Friday, July 3, 2009

Jamie Farr Classic/Se Ri Pak Shootout Friday: The Stakes Are High

Rusty Miller does a better job than usual for an AP writer of giving a sense of how many golfers are in the hunt at the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic, but he's still no Hound Dog. As good a snapshot as the 2 of them give, though, it's worth reviewing some of the bigger stories coming out of this event that they only touch on or miss entirely.

U.S. Women's Open Qualifier

If this week's winner isn't already qualified for the U.S. Women's Open, she gets into the field at Saucon Valley next week. Not just Michelle Wie (69, T7, -8, after a weak double on the par-5 18th) and Natalie Gulbis (65, T4, -9) have a lot at stake this weekend, then, but also Super Sophs Sarah Kemp (63, T1, -11) and Eunjung Yi (66, T7, -8), not to mention Allison Hanna-Williams (68, T13, -7) and Il Mi Chung (68, T21, -6).

Women's British Open Qualifier

The Farr is the U.S. qualifier for the Women's British Open, but only LPGA members are eligible to be counted for the top 5 among those not already in the field for the year's final major. Hound Dog noted that Sarah Kemp is the 1st of these qualifiers, while LPGA.com also lists the other 4 players: Eunjung Yi, Kris Tschetter, Jin Joo Hong, and Allison Hanna-Williams. Moira Dunn almost repeated her feat of qualifying for the WBO at the Farr for the 2nd year in a row, but her bogey-free 67 was sunk by yesterday's closing 37 on the front side. Wonder if she'll try the final qualifying round?

The Race for the Solheim Cup

With Kristy McPherson (6th in points to join the U.S. side with 276) and Brittany Lincicome (10th with 199 points) missing the cut, there are great opportunities for Brittany Lang (4th with 288 points, but only T66 after making the cut on the dot with a 68 that brought her to -2), Nicole Castrale (5th with 278 points and T21 at -6, thanks to a hot 66 today), Christina Kim (7th with 255 points and T45 after a 68 brought her to -4 for the tournament), Morgan Pressel (8th with 220 points and in the hunt again after a 68 brought her to solo 3rd at -10), and Natalie Gulbis (9th with 201 points and 2 shots off the lead) to consolidate or improve their positions on the list. And of course Laura Diaz (11th with 177 points but T1 thanks to a birdie putt that unexpectedly fell on the 9th green--her 4th in her last 6 holes--that brought her to -11), Jane Park (15th with 141 points but T13 after a hot 66 brought her to -7), and Michelle Wie (17th with 105 points and still only 3 shots out of the lead), along with Juli Inkster (14th with 152 points but only just made the cut with a 71 today) and Meaghan Francella (18th with 102 points but only T54 at -3 after a 72 today), have a chance to stay ahead of or pass those who missed the cut like Stacy Prammanasudh (12th with 170 points) and Pat Hurst (13th with 164 points), and even move into the top 10. Rookies Stacy Lewis and Vicky Hurst didn't help their causes by missing the cut today--Hurst doubled 2 of her 1st 4 holes and her -4 finish over her last 14 turned out to be too little, too late, while Stacy Lewis's -2 finish over her last 8 holes on the front wasn't enough to make up for a disastrous double at 18 and bogey at 1 as she made the turn, which caused her to miss the cut by a single stroke--but a win in the last 3 events before the competition could certainly put each in the conversation for a captain's pick, at the very least. With 2 majors and the Evian Masters left to get points from, this race is going to be down to the wire.

The LPGA's Youth Movement

Except for Diaz, Tschetter, and perhaps Pettersen and Gulbis, nobody among the 12 players within 3 shots of the lead could be called a veteran. What's more, there are some interesting showdowns within rookie classes, as well. The #1 Senior Standout, Seon Hwa Lee, not only shot a career-low 63 but also has a 36-hole bogey-free streak going, while #2 Morgan Pressel's resurgence continues, as her 68 kept her 1 shot ahead of Lee and 1 behind Diaz and Kemp. Similarly, the current leader in the Rookie of the Year race, Ji-Yai Shin, was the beneficiary of a 3-shot swing over #2 Michelle Wie on the 18th hole to take a 1-shot lead on her heading into the weekend. It's also worth noting Senior Standout Kyeong Bae's 64 today; looks like the answer to my question after her top 10 at the LPGA Championship is "yes." And still within 5 shots of the lead are top young guns and rookies I haven't had cause yet to mention like Ya Ni Tseng (68, T21, -6), Jee Young Lee (69, T13, -7), Song-Hee Kim (71, T13, -7), Shanshan Feng (68, T21, -6), and Ashleigh Simon (69, T21, -6). Finally, with her 2 birdies in her last 3 holes, Super Soph Na Yeon Choi fired a 67 that put her barely on the right side of the cut line for the 41st straight time (equal to her entire LPGA career). The only other newbie to avoid missing a cut in her rookie year, Seon Hwa Lee, could only extend her made-cut streak to 32 events. Other recent ROYs like Ya Ni Tseng, Angela Park, and Paula Creamer couldn't make it out of their rookie seasons without missing a cut.

Who's On First?

A shocking missed cut by In-Kyung Kim after an ugly 74, a barely made cut by Angela Stanford after a shaky 73, and a missed opportunity to move up the leaderboard by Cristie Kerr after a so-so 71--not to mention Paula Creamer's DNS and Ya Ni Tseng's lukewarm scoring thus far--conspire to leave the door open for a quietly lurking Lorena Ochoa (68, T13, -7). Ochoa's only blemish in the tournament was a double bogey yesterday back on the par-4 4th; if she can hit a few more fairways and greens over her last 36 holes than she did over her 1st, she can definitely make a big move up the leaderboard and money list this weekend.

***

So even as the future of the LPGA is being hotly debated, the competition on tour is even hotter. Should be an awesome weekend at Highland Meadows!

[Update 1 (7/4/09, 12:39 am): I'd be remiss not to mention Jeong Jang's 1st made cut since her return from wrist surgery. Or to avoid hoping that Ai Miyazato will put together 2 good 9s in a row sometime on the weekend. Or to fail to cheer Momoko Ueda's and Shiho Oyama's walkoff birdies on the 9th to get both of them into the weekend. Too bad Mika Miyazato couldn't make it 4 for 4 for Team Japan.]

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