Saturday, September 19, 2009

Samsung World Championship Saturday: Choi's 63 Gives Her a Great Chance for LPGA Win #1

With the likes of Ji-Yai Shin, Lorena Ochoa, and Ai Miyazato near double digits under par at the halfway point of the Samsung World Championship, somebody was going to have to go low to catch them on moving day. That someone today was Na Yeon Choi, who made 10 birdies on Torrey Pines's South Course on her way to a 63 that brought her to -15 for the tournament. The best player on tour without a win, Choi has played 48 LPGA events without missing a cut, but her M.O. recently has been to flirt with the cut line before coming on strong. But this week she started solidly and has improved by 4 shots each round. (By contrast, Song-Hee Kim started hot but has done 6 shots worse each round. If they keep this up, Choi will break 60 and Kim won't break 80 tomorrow!)

Unfortunately for Choi, the 2 hottest players on the LPGA are hot on her trail. But Ji-Yai Shin is doing it with smoke and mirrors this week. Somehow she shot a 68 averaging about 240 yards off the tee and hitting a grand total of 7 greens on the day. Still, unlike Lorena Ochoa, who's also been having trouble hitting Torrey's greens and blew up with a 39 on the back to fall back to -8 overall, Shin held it together with birdies on 15 and 16 to offset bogeys on the 11th and 12th and get back to -13. By contrast, Ai Miyazato's ballstriking has been as solid as ever and her scoring has reflected that. Each day, she's shot a 68 with 5 birdies and 1 bogey. With 43 greens in regulation thus far, she's averaging just over 14 GIR per round, so she's really giving herself a lot of birdie chances and making key putts. But she's still taken 7 more putts than Choi and a whopping 15 more than Shin!

In a word, the last 3 Sunday pairings are awesome:

Start Time: 10:30 AM
Lorena Ochoa
Ya Ni Tseng

Start Time: 10:40 AM
Ai Miyazato
Paula Creamer

Start Time: 10:50 AM
Na Yeon Choi
Ji-Yai Shin

70s by Tseng and Creamer today got them into pairings with players with very similar games to theirs. First off are the freewheeling big hitters who can make birdies in bunches but who haven't been playing up to their potential lately. Then 2 pairs of precision players, with 1 partner in each pair averaging over 250 off the tee (Miyazato and Choi) and the other averaging over 240 (Creamer and Shin). While I go to Seoul to see how many times Shin and Choi played together in the final round on the KLPGA, you can check out's notes and interviews page for more on NYC's fantastic round and a taste of what trash talk from the Final Round Queen sounds like.

[Update 1 (7:33 pm): Speaking of the KLPGA, Hee Kyung Seo went 66-67-67 in their 2nd major of the season but lost by 2 strokes to Jung Eun Lee, ending her Grand Slam hopes this season. I've posted my question on the Samsung discussion thread.]

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