Thursday, February 26, 2009

Honda LPGA Thailand Thursday: Hong Rides Back-Nine 31 to 2-Shot Lead

20 players went under par during the 1st round of the Honda LPGA Thailand tournament and 7 broke 70, but none could come closer than 2 shots behind Jin Joo Hong, who rode a back-9 31 to a sizzling 66. Thanks to Hound Dog, Golf Babes, and, we know the 9th-ranked Junior Mint holed a lot of medium-length and longer putts to put a little bit of distance between her and the 6 players in the lead chase pack, along with everyone else 4 or more shots back.

You can tell how good Hong's 66 was by looking at how many very talented players got off to hot starts and failed to sustain them. Angela Stanford, for instance, was -5 through her 1st 11 holes before making back-to-back birdies on the next 2. But she was one of the fortunate ones in this class of players, for she recovered with 1 birdie and no bogeys the rest of the way, unlike, say, Karrie Webb, who double bogeyed her final hole, or in-Kyung Kim, who doubled her next-to-last. Morgan Pressel matched Stanford's finish, but still shot a 37 to follow her bogey-free 33 on the front, thanks in no small part to a double bogey on the par-5 13th. Still, she's got to be feeling better than Mi Hyun Kim, who made 4 birdies in her 1st 13 holes without making a bogey before dropping 3 shots over the next 2 holes, and Juli Inkster, who had done the same in her 1st 12 holes before taking a ride on the bogey train for her next 3 holes (Candie Kung outdid her, though, with her 4-hole bogey train right after she had clawed her way to -2 through 13). Eun-Hee Ji was +3 and birdie-less over her final holes after going bogey-free over her 1st 8, while Mika Miyazato birdied her 1st 2, made 14 pars in a row, then finished double bogey-bogey. But nobody can top Hee Young Park, who started with 7 pars and a birdie before blowing up with 4 bogeys and 2 doubles over her last 10 holes. (Never fear, though, as Park has bounced back in early play today with 6 birdies and no bogeys with 4 holes to go.)

I could go on, but I think my point is clear that the "apparently easier back nine" (as Hound Dog put it) still has plenty of teeth. As players get used to competing in the heat, though, look for more of them to sustain their good starts in the next 3 rounds.

[Update 1 (11:44 pm): I can't help noting that if you like spills and thrills, there are no better scorecards to be checking in on regularly than those of Jee Young Lee (who birdied 4 of her 1st 5 holes before things went horribly wrong), Laura Davies (who seems to either have very very good 9s or horrid ones these days), Sophie Gustafson (who still makes birdies and bogeys in bunches), and Christina Kim (who takes Emerson's critique of foolish consistency a little too much to heart). It's sad to see defending champion Suzann Pettersen continuing to struggle today after what had appeared to be a promising start to her 2nd round. But more on that later.]

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