Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Too Soon for Cheyenne Woods?

Cheyenne Woods will be playing the Wegmans this June on a sponsor exemption. After the pressure of playing in nationals in her 1st year of college golf--and, I assume, trying to qualify for the U.S. Women's Open--I suppose this won't be too hard on her, but I have to wonder if it's too soon for her to be testing her game at this level.... Sure, she's had a fine year for a typical freshman, but typical freshmen don't get invited to play with the big girls. Hope this goes well for her!

[Update 1 (5/20/09, 12:16 am: Thanks to Jay Busbee's link to this post, Mostly Harmless had its 2nd-most-ever visited/viewed day in its long and illustrious short and sweet history. Heck, I beat Randall Mell to the bloggy linkage by almost 12 hours and Jay had him by almost 2, which leads me to believe Golf Channel has some catching up to do this weekend!]

[Update 2 (1:01 am): Speaking of the U.S. Women's Open, local qualifying has already begun. I assume Woods will be playing at Pinehurst on June 2nd. Let's hope she does better there than at the NCAA Championship--her 1st-round 78 puts her in the middle of the pack on a day when scoring was very high. That's .08 over the field's scoring average, according to Dan Mirocha.]

[Update 3 (1:13 am): Just noticed that Brent Kelley is also helping circulate this story. And he's got more details on Woods's game.]

[Update 4 (10:27 am): John Strege notes that Amanda Blumenherst got the other exemption. I like that Wegmans is committed to growing the tour, but can't help but think a Futures Tour debut would have been more Woods's speed.]

[Update 5 (2:49 pm): Woods's 2nd-round 76 wouldn't come close to making any cuts on the LPGA--her 154 total may not even put her in the top 70 after 36 holes at nationals.]

[Update 6 (5/22/09, 5:47 am): Well, the surge of 5000+ people to check out this page from Jay's link has stopped, but may as well give a shout-out to Jeff Skinner for a good overview of the Cheyenne Woods Story to date. Sorry this link won't result in many visits for you, Jeff! Oh, and Woods's 3rd-round 79 put her at T64 (+17). Scoring is high: there are only 27 players single digits over par or better thus far and some very good players struggling like Cheyenne.]

[Update 7 (6/24/09, 6:12 pm): Just noticed that google is sending Woods watchers this way again. My Wegmans tournament preview is up, for any fans of women's golf in general, not just the most recognizable names in it. But for those looking for real reporting on Cheyenne, try Karen Crouse at the Times and Anna Kim at the Buffalo News.]

[Update 8 (6/27/09, 7:12 pm): Since google keeps sending people to this page, I'll offer a few quick words on Cheyenne's missing the cut at the Wegmans this week. I would have said that anyone who expected her to make the cut was crazy, but after she finished her play last night on the right side of the cut line after her birdie on the 10th, one of the biggest things I was wondering about was whether she could actually do it. A triple on the 12th pretty much ensured she wouldn't, but I like the way she followed up the late pair of bogeys and failure to birdie the short par-5 17th with a walkoff birdie on the tough final hole. So she came much much closer and played far far better than I anticipated. Sure, 113 pros beat her, but among those who didn't were the defending champion and an old friend of mine playing through the passing of her father.

So the real story here is how respectably Cheyenne Woods played and how close she came to making the cut. Sure, she hit less than 60% of her greens in regulation, but it's not like quality players didn't have trouble with Locust Hills' small greens. Look who missed the cut, just like she did. She tied U.S. Open winner Birdie Kim, Solheim Cupper Nicole Castrale, multiple winner Rachel Hetherington, and Louise Friberg (who also has an LPGA win to her name). She came within a stroke of Katherine Hull, Mi Hyun Kim, and former champion Jeong Jang (playing in her 1st tournament since wrist surgery early this season). She got within 2 of Christina Kim, Momoko Ueda, Candie Kung, Meg Mallon, and Leta Lindley, who have all won on tour, as well as Hee Young Park and Shanshan Feng, who will. And she came within 3 of multiple winner Mi Hyun Kim and such up-and-comers as Song-Hee Kim, Ashleigh Simon, and former LET rookie of the year Louise Stahle. That's what I call good company for a rising sophomore who barely cracked the top 100 on the NCAA in her freshman year.

That said, I hope she doesn't do this again for awhile. My dad, a former college golf coach (as well as philosophy professor) watched her play early Saturday morning for awhile and came away impressed with her development. But exceeding our expectations once is one thing. Repeatedly struggling to make LPGA cuts on sponsor exemptions during her summer vacation is another. Until she qualifies for a WAPL (which Jennifer Song just won, by the way) or U.S. Women's Amateur, she should get used to saying no to any and all LPGA invites. If she gets invited to a Futures Tour event (in which Misun Cho is looking to match or surpass Mina Harigae's 65 right now) here or there, that's fine, but I wouldn't recommend playing even there regularly until she's ready to contend. Fortunately, she has teammate Natalie Sheary to seek out for advice on the FT. But she'd be better off listening to those counseling caution on LPGA sponsor exemptions.]

[Update 9 (8:34 pm): Ben Dobbin has the details on the lost ball that lead to Woods's triple.]

[Update 10 (9:02 pm): I basically agree with Jeff Skinner's take (and advice), but come away from Cheyenne's 1st 2 rounds with the pros thinking she's come a long way already.]

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