Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Can Anyone Hold a Lead on the LPGA?

Yuko Mitsuka has already done on the JLPGA what Michelle Wie, Paula Creamer, and Katherine Hull have proven unable to do on the LPGA thus far--hold a lead down the stretch. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that Erina Hara and Ayako Uehara were unable to pounce like Angela Stanford, Lorena Ochoa, and Ji-Yai Shin.

If this streak is going to continue, Bosque Real, the site of the MasterCard Classic, is just the place for it to happen. Last year, Louise Friberg shot a tournament-record 65 on Sunday, making up a 10-shot deficit to Ji Young Oh. Here's the recipe for a volatile leaderboard: take a challenging course with lots of ups and downs, add favorable scheduling (it's part of a 3-week stretch that culminates in the LPGA's 1st major, the Kraft Nabisco Championship, with a week off before it and 2 after it) and a tight money list and Player of the Year race, mix the strongest field in the event's brief history, bake for 54 holes, and voila!

Yes, I'm aware that Meaghan Francella held her second-round lead in 2007, but she needed to beat Annika Sorenstam, who was gunning for her 3rd straight win in the tournament, in a sudden-death playoff, after Sorenstam fired a closing 66, to do it. And that past fields haven't been as strong as you might have expected. But this year will be different. You'll see!

[Update 1 (3/11/09, 4:20 am): Well, that didn't take long...the LPGA has already announced the field for the MasterCard Classic. Yes, money-list leader Angela Stanford is resting her shoulder, but only Angela Park, Michelle Wie, Ai Miyazato, Karrie Webb, and Mi Hyun Kim from the rest of the top 20 are also skipping the event. The only players missing from #21 to #40 on the money list are Juli Inkster, Sophie Gustafson, Laura Diaz, Momoko Ueda, Morgan Pressel, Shanshan Feng, and Nicle Castrale. I'll be interested to see how this field ranks in Hound Dog's field strength scoring system relative to previous years, but in my book, whenever Ochoa, Creamer, Shin, and Tseng are facing off, that's a strong field!]

[Update 2 (3/12/09, 3:15 am): Daniel Wexler looks at the Shin-Ochoa "anything you can do I can do better" exchange in Southeast Asia the last 2 weeks. Meanwhile, Armchair Golfer takes a more lighthearted look at Shin's more lighthearted side.]

[Update 3 (4:08 am): Steve Elling gives Shin some props, but why diss Wie, Lewis, and Hurst along the way? Just goes to show how high expectations are for this year's rookie class. I'm interested to see how Oyama and Mika Miyazato do at Bosque Real, myself. They're probably lucky to be flying under the media radar, especially with Oyama playing as bad as she has been lately.]

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