Sunday, August 2, 2009

Women's British Open Sunday: Hanging Around

At the start of play today at the Women's British Open, there were only 2 players under par and 6 within 5 shots of Catriona Matthew. With a 3-shot lead on Christina Kim, Matthew could run away with the last LPGA major of the year. Or she could open the door to the 22 players hanging around at +5 or better. A lot's going to depend on what kind of wind they're playing in today. Judging by Kris Tamulis's round, we could be seeing the return of Thursday's conditions, when the back was a monster. Tamulis had previously been known for making In-Kyung Kim's 11 on the par-5 6th hole in the 1st round look good yesterday, when she took a 12 on it to go +12 through her 1st 8 holes. But she bounced back with 10 holes of -2 golf to close out her round and extended her bogey-free streak to 21 holes when she opened with a 33 and entered her final 6 holes on one of the best runs of anyone in the field all week. So of course she finished with bogeys on 13, 14, and 16 for a back-9 40 that dropped her back to +20 for the tournament. If someone playing as well as Tamulis could butcher the back, what of the leaders?

Well, maybe they'll take heart from the performance of Brittany Lincicome today, who knows a little something about performing when a major is at stake. She had shot herself out of contention with a 79 yesterday, but opened with a 33 today. And she extended her bogey-free streak to 11 holes when she eagled the par-5 15th and birdied the 16th to get to -5 on her day. But Royal Lytham is heartless--she just doubled 17. Still, a par or better on 18 will make her the 8th player to break 70 this week. Not bad for someone whose game doesn't fit links golf in the slightest.

[Update 1 (5:54 am): Right now, there are 5 other under-par rounds in progress. Ursula Wikstrom is -1 through 13, Teresa Lu is -3 through 12, Jeong Jang made a hole-in-one on the 1st and remains -2 through 4, Becky Morgan (who went 40-32 yesterday) birdied the 1st and remains -1 through 2, and Yuri Fudoh did and is the same. If the wind is doing what I fear it's doing, then Lincicome may well end up the only under-par player among those out of the tournament.]

[Update 2 (5:58 am): During the 1st round, I predicted that nobody would break 75 all 4 rounds this week. The only players with a chance to do that are the 2 players in the final pairing, Song-Hee Kim, Kyeong Bae, Jane Park, Shinobu Moromizato, Paula Creamer, and Kristy McPherson. So you know what I think their odds of winning are. The steadiest of those who have failed to break 75 once already have been Ai Miyazato and (surprisingly) Hee Young Park. If Ai-sama breaks 70 today for the 1st time this week, she wins her 2nd in a row and 1st LPGA major. You heard it here 1st.]

[Update 3 (6:01 am): Ya Ni Tseng birdied the 2nd to get back to +5 overall. She'll need the round of her life just to give herself a chance. Michelle Wie, another bomber with accuracy issues, did the same and is +6 overall. Can they be like Brittany (except for that double on 17) today? They'll need to shoot in the mid-60s to give themselves a chance.]

[Update 4 (6:04 am): Sun Young Yoo just birdied the par-5 11th to go to -1 on her day. Sweet revenge on a hole she tripled Thursday. Fellow Senior Standout Lu remains -3 with 3 to play.]

[Update 5 (6:07 am): Lincicome bounced back with a par on 18 to secure her 69. Katherine Hull was +2 over her last 7 holes but hung on for a solid 71, her 1st sub-par (and sub-75) round of the week. Here's hoping she comes back from the LPGA's summer vacation with a determination to make the 2nd half of 2009 as great as her conclusion to 2008.]

[Update 6 (6:18 am): Here are some of the most intriguing final-round pairings: Laura Davies and Sophie Gustafson at 8:20 am, former WBO champions Jeong Jang and Lorena Ochoa at 10 am, rookies Michelle Wie and M.J. Hur right after them, Yuri Fudoh and Ya Ni Tseng at 10:30 am, In-Kyung Kim and Angela Stanford at 11:35 am, Hall of Famers Karrie Webb and Se Ri Pak right after them, the 2 defending champions, Ji-Yai Shin from last year's WBO and Ai Miyazato from last week's Evian Masters in the penultimate pairing, and of course Matthew and Kim.]

[Update 7 (6:21 am): Scattered thundershowers predicted for central NY from noon on, so maybe the decision of whether to watch the WBO on tv or follow Tiffany Joh at the Futures Tour event at Drumlins will be taken out of my hands!]

[Update 8 (6:24 am): I'm glad that Hound Dog will probably be picking up the live-blogging duties while I head out to play golf with my dad this morning. If we're playing well and the weather holds up, we may even get in 18 before the WBO coverage starts.]

[Update 9 (6:33 am): Ron Sirak said on twitter that the wind will make 17 play tough today (too bad it was too late for Lincicome). Well, Lu made it past 17 w/o a disaster. She can match Lincicome's 69 with a par on the final hole.]

[Update 10 (6:36 am): Jang birdied the 7th to move to -3 on her round. Yoo birdied 12 to move to -2 on her day. Wikstrom bogeyed 13 and 14 to fall back to E today with 2 to play.]

[Update 11 (6:39 am): Cristie Kerr bounced back from an opeing bogey with birdies on 2 and 4 to move to +5 for the tournament, tied with Jang, Tseng, Yuko Mitsuka, and Marianne Skarpnord.]

[Update 12 (6:41 am): Scratch those last 2 names--they just bogeyed the 2nd. Maria Hjorth and Na Yeon Choi start the day at +5 and are on the 1st. They're the 1st of those with an outside chance to win to tee off.]

[Update 13 (6:43 am): Lu ended up bogeying her last 2 holes for a 70 that ties her with Lincicome at +10.]

[Update 14 (6:46 am): Wikstrom bogeyed 17 to go to +1 on her day. Yup, the back is a bear today and could become a monster again if the winds come up for the later pairings.]

[Update 15 (6:49 am): More evidence: Carmen Alonso (33-40), Eun-Hee Ji (33-42), Reilly Rankin (35-41).... And that's just those who were playing well coming into it. No pressure, leaders!]

[Update 16 (6:52 am): Yoo bogeyed 14 but bounced back with a birdie on the par-5 15th to remain at -2 on her round. She's only made 1 bogey in her previous 9 trips through 16, 17, and 18, so she'll be a good test case for how tough the closing holes are playing today.]

[Update 17 (6:55 am): Michele Redman is -1 through 5 and has a 9-hole bogey-free streak going. That's nothing next to Jang's 21-hole streak (which just came to an end on the 9th), but still quite good. Both players are at +6 overall; so far nobody on the course has broken the +5 barrier yet.]

[Update 18 (7:00 am): Annika will be live-blogging the end of the final round during the telecast today! Check it out!]

[Update 19 (7:28 am): Michelle Wie is -3 through 10 and has a 14-hole bogey-free streak going. At +4 for the tournament, she needs to finish strong for the 1st time all week to put any pressure on the leaders. The other Michele--Redman--shot a 32 on the front to join her.]

[Update 20 (7:41 am): Lorena Ochoa shot her 2nd-straight under-par 9--a 34 on the front just now--to move to +7 overall. Na Yeon Choi birdied the 2nd to move to +4. She's on a 15-hole bogey-free run now.]

[Update 21 (7:43 am): Kerr made her 3rd birdie on the front to join Choi (and Wie, Redman, Pak, Webb, and McPherson) at +4. Maybe she'll have better luck coming from behind this major than being the frontrunner the previous 2?]

[Update 22 (7:45 am): Hopefully the Miyazatos can avoid the struggles of the other Japanese players in the field. Fudoh bogeyed her last 3 in a row, Yuko Mitsuka is +3 through 8, and Shinobu Moromizato bogeyed the 1st to drop to +3 overall.]

[Update 23 (7:50 am): Wikstrom ended up bogeying 4 of her last 6 to shoot a 74; Yoo bogeyed her last 2 for a 72; Sophie Gustafson went 34-38. Let's see if the players on the back now can finish stronger. Jade Schaeffer is E through 15, Vicky Hurst is E through 14, Ochoa is E through 13, and Tseng is E through 10, while Redman and Wie are -3 through 12, Jang is -1 through 13 and Inbee Park is -1 through 14.]

[Update 24 (7:52 am): Na Yeon Choi is making a serious run! She's -3 through 6, -6 over her last 18 holes (bogey-free), and tied with Hee-Won Han, Kyeong Bae, and Jane Park at +2.]

[Update 25 (7:58 am): Rain delay at Drumlins. Syracuse looks like it'll be hammered all morning. We might have an hour window after this band moves through. Time to get ready to go the second it does.]

[Update 26 (8/3/09, 6:24 am): Got to see the ABC tape delay without going online 1st, so the last 8 holes were really dramatic. Turns out Matthew opened the door for everyone and ran away with the tournament--it wasn't the either-or I pictured early yesterday morning, after all, but both-and!]

[Update 27 (6:32 am): Hound Dog picked up his live blogging just where I left off. Even if you followed the live scoring online and watched the tv coverage, you need to read his posts.]

[Update 28 (6:40 am): In the end, only 4 players broke 75 every round: Catriona Matthew, Paula Creamer, Christina Kim, and Kristy McPherson. That's some amazing golf, even if the conditions ended up being much more benign than I expected.]

[Update 29 (7:00 am): Now I can explain why I low-keyed Ai-sama's 1st win last week: I didn't want to jinx her this week. Although I didn't expect her to win the WBO, I was sure hoping she could pull off 2 in a row. Even though she ran into trouble on 14 and 17 at Royal Lytham, she still had a chance to win a major on the back 9. She's already broken the $1M barrier in LPGA winnings for the 1st time in her career--and sits 1 place ahead of Ayako Okamoto on the career money list. So it's already time to rethink what I wrote last week about her mid-year status and 2nd-half prospects: at #4 on the money list and #5 in the Player of the Year race, she should play as many LPGA events as she can. If she waits to rejoin the LPGA for the California events, she'll have missed 3 tournaments she could win in the States. 2 of them are on the West Coast (Oregon and Alberta), so conceivably she could just travel west for the JLPGA's 2nd major rather than play in the Arkansas event. And she'd better think hard about skipping the China and Korea LPGA events as she usually has over her career. She's definitely playing well enough to chase down Kerr on the money list and POY race. But if she rocks the JLPGA this month, my opinion might change yet again.]

[Update 30 (7:52 am): Ji-Yai Shin, Momoko Ueda, and Shiho Oyama are in the field list for the AXA Ladies this week on the JLPGA, but Ai-sama is taking a well-deserved week off. The JLPGA is going to be the place to be in August!]

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