Friday, April 24, 2009

Corona Championship Thursday: Instant Buzz

Blogging from Minneapolis this weekend and pumped up about the 1st round of the Corona Championship, where Lorena Ochoa's 65 only gave her a 1-shot lead over Na Yeon Choi and Michelle Wie and a 2-shot lead over Sarah Lee, Sandra Gal, Anna Nordqvist, and Eunjung Yi. If a lot of those names aren't familiar to you, you're not alone. Shane Bacon, for instance, doesn't bother mentioning anyone but Ochoa and Wie. Hound Dog, of course, gives his usual comprehensive overview, but fails to contextualize the top of the leaderboard.

Consider this: except for Lee and Ochoa, everyone else there is a rookie or sophomore on tour. Wie needs no introduction, but Choi is the best player on the LPGA without a win, Nordqvist could move up the LPGA priority list in a big way with a good finish this week and in the process do much to make up for a disappointing Q-School last season, and Gal and Yi are due to break through. So, yeah, the level of competition on the LPGA has never been better.

That said, if Ochoa drops another mid-60s round on the field tomorrow, my claim that the era of her effortless dominance on tour is over may be a bit premature. We'll see how many of the 21 players who broke 70 yesterday on the par-73 Tres Marias course can do it the 3 or 4 times they'll need to do it this week to keep pace with a hot Ochoa. But with 33 players within 5 shots of the lead, this is far from over, particularly when you look at some of the scorecards. Katherine Hull fired a 68 despite making a bogey and a double bogey in her final 7 holes. Ai Miyazato birdied her 1st 4 holes and added another one on her 6th hole of the day, but ended up at -4, tied with Anna Grzebien, who made 5 birdies in a row between the 6th and 10th holes, and Karin Sjodin, who made 5 birdies in a row to close out her 2nd 9, the front. Cristie Kerr was -5 and bogey-free heading into her final hole, the par-5 18th, but walked away with a double bogey. She'll get no sympathy from Mollie Fankhauser, though--she was -7 heading into 18 and suffered a walkoff snowman! Meanwhile, In-Kyung Kim saved her stumble for her penultimate hole--her double on 17 dropped her back to -3.

Well, today's a new day. But when 52 players failed to break 75 yesterday, you know the course isn't playing that easy, even if it is a bit softer than in previous years. If the above players have gotten their bad holes of the week out of the way, watch out for them. If not, Ochoa, Choi, Wie, and Nordqvist will have a great chance to separate themselves from even the lead chase pack over the next couple of days. We'll see....

[Update 1 (4/25/09, 10:15 pm): Jay Busbee asks why we can't get the Corona on the telly when the leaderboard is so great. Why not ask ESPN or Golf Channel instead of blaming Bivens for something not under her control?]

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