be key for them.

Looks like Angela Stanford (62-69, -13, 1st place), Karen Stupples (67-70, -7, T6), Lindsey Wright (71-67, -6, T8), and Ji-Young Oh (71-67, -6, T8) are for real this season. But they have to go out every round and prove themselves all over again. Gotta like Stanford's confidence in her interview!

On the cusp of playing really well are Jeong Jang (69-70, -5, T12) Hee-Won Han (70-69, -5, T12), and Suzann Pettersen (71-68, -5, T12). A really good moving day can help build their momentum for the year's first major next week.

Also showing signs of getting closer to reaching their potential are Christina Kim (69-68, -7, T6), Birdie Kim (69-70, -5, T12), Mi Hyun Kim (71-70, -3, T29), and Angela Park (72-69, -3, T29). This weekend is going to mean a lot to these players in particular.

It's also going to be key for some big names who just haven't gotten their games in gear yet this week, from Paula Creamer (69-73, -2, T42) and Laura Diaz (72-70, -2, T42) to Natalie Gulbis (71-72, -1, T54) and Stacy Prammanasudh (70-74, E, T68).

Let's hear it for the vets! How about Candie Kung (71-71, -2, T42), Lorie Kane (71-72, -1, T54), Juli Inkster (74-70, E, T68), Grace Park (73-71, E, T68), and Meg Mallon (73-71, E, T68) making the cut with clutch birdies down the stretch? They certainly have to feel better than Sherri Steinhauer (66-77, -1, T54) and Laura Davies (71-71, -2, T42), who stumbled their way into the weekend. But they're all chasing Sophie Gustafson and Wendy Ward at -4 (T20) and Michelle Redman at -8 (T4) heading into the weekend.

The Prospector course hasn't been all that kind to Young Guns and veterans, so look for Stanford, Ochoa, and Sorenstam to distance themselves from the pack later today. I'll be rooting for Jee Young Lee to stay in contention, but she's going to need more from her driver, as she hinted in the post-round interview. Anybody not double digits under par at the end of moving day will just be playing for a top 10. How low Stanford and Ochoa can go will determine how far into double digits you'll have to be to have a chance for a come-from-behind win on Sunday. They're starting early and going out in pairs starting Saturday, so expect some nice head-to-head match-ups between Stanford and Ochoa, Sorenstam and Lee, Stupples and Kerr, Oh and Wright, Lang and Lincicome, Diaz and Lu, Davies and Kung, and Wessberg and Friberg (in reverse chronological order).

Too bad I'm heading home tomorrow afternoon so I'll miss all the action. Back to internet-only LPGA experiences until the next visit to the grandparents' place in May!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Safeway International Thursday: Stanford's 62 Sets Course Record

And I got to see it all on Golf Channel! Yup, drove onechan and imoto yesterday to my hometown to hang out with my folks for a couple of days toward the end of my spring break. What, delay the girls' bed-time to watch women's golf after dinner? How could I? Well, my parents have a picture of my little bro and me at ages 4 and 6 or something with Sally Little and Nancy Lopez at some LPGA event somewhere. Where do you think I get my sports fanaticism from, anyway?

So between the batting around plastic golf balls inside and out before dinner and getting to see the people whose maru and shikaku (circles and squares--that is, birdies and bogeys) we usually only track onine, onechan and imoto are huge LPGA fans now, too. Onechan's new favorite is Natalie Gulbis, thanks to the pink ribbon in her hair and the pink accents in her top, but she also stuck up in favor of Momoko Ueda's top--also pink, but ruffly--against the consensus in the room that it was responsible for her bad round. For whatever reason, she wasn't as impressed with Ai Miyazato's pink top--it was Gulbis who leaped to the top of her list of favorite players, passing Paula Creamer and Karrie Webb, while Ai-chan and Momo-chan lag behind. In fact, she had imoto playing Momo-chan, me playing Ai-chan, and my dad playing Moira Dunn while she played Natalie during the telecast. Two years ago I would have been hating that, but my opinion of Gulbis has gone way up since I realized what a fighter she is.

OK, getting back to the golf, what an amazing round by Angela Stanford yesterday, eh? Her interview on-line wasn't nearly as great as her post-round one on the Golf Channel, but it was clear from everything she said in both that this was a once-in-a-lifetime round for her. Not to say that she can't continue to go low and extend her lead on the field--the way things went today, she exemplified what Tiger was saying about how hard it is to win on tour: everyone's so good that you need some things to go your way that normally don't in order to come out on top. Well, when you look at her last two birdies, on 17 and 18--the first a long bomb she was shocked dropped and the second a result of some great bounces and rolls on a practically-skull-hooked 3-wood that got her on the par 5 in two--you start thinking that this just might be her week.

But, the Safeway International kicks off a run of 72-hole events, in which a first-round lead matters much less. But, her closest pursuer, only 3 shots back, is Lorena Ochoa, and she also was rolling in a bomb or two and making some breaks happen. (Her sand save for par on 17 was key and her fairway-wood approach on 18 also got a good bounce, so her final two holes were crucial vis a vis momentum, too.) But, Sherri Steinhauer made 8 birdies on her way to a 66, and once she's figured out a course, she doesn't usually back off. But, it looks like some Young Guns, led by Ya Ni Tseng and Jee Young Lee at 67, may be tuning in early into the Prospector course, which typically takes many repetitions to hone in on. But, 19 players broke 70 and 53 went under par, including many capable of going super-low themselves.

On the other hand, a lot of players never got anything going on a day ripe for scoring, some even had horrific rounds (a 75 for Momo-chan? a 78 for In-Kyung Kim??), and many who had some good things going on had disappointing finishes. Take Birdie Kim. Or wait, forget that one: thanks to a Golf Channel scoring error, I thought she had gotten to -6, but it turns out she only got to -4 before her final-hole bogey on the 9th dropped her to T11. (Paula Creamer and Jeong Jang had about the same story, just with birdie-only rounds broken up by late bogeys on the 7th and 4th, respectively.) Let's try again. How about Stacy Prammanasudh? She went out bogey-free on the back and carded a 32, but proceeded to have a birdie-free 38 on the front. (Hee-Won Han repeated the feat, going 33-37 to be stuck with Stacy at T20.) Or try Mi Hyun Kim: consecutive closing bogeys on the 8th and 9th turned what could have been a mid-60s round into a 71 (T33). And Laura Diaz had recovered from a double bogey on the 2nd to get to -2 with two holes to play, but promptly bogeyed the 17th and 18th to fall back to T54.

Although a lot of hot players left a lot of strokes out on the course, others started to get something going toward the ends of their rounds. Christina Kim went on a birdie barrage, making 5 birdies in her last 12 holes, to come back from an opening stretch in which she followed up an early birdie with bogeys on 3 of her next 4 holes. Annika Sorenstam was stuck in neutral for most of her round, but consecutive closing birdies on the 17th and 18th bode well for the living legend. Even Ai-chan, who had her putting problems on the front, closed with a gritty sand save for par on 17 and birdied 18 to fight back to E on a course that's given her fits in the past. When she gets her putter going, she's capable of going quite low, so watch out for her tomorrow.

Speaking of Ai-chan, it's annoying that the Golf Channel announcers have her pegged as a short hitter. Nothing about her averaging a respectable 253 yards off the tee in her rookie season. Nothing about her post-HSBC leg injury that led to swing glitches and confidence problems. Nothing about her switching to a 3-wood off the tee for a good part of the second half of last season as a result. Nothing about what she was using off the tee yesterday. Just the steady drumbeat of, "Oh, she's 30 yards behind Ochoa on this hole" and "It must feel terrible to be 55 yards behind Ochoa on that hole." All I'm saying is, you'd think people paid to talk in particular about the players in the prime-time pairings would, you know, do some actual research on those people. To be fair, Dottie Pepper mentioned that Ai-chan's dad is travelling with her for a time to help her keep working on her swing and ease the pressure of the Japanese media's high expectations. But even that factoid could have been much better contextualized.

Looking ahead to Friday's round, it's far too soon to call this tournament for Stanford, or even portray it as a three-player race. With Golf Channel coverage starting at 1 pm our time tomorrow, we should get to see quite a bit of the prime-time pairings on the front:

Start Time: 8:07 AM
Angela Stanford
Natalie Gulbis
Meena Lee

Start Time: 8:18 AM
Jimin Kang
Laura Diaz
Marcy Hart

Start Time: 8:29 AM
Nicole Castrale
Maria Hjorth
Se Ri Pak

Start Time: 8:40 AM
Momoko Ueda
Annika Sorenstam
Laura Davies

Start Time: 8:51 AM
Lorena Ochoa
Juli Inkster
Ai Miyazato

and the back:

Start Time: 8:07 AM
Christina Kim
Lorie Kane
Mi Hyun Kim

Start Time: 8:18 AM
Birdie Kim
Shi Hyun Ahn
Jeong Jang

Start Time: 8:51 AM
Stacy Prammanasudh
Jee Young Lee
Wendy Ward

And maybe even a little bit of some fascinating pairings in the afternoon, off #1

Start Time: 12:07 PM
Grace Park
Morgan Pressel
Paula Creamer

Start Time: 12:18 PM
Hee-Won Han
Cristie Kerr
Suzann Pettersen

and #10

Start Time: 11:56 AM
Young Kim
Seon Hwa Lee
Pat Hurst

In other words, I'm not complaining that tomorrow's weather forecast is bad at grandma and grandpa's place!

[Update: Hound Dog has the first-round overview, highlights, and Grace Park Watch.]

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Japanese Tunisia

Tomonao Hara plays "A Night in Tunisia":

The Best off the LPGA: JLPGA Edition, March 2008

Hound Dog and I have been casually batting around the idea of how to internationalize our ranking systems, which are LPGA-only thus far, off and on over the past year or so. Now that I've established myself as Blogoramaville's functionally illiterate expert on the JLPGA (with an email from Daniel Wexler to prove it!) and not-quite-live-blogged a couple of JLPGA events this season, I figured I'd take the first baby step toward acting on our ideas by adding a single letter to my Best of the LPGA rankings and extending their methodology to the 2008 JLPGA season. By using the most recent results from the Rolex Rankings, the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index, and the JLPGA Money List, that is, I hope to identify the Best of the JLPGA. In future odd-numbered months, I'll do the same for the KLPGA and LET. If anyone has any ideas on how to go about combining these 4 ranking systems at the end of the season, comment away!

Taking into account the final 2007 money list this time around, there's a clear #1, but she has nothing like Lorena Ochoa's lead in the LPGA.

1. Momoko Ueda: #1 2007 money (¥166.1M), #16 2008 money (¥3.3M), #10 RR (4.44), #8 GSPI (70.31). Depending on how her schedule plays out this year, she could try to stay on the top of the heap in Japan and make a run at the Rookie of the Year race on the LPGA. But if she had been seriously considering this possibility at the start of the season, Louise Friberg's win at Bosque Real may have changed her calculations. Still, a T5 in her first and only start on the JLPGA has to be a tempting foundation to build on.

2. Yuri Fudoh: #6 2007 money (¥87.1M), #3 2008 money (¥12.2M), #17 RR (3.87), #10 GSPI (70.69). Her playoff win in the season's second event is her only top-10 finish thus far, so, assuming Ueda will spend most of her time on the LPGA, the best-ever JLPGA player's ability to stay ahead of her challengers will be one big question to follow this season.

3. Sakura Yokomine: #2 2007 money (¥114.9M), #2 2008 money (¥17.1M), #16 RR (3.90), #24 GSPI (71.04). Two runner-up finishes and nothing worse than a top 5 in her first 3 events of 2008 establish her as the hottest player on the JLPGA, even though the GSPI has not yet caught up with her recent accomplishments. We'll have to see what kind of psychological fallout her two near-misses incur, though. The sooner she can put the Groundhog Day-like yips nightmare from last week behind her, the better my prediction that she'll be the first to take over the #1 spot from Ueda will look.

There's an impressive trio closely bunched right behind the Big 3:

4. Miki Saiki: #9 2007 money (¥62.6M), #4 2008 money (¥8.8M), #26 RR (3.41), #32 GSPI (71.47). Off to a great start in 2008 with two consecutive top 5 finishes, but skipped last week's event. Hope there's not an injury involved.

5. Shiho Ohyama: #8 2007 money (¥71.7M), #10 2008 money (¥4.6M), #25 RR (3.44), #35 GSPI (71.63). Two top 10s followed by a disappointing T33 with Shin in the field suggest there are still some kinks to be worked out in her game.

6. Miho Koga: #4 2007 money (¥94.3M), #5 2008 money (¥8.7M), #40 RR (2.54), #45 GSPI (72.08). A rising star: T5-T11-T4 to start off the season. But shooting so fast neither world ranking system has yet caught up with her.

Next there's a trio looking to build on their one-top-10/one-top-20 or two-top-20 achievements and move up the charts:

7. Mi-Jeong Jeon: #3 2007 money (¥110.9M), #12 2008 money (¥4.3M), #24 RR (3.48), #37 GSPI (71.73). An uncharacteristic MC last week is the only blemish on a fine start to the season--T5 and T11 in her first two events.

8. Shinobu Moromizato: #7 2007 money (¥85.3M), #13 2008 money (¥4.0M), #44 RR (2.39), #40 GSPI (71.94). Two top 10s plus a top 20 get her 2008 off on the right foot.

9. Bo-Bae Song: #16 2007 money (¥44.4M), #1 2008 money (¥19.6M), #51 RR (1.93), #64 GSPI (72.53). With a win, a third-place finish, and a T15 thus far this season, she stands atop the 2008 money list and has broken into the top ranks of the JLPGA, despite the lag between her world rankings and her performance.

10. Akiko Fukushima: #11 2007 money (¥51.6M), #17 2008 money (¥3.0M), #43 RR (2.47), #57 GSPI (72.36). A top 20, top 30, and a top 10 to start the season drop her down the charts a bit.

Next there's big group on the rise, with one top 10, two top 20s, or two top 50s in the world rankings under their belts:

11. Yun-Jye Wei: #20 2007 money (¥38.1M), #7 2008 money (¥7.7M), #58 RR (1.68), #111 GSPI (73.47). A playoff loss and a T11 get her season off to a great start.

12. Hiromi Mogi: #15 2007 money (¥44.9M), #15 2008 money (¥3.5M), #74 RR (1.38), #75 GSPI (72.84). One top 10 is the main bright spot thus far in her this season.

13. Na Zhang: #5 2007 money (¥92.1M), #32 2008 money (¥1.7M), #21 RR (3.51), #52 GSPI (72.28). Hasn't cracked the top 20 yet this season, but hasn't gone outside the top 40 either.

14. Akane Iijima: #10 2007 money (¥60.3M), #43 2008 money (¥1.2M), #57 RR (1.68), #72 GSPI (72.79). Off to a very disappointing start this season, with one top 20 her only decent result thus far.

15. Kaori Higo: #50 2007 money (¥15.8M), #6 2008 money (¥7.7M), #91 RR (1.13), #114 GSPI (73.49). A T3 and two top 15s have her moving up the charts.

16. Eun-A Lim: #86 2007 money (¥5.1M), #8 2008 money (¥6.7M), #75 RR (1.34), #n.r. GSPI (72.64) [too few events in database thus far]. Two top 10s, including a T3 in the opening tournament of the year, put her in position to challenge much more established players in the rankings this season.

17. Hiroko Yamaguchi: #24 2007 money (¥33.1M), #10 2008 money (¥6.4M), #99 RR (1.03), #83 GSPI (73.06). Two T6s in the past two weeks have her charging up the charts.

18. Hyun-Ju Shin: #12 2007 money (¥48.5M), #35 2008 money (¥1.5M), #46 RR (2.20), #50 GSPI (72.22). Off to a slow start with two top 40s and a top 30 thus far this season, but likely to move up the charts as she gets more events under her belt.

19. Yuko Mitsuka: #14 2007 money (¥45.3M), #20 2008 money (¥2.3M), #52 RR (1.84), #117 GSPI (73.50). One top 20 thus far this season puts her in position for better things to come.

20. Pei-Lin Yu: d.n.p. 2007, #18 2008 money (¥2.6M), n.r. RR [too few events in database thus far], n.r. GSPI (71.92) [too few events in database thus far]. I believe she's a rookie; a top 20 and a top 30 in the past two weeks have vaulted her ahead of many more established players. We'll have to see if she can keep this up.

Close behind them is another big group with one top 20 and otherwise solid results:

21. Ji-Hee Lee: #38 2007 money (¥23.4M), #11 2008 money (¥4.4M), #62 RR (1.59), #97 GSPI (73.24).

22. Yukari Baba: #28 2007 money (¥27.9M), #14 2008 money (¥3.7M), #96 RR (1.07), #80 GSPI (73.02).

23. Midori Yoneyama: #21 2007 money (¥35.3M), #19 2008 money (¥2.4M), #86 RR (1.16), #127 GSPI (73.59).

24. Erina Hara: #19 2007 money (¥39.7M), #29 2008 money (¥1.8M), #54 RR (1.73), #110 GSPI (73.46).

25. Mie Nakata: #20 2007 money (¥38.1M), #45 2008 money (¥1.2M), #65 RR (1.48), #86 GSPI (73.06).

26. Yui Kawahara: #18 2007 money (¥41.6M), #47 2008 money (¥1.1M), #80 RR (1.30), #69 GSPI (72.75).

27. Chie Arimura: #13 2007 money (¥47.6M), #55 2008 money (¥.7M), #63 RR (1.55), #95 GSPI (73.23).

28. Nikki Campbell: #17 2007 money (¥42.7M), #62 2008 money (¥.5M), #70 RR (1.40), #76 GSPI (72.90).

And here's the best of the rest:

29. Ayako Uehara: #25 2007 money (¥32.9M), #23 2008 money (¥2.4M), #107 RR (.97), #130 GSPI (73.63).

30. Namika Omata: #41 2007 money (¥20.9M), #22 2008 money (¥2.4M), #90 RR (1.13), #96 GSPI (73.24).

31. Mayu Hattori: #44 2007 money (¥18.5M), #28 2008 money (¥1.9M), #134 RR (.76), #71 GSPI (72.78).

[Update (5/7/08, 11:27 am): Hound Dog's first JLPGA Top 10 is out!]

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Safeway International Pairings/Predictions

Hound Dog's Safeway International preview is up, so check it out. Here's a quick and dirty little post. Got a couple irons in the fire that some of you may get excited about, but they're going to take me away from serious blogging today.

First, my biweekly exercise in futility with the PakPickers:

1. Ochoa
2. Creamer
3. Sorenstam
4. Jang Jeong
5. Han Hee-Won
6. Diaz
7. Prammanasudh
8. Webb
9. Pettersen
10. Park Jane
11. Park Angela
12. Lee Sarah

Alts: Matthew, Ahn Shi Hyun, Inkster

Using the Mostly Harmless jinx for good, I've refrained from picking my favorite former Super Sophs--hopefully this will be the year they break through on the Prospector course. Hey, they don't call it Superstition Mountain for nothing!

Although there are many interesting pairings out there tomorrow, I'd be bouncing back and forth between two prime-time ones if I weren't taking the girls to visit their grandparents while the Full Metal Archivist catches up on work and school:

Start Time: 12:18 PM
Momoko Ueda
Annika Sorenstam
Laura Davies

Start Time: 12:29 PM
Lorena Ochoa
Juli Inkster
Ai Miyazato

Talk about priming Momo-chan and Ai-chan for greatness, getting their faces on tv as much as possible, and thereby encouraging more top Japanese golfers to come over and play in the States! Gotta love it! (Yes, this is my fandom outweighing my critic's sense of outrage that former Rookies of the Year Seon Hwa Lee and Angela Park are more deserving of the honor.)

There's much more to be said, but not by me!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

We Have a Site! And a Line-Up? And Sponsors...?

As in a real, live, location. A building, if you will.

What is this about? Click here and ask yourself which god(s) of stupidity made me forget to cross-post that CitizenSE post here. But hey, everything happens for a reason, etc. etc. Instead of a cross-post, I have something much, much better.

Video from the Virtual Goods Summit 2007 at Stanford University. Watch it all. I haven't--yet--but Sloucho has.

Sloucho, you'll recall, is the guy too busy to blog here about some of the material we never quite got around to doing together as a ground-breaking video games studies book back in the early aughts--mostly due to mutual slackerdom. Well, since then he's straightened up and appears to be flying right. His Fantasy Football writing gig has been supplemented by a third job toiling away in Everquest 2's platinum mines. His first job? Oh, he was just named Professor of the Year there. I'm totally serious. Things are going his way. And coming. Watch the video and try to figure out how he's making more per month on his third job than I am on my first.

So my point in mentioning all this is that we don't just have a site but also potential sponsors and a stellar line-up for the video game studies summer camp idea you all were too lazy to click and read about up there in my first link. Go do it now, so you'll appreciate what I'm about to do next.

Site: Cameron University's Center for Emerging Technology and Entrepreneurial Studies.

Sponsors: Click on the link, for starters. Feel free to suggest more (or self-nominate) in comments.

Line-Up (other professor-coach types than Sloucho and me): Dave Lester. Rob MacDougall. Timothy Burke. Kathleen Fitzpatrick.

OK, so they haven't officially confirmed. Heck, some of them don't even know yet that they're being recruited, or are doing a damn good impression of it. Only others we let in are close personal friends or those whose friend(s) already in can wangle a majority vote among those already in for them.

Seriously, this is going to be big. I can't believe no one has done this already. How do you patent this? Or is that trademark? Yeesh, maybe we can bring somebody in who knows something about intellectual property. Between the 2 of us, we ought to know someone.

Yeah, I said Lawton, OK, in summer 2009. You got a problem with that? Sloucho has to take advantage of his summers to do most of the heavy lifting directing an Honors Program there, so no travelling road show until we finish beta testing it on his home turf.

OK, anyone else who wants in can leave a comment or drop me a line at my super-secret bloggy email address (or any of my others--impress me with your fab research skills)....

Please excuse my tone. When I was talking about all this with the Full Metal Archivist yesterday evening, onechan came over, listened in for awhile, and interjected, "why are you laughing like a monster from Pretty Cure, daddy?" No, my laugh had nothing to do with the Powerpuff Girls CD playing rather loudly in the background. It's the possibility of never having to teach a summer course again and still being able to send both my girls to any college they want.


[Update 3/26/08: Bill Benzon shares an article on the social networking pros of video game play. Thanks, Bill!]

Monday, March 24, 2008

Getting Excited About the Safeway International

No need to make excuses for the field at the Safeway International: every big name in the LPGA is registered for the tournament, which has seen its share of big-name winners (Laura Davies 4 years in a row in the mid-1990s; Annika Sorenstam 3 out of 5 years in the early 2000s; Pat Bradley twice; Beth Daniel, Betsy King, Jan Stephenson, Patty Sheehan, Juli Inkster, Karrie Webb, Se Ri Pak, and Lorena Ochoa once), not to mention first-time winners (7 in 28 events) and sudden-death playoffs (6). 2007 featured a weekend showdown between Ochoa and Suzann Pettersen; 2006 a Sunday charge by Juli Inkster past Sarah Lee and Aree Song; 2005 a Sunday chase-down of Soo-Yun Kang by Sorenstam and, thanks to a late collapse by Ochoa, a playoff victory for the living legend.

The Prospector Course, with its fantastic 18th hole, has not been kind to Hall of Famer Se Ri Pak (no weekend play for her the past 3 years), or, for that matter, any Young Guns, but plenty of other people seem to have figured out the place lately, including Paula Creamer, Jeong Jang, Hee-Won Han (who played her last tournament before going on maternity leave here last season), Stacy Prammanasudh, Catriona Matthew, Laura Diaz, and Shi Hyun Ahn.

As the LPGA enters a run of consecutive weekly tournaments that extends over most of the rest of the spring and spans the year's first two majors, it's safe to say that the preseason is over. Who will join Louise Friberg, Lorena Ochoa, Paula Creamer, and Annika Sorenstam in the winner's circle during this stretch? Who will become the first multiple winner on the LPGA in 2008? The Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year races have no clear favorites as yet; who will be the first to break away from the lead packs in each, and who will follow them?

So many questions. It's almost enough to make me want to splurge on a tv and cable package this spring and summer. Maybe after the end of the academic year....

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Akazukin Chacha: Precursor to Precure (and Ojamajo Doremi)

Here's the theme song of a manga/anime that the Full Metal Archivist and her sister read/watched in the years before she came to the States!

Here's the opening of the first episode of Akazukin Chacha:

It's kind of Little Red Riding Hood morphing into Wonder Woman/Green Arrow, with all the humor you'd expect from such a henshin. Plus, Shingo Katori (of SMAP fame) was a voice actor on the show!

Yokohoma PRGR Ladies Cup Sunday: It's Yokomine and Shin Down the Stretch

Yeah, yeah, Michelle Wie WDed from the Safeway International because she sprained her wrist practicing out of heavy rough. I say, more power to her for avoiding last year's mistakes. Turning to real women's golf news, the top JLPGA and the top KLPGA golfer are neck-and-neck at -6 with the final six holes being played right now at the Yokohama PRGR Ladies Cup. Sakura Yokomine birdied 2 of her first 5 holes to extend her lead to 2 over Ji-Yai Shin, but bogeyed the 8th and 12th to fall back into a tie with her. Shin has responded with a birdie on the first and 11 straight pars. Even though the leaders are struggling by their standards, there is only one other person under par in the entire field, and time is running out on Kaori Higo, who is 4 back with 5 left to play.

While we wait for the JLPGA site to update, here are highlights of Yokomine's first and second rounds. Along with Shin's first two. Sorry for the dripping rather than streaming video from TV Tokyo--I've found it's better to let it drag on for awhile then go back a bit to make it run more smoothly. No such fix for their taste in highlight reel music, though, unless you just mute it.

Gotta love Yokomine sporting the dark knee-high socks. Combined with the intensity of her expression, I'm reminded of the killer schoolgirl from Kill Bill. Her finish in the first round was even better than I previously noted: not only did it include great birdies on 16 and 18 but a fantastic up-and-down from the back left of the par-3 17th green. She finished strong again on Saturday, as she lagged what looks like an 80-footer to 3 inches on the 17th, keeping her bogey-free round going, and nailed a sliding, slicing 14-foot birdie putt on the 18th for her 5th birdie of the day.

Shin, meanwhile, is swinging great. If she had putted better down the stretch on Friday, she'd be running away with this thing. Although she made what looks like a 6-footer to end her day with a birdie, she missed a tap-in on the 16th for par after sticking a wedge and squandered a great approach shot on the 17th by failing to convert a 10-footer. A missed 7-foot par save on the 17th was the only blemish on her 4-birdie round Saturday, but it allowed Yokomine to take the lead heading into the final round.

Although Shin has only bogeyed 4 of her first 47 holes, two of them have come on the 16th and 17th, so she'd better build a lead before she gets to the final 3 holes...although 17 hasn't been kind to Yokomine either, with two pulls off the tee. I'd say Yokomine has the slight edge coming down the stretch--she's been playing the final holes great, has been putting well all tournament, and has the home-field advantage over Shin. But Shin's swing is more compact and more likely to hold up under pressure than Yokomine's, so could easily match Bo-Bae Song's feat in denying her another victory. We'll have to just wait and (eventually) see what happens!

[Update 1 (4:19 am): It's playoff time! Yokomine birdied 13 to take a 1-shot lead over Shin, but then gave it back on the 14th with a bogey. It looked to be Yokomine's tournament when Shin doubled the 16th, but Yokomine responded with a double of her own on the final hole.]

[Update 2 (4:27 am): It's Shin for the win!]

[Update 3 (4:32 am): Just for Hound Dog, who's promised a JLPGA ranking if he can get the right stats, here's the top of the leaderboard:

T1/-4 Ji-Yai Shin (70-69-73) [won in playoff], Sakura Yokomine (71-67-74)

#3/-1 Kaori Higo (73-70-72)

T4/+1 Miho Koga (73-73-71), Ji-Hee Lee (71-69-77)

T6/+2 Hiromi Mogi (71-76-71), Hiroko Yamaguchi (74-69-75), Yukari Baba (73-70-75)

T9/+3 Shinobu Moromizato (74-74-71), Akiko Fukushima (68-77-74), So-Hee Kim (70-73-76)]

[Update 4 (4:44 am): And for the JLPGA otaku in the house, other notables' finishes:

T15/+5 Bo-Bae Song, Akane Iijima, Yuri Fudoh
T21/+6 Erina Hara, Na Zhang
T33/+8 Hyun-Ju Shin, Shiho Ohyama
T49/+12 Chie Arimura]

[Update 5 (1:34 pm): Amaebirah comes through again with loads of final round video, including clips for each of the 4 playoff holes!]

[Update 6 (3:47 pm): Yokomine missed a short birdie putt on 6 to go 3 up and the air slowly fwooshed out of her game over the next 11 holes, but things went from bad to worse when she missed a tap-in for the win on the 18th--she followed up with a missed 4-footer for birdie to win on the first playoff hole (the 18th), a slightly longer miss on the second (again, on the 18th), and a bit longer one on the third (yup, the 18th again). After lagging her putt on (yes) the 18th 10 feet short, she looked relieved when Shin smashed in a 15-footer for the birdie to win. They played in the rain from the 15th or 16th on, which definitely affected both players' putting. As onechan put it to me, "It's hard to putt in the rain!" True of Yokomine and Shin as well as Tiger....]

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Yokohama PRGR Ladies Cup Saturday: A Shin/Yokomine Showdown in the Making?

To recap, here's where the Yokohama PRGR Ladies Cup leaderboard stood at the end of Friday's action:

#1/68 Akiko Fukushima -4

#2/70 Erina Hara, Mihoko Takahashi, Na Zhang, Ji-Yai Shin, So-Hee Kim -2

T7/71 Rui Yokomine, Ai Ogawa, Mayu Hattori, Hiromi Mogi, Ji-Hee Lee, Sakura Yokomine, Chie Arimura -1

T14/72 Mihoko Iseri, Yuuki Ichinose, Hyun-Ju Shin, Bo-Bae Song, Junko Omote, Rui Kitada, Ji-Woo Lee, Itsumi Okada E

Interesting, isn't it, how Fukushima, Hara, and Takahashi were paired together for the final round, while Zhang, Shin, and Kim (each of whom could have been paired with the leader) were relegated to the next-to-last pairing? Well, the golf gods must have a sense of poetic justice, as the all-Japan final group has dropped way down the leaderboard so far today:

#1/-5 Sakura Yokomine (-4 through 14), Ji-Yai Shin (-3 through 12)

#3/-4 Ji-Hee Lee (-3 through 14)

#4/-3 So-Hee Kim (-1 through 12)

#5/-2 Junko Omote (-2 through 14)

T6/-1 Hiroko Yamaguchi (69), Mayumi Shimamura, Kaori Higo, and Yukari Baba (-2 through 16), Erina Hara (+1 through 12)

T11/E Yuko Mitsuka (-1 through 17), Mayu Hattori (+1 through 14), Akiko Fukushima (+4 through 12)

The top 3 have bogey-free rounds going on a day when lots of top-ranked golfers are blowing up or holding steady. More coming once the JLPGA updates their site....

[Update 1 (4:42 am): Looks like a 3-player race:

#1/-6 Sakura Yokomine (67)

#2/-5 Ji-Yai Shin (69)

#3/-4 Ji-Hee Lee (69)

The next closest people are 3 shots behind Lee....]

[Update 2 (4:46 am): For video highlights, check out Amaebirah's contribution to the Seoul Sisters discussion thread!]

Friday, March 21, 2008

Make It Dragon Ash in 2008

Amazing discovery today about the Full Metal Archivist's musical tastes. I came home very late from picking up the girls--for which I have to thank Ari, bw, Vance Maverick, and Harriet Beecher Stowe--only to discover that she's into j-punk! Specifically, a group that goes by the name of Dragon Ash. You know what's coming next, right?

Yup, that's her favorite song. Too close to Sugar Ray for me, but it's a start.

Here's why this is so exciting. If you check my profile, you'll see I'm into music in a big way, but most of it the Full Metal Archivist is not so into. So if I start her on The Offspring, move into Green Day, then back to some of the classic punk albums, I might just be able to get to to hear the connection between them and, say, Primus, Mos Def, and, if I need to fall back on them, the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Next step: Tool sounds a lot better to her. Happiness reigns in the Constructivist household and onechan and imoto are brought up right, musically speaking, of course.

Heh, I can't wait till I can say, "I love it when an 'imposing my musical canons on those I love' plan comes together!" Or, if it fails, "Would you believe...?"

Yokohama PRGR Ladies Cup Friday: Hold the Presses! Ji-Yai Shin Near Top of Leaderboard

Here's what the JLPGA's "Realtime Scoring" link for the Yokohama PRGR Ladies Cup looks like right now:

1/-5 Akiko Fukushima through 15
2/-3 Itsumi Okada through 3
3/-2 Mihoko Takahashi, Erina Hara and Na Zhang through 16, Ji-Yai Shin through 15

Which clears up one of the mysteries from my preview/pairings post. The person named 申 智 愛 (シン チ エ) playing with Iijima and Yokomine is none other than the KLPGA's top golfer!

Very interesting how some of the JLPGA's biggest names are responding to Shin's presence thus far:

14/E Hyun-Ju Shin and Bo-Bae Song through 16, Chie Arimura through 14
22/+1 Miho Koga through 16, Sakura Yokomine, Shiho Ohyama, Mi-Jeong Jeon, Akane Iijima through 15
93/+6 Yuri Fudoh through 16

More coming once the JLPGA site updates!

[Update 1 (1:50 am): Ah, they're updating the site in real time thus far. I think I cursed Shin. After a birdie-bogey-birdie start, she fell back to E with a bogey on the par-4 6th, but made up for it by going -2 over her next 9 holes (including failures to birdie 3 par 5s but birdies on the 11th and 13th). So of course she'd bogey the 16th to fall back to a tie for 6th with Ji-Hee Lee, Eun-A Lim, and So-Hee Kim, among others....]

[Update 2 (1:59 am): Watch the tournament discussion forum on Seoul Sisters if you're curious about the reaction to news of Shin's tuning up for the KLPGA season opener in Japan this week! Here are updates on more players: Bo-Bae Song and Hyun-Ju Shin's rounds are now history: even-par 72s (T13 still, so far). Yokomine has pulled even with them with the 18th left to play. Okada has fallen back to -2, giving Fukushima a 3-stroke lead on the field with 2 holes left for her to play, 1 for Zhang, and 5 for Okada, the only people at -2 still on the course (Hara and Takahashi have finished their rounds and posted 70s). Koga's 73 (T23, so far) is official. No other big names near the top of the leaderboard have changed their score or position.]

[Update 3 (2:11 am): Here's an expanded view of the leaderboard as more rounds become history:

1/-4 Akiko Fukushima through 17

2/70 Erina Hara, Mihoko Takahashi, Na Zhang, Itsumi Okada -2 through 5

6/71 Rui Yokomine, Ai Ogawa, Mayu Hattori, Hiromi Mogi, Ji-Hee Lee, Ji-Yai Shin -1 through 17, Eun-A Lim through 5, So-Hee Kim through 14

14/72 Mihoko Iseri, Yuuki Ichinose, Hyun-Ju Shin, Bo-Bae Song, Junko Omote, Sakura Yokomine E through 17, Chie Arimura through 16, Yoko Yamagishi through 7, Ji-Woo Lee through 14]

[Update 4 (2:13 am): Shin birdied 18! So did Yokomine!]

[Update 5 (2:17 am): Yikes, Mi-Jeong Jeon is now +2 (T37) and Shiho Ohyama is now +3 (T55) through 17. Fudoh finished at 78 (T88). Pressure!]

[Update 5 (2:23 am): OK, most of the leaders are done:

1/68 Akiko Fukushima -4

2/70 Erina Hara, Mihoko Takahashi, Na Zhang, Ji-Yai Shin, So-Hee Kim -2 through 15

7/71 Rui Yokomine, Ai Ogawa, Mayu Hattori, Hiromi Mogi, Ji-Hee Lee, Sakura Yokomine, Itsumi Okada -1 through 6

14/72 Mihoko Iseri, Yuuki Ichinose, Hyun-Ju Shin, Bo-Bae Song, Junko Omote, Chie Arimura E through 17, Eun-A Lim through 6, Rui Kitada through 15, Ji-Woo Lee through 14]

[Update 6 (2:28 am): A bit on the leaders' rounds. Fukushima doubled the first, parred the second, and proceeded to birdie 5 of her next 7 holes to finish the front with a 33. She kicked off the back with a bogey, but then birdied the next 2 and the 15th before being brought back to earth with a bogey on the 17th. Hara was -3 through 11 and stayed there until she bogeyed the 16th. Yokomine twice had back-to-back bogeys offset by consecutive birdies, once on each side--no, wait, it was 2 of her last 3 holes she birdied on the back!]

[Update 7 (2:34 am): Wow, Ohyama ended up with a 76 (T64)! Meanwhile, Jeon and Shinobu Moromizato could only manage 74s (T35), and Eun-A Lim just doubled the par-5 7th to join them at +2.]

[Update 8 (2:37 am): Speaking of notables over par, there's a big bunch at 73 (T22), including Miho Koga, Akane Iijima, Ayako Uehara, Kaori Higa, and Yukari Baba.]

[Update 9 (2:42 am): Meanwhile, Namiko Omata shot a 74 (still T35) and Mie Nakata and Yun-Jye Wei shot 75s (T53).]

[Update 10 (2:46 am): Here's the latest look at the leaderboard:

1/68 Akiko Fukushima -4

2/70 Erina Hara, Mihoko Takahashi, Na Zhang, Ji-Yai Shin -2

6/71 Rui Yokomine, Ai Ogawa, Mayu Hattori, Hiromi Mogi, Ji-Hee Lee, Sakura Yokomine, Chie Arimura, So-Hee Kim -1 through 17, Itsumi Okada through 7, Ji-Woo Lee through 16

16/72 Mihoko Iseri, Yuuki Ichinose, Hyun-Ju Shin, Bo-Bae Song, Junko Omote, Rui Kitada through 17]

[Update 10 (2:48 am): Eun-A Lim is free-falling--now at +3 with only the 9th left to play....]

[Update 11 (2:52 am): Okada, by the way, started on the back and birdied 4 of her first 8 holes, but is on track to give each of those birdies back over the next 10 if she can't right the ship on the 8th and 9th....]

[Update 12 (2:52 am): Hattori, by the way, birdied the 17th and 18th to get to -1....]

[Update 13 (3:01 am): Koga and Uehara, by the way, made mini-charges on the back to get to +1--consecutive birdies on the 15th and 16th for both. Suggests to me that you can expect to see a lot of fireworks on the finishing holes this weekend.]

[Update 14 (3:06 am): Arimura, by the way, had a bogey-free 32 on the back for low round on that side and in fact birdied 5 of her last 10 to make up for 4 bogeys on her first 8; Fukushima's 33 (with a double bogey!) is the low round on the front. And So-Hee Kim made her 4th birdie of the back on the 18th to join the group in second at -2.]

[Update 15 (3:15 am): So there are 35 players within 5 shots of the lead at the close of the action on Friday. Here's the final leaderboard:

1/68 Akiko Fukushima -4

2/70 Erina Hara, Mihoko Takahashi, Na Zhang, Ji-Yai Shin, So-Hee Kim -2

7/71 Rui Yokomine, Ai Ogawa, Mayu Hattori, Hiromi Mogi, Ji-Hee Lee, Sakura Yokomine, Chie Arimura -1

14/72 Mihoko Iseri, Yuuki Ichinose, Hyun-Ju Shin, Bo-Bae Song, Junko Omote, Rui Kitada, Ji-Woo Lee, Itsumi Okada E]

Thursday, March 20, 2008

MasterCard Classic Final-Round Video

For those jonesing for some LPGA action this week, feel free to check out the following clips from ESPN Deportes.

First, a quick recap of Nicole Perrot's round (when they interviewed her, I thought, "Damn, listen to that French chick roll in Spanish!" but it turns out she's Chilean); then Ochoa almost hitting the 18th in two but unable convert her long eagle putt from the fringe or her 10-foot downhill sliding birdie opportunity; plus the beginning of the end of Louise Friberg's round:

Reactions to Ochoa's non-win from the fans, including some cute little girls; recap of Ochoa's 68 (nice medium-length putts for birdie on 1 and to s[t]eal a sand save on 3; decent wedge and longish birdie putt on 6; blowing an eagle put 5 feet by on 9 but apparently making the comebacker; a long birdie putt on 15; sticking the approach on 17 and missing the 7-foot birdie chance, just like Hee Young Park):

Pretty good overview of the leaders' rounds--lots of Oh and Tseng, including missed birdies on 17 by both, with some Dahllof, McGill, and Friberg (including a slightly-less-shaky approach shot on 18 than the one on 17 they showed earlier) mixed in:

Tseng, Oh, and Dahllof's approach shots and putts on the 18th. Tseng's 15-footer was dead center until it lost speed in the last 3 inches and broke outside the hole--she just slightly babied it. Oh had a painful 3-putt that summed up her final-round frustrations:

Nice interview with the super-kawaii champion:

And another:

JLPGA: The Yokohama PRGR Ladies Cup

Once again, the JLPGA event this week--the Yokohama PRGR Ladies Cup--will be getting more of my attention than usual, thanks to another gap week in the LPGA schedule. The pairings for the opening round, when paired with my handy-dandy guide to the JLPGA site, allow me to state with some confidence that the most interesting groups to follow today in Japan will be:

9:21 am: Miho Koga, Bo-Bae Song, Erina Hara
9:30 am: Yuri Fudoh, Na Zhang, Mayu Hattori
9:39 am: Sakura Yokomine, Akane Iijima, [Update 3/21/08 ? Ji-Yai Shin (!)]
9:48 am: Mi-Jeong Jeong, Akiko Fukushima, Shinobu Moromizato
9:57 am: Shiho Ohyama, Chie Arimura, ?

The winner's likely to come from one of these groups, particularly with Momoko Ueda probably on her way (if not already) back to the States, Miki Saiki not in the field, and Hyun-Ju Shin with an unaccountably early tee time.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Read All About It! New LPGA Rankings Out

Here are the top 5s from the various ways people seem to like to keep track of who the top LPGA golfers are. My next Best of the LPGA isn't coming out for a month, so draw your own conclusions. Just keep in mind that the Rolex Rankings draw from the largest number of pro tours and the longest time frame, followed by the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index (which doesn't include the KLPGA and only looks at the past 52 rather than 104 weeks), and that Hound Dog's stats and the LPGA money list are drawn only from performance in official LPGA events.

The Rolex Rankings:

1. Lorena Ochoa 16.66
2. Annika Sorenstam 8.83
3. Suzann Pettersen 7.59
4. Karrie Webb 7.42
5. Paula Creamer 7.37

The Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index:

1. Lorena Ochoa 68.11
2. Paula Creamer 69.29
3. Suzann Pettersen 69.46
4. Annika Sorenstam 69.61
5. Ji-Yai Shin 70.06

Hound Dog's top 30:

1. Lorena Ochoa
2. Suzann Pettersen
3. Paula Creamer
4. Morgan Pressel
5. Annika Sorenstam

LPGA Official Money List:

1. Annika Sorenstam $415,645.00
2. Paula Creamer $345,524.00
3. Lorena Ochoa $330,550.00
4. Louise Friberg $227,847.00
5. Laura Diaz $193,878.00

FYI, here are the leaders from the final 2007 Money List:

1. Lorena Ochoa $4,364,994.00
2. Suzann Pettersen $1,802,400.00
3. Paula Creamer $1,384,798.00
4. Mi Hyun Kim $1,273,848.00
5. Seon Hwa Lee $1,100,198.00

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Stuff You Won't Find on Stuff White People Like

Stuff White People Like? No postbourgie. Too many strained and obvious attempts at political humor crowd out the really very funny pieces.

Now, I know the kids at SWPL are hard-working go-getters who just need the right break to really make it in Blogoramaville. So from the depth of Mostly Harmless's breaking-100-hits-a-day-once-in-a-blue-moon-derived wisdom, let me offer them a little friendly advice.

Don't let your 100th post go by before you do a Tiger Woods piece. Or the 150th go by before you do a Concern Trolling John Daly piece. Or the 200th go by before you do a Hating the Idea of Golf piece. Or the 250th go by before you do a Golf Babes piece. Or the 300th go by before you do a Michelle Wie piece (her game should be back by then). I'm not asking for much. Just 1 golf post in 50. Don't leave the golfy humor to this guy alone! (Yeah, I'll bet that's his real name, too.)

[Update: Thanks to the discerning and curious readers of Belle's recent SWPL post, I almost had to rewrite my "once in a blue moon" bit above. Well, folks, you gave it the good old college try, but unless there's a flood in the next couple of minutes, my bit is safe.]

Monday, March 17, 2008

LPGA on YouTube

Seriously! Check it out at!

Why does this matter, you ask? Well, for one thing, it gives Hound Dog added incentive to use YouTube as his platform. It's not just that he doesn't have to go to the trouble of uploading the highlight clips he makes directly into his Blogger account, but can instead set up a free YouTube account and embed the clips into his blog; it's also that the odds are good his clips will be featured in YouTube's "Related Videos" sidebar (hopefully displacing material that the LPGA may be more, uh, hesitant to be associated with).

Unfortunately, the LPGA has disabled the embedding function for their own clips, which to my mind kind of defeats the purpose of putting them on YouTube in the first place. Oh, and their commercials r teh boooo-ring. Plus, their voiceover narrator reminds me of that loser actor who always shows up in various Simpsons episodes ("Hi. I'm x. You may know me from such movies as..."). I shudder to think what Geoff Shackelford will make of the production values.

So, yeah, it's a work in process. But at least it's something.

MasterCard Classic Sunday: Friberg Sets Tournament Record on Way to Win

Well, I speculated that a young gun would surprise this week and said it would take a course record to catch second-round leader Ji Young Oh and her closest competitor Ya Ni Tseng, but I got just about everything else wrong about the final round of the MasterCard Classic. Hound Dog is too nice to point out that he got most of his predictions right in his fantastic final-round summary, mostly because he's keeping the focus where it ought to be: on rookie Louise Friberg's conquest of Bosque Real, a come-from-behind victory as impressive as Tiger's win at Bay Hill and Yuri Fudoh's at the JLPGA's Accordia Golf Ladies this week.

When Friberg's bogey-free run of 6 birdies and an eagle ended on the 16th hole, dropping her back to -6 for the tournament, I thought to myself that it would be too bad if a breaking the tournament record wouldn't be enough to get her the win. In fact, I was worried she would be pressing on the final two holes and make a bogey or worse to lose the record and the tournament. This was before Ji Young Oh's bogey on 14 that dropped her out of the tie for the lead for good--at that point, Oh had tripled her bogey production over the previous 36 holes, but was moving onto her last 7 holes, where she had made 6 of her 10 birdies in the tournament. So I figured she'd make a run at getting back to par, that Ya Ni Tseng--who at that point was only +1 on her round and also tied for the lead--would follow her, and that no one else who had been brought back into contention by the two leaders would be able to keep up with them. Well, Hound Dog has already given the play-by-play for the three of them, so go back and read his recap if you haven't already. He also covers how Jill McGill and Na Yeon Choi failed to break the -5 barrier, as well as how Pat Hurst and Jane Park (who had been playing the final 3 holes as well as anyone but couldn't get more than 1 birdie on them with the tournament on the line) couldn't get past the -4 barrer.

What he doesn't cover, however, is how people who finished even further down the leaderboard squandered their chances to make Friberg's record-breaking round moot. Take Jee Young Lee, for instance. You wouldn't think that someone who went 76-69-78 (+7, T50) had given herself a chance to get into contention on the final 9, right? Well, after 4 consecutive birdies, Jee Young was at -2 with 12 holes to play. But two triples--a 7 on the 10th and an 8 on the 18th--lead to a final-9 45 instead of what she was no doubt dreaming of, her first win as an LPGA member. Lorena Ochoa (-2, T8) didn't get to where Jee Young was after the 6th hole until she was standing on the 16th tee, but even though she kept her round bogey-free, she couldn't put any pressure on Friberg down the stretch, either. Kim Hall (-1, T10) was in the same position as Ochoa on the 15th tee, but could only manage 1 bogey in her stretch run. Jeong Jang (E, T13) was at -1 with 8 holes to play, but the only move she made was backward. Meanwhile, Amy Yang (E, T13), who was -3 standing on the 5th tee, stumbled with bogeys on the 6th and 8th, but after a birdie on 15 also had a chance for a magical finish (which she promptly squandered with a double on the 17th). And Eva Dahllof (-3, T5) was -6 through 4 and -5 through 8, but after doubling the 9th she finished with 9 straight pars and never challenged for the lead again.

Which goes to show how impressive Friberg's final round was--and how much had to go right for it to propel her to victory. The Class of 2008 has now beaten the Class of 2007 to the winner's circle. The last time a rookie did something as impressive was in Seon Hwa Lee's final round at the ShopRite Classic: she fired off a 63 to outpace an impressive field playing well on a much easier course. Whereas Lee went on to walk away with the Class of 2006's Rookie of the Year title, this year's ROY race looks like it will outlast the Presidential primary season. As the tournament notes and interviews page, well, notes, Friberg leads with 209 points, followed by Tseng with 161 and Choi with 125. Former leader Momoko Ueda, who played last week but not this week in Japan, is now in 4th with 95 points. Unfortunately, Tseng revealed in interviews that she's dealing with a sore wrist, so we may be seeing her take some time off after the Kraft Nabisco in 3 weeks.

You can watch second-round highlights over at ESPN Deportes. It's certainly more entertaining than the AP story, although with their focus on Latin American players and coverage of only the final two holes, they missed the best fireworks of the round. Still, realizing that Ji Young Oh's English is better than my high-school era Spanish, which has stayed with me much better than I would have guessed, made it all worthwhile!

[Update 3/21/08: Beth Ann Baldry has a nice profile of Friberg at Golfweek. And Hound Dog and Mulligan Stu teach English-speakers how to say her last name!]