A lot of great players moved backwards yesterday at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, failing to keep pace with Kristy McPherson's charge past the -7 barrier that has repelled other top contenders this week. While McPherson carded 3 birdies in a row to start the back and get to -8 for the tournament, only a bogey-free 34 on the same side enabled Cristie Kerr to keep within 1 shot of her. Meanwhile, Angela Stanford, who was -7 through her first 32 holes, but who finished bogey-bogey-double bogey-bogey as the winds came up in the early afternon Friday, continued to struggle Saturday, finishing +3 over her final 13 holes for a 74 that dropped her back to E and solo 11th place. And Christina Kim, who was -7 through 27 holes, shot a birdieless 75 that dropped her back to -3 and a solo 6th through 54. Others who culdn't make a dent in the defenses of a relatively calm Mission Hills on moving day included Suzann Pettersen (74, +1, T12), In-Kyung Kim (75, +2, T15), Ya Ni Tseng (75, +3, T20), and Paula Creamer (77, +3, T20). And with no major moves from Song-Hee Kim (72, +3, T20), Ji-Yai Shin (71, +3, T20), Lorena Ochoa (72, +2, T15), Brittany Lang (71, +2, T15), or Karrie Webb (72, +1, T12), McPherson and Kerr will have neither the hottest players in the world of women's golf nor the hottest players from the 1st half of the tournament to worry about.
Instead, it'll be Brittany Lincicome again in contention at the KNC after a long time away, who'll start Sunday 2 shots behind McPherson. Others returning to the top of the leaderboard after long absences include Jimin Kang, who rode the roller coaster yesterday to a 71 that brought her within 4 of the lead; Lindsey Wright, who got it to -6 before back-to-back bogeys late in her round dropped her back to T4 with Kang; Meaghan Francella, whose bogey-free 32 on the back got her within 6 of McPherson; Katherine Hull, wh's coming off 2 bad starts for the 1st time in months and had to overcome an early triple bogey Thursday and wind-aided bogeys on Friday to join Francella at -2; and veterans Helen Alfredsson (-2) and Pat Hurst (-1), who know a thing or 2 about stealing victory from the jaws of hungry young guns and players in the prime of their careers. If Jane Park (68) and Allison Fouch (69) weren't 10 shots back, I'd add them to this list.
As it is, there are only 2 players within 2 shots of McPherson and only 5 within 5. But given the pressures of a major on a Sunday, I'm thinking there are better odds for another crazy KNC free-for-all than Hound Dog does. Still, it sure would be awesome if the 8th-ranked Junior Mint went ahead and proved me wrong in her 1st KNC!
[Update 1 (4/6/09 (1:40 am): Nice little profiles of the top Americans in the field by Beth Ann Baldry]
[Update 2 (4:34 am): Is it just me, or is Karen Crouse of the NYT getting hooked on the LPGA?]