Friday, March 27, 2009

J Golf Phoenix International Friday: Kim Leads Webb and Pettersen

Even with calmer conditions today at the J Golf Phoenix International, the best score of the day was Angela Stanford's 67. But breaking 70 for the 2nd straight day were 1st-round leader In-Kyung Kim and Suzann Pettersen, who moved to -8 and -6 respectively. Only Karrie Webb could manage to join Pettersen 2 shots behind the leader. But Kim's classmates Song-Hee Kim and Eun-Hee Ji are only 3 back, while Ji-Yai Shin joins Stanford 4 behind the leader.

In fact, most of the hottest players in the world of women's professional golf can be found in the top 25. Even Lorena Ochoa, Ya Ni Tseng, Se Ri Pak, and Hee-Won Han, who have shot nothing but 72s between them, still have a chance to get right back into contention tomorrow. But many players will be unable to take advantage of moving day, having either failed to start (Creamer), withdrawn (Grace, Gulbis, Jo, Kang, Ellis), or missed the cut (Stacy Lewis, So Yeon Ryu, Anja Monke, and Mika Miyazato barely; Jane Park, Seon Hwa Lee, Momoko Ueda, Karen Stupples, Vicky Hurst, and Johanna Mundy by a handful of shots or less; Mi Hyun Kim, Carlota Ciganda, and Shiho Oyama by a lot). Staying alive today were Moira Dunn, Morgan Pressel, and Michelle Wie, among the 12 players who made the cut on the dot at +5; Pat Hurst, Laura Davies, and Brittany Lincicome (+4, T49); and Katherine Hull, Christina Kim, and Amy Yang (+3, T42).

Pettersen has the best explanation of why scores were still so high at Papago today:

Q. The scores still aren't particularly low, even with lower wind. Is the play around the greens, is that's what is causing the difficulty?
SUZANN PETTERSEN: I think the hardness of the greens is what is protecting this golf course. It's very, very hard to play full yardage to the pin. You have pretty much got to allow the ball to, even for like a full seven iron, to release like 15. So you are pretty much looking at front edge on a lot of the greens. And like I say, you have got to make sure you have got good angles and you have got to miss in the right place. These greens, there's hardly any grass on them, and the grass that's on it is quite dead and fairly new, so it's not holding the ball. So that's kind of what probably makes this a bit tough.

Under conditions like these, length can make a big difference among those who are doing everything else comparably well--better to have a more lofted club in your hands than a less-lofted one. But Kim made 2 of her last 3 birdies of the day with fairway woods for approach shots, so it's not like the precision players have no hope heading into the weekend. I'm hoping that Ai Miyazato's best rounds are still to come this weekend. Even though she continues to make lots of birdies, she's still having trouble breaking 70. But if the leaders falter and she simply continues her solid play, she'd be in perfect position for her 1st LPGA win come Sunday.

Once again, I'll leave you with the typically weak Golf Channel wrap-up coverage. I wonder if the Wie interview would have been twice as long as the highlights (half of which were on her, anyway) if she had missed the cut? I would love to see In-Kyung Kim prove Beth Daniel wrong over the weekend! Go, Inky!

[Update 1 (3/28/09, 12:12 am): At least Dan Bickley figured out how to make the obligatory Wie piece somewhat interesting. Being regularly outdriven by Vicky Hurst, who's...shorter than Wie...hmmm. Maybe "marginally more interesting than GC highlights" is the best I can say for this piece.]

[Update 2 (12:15 am): Tim Tyers at least seems to know who is who on tour. Nice job on Stanford's round and Ammaccapane's retirement (Danielle, whose daughter's a movie star!).]

[Update 3 (12:27 am): They're going out in pairs off #1 all day today! Guess who's playing together early on? Yup, Pressel and Wie! (I was kind of hoping for Jeehae Lee and Wie, but Jeehae got Moira instead.) You could have a spelling bee with the Dina Ammaccapane (who hasn't retired) and Stacy Prammanasudh pairing. Han/Ochoa, Pak/Tseng, Yoo/Lang, and Kerr/Choi are all fascinating, and the leading pairings are of course impressive, as well:

Start Time: 12:12 PM
Ji-Yai Shin
Sophie Gustafson

Start Time: 12:20 PM
Eun-Hee Ji
Angela Stanford

Start Time: 12:28 PM
Suzann Pettersen
Song-Hee Kim

Start Time: 12:36 PM
In-Kyung Kim
Karrie Webb

But if I were in Phoenix, I'd follow Angela Park and Ai-chan right before them.]

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