Thursday, June 4, 2009

State Farm Classic Thursday: Welcome Back...

To Se Ri Pak, who shot a bogey-free 66 this afternoon at Panther Creek in the State Farm Classic to tie the morning groups' low scorer, Jee Young Lee, for the 1st-round lead. Lee was hitting it long (290 yards off the tee) and straight (14 of 14 fairways, 17 of 18 greens), while Pak's putter was smokin' hot (24 putts in all). It's been awhile since the Hall of Famer has had a share of the lead on the LPGA--by my count, we have to go back to August 2007, when Pak shot a 63 on her way to her latest win at the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic, to find the most recent time this has happened. And there shall be much rejoicing at Seoul Sisters.com....

To Kris Tamulis, whose 67 was her low round of the year, matching her performance in last year's opening round here. Tamulis has made 6 of 7 cuts this season, but hasn't broken into the top 25 yet. She's given herself a great chance to do it this week.

To Anja Monke, who was one of the hottest players in the world of women's golf at the end of last season, but who started slow this one. Her 7-birdie 68 (including 4 in a row on the back, her front) puts her 2 shots out of the lead, tied with Natalie Gulbis, whose own 8-birdie 68 suggests she's put her back problems behind her, hopefully for a long time. Any time you match a bogey-free round by Suzann Pettersen, you know you're doing something right.

To Julieta Granada and Inbee Park, whose 69s give them a great shot at their best finishes of the season and tie them for 7th with other players who haven't been playing up to expectations lately like Seon Hwa Lee, Angela Park, Amy Yang, Hee-Won Han, Morgan Pressel, and Shanshan Feng (not to mention the usual suspects playing well like Ya Ni Tseng, Ji-Yai Shin, Paula Creamer, Cristie Kerr, Brittany Lang, and In-Kyung Kim). Some did it with great putting (Granada and the Parks each had 26 putts or fewer), others with great ballstriking (Pressel hit all 18 greens), but any way you slice it, it's nice to see them breaking 70 again.

Of course, when 89 players shoot par or better, 70 go under par, and 35 break 70, you can't get too excited about scores in the high 60s. But you have to feel better than the Japanese contingent on tour, which was led by Mika Miyazato's 70, followed by Ai Miyazato's 73, Shiho Oyama's 74, and Momoko Ueda's 76. Ouch! But at least Moira Dunn shot a 69--I'd love to see her get her 1st top 10 at Panther Creek!

Unfortunately, my in-laws here in Chiba don't have cable, which means I won't get to watch any of the tournament at any hour, so I have little else to add, except to say that it appears the worries about tougher scoring conditions at Panther Creek this time of year may have been a little overblown. But with 3 rounds to go, it's probably too soon to tell. All I can say for sure is that a lot of players who shot between 70 and 73 are feeling like they left a lot of shots out there on the course right now.

[Update 1 (6/5/09, 4:14 am): Here's LPGA.com's notes and interviews. Don't bother reading Andrew Seligman's AP game story: he gets several scores wrong and refers to Jee Young Lee as "Relatively unknown." To him, I guess.]

[Update 2 (4:18 am): Oh, Golfweek must have posted his rough draft. His piece at ESPN.com is much better, but still gives Jelly short shrift.]

[Update 3 (10:18 pm): Here's Hound Dog's 1st-round recap.]

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