Friday, May 8, 2009

Michelob Ultra Open Friday: And When She's On, She's Awesome

My title is the conclusion to a little ditty in honor of Lorena Ochoa's performance through the 1st 36 holes of the Michelob Ultra Open that's been running through my head since I saw that she had followed up her opening 64 with a 65 earlier today. It begins, "When she's good, she's very very good..." If she was the hottest player in the world of women's golf when she was just "good," what will she be now that she's "on"? Let me put it this way: she's made 8 birdies a round in each of her 1st 2 rounds and she still could have gone lower. Or let me try it this way: mid-60s to her is like high 60s to most of the field. Or how about this one? After almost tying the course record yesterday, there were still 29 golfers within 5 shots of her; now it's down to 4. And it took bogey-free 63s by Cristie Kerr and Song-Hee Kim and a five-under-over-her-1st-6-holes 64 by In-Kyung Kim to get them there. (Lindsey Wright got her mid-60s round yesterday.)

Of the rest of the field, only Ya Ni Tseng and Wendy Ward made up ground on Ochoa today, while only Natalie Gulbis and Ai Miyazato kept pace with her. But they started so far back they're still in the 6-shots-and-back club.

Not that others didn't have their chances. A bogey on her last hole, the 9th--which itself represented an improvement on yesterday's double--was the only thing keeping Shiho Oyama from joining both of the above paragraphs. A 37 on the front, her last 9 of the day, put Na Yeon Choi in this paragraph. For Hee-Won Han, it was 2 early bogeys on the back. They're 6 back, with Tseng and Gulbis. Angela Stanford shot her 2nd-straight ho-hum 68 to join Miyazato and Ward 7 behind Ochoa.

And then there are the big-name golfers playing well coming into this week simply left in the dust thus far. Michelle Wie? 8 back after a 67. Ji-Yai Shin? 9 back after a 68. Katherine Hull? 11 back after a 71. Suzann Pettersen? 12 back after a 73. Karrie Webb? 13 back after a 68. Brittany Lang? 14 back after a 74.

I could go on, but the point is clear. Just about all the players who made the cut are going to need to go out of their minds to have a chance to chase down Ochoa, provided she stays "on." And if she reverts to "good," they're still going to have to approach or surpass the course record at least once. We'll see who's up to the challenge this weekend!

[Update 1 (8:21 pm): You must check out geek out to Ryan Ballengee's breakdown of Ochoa's winning percentage for under-par opening round scores, along with accompanying images and charts!]

[Update 2 (5/9/09, 6:16 am): Shiho Oyama revealed in her interview yesterday that she's been playing through injuries in both elbows. Yikes!]

[Update 3 (6:30 am): Dave Teel confirms it's tendonitis, but emphasizes that neither injury nor bad results to date in '09 have gotten Oyama down. Wish all the local media was as good as the SE VA people--check out Golf Observer for a lot of great stories.]

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