Saturday, July 25, 2009

Evian Masters Saturday: Who Will Make a Move?

I hope Marsha Evans, David Higdon, and the rest of the LPGA leadership are paying close attention to the ways the organizers of the Evian Masters have welcomed the international contingent in the field. Of course, when you watch highlights on Evian Masters TV, you find out how the French players did as well as the leaders, but you also get features like the one on the lengths taken to make the Asian players feel at home. The LPGA could learn a lot from how this event is run and promoted. A tournament doesn't have to be as well-funded as this one to have the kind of web presence it does.

Unlike in most American tournaments, they reshuffle the pairings after every round. With the field down to 74 now, they are actually going off in pairs today. There are definitely some surprises among those at the bottom of the leaderboard. Caroline Rominger is outplaying Mika Miyazato, Maria Verchenova is outplaying Ya Ni Tseng, and Guilia Sergas is outplaying Melissa Reid. But probably the biggest surprise of all is that nobody is making a huge move on a front side that can be had. Shi Hyun Ahn's 33 (which must be seen to be believed, featuring a double bogey-eagle turnaround) and Catriona Matthew's 34 are the only early scores worth writing home about, while Amy Yang's 3 birdies in her 1st 6 holes, Hee-Won Han's 2 in her 1st 4, and Eun-Hee Ji's 2 in her 1st 3 are the only exciting starts. There are far more disasters than even solid starts to report on, but I'll refrain from adding insult to injury. I don't know if the course is playing tougher because of all the rain this week, or what, but so far we're not having much of a moving day.

What this suggests is that the leaders are going to have to be sharp. It may be easier to move backward than forward today. We'll see!

[Update 1 (5:16 am): OK, Momoko Ueda has birdied both par 3s on the front to go -2 on her round and for the tournament. She's the 9th golfer playing right now to get there. Ji leads those on the course 1 stroke lower, good enough for T22 right now. Someone at this level is going to need to get into the mid-60s today to have a hope of being in contention tomorrow, unless all 9 players at -7 or better completely collapse.]

[Update 2 (5:25 am): All right, Suzann Pettersen has birdied 2 in a row to join Ji and Hee Young Park at -3 for the tournament.]

[Update 3 (5:30 am): Ah, count on Morgan Pressel for the weather report. Expect the scores to heat up as the temperatures do.]

[Update 4 (5:34 am): OK, Yang held steady for her 34. Han birdied 8 to get back to -2 on her day and for the tournament. But Pettersen continues to mirror Han's start--she just bogeyed 5, just like Han did.]

[Update 5 (5:39 am): Hope everyone is following the Evian Masters's twitter feed and that other tournament organizers are taking note of how to live-micro-blog an event.]

[Update 6 (5:41 am): All right, Lorena Ochoa just got off her 6-hole par train with a birdie on the 7th. She's finally under par for the tournament--only took her 43 holes to get there!]

[Update 7 (5:44 am): Tseng is still playing badly, but at least Verchenova isn't outplaying her anymore! Still, she needs to eagle 18 just to shoot a 72 today.]

[Update 8 (5:48 am): Well, Momo-chan got both the par 3s but neither of the par 5s on the front. Her 34 allows Ahn to hold onto low 9 of the day by herself. Let's see how Han does on the 9th.]

[Update 9 (5:49 am): Right now there are 6 players at -3, chasing Jin Joo Hong, who birdied the 2nd to get to -4, and Karen Stupples, who parred the 1st to stay there.]

[Update 10 (5:51 am): Her 4th birdie of the day on the 13th hole gets Johanna Westerberg to -2 for her round and -1 for the tournament. If she hadn't doubled the 1st, she'd have the best round of the day going. As it is, it's still tied for 2nd-best behind Ahn.]

[Update 11 (5:55 am): Ji Young Oh is now -4 on the tournament after her 1st birdie of the day on the par-4 3rd. A double on 14 brings Ahn back to -1 on her day, too. Looks like it's going to be tough to sustain good momentum today.]

[Update 12 (5:56 am): The 1st scores of the day are in and they're not pretty: Rominger 75, Mika Miyazato 77. Ouch.]

[Update 13 (5:57 am): Next: Tseng 74, Verchenova 77. Yeesh.]

[Update 14 (5:59 am): Jin Joo Hong makes it 2 birdies in a row and is the 1st player to reach -5 today.]

[Update 15 (6:09 am): I finally decided to check the LET Order of Merit, because I couldn't believe Hound Dog's recent claims that Gwladys Nocera leads it. So with her MC Nocera will fall from her #6 spot if Jade Schaeffer (+6 through 53 holes) and/or Westerberg (E through 50) can play well enough to pass her. But she won't lose much ground to #2 Marianne Skarpnord (+9 through 53) or #4 Melissa Reid (77 today, +8 overall), who will be playing together in tomorrow's 1st pairing unless Jane Park can't make a birdie or 2 in her last 3 holes. So that leaves #1 Diana Luna, #3 Tania Elosegui, and #5 Becky Brewerton with the best chances to make big moves up the LET money list this week.]

[Update 16 (6:29 am): Checking around the golfoblogosphere, Jeff Skinner not unexpectedly plays the nationalist card he claims not to want to play and calls on Creamer, Kerr, and Pressel to save the LPGA by beating the furriners. Whatevah. I'm more interested in revisiting Hound Dog's claim that the LET is the weakest by far of the major tours. Consider this: of the top 10 in scoring average on tour, only 4 are LET regulars and only 1--Melissa Reid--is under 70.50 (there are 8 on the LPGA and 22 with better scoring averages than Becky Brewerton, who's the 4th-best LETer). You'd think it would get better in the next 10, and it does, but there are still 3 LET irregulars in that bunch. You get out of the top 20 and nobody's averaging 72 or better, whereas you have to get to #39 on the LPGA before that happens. Yes, the JLPGA only has 12 players with scoring averages under 72, but they have fewer players than the LET does and of those going lowest only 1--Ai Miyazato--isn't a regular on tour.]

[Update 17 (6:32 am): Man, Sergas's 72 would still be the low score of the day were it not for Matthew's bogey free 69 (she's T37 right now). The player with the best chance to beat her is the JLPGA's Ji-Hee Lee, who could shoot a 31 on the back with a birdie on 18.]

[Update 18 (6:33 am): Han is -4 through 12, so she has a chance to go low, too.]

[Update 19 (6:43 am): Count Yang in, too, after her 2nd birdie in her last 3 holes. She has a tough par 5 and 3 short ones to go to improve on her -4 start to her day.]

[Update 20 (6:44 am): Ji birdied 8 and 9 to match Ahn's opening 33--hang on, LPGA.com now has Ahn for a 35 on the front! So that means that Ji has low front right now.]

[Update 21 (6:51 am): Yikes, Jane Park's 80 suggests that either her back problems are not behind her or her game hasn't recovered yet. She's officially out of the Solheim Cup captain's pick race. Laura Diaz's and Stacy Prammanasudh's MCs and generally terrible seasons should put them out of the running, too. Inkster's 73 is respectable enough to keep the Hall of Famer a front-runner for the 1st pick. It's up to Wendy Ward and Pat Hurst to displace Natalie Gulbis from the #10 spot or to seriously outplay Michelle Wie this weekend and next week. Let's see if they can do it.]

[Update 22 (6:53 am): Oh, and Stacy Lewis needs a win this week and a great finish at the Women's British Open to put herself in the conversation. She's parred her 1st 2 holes today. Let's see if she can get something going.]

[Update 23 (6:54 am): Ji-Hee Lee parred 18 for a 68. It's low round of the day so far, but Yang just needs to birdie 17 or 18 to surpass her.]

[Update 24 (6:59 am): All right, so how are those in the lead chase pack actually starting out today? Early on, Pressel, Stupples, and Alfredsson are +2; Pak, Webb, Icher, Hjorth, and McPherson are +1; Kerr, Creamer, Lewis, and Ward are E; Lang, Hong, Oh, Nordqvist, and Gustafson are -1; and Meena Lee is -2 (1 off the lead).]

[Update 25 (7:06 am): What the scoring patterns suggest thus far is that a low round will be worth even more today than on most moving days. If only a few people move in the right direction in a big way, they'll be able to pass a lot of people. Sometimes just holding steady is a victory. Sun Young Yoo got off to a horrible birdie-double-bogey-bogey-par-bogey start, but since then has fought back to E on her day with 5 more birdies and only 1 more bogey. With the 3 short holes left to play, she can still end up with 1 of the best rounds of the day!]

[Update 26 (7:10 am): Yuko Mitsuka parred her 1st hole. She'd better bring it today if she wants to keep her lead on the other top JLPGA stars in the field. Lee's 68 brings her to -4 on the tournament, while Mi-Jeong Jeon is at -5 after making birdies on 4 of her last 6 holes. With 5 holes to play, she has a great chance to post one of the best rounds of the day.]

[Update 27 (7:16 am): Wow, Yang also couldn't break 68. Let's see if Ueda, Han, or Jeon can. If Ueda does it, she'll have birdied her last 2 in a row and 3 of her last 5. Han will need to make up for her recent bogey quickly to do so.]

[Update 28 (7:18 am): Don't look now, but Lorena's -7 over her last 30 holes and she's played bogey-free golf to do it. She may be turning it around just in time for the WBO.]

[Update 29 (7:54 am): Oh no! Disaster for Ai Miyazato! She started par-bogey-bogey-triple!! Time to regroup, Ai-chan!]

[Update 30 (7:57 am): Still nobody going low. Ueda shot 68, Ochoa 69 (9 birdies and 1 bogey in her last 34 holes). So if Na Yeon Choi can build on her 2-hole birdie train (ongoing), she can put some serious distance between herself and the field. But Brewerton bounced back to the field when she hit -11, so anything can happen.]

[Update 31 (8:17 am): OK, maybe the leaders are leaders for a reason. Sophie Gustafson just eagled the par-5 7th to go to -3 on her day and -10 for the tournament. Paula Creamer birdied it to go -2 and -9, respectively. Cristie Kerr has birdied 2 of her last 3 holes to move to -2 and -8, respectively. The 5th 68 today, from the JLPGA's Mi-Jeong Jeon (which brings her to -5 for the tournament), is definitely in jeopardy for low round of the day standing. Ji has a chance to beat it with a birdie on 18, but I seem to recall saying that before...]

[Update 32 (8:22 am): I'm encouraged on Ai-chan's behalf that Seon Hwa Lee was -2 over her last 14 holes after tripling the same hole she did, the par-4 4th. But even more so by the fact that she didn't triple the 4th! LPGA.com almost gave me a heart attack! With her birdie on the par-4 6th, she fights back to +1 on her round and -8 for the tournament!]

[Update 33 (8:26 am): Ji Young Oh has birdied 3 of her 1st 4 holes on the back to finally offset her late-front-9 pair of bogeys and climb to -3 on her day and -6 for the tournament. And Becky Brewerton is back to double digits under par for the tournament.]

[Update 34 (8:44 am): Ji couldn't do it, either! That makes it 6 68s tied for low round of the day. Natalie Gulbis's 71 is looking pretty good today, by the way. Pat Hurst is +3 through 14 and E for the tournament and Wendy Ward is E through 11 to stay at -5 overall. Michelle Wie's 70 only puts her 1-up on Natalie heading into the final round. Ward and Wie are going to have to do something special tomorrow to make up any serious ground on Gulbis for the #10 spot on the US Solheim Cup team.]

[Update 35 (8:48 am): Ji-Yai Shin twice got to -3 for the tournament and both times fell back a shot. She'll need to finish very strong on 17 and 18 to have a hope of making a final-round charge meaningful. I'm talking birdie-eagle. Suzann Pettersen missed her chance with 3 bogeys in the middle of her round today. Lots of big names just playing for position tomorrow.]

[Update 36 (8:51 am): Speaking of position, Brewerton has taken the top spot from Choi. Ai-chan and Yuko Mitsuka have joined Creamer at -9, the former with her 2nd birdie in her last 3 holes and the latter with her 2nd in a row.]

[Update 37 (8:54 am): A double at 5 and a bogey at 10 have offset Stacy Lewis's 3 birdies on the front. She's back at -6, in danger of dropping out of the lead chase pack.]

[Update 38 (9:02 am): Karrie Webb is showing why she's a Hall of Famer. After a double on 3 dropped her back to -5 for the tournament, she's made 4 birdies and only 1 bogey to get to -8, just 3 shots off the lead, tied with Mitsuka (who bogeyed 9) and Kerr. Creamer's birdie to get to -10 leaves Ai-chan alone in 5th right now at -9.]

[Update 39 (9:05 am): A birdie n the par-3 8th--there sure have been a lot of them today!--brings In-Kyung Kim back to E on her day and -8 for the tournament. We now have 9 players within 3 shots of the lead and 14 players within 5.]

[Update 40 (9:07 am): Choi's 34 on the front makes it 2 players who have hit -11, bounced back, and bounced back from the bounceback.]

[Update 41 (9:09 am): Inky's 2nd birdie in a row brings her to -9 with Ai-chan. 2 of my favorite golfers are back in the thick of things!]

[Update 42 (9:13 am): Gustafson's -4 on her round today and tied for the lead at -11. Ai-chan is now -10. Great 35 after that +2 start!]

[Update 43 (9:17 am): Now Mitsuka is back to -9 after a birdie on 10. The birdies are coming fast and furious, finally.]

[Update 44 (9:19 am): Inky makes a it 3 in a row and joins Paula and Ai-chan at -10!]

[Update 45 (9:21 am): Time for Stacy Lewis, Se Ri Pak, and Meena Lee at -6 and Helen Alfredsson and Song-Hee Kim at -7 to get on their horses. The train is leaving the station!]

[Update 46 (9:25 am): Ji Young Oh made 6 birdies but 4 bogeys today and ends up at -5. That's going to be too far back to win. Brewerton is -12 and nobody among the leaders is backing down or backing up.]

[Update 47 (9:28 am): OK, well, Ai-chan bogeyed 10 to fall back to E on the day and -9 for the tournament. She had a weak finish Thursday and a strong one Friday. Let's see how many shots she can make up on the leaders today.]

[Update 48 (9:31 am): Man, many of my picks in this week's PakPicker are really letting me down. Precision players like Ji-Yai Shin (-3), Natalie Gulbis (-2), Morgan Pressel (-2 through 52 holes), and Kristy McPherson (-2 through 51) are not living up to their hot play of late. Seon Hwa Lee is barely hanging in there at E, and Mika Miyazato is out of it at +8. Guess I should have trusted Ji to shake off her celebration's aftereffects quickly.]

[Update 49 (9:34 am): Cristie Kerr is now -9 after her birdie on the par-3 14th. That makes it 8 players within 3 shots of the lead and 12 within 5.]

[Update 50 (9:37 am): Waitasec--Oh only made 3 bogeys, it turns out. Her 69 brings her to -6. Lang could become the co-leader-in-the-clubhouse at -6 if she can break the curse on 18 and actually birdie it.]

[Update 51 (9:40 am): Choi bogeyed 11 to fall back to -10. Song-Hee Kim bogeyed 12 to fall back to -6. Mitsuka doubled 12--just like Ai-chan did on Thursday--to fall back to -7. So it's even more amazing that Lang birdied 18 to join Oh at -6. If other leaders falter, a low- or mid-60s round tomorrow by either one of them culd win it for them.]

[Update 52 (9:42 am): Hold on! Brittany Lang actually shot the 7th 68 of the day and moved to -7 overall. She's right in it!]

[Update 53 (9:46 am): Ward has made 3 birdies and 3 bogeys today. As she enters the final holes she could put some distance between herself, Gulbis, and Wie by joining Lang at -7.]

[Update 54 (9:47 am): Oh, man! I wish LPGA.com would make up its mind. Now Lang is back to 69/-6. Did she bogey 16 or didn't she??]

[Update 55 (9:49 am): About time to get ready to leave for onechan's violin lessons. Webb has joined Miyazato and Kerr at -9.]

[Update 56 (4:55 pm): Wow, missed a lot, didn't I? Gustafson and Kerr made the biggest moves with their 67s, but 68s by In-Kyung Kim, Karrie Webb, and Helen Alfredsson bring the total to 10 on the day (yes, Lang's was actually a 68, after all!). Ai-chan had a chance to finish the day in the lead, but bogeyed 18 instead of birdieing it. Here's Hound Dog's 3rd-round overview, which goes into a lot of detail on the GC coverage.]

[Update 57 (5:36 pm): As Hound Dog points out, we're all set up for a Sunday free-for-all. There are 15 players within 5 shots of the lead, 9 within 3, and only 3 players who have broken 70 every round (Brewerton, Inky, Webb). I always like someone who didn't go low on moving day but is close to the lead for the win. That means that my pick Ai-chan and Hound Dog's pick Creamer are in a great position to go low tomorrow. I stand by my prediction of a -16 to -21 winning score. Nobody's going to back into a win with this many players in the hunt. That means we'd need so see something extraordinary from those more than 3 back. I'm talking 64 or lower, with more needed the further back you are. If you can't get to -15, you won't put any pressure on the last 5 twosomes.]

[Update 58 (5:45 pm): By my system, Na Yeon Choi, Yuko Mitsuka, and Ward, Pak, Lewis, and Song-Hee Kim are also threats to go low tomorrow.]

4 comments:

Hound Dog said...

Whoops! I must have confused Nocera's lead in Solheim points with her money list standing. Sloppy.

Sorry about Ai-chan bad start this morning. Still time to turn it around.

The Constructivist said...

Rassin frassin LPGA.com had her for a triple on the 4th. Turns out she just bogeyed 2 and 3. Phew!!

Pyoung said...

Oh ho... Kerrie Webb at -9... making a charge. And Ai is back a -10. This is just too fun. But that Brewerton... she not giving an inch. Tough competitor. Maybe she should come over to the LPGA. Intense action tomorrow already guaranteed.

The Constructivist said...

Brewerton tried last year and failed in Q-School. Maybe she'll try again this year. Or maybe she'll win tomorrow and won't need to!

I'm just wishing Ai-chan didn't bogey the last hole.