Monday, November 23, 2009

LPGA Tour Championship Friday Sunday: Still Not Done with the 2nd Round, but the LPGA's Pennant Races Are as Hot as Ever

I don't know what the LPGA has done to get on the bad side of the golf gods. All I can say is that Michael Whan may want to start building an ark, if he hasn't begun already. Just got up this morning after our late-night return from Kitchener, Ontario, and Skate Canada (on which more later), expecting to see that the 3rd round of the LPGA Tour Championship had finally begun. But lo and behold, there are still groups with 5 holes left to play early this morning, before the original 1st cut can even be made! I guess I have to accept that this'll be a 54-hole deal, after all. (At least it allows Ji-Yai Shin and Ai Miyazato to compete in the JLPGA's final event and final major, the Ricoh Cup, later this week--provided they have the energy.)

It's really too bad the weather is overshadowing the golf. Kristy McPherson is putting in a serious bid--thanks to a bogey-free 67 that improved on her fine opening round by 2 shots--to play the spoiler in the brewing showdown between Lorena Ochoa and Ji-Yai Shin. Ochoa's 2nd-straight bogey on the par-3 17th has dropped her back to E on the day and -6 overall, giving Shin, who's -5 on the day with 2 holes left to play, a 1-shot lead.

But a host of other players could crash their party, as well. Anna Nordqvist's bogey-free 68 had brought her to -6, while Heather Bowie Young has 2 holes in which to pass her. Then there's Mikaela Parmlid's 8-birdie 66 and Helen Alfredsson's bogey-free 67, which have brought them even with Reilley Rankin at -5 for the moment, at least (Rankin is one of those players with 5 holes to go; she had been -7 overall after opening with 2 birdies, but she closed the front with 2 bogeys to drop back to E on her day). And guess what? Ya Ni Tseng, Na Yeon Choi, Chella Choi, and Taylor Leon all have at least a couple of holes in which to move within 3 of the lead.

In fact, I usually consider anyone within 5 shots of the lead heading into the final round to be in contention, so by that standard there are 22 golfers trying to deny McPherson her 1st career LPGA victory right now. 68s by Se Ri Pak (-4), Suzann Pettersen (-4), Ai Miyazato (-3), and Song-Hee Kim (-3) and 69s by Karen Stupples (-4) and Cristie Kerr (-3) give them some hope--and much-needed momentum--for a season-ending win. On the other end of the spectrum, Brittany Lang (74, +3, T73) is looking for some help to end up in the top 70, while all hope is gone for In-Kyung Kim (75, +4), Eun-Hee Ji (74, +6), Christina Kim (71, +6), Mika Miyazato (77, +11), and Vicky Hurst (82, +14). helpfully summarizes the race for the Vare Trophy. Basically, Ai-sama needs to make like Chie Arimura today to have a hope of passing Cristie Kerr, Ji-Yai Shin, and Lorena Ochoa. As for the race for the top 80 on the money list, Il Mi Chung (E through 31 holes, #81, $110.4K), Kris Tamulis (+3 through 32 holes, #83, $99.7K), Taylor Leon (-4 through 33 holes, #84, $98.3K), Heather Bowie Young (-6 through 34 holes, #89, $91.6K), Mindy Kim (+2, #91, $87.2K), Sarah Kemp (+1, #93, $85.5K), Chella Choi (-4 through 34 holes, #94, $85.1K), Reilley Rankin (-5 through 31 holes, #100, $72.7K), and Sarah Jane Smith (-2 through 34 holes, #107, $62.2K) are all looking to pass Katie Futcher (-1 through 35 holes, #80, $112.9K), Irene Cho (+1 through 33 holes, #79, $115.3K), Moira Dunn (MC, #78, $116.5K), Sarah Lee (+3 through 33 holes, #77, $119.5K), and Alena Sharp (MC, #76, $122.3K). So that race is looking like a photo finish, just like the big one, where 1 stroke and 8 points is all that's standing between Lorena Ochoa and her 4th-straight Player of the Year award--or, conversely, what Ji-Yai Shin needs to preserve or extend to become the 1st Korean POY in LPGA history, not to mention the 1st player to sew up the POY, money-list title, and Rookie of the Year award in the same season since Nancy Lopez. No biggie!

Better check with my friends who have Golf Channel later this morning. Even though they're aiming for a 4 pm finish, coverage doesn't start till then. Weird....

[Update 1 (12:24 pm): Ah, time zones! Now I get it. Unfortunately, my Golf Channel source has family visiting this week. No chance to have dinner with them tonight and watch the final round together.

As for round 2's final results, the top players stayed mostly the same: McPherson maintained her 1-shot lead on Shin, 2-shot lead on Ochoa, Nordqvist, and Bowie Young, and 3-shot lead on Parmlid and Alfredsson. Rankin dropped all the way to T20 when she finished bogey-par-par-double for a 75 that left her at -2 overall. So in the end there were only 18 players within 5 shots of McPherson after 36 holes. The cut line did drop to +3, saving Brittany Lang but not In-Kyung Kim, Jennifer Rosales, or Shanshan Feng (who cancelled her trip to Japan for the JLPGA's 3rd stage of Q-School). Other victims include Sarah Lee and Allison Hanna (who was at #82 on the money list at $104.6K--somehow I missed her in my list this morning). With Katie Futcher moving up to T20 after a 69 today, it looks like Irene Cho (who made the cut by the skin of her teeth after ballooning to a 77 today), Moira Dunn, Sarah Lee, and Alena Sharp (who all missed the cut) are on the hot seat when it comes to staying within the top 80 on the money list, The biggest threats to pass them are Bowie Young, Choi, and Leon, although they'll need to make significant amounts of money to do so.]

[Update 2 (3:14 pm): Check the comments on Bill Jempty's piece on the Golf Channel's live coverage--it starts at 3, not 4 pm! So I'm missing it as I write! Cue Charlie Brown: "Auuuuwgh!"]

No comments: