Thursday, June 11, 2009

LPGA Championship Thursday: And They're Off!

Congratulations to Hye Jung Choi and Paige Mackenzie, who made the first birdies on Bulle Rock's front and back, respectively, at the LPGA Championship. I'll try to do a little virtual live blogging tonight from Okinawa....

[Update 1 (8:25 am): Looks like Anna Nordqvist is the 1st to get to -2. She's birdied the par-5 2nd and the par-4 5th. With fairly low status on tour and full membership on the LET, she needs to play well every time she tees it up on the LPGA, especially if she wants to be playing in the Solheim Cup this season for Europe.]

[Update 2 (8:51 am): Nordqvist still leads at -2 after following up her 1st bogey with her 3rd birdie, but she's been joined by Joo Mi Kim, who's birdied her 1st 2 holes--the 1st to birdie 2 in a row in the tournament.]

[Update 3 (8:53 am): Well, maybe Mackenzie was the 1st to get 2 in a row; her birdie on the par-5 15th was posted just after I hit "publish post" on the last update. She's now at -2, too.]

[Update 4 (8:55 am): The 1st of the prime-time players with a good chance to win this week, Ji-Yai Shin and Eun-Hee Ji, started with pars on #10.]

[Update 5 (8:58 am): Amy Yang is off to a good start at -1 through 2; will this be the week she figures out how to translate her LET success to the LPGA?]

[Update 6 (9:04 am): With her birdie on the par-5 8th, Nordqvist becomes the 3rd player to post back-to-back birdies and 1st to -3.]

[Update 7 (9:07 am): Top contenders Seon Hwa Lee and Hee-Won Han started with pars on #1.]

[Update 8 (9:16 am): We're approaching the heart of the morning prime-time pairings, and the pars are coming fast and furious, at #1 from Laura Davies and Wendy Ward and at #10 from Na Yeon Choi (my pick to win this thing), Ji Young Oh, and Sun Young Yoo. But Brittany Lincicome opened with a bogey.]

[Update 9 (9:17 am): Nordqvist made it 3 in a row with a birdie on the par-4 9th. She's out in 32.]

[Update 10 (9:18 am): Yang made it 2 in a row with a birdie on the 3rd. She's T2 with Mackenzie and Kim.]

[Update 11 (9:21 am): Karrie Webb, Helen Alfredsson, and Laura Diaz all started with pars on #1. In-Kyung Kim parred 10, but her playing partners Meaghan Francella and Soo-Yun Kang both birdied it.]

[Update 12 (9:25 am): Kyeong Bae joined the back-to-back-birdies club with hers on the par-5 15th and par-4 16th. The former birdie machine among the Senior Standouts has been struggling the last couple of seasons after a promising start on tour. Let's see if she can return to form this week.]

[Update 13 (9:27 am): Ugliest start goes to Anna Rawson--a pair of bogeys and consecutive double bogeys already on the front are definitely rally-killers after her final-round 65 at the State Farm Classic.]

[Update 14 (9:30 am): But other LET stars are doing just fine, thank you, including Ashleigh Simon, who just joined the logjam at -2 and seems to be rounding back into form after injuries derailed the start of her season.]

[Update 15 (9:32 am): Don't count the Americans out just yet, though. Playing with Paula Creamer, who parred #1, both Kristy McPherson and Nicole Castrale birdied it. Hope Beth Daniel is watching.]

[Update 16 (9:35 am): Even with Bulle Rock playing long and soft, golf is still a precision game. On the front, Nordqvist hit 6 fairways but only averaged 226 yards off the tee; she hit 5 greens and had 10 putts in all. Not bad!]

[Update 17 (9:44 am): The last groups in the morning pairings are off. Among them, the ones I'm paying particular attention to are Michelle Wie, Christina Kim, and Shanshan Feng. They all parred #1, but it was Amy Hung who got the only birdie among the 9:27ers, at #10. Now I'll switch over to focusing only on notable players and scores.]

[Update 18 (9:46 am): Yang couldn't match Nordqvist's 3-hole birdie train, but with her birdie on the 5th, she became the 2nd player to get to -3 in the tournament.]

[Update 19 (11:18 am): Mackenzie birdied her 1st 3 holes on the front to get to -4 and joined Nordqvist at -5 when she birdied her 16th hole soon after Nordqvist birdied the 14th. Yang matched Nordqvist's 32 on the front. Castrale has made two pairs of birdies in her 1st 6 holes and just added a birdie on the 8th to jump into a tie for the lead. With her birdie on the par-4 10th, Na Ri Kim broke from the logjam at -2 to move into 5th place so far.]

[Update 20 (11:22 am): Shanshan Feng is shining while Michelle Wie and Christina Kim are struggling at +1 through 7. Her birdies on 5 and 7 have lifted her to T6 at -2 right now.]

[Update 21 (11:26 am): Good signs for my pick Na Yeon Choi. She shot a bogey-free 34 on the back despite hitting only 3 greens. Her putting's been holding her back her entire LPGA career so far, so it's very cool that she had only 9 putts on the side. And hitting 6 of 7 fairways suggests she can go very low on the front if she improves her approach shots.]

[Update 22 (11:29 am): Also good signs for Rawson; after an ugly 43 on the front, she's parred every hole on the back and shouldn't finish dead last on the day, now that the club pros are starting to struggle.]

[Update 23 (11:31 am): Feng's now birdied 2 in a row and 3 of her last 4 to move into a tie for 5th with Na Ri Kim.]

[Update 24 (11:35 am): Helen Alfredsson's 34 consisted of 2 birdies and 2 bogeys, along with an eagle on the par-5 8th. Wonder if the roller coaster will keep going on the back.]

[Update 25 (11:37 am): Don't look now, but Castrale opened the tournament with a 30 on the front. That's 3 sets of back-to-back birdies, for those keeping score at home. She's the 1st to -6. When you hit 8 greens and only have 11 putts, you know good things are happening.]

[Update 26 (11:45 am): Nordqvist birdied 17 to join Castrale at -6. And Carri Wood birdied her last 3 on the back despite only hitting 4 greens on the side to join the T5/-3 club.]

[Update 27 (11:54 am): In-Kyung Kim's only hit 2 of her 1st 10 greens and Seon Hwa Lee has only hit 3 of her 1st 11, so it's amazing that they're both only +1. Meanwhile, Michelle Wie's bombing it 283 yards off the tee and has hit 6 greens on the front, but could only manage an opening 37. Go figure.]

[Update 28 (11:56 am): Bae's made her 2nd pair of consecutive birdies and, with 1 to play, has joined the new logjam at -3.]

[Update 29 (11:59 am): But she won't be the leader in the clubhouse. That honor 1st goes to Paige Mackenzie, who unfortunately bogeyed the last hole on the front as she did on the back to fall back to a 68. Still, with 7 birdies and 22 putts on the day, she has to be feeling pretty good.]

[Update 30 (12:01 pm): Mackenzie's lead lasted only a couple of minutes at most, as Nordqvist's sweet 66 is now official. She, too, made 7 birdies and only had 22 putts all day.]

[Update 31 (12:05 pm): Speaking of good putting, Na Yeon Choi just birdied the par-5 2nd to move to -3, despite only hitting 4 of her 1st 11 greens. How? 11 putts so far!]

[Update 32 (12:12 pm): Next to post good scores are Bae, who bogeyed her final hole, the 9th, for a 70, and Simon, who made it 3 closing birdies in a row to join Mackenzie at 68 (she had 24 putts on the day, so it's looking like we have a formula for breaking 70 at Bulle Rock thus far). Meanwhile, Yang made her 5th birdie of the day to pull within 1 of Nordqvist and Castrale with 4 to play.]

[Update 33 (12:22 pm): I'm expecting to develop some glitches as the afternoon pairings begin to enter the system in the next several minutes. Hopefully it's not a glitch that Na Yeon Choi has 13 putts in her 1st 13 holes and is at -4 now.]

[Update 34 (12:28 pm): At the opposite end of the spectrum, Rawson followed up her pair of birdies with a pair of bogeys to go 43-36, but it won't be the worst score of the day, even among the touring pros, as Leah Wigger went +5 over her final 5 holes on the front to join her at +7.]

[Update 35 (12:30 pm): Yang's 1st mistake of the day was a biggie--a bogey on the par-5 15th. With Feng making her 4th birdie of the day at the 11th, there's now a new logjam at -4.]

[Update 36 (12:38 pm): Nice 70 by Marisa Baena. She has the distinction of being the 1st among the leaders to have just a very good day on the greens, with 30 putts in all. Believe it or not, but that's her 3rd-best round of the year; her 2 best came last week at the State Farm Classic, where she shot a pair of 69s.]

[Update 37 (12:42 pm): Michelle Wie still hasn't birdied a par 5 today, but with 2 birdies in her 1st 3 holes on the back, she's battled back to -1. With Ji-Yai Shin struggling--a birdie on each side offset by double bogeys--Wie has a chance to make up some serious ground in the Rookie of the Year race were she to finish well and Shin to miss the cut....]

[Update 38 (12:46 pm): Speaking of comebacks, Inbee Park has birdied 2 of her 1st 3 holes on the front to move to -3, putting her alone at 8th right now. Could her game finally be coming back?]

[Update 39 (12:53 pm): Some glitches getting ironed out in real time, unless, that is, Na Yeon Choi hit the 5th green in 0 and 5-putted. Her 1st bogey of the day brings her to -3, 7 greens in regulation, and 18 putts with 4 holes left to play.]

[Update 40 (12:59 pm): Feng's bogey-free run ended at 12 holes; she, too, falls back to -3. Choi, Park, and Feng have been joined there by none other than NYer Meaghan Francella, who's extended her own bogey-free streak to 14 holes.]

[Update 41 (1:01 pm): Castrale's own 14-hole bogey-free streak is a little more impressive, though, as she's now birdied half the holes she's played and is the 1st player in the field to reach the -7 mark.]

[Update 42 (1:06 pm): Darn it, Choi's bad iron play is coming back to haunt her, after all, as she's now bogeyed 2 in a row on the front to drop back to -2 through 15. She's hit 11 of 12 fairways and only has 21 putts so far, so it's particularly frustrating she isn't giving herself more birdie chances.]

[Update 43 (1:07 pm): On the bright side, Yang hung in there for a solid 68. She was leaking a little oil there at the end, so I'm happy with her results on day 1. If she can play the par 5s better the next 3 days, she could win this thing.]

[Update 44 (1:17 pm): Maybe I picked the wrong Pak in the PakPicker this week. Jin Young Pak just posted a 69, which is tied with her 2nd-best round of the year (her best was a 65 at the Michelob Ultra).]

[Update 45 (1:21 pm): Bulle Rock's 5th must be a doozy--it got Inbee Park, too, dropping her to -2. Meanwhile, Castrale birdied the par-5 15th to get to -8 on her day. That's her 4th set of back-to-back birdies on the day. How low can she go?]

[Update 46 (1:32 pm): Shin ended up with a 73, which wasn't as bad as it could have been. Meanwhile, Wie birdied her 1st par 5 of the day to get to -2.]

[Update 47 (1:35 pm): From this year's top 2 rookies to last year's: Choi got back on track with a birdie on the par-5 8th to return to -3, while Ya Ni Tseng is E through 2. Oh, and fellow Super Soph Feng? She also birdied the par-5 15th to return to -4.]

[Update 48 (1:45 pm): What a weird day for Seon Hwa Lee: 4 birdies, a double, and 4 bogeys, including on her last hole. But she shouldn't feel too bad about her 74--she only hit 7 greens and scrambled her way around to 23 putts. But if she can't improve her ballstriking tomorrow, she'll miss her 3rd cut of the young season after missing only 5 the previous 3.]

[Update 49 (1:53 pm): Wow, Na Yeon Choi birdied the 9th, too, to finish at 68. She ended up with 25 putts, as she finally started hitting greens in regulation to close out her round. Bodes well for the rest of the tournament for my pick!]

[Update 50 (1:56 pm): Meanwhile, Feng just birdied the 16th to get to -5 and is now alone in 3rd. Contrast that with Alfredsson, who followed up her eagle on the 8th with a 40 on the back to end up with a 74, and Webb, who doubled the 10th and parred out to end up with a 72.]

[Update 51 (2:05 pm): How's this for weird results? If I told you that Meaghan Francella and In-Kyung Kim both drove the ball under 220 yards and hit only 9 greens, what do you think they would have shot? Well, Francella had a bogey-free 69 and Kim had a 72, each with 26 putts. Short game matters.]

[Update 52 (2:06 pm): Contrast that with Paula Creamer, who stumbled her way to a 74 with 27 putts. Sometimes a good short game just can't save you.]

[Update 53 (2:10 pm): Wouldn't it be amazing if Francella ended up with the only bogey-free round of the day? Well, Castrale bogeyed the 18th to become the leader in the clubhouse with a 65. 23 putts is pretty darn impressive, but I'll bet she's wishing it was 22!]

[Update 54 (2:15 pm): Oops, turns out Kristy McPherson's 70 was also bogey-free.]

[Update 55 (2:30 pm): Feng's 67 with 25 putts puts her alone in 3rd for now. Wie, Han, and Inbee Park joined the new logjam at 70, good enough for T13 right now with only Katherine Hull, Maria Hjorth, and Suzann Pettersen among the afternoon players doing better (Hull has birdied 3 of her 1st 8 holes of bogey-free golf on the front, while Hjorth has sandwiched a bogey between 2 pairs of consecutive birdies in her 1st 6 holes on the back and Pettersen has birdied every even-numbered hole on the back thus far). Only Cristie Kerr (+4 through 5 on the back) and Jee Young Lee (+2 through 5 on the front) are doing much worse than expected in these pairings, but nobody's really tearing up the course quite yet. Me, I'm pulling the plug on the virtual live blog. Hopefully will have time for 1 last update in the morning before we have to get ready to leave Okinawa for Chiba!]

[Update 56 (3:15 pm): Can't resist one little update. Why is Randall Mell so much better at live-blogging than Beth Ann Baldry? And what is happening to Cristie Kerr and Angela Park? On the bright side, Hull shot a 33 on the front and is bogey-free through 10, but nobody else is threatening the leaders.]

[Update 57 (8:39 pm): Wow, Moira Dunn's 68 could have been even better, but it was still tied for the best round of the afternoon with Stacy Lewis and Aree Song. Whoops, gotta run!]

[Update 58 (6/12/09, 8:02 am): Hound Dog gives the concise version of the 1st-round results.]

[Update 59 (9:08 pm): Nice background on Castrale from Leonard Shapiro and Randall Mell. Mell, by the way, is rocking the Shag Bag blog.]


Stephanie said...

Nice work with the live-blogging! Thanks for sending me the link.

The Constructivist said...

Keep up the good work, Stephanie! You'll be interested in my next post, I think....

Stephanie said...

OOOH...the suspense is killing me! When will that be??