Monday, August 31, 2009

Safeway Classic Sunday: The Thrill of Victory, The Agony of Defeat

With my favorite and 3rd-favorite players in contention yesterday at the Safeway Classic, I did something unusual for me. I didn't go online all day (went swimming with the family instead), called a friend with ESPN and 2 boys onechan's and imoto's ages, and actually watched the last 6 holes or so plus the playoff between Suzann Pettersen, Michele Redman, and M.J. Hur. Instead of imitating Hound Dog's and Jamie RS's play-by-play or Corey Grice's and Bill Jempty's nicely-contextualized summary of the final results, I'll simply offer my congratulations to M.J. Hur and make a few comments on my tv-watching experience and what I observed about the players I saw on tv.

I've read some people complaining about the lack of hi-def on ESPN's coverage, but since my norm is no-def, you won't hear any complaints from me. I got to drink beer from Quebec with a friend of mine (a former concert violinist who's now a colleague at my university) while our wives hung out drinking shoju and eating dried squid and our kids ran wild. Perfect Sunday afternoon. Except for Ai Miyazato picking up where she left off on the back 9 yesterday, giving away opportunity after opportunity, and settling for a blah 35-35 when she had a chance to put herself right in the Player of the Year race. And Seon Hwa Lee squandering her gutty 3-consecutive-birdie comeback from a bogey-double meltdown early by cooling off at crunch time. I mean, it was fun playing color commentator for my buddy, who no doubt heard too many details about Miyazato's and Lee's past showdowns and tendencies on Ghost Creek this week, Pettersen's and Hur's Sunday struggles on the LPGA and Futures Tour, respectively, and the LPGA's response to the disproportionate numbers of Asians and Asian Americans at the top of the world of women's golf (hey, he asked for it when he told me about a violinists' blog that remarked upon a similar phenomenon in the musical world). But at least chatting with him distracted me from paying too much attention to the opportunities ESPN's broadcast team missed to set up the action. And what action it was! I was so happy to see Hur and Pettersen both come back from late mistakes that prevented them from running away from the field, Hur by settling down after missing what looked like 2 tap-ins for birdie in a row and Pettersen by making a solid sandie on 17 and a great up-and-down from 50 yards and 12 feet on 18. I was feeling for Michele Redman, who played 18 perfectly twice in a row but twice had her fairway wood approach get stuck on the incline it landed on instead of hopping up onto the 2nd tier where the pin was. And who could complain about seeing so much of Michelle Wie, Christina Kim, and Natalie Gulbis? OK, well, me. As much as I love to see them playing well, the second Wie failed to go lower than -11, Kim melted down, and Gulbis fell out of contention, I wanted to see every shot of the Stone Buddha's and Ai-sama's as they tried to catch the suddenly struggling Pettersen and Hur. Instead, I had to wait until the ratings drivers got off the course and never did find out how Lee birdied 13 to get back to -11.

So, yeah, the tv-watching experience was great and all, but not half of what it could have been. If I were a tv announcer, commentator, or interviewer, I'd be reading the best blogs on women's golf every day, so I had the right information and context at my fingertips when a relative unknown makes it 4 rookie wins in '09 thus far on a day when another Korean teenager was playing pretty well at the U.S. Amateur. ESPN gets a pass because it's their last coverage of women's golf for quite some time. But are you listening, Golf Channel? It's me, the Constructivist.

[Update 1 (3:47 am): OK, that ending was too weird to pass up, but I do have some random observations on players. Or rather, a series of questions.

What was Natalie Gulbis doing trying to carry the water on 18 when even holing it wouldn't have gotten her into serious contention?

What's been different about Christina Kim's game since the European swing that's allowed her to get herself into contention at the Women's British Open and the Safeway? (All I've seen are her meltdowns under pressure, not her great play that's gotten her there.) And why was she able to play so well at the Solheim Cup when she's clearly not used to that kind of pressure?

Why, oh, why, did Ai-sama lose her great tempo on her tee shot on 18? That was the fastest, wildest swing I think I've ever seen from her--and only her 3rd missed fairway of the week, right when she didn't need it! Unfortunately, I had the same feeling for her today as I did watching her struggle on the back at the WBO. She just wasn't her usual self. But it's clear she's not just riding a hot streak, as she hasn't yet had a week that she's capable of this season. Cristie Kerr and Ji-Yai Shin, the only 2 players ahead of her on the money list and in POY points, had better get their games in order, Ai-sama is not going away.

When will people stop concern trolling Michelle Wie's game? She's been a better putter this season than most people acknowledge, so it's not like Dave Stockton is a magic bullet here. And of all the bombers on tour, she probably has the best precision game right now, what with the quality of her approach shots, pitches, and recovery shots around the greens. Once she really starts trusting her driver again, she's finally going to be the force everyone expected her to be in her mid-teens. It could come together for her in September, or next season, but it's going to happen soon.

What's it going to take for Suzann Pettersen to finally break through again? I've lost count of the number of times she's put herself in position to win over the last 2 seasons! Mi-Jeong Jeon showed the way to get the monkey off your back, Suzann. Just blow the field away and stop giving people hope!

Many more questions percolating in my head, but work calls. Mata-ne!]

[Update 2 (4:28 am): Man, I'm beginning to think Tolkien made the opening of Fellowship as dry as he could. Verdant Garden's notes from Ghost Creek, especially the most recent one, are anything but.]

[Update 3 (4:00 pm): Here's Hound Dog's epilogue. And while you're there be sure to check Bill Jempty's spot-on critique of the "LPGA=boring" meme.]

[Update 4 (4:22 pm): Here's Brian Heard on Hur's win.]


Swingline said...

ESPN has a decent article on Ms Hur -
She has a yr of university, 19, no professional Korean experience. Her father sells his business to come here. Risky business but so far so goo. I wonder how ESPN was able to get the information ie do she or dad speaks English, a translator. Long term, it could be a good story but who knows.

Anonymous said...

M.J. Hur speaks good enough English. She displayed some of it in her post round interview. She said she studied English for 10 months in Korea in school, and worked hard last year to learn at the DFT last year.

Jame in the Rough