Well, it probably took her longer than she expected, but Ji-Yai Shin got her 2nd win of 2009 and 5th LPGA victory in her short career at the Wegmans today, thanks to her ability to hold her game together in wet weather. Challengers Morgan Pressel and Stacy Lewis struggled to keep pace with her during the dryer parts of the day--both peaked at -13, Pressel when she birdied the 9th and Lewis when she birdied the 12th--but must have gotten wet grips or something, as they fell apart in the rain, Pressel by firing a 44 on the back and Lewis by closing with 2 pairs of bogeys over her last 6 holes. Not that it mattered much, as Shin fell from her peak of -18 after 10...all the way to -17 at the end of the day. But it did open the door for Ya Ni Tseng and Kristy McPherson to sneak into 2nd place with their matching 66s, the former with a 31 on the back and the latter thanks to 6 birdies and an eagle between the 3rd and 14th holes. And it allowed rookies Mika Miyazato and Haeji Kang to tie Lewis for 4th despite shooting unremarkable 71s.
With her win, Shin became the 1st player of 2009 to break the $1M barrier in official winnings (she'd have even more if the LPGA counted the winnings from her T13 at the Honda Thailand event, for which she had gotten a sponsor exemption into the limited field). Plus, she joins Lorena Ochoa as the only repeat winner on tour this season. And you know what? Like the rookies who have recently been getting their games in gear--in addition to Lewis, Miyazato, and Kang, Michelle Wie and Mindy Kim also got top 10s at Locust Hills--Shin has only recently found her sea legs on the LPGA. Now that she's putted the well the last few events, she's going to be tough to beat the rest of the season. With her peers among the game's elite in one form of trouble or another--Ochoa firing her long-time caddie, Paula Creamer nursing an injured thumb, Suzanne Pettersen fighting off a tough virus, Cristie Kerr being both very very good and horrid (often on the same side), and Ya Ni Tseng's lack of accuracy off the tee her Achilles heel--the rest of the LPGA's current Big 6 may not be Shin's toughest competitors in the short run. I'm looking at up-and-coming stars like Angela Stanford, In-Kyung Kim, Kristy McPherson, Lindsey Wright, Ai Miyazato, Na Yeon Choi, and Song-Hee Kim to give Shin the toughest run for her money in the early summer.
[Update 1 (6:27 pm): Hound Dog confirms that the weather changed in a big way at Pittsford. When onechan and I left the course, we passed a pissed-off looking Ya Ni Tseng heading to the 11th tee (little did I know she had just made her 1st of what would be 6 birdies on the back!) and we caught a glimpse of Ai Miyazato hitting a good approach shot into the 10th green. By the time we hit the Thruway, it was raining hard--and it kept raining unil we cleared Buffalo after 3:30, so we knew Rochester was going to be soaking for awhile. To tell you the truth, I half expected another 2-hour rain delay, but I guess the tournament organizers wanted to get this thing over with without any further delays. Can't say I blame them. We missed all the rain and I'm still exhausted. But more on our experiences in another post!]
[Update 2 (10:25 pm): LPGA.com has notes and interviews with Shin and Lewis. But no updates to their stats pages. Come on, y'all, the Futures Tour is quicker than you on this!]
[Update 3 (10:35 pm): Randall Mell does a good job putting Shin's win in perspective.]
[Update 4 (6/29/09, 9:10 am): Hound Dog does a great job putting the tournament in perspective.]
[Update 5 (8:35 pm): Ryan Ballengee revisits his earlier comparison of the challenges facing Lorena Ochoa and Ji-Yai Shin this season.]
[Update 6 (8:58 pm): Jay Flemma is fed up with the media focus on Wie, and his critique of the Buffalo News piece that annoyed him is mostly spot on, but he's dead wrong on his central point: that there's no "there" there with Wie. A T10 for her is a big deal on a tight, tree-lined course like Locust Hills. When you hit as few fairways as she does, you'd think just making the cut would have been a good goal. Before the tournament started I said I'd be "amazed" if she broke into the top 15--and I am. So I respectfully disagree with Flemma's assessment of where Wie's game is headed. But Jay, Rochester is a city and the field was missing only a few top players. I wonder what you'd make of the fact that I got double my usual number of visits this past week because everyone wanted to find out about how Cheyenne Woods did?]