Sunday, June 7, 2009

State Farm Classic Sunday: Dare I Call It a Barnburner?

Yeah, yeah, yeah, the LPGA's newest stars didn't come through this week: Stacy Lewis missed the cut, Vicky Hurst finished T60 at -3, and Michelle Wie finished T54 at -4. But just about everything else has come through for the LPGA, ESPN, and NBC this week at the State Farm Classic. Any week you have to be -2 to make the cut and double digits under par to make the top 20, you know there's going to be lots of Sunday fireworks, and today there were almost too many to keep track of. Plus, they started early.

In the 8:59 am group, Anna Grzebien and Song-Hee Kim put on a show. Grzebien's 30 on the back gave her a 65 on the day and made her the leader in the clubhouse at -11 when Kim double bogeyed the 18th to fall back to -10, squandering her 9 birdies in her 1st 13 holes. in the 9:41 am group, Ya Ni Tseng matched it in her 1st 12 holes, but parred out over her final 6 to miss a chance to surpass it.

But Grzebien's lead didn't hold for much longer. In the very next group, Anna Rawson's 65 would have given the lead to her, but she was playing with an incandescent Eun-Hee Ji, whose closing 31 brought her to -14.

Then it was Paula Creamer's to make a charge. She got to -15 with her birdie on the 16th, but unlike the Corning when she made a monster birdie putt on the 18th to give herself a chance for her 9th win, this time she bogeyed the tough 18th to fall back into a tie with Ji.

For awhile, the 3rd-round leaders were giving Ji and Creamer some hope their lead would be good enough for a playoff. Kristy McPherson bogeyed 3 in a row early to drop to -9 and had to fight to get back to double digits under par. Ji-Yai Shin bogeyed 2 of her 1st 4 holes and even an eagle on the par-5 6th didn't jump-start anything for the KLPGA's "Final Round Queen." And even though Cristie Kerr go it it to -14 through 11, she failed to birdie the par-5 13th and bogeyed the tough par 4 15th.

But by then, many others had made their mark on the tournament. Hee-Won Han was one of them. A 31 on the front and birdies on the 11th and 13th brought her to -15, but when she bogeyed the 15th and birdied the par-5 16th, that's where she would end her day. Jee Young Lee joined her with a birdie on the tough 18th hole, but by then it was too late, for Hall of Famer Se Ri Pak had gotten to and stayed at -16, on the strength of a final-round 66.

But playing in the very next group, In-Kyung Kim, who had described herself as just a "punk kid" the week she got her 1st career LPGA victory late last season, passed Pak with consecutive birdies on the 16th and par-3 17th. When she parred the 18th, it sure looked like the tournament was hers. Amy Hung, who had gotten to -15 with her 5th birdie of the day on the 13th, had failed to birdie the 16th and bogeyed the 17th to drop back to -14, tied with Ai Miyazato, who had failed to capitalize on her 13th-hole eagle when she bogeyed the 15th and couldn't follow up on her 16th-hole birdie. They were 3 back on the 18th tee, tied with Suzann Pettersen, whose own bogey-birdie combo on 15 and 16 and pars on 17 and 18 had kept her at -14.

So it was up to Angela Stanford, 2 back on the 18th tee, to make some magic happen. Stanford had gotten it to -16 through 13 when she made her 8th birdie of the day, but she immediately gave it back with her 3rd and 4th bogeys of the round on her next 2 holes. Still, a birdie on the 16th kept her hopes alive, but she failed to birdie the 17th. And when she could only par the final hole (as did Miyazato and Hung), the only drama left was whether Kerr and Shin could join the logjam at 6th with final-hole birdies to get to -14.

But what a win for In-Kyung Kim! If it couldn't have been Ai-chan, Seon Hwa Lee (who stalled at -9, T24), or Moira Dunn (who battled back from her moving day back-9 disasters with a bogey-free 69 that brought her to -7, T32), I'm really glad one of my favorite players could beat such a quality field and hold off some fantastic players. Congrats, Inky!

[Update 1 (6:39 pm): Hound Dog has the lead changes down.]

[Update 2 (6/8/09, 6:03 pm): has the key notes and interviews, while Hound Dog puts Kim's win in perspective. Lots of 2-time winners before they turn 21 lately!]

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