Saturday, February 28, 2009

Pornanong Phatlum Defends LAGT Title in India

The Ladies Asian Golf Tour has been the incubator of some great international talent: Eun-Hee Ji and Hee Young Park in 2006, Ya Ni Tseng and Ji-Yai Shin in 2007, and Hee Kyung Seo and Pornanong Phatlum in 2008. Well, this season may be the year Phatlum is joined by a trio of fellow Thai players: Onnarin Sattayabanphot (LPGA Class of 2008), Nontaya Srisawang (LPGA Class of 2009, like Phatlum), and Titiya Plucksataporn (who'll be competing on the LET this season). Sattayabanphot won last week in Thailand and Phatlum just won this week in India for her 4th career LAGT victory. We'll see how ready this Thai foursome are for the rigors of the equivalent of AAA baseball very soon, as both winners will be joined on the Futures Tour this season by Srisawang, while Plucksataporn will be going the Yuki Sakurai route and gaining experience on the LET before going for the big leagues. It won't be too long before the Jutanugarn sisters are joining them, either. Thai-American Stacy Prammanasudh, who's making a little charge this morning in the Honda LPGA Thailand event, and veteran Russy Gulyanamitta could have a lot more company on tour as early as 2010.

Honda LPGA Thailand Saturday: Creamer, Ochoa, Lang Head and Shoulders Above Field

Paula Creamer made the biggest move today in the Honda LPGA Thailand, a 6-birdie 67 that vaulted her 3 shots ahead of Brittany Lang (71) and Lorena Ochoa (68), 6 shots ahead of Karrie Webb (69), and 7 shots ahead of a trio at -4.

It was a day for streaks to come to an end. Lang's bogey-free streak ended at 39 holes; even though she eagled the very next hole, she could only manage 1 more birdie the rest of the day--and that was offset by another bogey. Ai Miyazato's streak of 11 straight rounds at par or better looked to be in great shape after she started with 2 birdies in her 1st 6 holes and stood at -5 for the tournament on the 9th tee, but she made 4 bogeys and no birdies over those closing 10 holes to drop into a tie for 16th. The two hottest players in the world of women's golf coming into this week, Angela Stanford and Katherine Hull, hit some speed bumps. Stanford's 73, which included her 3rd straight bogey on the par-3 12th, dropped her into a tie for 5th with Hee Young Park (69) and Mika Miyazato (72). (Miyazato isn't exactly jumping for joy, though, after getting to -7 at the turn and turning in a closing 39, while Park must be wondering how close to the lead she would be if she could have just had a mediocre 1st round.) Hull, meanwhile, has plenty of mightabeens of her own; even though her 72 was her best round of the tournament, she bogeyed 2 of her last 3 holes, but that's nothing compared to the 10 she took on her last hole of her 2nd round. Without it, she'd be T22 at E; as it is, she's T45 at +6.

Stanford still has a great chance to post her 8th straight top 6 or better finish, while Lang is gunning for her 7th straight top 10 and 1st career LPGA win. Jee Young Lee, however, has her work cut out to match them, thanks to her 2nd collapse after a hot start. Although it wasn't as good as her 4 birdies over her 1st 5 holes to start the tournament, her 3 birdies in her 1st 6 holes had gotten her back to -2, but she failed to make a birdie over her final 12 holes and ended up right where she started the day, at +1 (T27). She'll need a real charge to get her 7th-straight top 10. Cristie Kerr has less ground to make up after falling back from a similarly hot start; she was -4 on the round and for the tournament standing on the 9th tee, but bogeyed 3 of her next 5 holes before stopping the bleeding with a birdie on the par-4 15th. At -2, she's already T12, with a great chance for her 11th top 10 in her last 19 starts.

Other golfers on the verge of playing very good golf will need to bounce back from today's struggles. Eun-Hee Ji's 75 and Ya Ni Tseng's 74 dropped them back to -1 with Ai Miyazato and allowed Ji-Yai Shin (71) and Na Yeon Choi (70) to catch them. Nicole Castrale (73), Natalie Gulbis (74), Candie Kung (74), and Kristy McPherson (76) all fell back to E, while Morgan Pressel's 76 dropped her back to -2, which allowed Louise Friberg to make up 8 shots on her (thanks in part to Friberg's 2nd-straight 33 on the front).

The Creamer-Ochoa showdown tomorrow will rightly get the most media attention, but I'll also be curious to see who at the bottom of the leaderboard but playing in the Showdown in Singapore next week will turn things around and build some momentum for the biggest event of the season before the Kraft Nabisco Championship. Can Angela Park follow up on today's 70 and Inbee Park and Song-Hee Kim on their 71s? Can Seon Hwa Lee bounce back from an uncharacteristic 77, Jane Park and Hee-Won Han from 76s, and Mi Hyun Kim and Shiho Oyama from 75s?

The final-round pairings are incredible, and not just in the Creamer-Ochoa and Lang-Webb final 4. Among Pettersen-Hull, Mi Hyun Kim-Seon Hwa Lee, Angela Park-Inbee Park, Tseng-Ji, Shin-Miyazato, Pressel-Choi, and Kerr-Stupples, I'd be hard-pressed to decide which twosome to follow. How about you?

[Update 1 (11:32 am): I have a feeling Jamie RS would be following 14-year-old amateur Moriya Jutanugarn!]

[Update 2 (4:21 pm): Hound Dog gives his usual great overview and points out that with leaders like these, Golf Channel would have been nabbing more good ratings, were their contract with the LPGA already in effect.]

[Update 3 (5:29 pm): Go to Seoul right now for yet another angle on the Hee Young Park story. She was hospitalized after her opening 79, either from bad water or dehydration (it's hard to tell), and only bounced back by going 11-under over her next 36 holes. And, yes, there are photographs of her in the hospital.]

[Update 4 (5:48 pm): Here are's notes and interviews. Never knew Lorena and Virada Nirapathpongporn were friends!]

Friday, February 27, 2009

Honda LPGA Thailand Friday: Hee Young Park Fires Bogey-Free 64

It's been a day for redemption for many golfers looking to scrape the last of the early-season rust off their games thus far in the 2nd round of the Honda LPGA Thailand tournament. Hee Young Park lead the way with a bogey-free 64--a 15-shot improvement over yesterday's round--but plenty of players joined in the fun.

Second-ranked Junior Mint Eun-Hee Ji's bogey-free 67 represented a more modest 6-shot improvement, but brought her squarely into the top 10 at -4--and rookie Mika Miyazato followed suit a few minutes later. Ji-Yai Shin's bogey-free 69 was also 6 shots better than her opening round and hopefully signals the return of her health and her game. Shanshan Feng again was +1 over her final 5 holes, but her 70 today was also 6 better than yesterday's results.

Even with her 2nd straight bogey on her final hole, Laura Diaz can take satisfaction in a 5-shot improvement from Thursday to Friday, while fellow favorite to make the Solheim Cup Stacy Prammanasudh looks to be back on track after a 5-shot improvement of her own, complete with an early eagle and a walk-off birdie. Not too long after they posted their scores, Minea Blomqvist used 3 birdies in her last 5 holes to carve 5 strokes off her first-round score, as well.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg--there were plenty of 3-to-4 shot swings for the better (plus Jimin Kang improved from 79 to 71). Not everyone took advantage of the seemingly easier scoring conditions today, of course. Just scroll down to the bottom of the leaderboard and check out what's been happening to Juli Inkster and Christina Kim, for instance. But let's accentuate the positive right now.

I'm also not going to comment on anyone still out on the course, given how virulent the Mostly Harmless jinx can be, but let's just say that there are some interesting, if smaller, moves going on at or near the top of the leaderboard right now. And that fans of American golfers may be pretty happy at the end of the day (or, rather, the start of ours). More later!

[Update 1 (3:28 am): How the heck did Katherine Hull make a 9 on the 18th?]

[Update 2 (3:35 am): Nice little walk-off birdie--her 4th of the back--vaults Ai Miyazato into the logjam at -3--and keeps her streak of just missing breaking 70 alive in 2009.]

[Update 3 (3:40 am): In the you-can't-jinx-'em-if-they've-already-screwed-up file, consider, if you will, the strange case of Nicole Castrale, who bogeyed the 1st hole of the tournament, made 6 birdies and no bogeys over her next 30 holes, climbing near the lead in the process, and kept her bogey-free streak alive by triple bogeying the par-4 14th hole. Makes Na Yeon Choi's walk-off double seem not quite as painful now, eh?]

[Update 4 (3:43 am): Here's a little secret...Lorena Ochoa is a pretty good golfer. Her walk-off birdie lifts her to -4 and keeps her right in the mix, even if the 3 Americans ahead of her turn out to be able to widen the gap over the last few holes.]

[Update 5 (8:42 am): Nice moves by Morgan Pressel and Brittany Lang, eh? Still, a 3-shot lead on Ochoa heading into the weekend--not to mention 2 on Paula Creamer and 2 and Angela Stanford--can't feel all that safe to Lang, particularly since the clock is ticking on her 36-hole bogey-free streak.]

[Update 6 (4:36 pm): Here's Hound Dog's round 2 overview. And here's's!]

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Honda LPGA Thailand Thursday: Hong Rides Back-Nine 31 to 2-Shot Lead

20 players went under par during the 1st round of the Honda LPGA Thailand tournament and 7 broke 70, but none could come closer than 2 shots behind Jin Joo Hong, who rode a back-9 31 to a sizzling 66. Thanks to Hound Dog, Golf Babes, and, we know the 9th-ranked Junior Mint holed a lot of medium-length and longer putts to put a little bit of distance between her and the 6 players in the lead chase pack, along with everyone else 4 or more shots back.

You can tell how good Hong's 66 was by looking at how many very talented players got off to hot starts and failed to sustain them. Angela Stanford, for instance, was -5 through her 1st 11 holes before making back-to-back birdies on the next 2. But she was one of the fortunate ones in this class of players, for she recovered with 1 birdie and no bogeys the rest of the way, unlike, say, Karrie Webb, who double bogeyed her final hole, or in-Kyung Kim, who doubled her next-to-last. Morgan Pressel matched Stanford's finish, but still shot a 37 to follow her bogey-free 33 on the front, thanks in no small part to a double bogey on the par-5 13th. Still, she's got to be feeling better than Mi Hyun Kim, who made 4 birdies in her 1st 13 holes without making a bogey before dropping 3 shots over the next 2 holes, and Juli Inkster, who had done the same in her 1st 12 holes before taking a ride on the bogey train for her next 3 holes (Candie Kung outdid her, though, with her 4-hole bogey train right after she had clawed her way to -2 through 13). Eun-Hee Ji was +3 and birdie-less over her final holes after going bogey-free over her 1st 8, while Mika Miyazato birdied her 1st 2, made 14 pars in a row, then finished double bogey-bogey. But nobody can top Hee Young Park, who started with 7 pars and a birdie before blowing up with 4 bogeys and 2 doubles over her last 10 holes. (Never fear, though, as Park has bounced back in early play today with 6 birdies and no bogeys with 4 holes to go.)

I could go on, but I think my point is clear that the "apparently easier back nine" (as Hound Dog put it) still has plenty of teeth. As players get used to competing in the heat, though, look for more of them to sustain their good starts in the next 3 rounds.

[Update 1 (11:44 pm): I can't help noting that if you like spills and thrills, there are no better scorecards to be checking in on regularly than those of Jee Young Lee (who birdied 4 of her 1st 5 holes before things went horribly wrong), Laura Davies (who seems to either have very very good 9s or horrid ones these days), Sophie Gustafson (who still makes birdies and bogeys in bunches), and Christina Kim (who takes Emerson's critique of foolish consistency a little too much to heart). It's sad to see defending champion Suzann Pettersen continuing to struggle today after what had appeared to be a promising start to her 2nd round. But more on that later.]

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Valentine's Day Showdown: Ueda and Moromizato VS Arashi

Momoko Ueda and Shinobo Moromizato appeared on the Japanese television show VS Arashi on Valentine's Day. Arashi's a boy band in the SMAP mode, just younger and less successful. They're branching out into other forms of entertainment, among them this game show/reality tv challenge type thing. You have to see it for yourself.

The Full Metal Archivist isn't that impressed. Me, I'm thinking that Ueda is hoping the Showdown in Singapore will be that much easier after facing off against Arashi the last two Saturdays.

[Update 1 (4:52 am): For more that hasn't made it to youtube yet, check ut this hilarious overview (in English, natch!).

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Good News for Oyama, Bad News for Jang

Shiho Oyama got one of the two sponsor exemptions into next week's HSBC Women's Champions, but Jeong Jang will need wrist surgery and had to withdraw from the Showdown in Singapore. Here's hoping Jang makes a complete recovery.

[Update 1 (2/26/09, 1:41 am): A belated hat tip to Dennis at Seoul, who highlighted the Jang footnote for the rest of her fans.]

Honda LPGA Thailand Preview/Predictions/Pairings

With an impressive field and a new site, the 3rd playing of the Honda LPGA Thailand tournament should be something special. Between Hound Dog's preview and the LPGA's, there's not much to add, except to emphasize that past results, coming as they did in the fall and on different courses, are not nearly as meaningful as who's hot coming into the event.

So here's how I think the leaderboard will look after 72 holes:

1. Tseng
2. Stanford
3. Ochoa
4. Lee Jee Young
5. Hull
6. Miyazato Ai
7. Creamer
8. Lang
9. Kerr
10. Park Angela
11. Choi Na Yeon
12. Lee Seon Hwa

Alts: Ji; Shin; Kung

Yes, I'm dissing past champions Hee-Won Han and Suzann Pettersen. I just don't see evidence that they're sharp enough right now to make the birdies in bunches I think it's going to take to win this thing this time around. At least the tournament organizers are showing them some respect by putting them smack dab in the middle of the prime-time pairings:

Start Time: 11:24 AM
Laura Davies
Natalie Gulbis

Start Time: 11:32 AM
Suzann Pettersen
Angela Stanford

Start Time: 11:40 AM
Lorena Ochoa
Hee-Won Han

Start Time: 11:48 AM
Ya Ni Tseng
Morgan Pressel

Start Time: 11:56 AM
Katherine Hull
Paula Creamer

Start Time: 12:04 PM
Karrie Webb
Laura Diaz

Start Time: 12:12 PM
Helen Alfredsson
Ji-Yai Shin

With huge names scattered throughout the field (Se Ri Pak and Cristie Kerr go off at 9:07 am, for instance) and lots of great veteran/youngster pairings (my favorite is Mi Hyun Kim and Na Yeon Choi at 9:39 am), there's literally something for everyone in every pairing. Can Inbee Park (paired with Juli Inkster at 8:51 am) and Ashleigh Simon (paired with Karen Stupples at 10:36 am) kick their seasons off on the right foot after cancelling their planned Australian Swings earlier in the month? Can Song-Hee Kim (paired with Nicole Castrale at 9:15 am), Ji Young Oh (paired with Angela Park at 9:23 am), Sun Young Yoo (paired with Hee Young Park at 10:12 am), and Teresa Lu (paired with Jane Park at 10:44 am) pick up where they left off last season? Will rookies Shiho Oyama (10:28 am) and Mika Miyazato (8:43 am), not to mention Ji-Yai Shin, take advantage of their sponsor exemptions and bounce back from their disappointing Hawaii sojourns? How will going off late in the day affect Ai Miyazato (12:20 pm), Brittany Lang (12:28 pm), and Shanshan Feng (12:36 pm)? How will the Americans with at least 100 Solheim Cup points but outside the top 8--Kristy McPherson (10:28 am), Jane Park, Juli Inkster, Stacy Prammanasudh (11:08 am), and Natalie Gulbis--do relative to each other?

Of course I'm leaving the biggest questions for last. What kind of a start to the season will Lorena Ochoa have? Just how much did she improve in the off-season? And will it be enough to maintain or extend her lead on her lead chase pack?

So many questions. Can't wait to see the first hints of answers to them!

[Update 1 (2/25/09, 4:44 am): Jamie RS is disappointed the tournament organizers didn't invite Thai rookies Nontaya Srisawang and Pornanong Phatlum. After all, they were playing on the Ladies Asian Golf Tour in Thailand late last week, where Onnarin Sattayabanophot won in a 3-way playoff, and got a T25 and a T20, respectively. But both are instead staying on the LAGT and competing in India, where Phatlum is leading by 2 after an opening-round 68. I wonder if that was their preferred option or back-up plan?]

Monday, February 23, 2009

They're Baa-aack!

Between Tiger's long-awaited return and Phil's wild win, it's going to be difficult for the LPGA to get much attention outside Thailand, where their Honda-sponsored event is being held this week. That's too bad, as the Honda LPGA Thailand is the season opener for Lorena Ochoa, Mi Hyun Kim, Seon Hwa Lee, Helen Alfredsson, and Inbee Park. Morever, it's the 2009 LPGA debut for recent ALPG/LET winners Katherine Hull and Laura Davies, along with Karrie Webb. Not only will the Best of the LPGA (minus, surprisingly, Momoko Ueda) be meeting up the week before the Showdown in Singapore, but the hottest players in the world of women's golf will be facing off, as well. Add Hall of Famers Juli Inkster and Se Ri Pak, Asian rookies Ji-Yai Shin, Shiho Oyama, and Mika Miyazato, up-and-coming LET stars Melissa Reid and Ashleigh Simon (who's a full-time LPGA member this season for the 1st time, although, like Park, starting her season later than originally planned), and promising Thai amateurs Moriya Jutanugarn and Thidapa Suwannapura, and you have the makings of a fantastic tournament. It's a special week for Thailand, indeed!

[Update 1 (7:03 pm): Hound Dog already has his preview out!]

Doggie Goes to the Moon

Thanks to teh wondars of the intertubes, we got to read another story from Grandpa Bob before the girls went to bed.


Doggie Goes to the Moon


Grandpa Bob

One day, doggie decided to go for a walk. He was looking for fun. Soon he came to some stores. One had a TV in the window. The TV showed a space ship landing on the moon. A man in a space suit got out. He had a golf club and ball. He hit a golf shot on the moon!

Doggie said, "That looks like fun! I want to play golf on the moon, too."

Doggie ran as fast as he could to the Spaceport. The Spaceport was where rocket ships left earth to go to the moon. But the man at the Spaceport wouldn't let Doggie in. "Dogs can't fit in the seats and we have no dog food for you to eat on the rocket ship," he said.

Doggie was sad. He really wanted to play golf on the moon. He slowly walked home and didn't even wag his tail.

On the way home, he passed onechan's and imoto's house. They saw him and asked him to come in for ice cream. They asked Doggie why he was so sad and he told them. But onechan and imoto knew how to make him happy again!

Onechan had a picture of the moon. Imoto had a toy rocket ship. They pretended Doggie was a passenger on the rocket ship. They gave him ice cream to eat while he "pretend flew" to the moon. Then they put him on the picture of the moon. They put a golf club in his mouth and put a ball on the picture. Doggie hit the ball. It rolled far!

Now Doggie was happy! He had played golf on the moon--thanks to onechan and imoto!



Onechan told me what happened after the ending!

Onechan: Imoto used magic and Doggie went into the picture of the moon.

Me: What happened next?

Onechan: That's it! Now can we do that Sparkychan falling all the way to us one?

What can I say? It was right before bed time, after all!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

How 'bout that Danny Lee?

Danny Lee, the youngest U.S. Amateur champion, is now the youngest European Tour winner ever. In a week when 17-year-old Ryo Ishikawa missed the cut in his first PGA Tour event (tying Justin Leonard and Shigeki Maruyama and coming within 1 shot of Vijay Singh and 2 of Zach Johnson, in the process), the 18-year-old amateur birdied 4 of his last 6 holes to beat out a tightly-packed field that included Anthony Kim, Colin Montgomerie, Lee Westwood, Paul Casey, Ian Poulter, Graeme Storme, and Niclas Fasth--all of whom finished double digits under par but couldn't match his -17 total.

Looks like Asian and Asian-American teenagers like Lee, Ishikawa, and Tadd Fujikawa are looking to catch up to their female peers--Ya Ni Tseng, Inbee Park, Amy Yang, Vicky Hurst, Michelle Wie, and many many others--who have been transforming the world of women's professional golf over the past several years. We'll soon get to see how Lee and Ishikawa stack up against each other and the rest of the field at Augusta. Ishikawa broke the 100-million-yen barrier his 1st professional year on the JGTO in 2008; with a 2-year exemption on the European Tour and plans to turn pro after the Masters, Lee will have a chance to do even better on a bigger stage in 2009.

[Update 1 (12:44 pm): The linkage from Jay Busbee and Ryan Ballengee is much appreciated. As long as you're here, why don't you check out Dave Seanor's and Bill Jempty's reactions to Lee's win when you get a chance? Bill is right that the guys have a long way to go, but Dave's overview of Asian amateurs suggests it might not take them as long a time as we expect to make up ground.]

The Michelle Wie Effect Confirmed

Dick Friedman summarizes Jon Show's answer to my July 2008 question about the effect of Michelle Wie's presence on the LPGA's ratings and page views, as follows:

The three-day telecast by Golf Channel averaged 323,000 households, up 34% from the 2008 number. Final-round coverage drew 428,000 households, the fourth-largest audience for a single LPGA round on the channel. Show also reports that during the week of the SBS Open, registered 5.2 million page views, up 55% from last year’s event and the second-highest traffic since the site registered 6.1 million page views for the '06 Evian Masters, an event in which Wie finished tied for second. [emphasis added]

Just to add my own $.02 of data from sitemeter, Mostly Harmless broke 150 page visits every day but 1 between 2/9 and 2/16, with a peak of 222 (definitely among the top 5 in MH history). Page views never went under 235 during that stretch and peaked at 352 on Valentine's Day. February is going to be the biggest month in MH history for both visits and page views, thanks to the 1 tournament in which Wie appeared. The only other comparable period was during last December's Q-School, when everyone and their cousins came here for an explanation of the LPGA's new membership/priority status rules. (Guess which month will be #2 in MH history?)

On Selling Out

Iggy Pop is selling car insurance. Is he selling out?

While BBC puts the debate over selling out in context and Michael Berube puts his sound bites in context, I'd just like to point out that his swinging a golf club at the end of this piece

is probably his ironic commentary on the whole debate. "You want cognitive dissonance? You can't handle cognitive dissonance!"

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Stanford Financial Follies

No doubt you've been reading Geoff Shackelford, Ryan Ballengee, and Hound Dog on the impact on professional golf of the "massive ongoing fraud" investigation into Stanford Financial Group. I'm a little surprised the golfy media hasn't dug up more LPGA implications on a story that's been front-page material since Tuesday and floating around the business media for longer. Recently, Charles Elmore focused on the Morgan Pressel endorsement angle, while Purva Patel countered some of the overly optimistic spin coming out of the PGA Tour spin department (but didn't really add anything to Dave Seanor's overview from the 17th).

Me, I'm just glad to be teaching Jamaica Kincaid's A Small Place in my Black Women Writers course in a couple of weeks. Apparently, nobody in the LPGA office has read Kincaid's 1988 jeremiad against the ways postcolonial Antigua has sold its soul to the highest bidder (among other juicy topics). Then again, I've not only read it several times but taught it before, as well, yet I still never thought to connect a Houston-based company with its founder's activities and standing in Antigua (indeed, I wasn't even aware of them). Dumb, right? I mean, back in July 2000, David Ivanovich of the Houston Chronicle quoted Stanford as saying, without a trace of irony, "I just happen to be a major investor in a small place," which no doubt prompted Ivanovich to lead his story with, "R. Allen Stanford went empire-building in the Caribbean. But the Houston businessman's dream of creating a major offshore banking center on the tiny island of Antigua ran up against the U.S. State Department's crusade against money laundering."

So while I can't exactly fault the LPGA for failure to perform due diligence when they decided to dump ADT for Stanford Financial as the title sponsor of their season-ending, $1M-to-the-winner event--heck, they probably thought Stanford was less wacky and annoying than The Donald, for all I know--I can make the following modest proposal: do a google search before you strike your next deal. Oh yeah, and take heed of Momoko Ueda's recent observation on her blog, "I really do love books. Books give you an opportunity to reexamine who you are, and I feel like through books you can make fresh starts" (sorry, I can't reproduce her expert use of anime-emoticons here, so you're losing the full effect). If I might offer a humble suggestion, there's no better place for the LPGA to start than A Small Place.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Haato-chan's Concert

Here's another Haato-chan story from onechan.


Onechan: Ummm, Haato-chan is playing the violin and then she wanted ice cream. And then she said, "I want to eat dinner." And then I said, "Not yet, Haato-chan." And then she said, "I want you to read a book." And then she said, " Why did you love me?" And then she said, "Why are we here?" And then I said, "That's why, to keep us safe."

Me: Is the story over?

Onechan: Yup.


Now it's imoto's turn to type:



Now it's onechan's turn to type:



Cheyenne Woods Making Good Progress at Wake Forest

Yeah, yeah, Tiger's coming back at the end of February. Don't get me wrong, I'm as excited as the next part-time fan of the PGA Tour. But what about Cheyenne Woods? Well, she's started her second semester in her first year at Wake Forest and recently carded her 2nd straight top 10 finish, helping her team to a strong 2nd-place finish behind the amazing Arizona State team but ahead of both UCLA and USC. In a week where the weather played havoc with just about everyone's scoring, Woods beat Futures Tour-bound Jessica Yadloczky and teammate Natalie Sheary convincingly, finished ahead of Stephanie Kono, Maria Jose Uribe, and Belen Mozo, and stayed within a few shots of Tiffany Joh, Ryann O'Toole, and Taylore Karle. Not bad!

Woods has worked her way up to #68 in the latest Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index for women's collegiate golf and #60 in the Golfweek/Titleist Women's Amateur Rankings, so she's been rapidly closing on her top amateur and collegiate peers since last July. Her team and its coaching staff have impressed Ryan Herrington, perhaps the top authority (along with Lance Ringler) on the college game, so she's in very good hands. Plus, she's got more great teammates coming to join her next season, so she'll get plenty of competition day in and day out. Here's hoping she continues to improve as quickly over the rest of the semester as she has thus far. She has a ways to go before her stats are LPGA quality.

Before she even thinks about turning pro, of course, she has to see how soon she can qualify for a USGA event. She's never qualified for a Women's Amateur or Public Links, much less the Women's Open. But she has plenty of time. And she's getting closer all the time.

[Update 1 (1:26 pm): Golf Spelled Backwards throws cold water on Woods's chances of becoming an LPGA regular. Her adding a 2nd top 10 and moving up the college rankings since this was written doesn't change the essential rightness of the analysis there. Still, as I noted last July, Woods has improved at every level she's played. And she's got the team and coaching to develop even faster over her (hopefully) 4 years in college. So it's far too soon to predict what kind of player she'll be when she's 22 or 25.]

[Update 2 (2/21/09, 12:12 am): Ryan Ballengee nails the tone to be taken when blogging about Tiger's return.]

[Update 3 (4/8/09, 5:40 pm): Kevin Allen updates the CW meme--apparently she's dropped 40 places in the Golfweek rankings in the 6 weeks since I posted this, so his "thriving" headline may be a tad optimistic. But for a freshman to be near the top 100 is a fine start to a cllegiate golf career.]

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Happy Birthday, FMA!

Some birthday wishes for the Full Metal Archivist....

May an international flight be in your future:

May J-pop always be on youtube for you:

May Daisuke Takahashi come back from his knee injury better than ever:

May you always have someone to take care of the alarm clock for you:

Welcome to the Club, Ryo!

Today marks 17-year-old Ryo Ishikawa's international debut as a professional golfer. So let's go through the checklist:

  • Compared to a "rock star" by the New York Times? American media obsession with the size of the Japanese media contingent following him? Ai Miyazato says, "check."
  • Characterized as the best hope for international success from a Japanese golfer in generations? Momoko Ueda says, "check."
  • Just hoping to make cuts and learn from his experience competing professionally in the States for the first time? Mika Miyazato says, "check."

Somehow I doubt his rookie year on the PGA Tour, whenever it comes, will see him overshadowed the way 11-time JLPGA winner Shiho Oyama has been so far this season on the LPGA, though.

Gambatte, Ryo!

[Update 1 (5:14 pm): Look, it's nice of Ron Kroichick to link the LPGA and PGA like I do, but I'm not sure how relevant the Michelle Wie comparison is. Why not someone like Vicky Hurst, who like Ryo-kun has won multiple times on a lower-tier tour, if not go in the Miyazato-Ueda-Oyama direction I did? But there is a factor to consider that bolsters Kroichick's advice and cautionary comparisons that he didn't mention: where there's literally a global youth movement in women's golf, you can count on the fingers of one hand male teenagers who have what it takes to compete week in and week out with the men on the PGA Tour. Ishikawa (and McIlroy, and I guess Fujikawa, too) are really bucking a trend--or perhaps starting a new one. But you'd need both hands and your feet, too, to keep up with all the talented teenagers and under-22s in the world of women's golf.]

[Update 2 (5:20 pm): Tod Leonard's deflating of media hype is welcome and mostly to the point as well as pointed. Let's see how Ryo-kun does in this trial balloon--I think he's approaching it from the perspective of seeing what he needs to work on for the rest of the season and how he handles the pressure and expectations and responsibilities. I do think the JLPGA is a lot closer to the LPGA, if not as deep, and that there's a far bigger gap between the two men's tours. But I think Ishikawa will do better than Leonard predicts, despite his tough start today, over the course of his American travels.]

[Update 3 (7:25 pm): Color Bob Smiley impressed with Ryo's potential and progress to date.]

[Update 4 (2/22/09, 11:01 am): Steve Elling gets it right just how far Ryo has to go, but I think he goes too far when he suggests that Ai Miyazato's results on the LPGA have been mediocre. Yes, she has 4 top 3s in 70 starts (including last week's) on the LPGA (not 47, as Elling states), but 18 top 10s is nothing to sneer at--only 3 players in her generation have more at this early stage in their careers. If he's willing to withhold judgment on Ishikawa, he should adopt a similar wait-and-see attitude with Miyazato. The best is yet to come.]

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Hello America

Hello America
Originally uploaded by the_constructivist18
Onechan wants to tell the story of how Haato-chan came to live with us.


Onechan: She was a very little bear. Sparky-chan picked her up in the store.

Me: What happened next?

Onechan: Haato-chan went to school, and was in a play, and that's how she got sick. No, no, no, not sick. She wanted ice cream. Why does that say, "No, no, no"? I didn't say that.

Me: Yes, you did.

Onechan: And that's how she fell asleep.

Imoto: Dat's how she falled sleep.

Onechan: And that's why she likes onechan.


We'll have more Haato-chan stories for Uncle Bill soon! Onechan can't wait to tell the story of how she got sick.

Peaks and Valleys: Park, Ueda, Tseng, and Miyazato at the SBS Open

While the golfy media debate whether Angela Stanford won or Michelle Wie lost the SBS Open (a debate that never would be happening if, say, Lorena Ochoa had been the one making those 3 consecutive birdies on the back 9 to take control of the tournament), it's worth noting just how badly they both outplayed their peers over those 1st 54 holes of the season and how difficult the playing conditions were all week. Hound Dog has already pointed out that the field's scoring average was by far the highest in the event's history, but I think an even better measure can be found in the struggles of those in the final groups in the final round.

Wie's struggles over her final 8 holes are getting most of the attention, but it's worth recalling that when Stanford's bogey-free streak ended at 43 holes, she could easily have lost more than the 2 strokes to par that she did between the 8th and 10th holes. But what about the other players who got it to -5 or better at some point in the tournament?

Playing in the final group, Angela Park peaked at -7 after 5 holes to get within 2 shots of both leaders. The 3 bogeys she proceeded to make between the 6th and 10th holes were more than she had made the previous 41 holes and dropped her out of contention, 6 shots behind Wie at that point. When a bogey at 16 erased her birdie at 15, it was clear that -7 would remain her peak performance for the week.

Momoko Ueda had been -6 over her first 27 holes, but could only manage a 37 on the back side on Friday, thanks to a bogey on the tough 17th hole. Still, her birdie on the 1st hole on Saturday got her back to -6, where she stayed for the next 3 holes. Even though -6 turned out to be her peak, a birdie on the 9th helped her recover a bit from back-to-back bogeys on the 5th and 6th. 5 shots behind Wie as she made the turn, she needed a great back 9 but instead blew up to a 42. Momo-chan's justifiably angry at herself about that finish (which dropped her all the way to T20), but she has a lot of positives to take away from last week--and a lot still to work on. Even though she only hit about 57% of her fairways on the week, her lack of accuracy off the tee didn't hurt her greens in regulation rate, which was near 75%, or her average putts per green in regulation, where she ranked among the top 15 in the field. My guess is what happened on the back was that she started missing fairways, missing greens, and not getting up and down, but if anyone saw her round, let me know what actually happened. In any case, Momo-chan was in good company: fellow Super Soph Hee Young Park got it to -2 through 45 holes before finishing with a 43 on the back, while Stacy Lewis was -3 at the same point, but closed the tournament out with a 40. These are elite golfers who have won a lot of tournaments in Japan, Korea, and the U.S., respectively, but still have a lot to learn about contending on the LPGA.

Ya Ni Tseng's peak came earlier than anyone else's, thanks to her opening 66. But in her next 10 holes, she went +4 and never surpassed her 2nd peak of -4 through 34 holes. She'll be looking for more consistency in coming weeks and months, but it's easy to get on good and bad streaks in the wind, so I expect her to find it more easily relatively soon.

Like Ueda's, Ai Miyazato's peak came after 27 holes, when her 31 on the front on Friday lifted her all the way to -5. But she went +4 over the next 11 holes and stayed there for the next 6, until she got hot at the turn on Saturday (3 birdies between the 9th and 12th) and got back to -4. But like fellow Class of '06 comebacker Brittany Lang, who peaked at -4 over her first 40 holes, Ai-chan stumbled down the stretch, going +1 over her last 6 holes. Still, as I noted on Monday, all signs are pointing to a breakout season for the older Miyazato on the LPGA. She's averaging 4.14 birdies per round in competition this season and is in the top 12 or better in scoring average, putting average, and putts per green in regulation on the LPGA. Even better, she's hitting over 76% of her fairways and 70% of her greens in regulation, so it looks like her ballstriking is back, too.

Hopefully this little analysis puts Stanford's victory and Wie's near-miss in better perspective. I'll try to do something similar in future off-weeks--too bad there'll be so many of them!

[Update 1 (2/18/09, 4:21 pm): If you're not reading Ueda's blog regularly now that it's being translated into English, you're missing out. Check out her very direct assessment of the Friday winds and harsh assessment of her Thursday play at Oahu!]

[Update 2 (2/19/09, 4:35 pm): At least Jay Flemma is sometimes funny when portraying the Wie debate.]

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Hound Dog Interviewing Charlotte Mayorkas Tonight

Sweet! Is this guy good, or what? (Yeah, yeah, I'm sure his co-host arranged it, but I don't know her!)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Atsui, Samui, Daijo Bu: A New Mostly Harmless Feature

Ryan Ballengee has started a new regular feature over at Waggle Room, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, in which he turns the spotlight on individual rounds you might otherwise not have noticed or known about. Anyone who regularly reads my round-by-round reports on LPGA and JLPGA tournaments knows I love that sort of thing, so more power to him. He's gotten me thinking about my weekly schedule during the season. Typically, I offer a preview, give my predictions, and comment on pairings on Tuesday and/or Wednesday before an LPGA event, then survey each round in it, as well as in that week's JLPGA event, from Thursday to Sunday. So here's my idea for a regular feature to fill the Monday golf gap at Mostly Harmless: looking at recent trends in the world of women's professional golf to see who are the hottest (atsui) and coldest (samui) players, and who's doing all right (daijo bu). Its name comes from a little song I made up for onechan when she was a baby, sung to the tune of "Frere Jacques," about filling the bathtub and getting it the right temperature, but its purpose is to give a little bit better information than jumps in the Rolex Rankings or Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index indicate. Let's take it for a test run, shall we?


1. Angela Stanford: Everyone in the world should know she's won three times in her last 7 events and hasn't finished worse than 6th in that stretch, but thanks to the golf media, they're more likely to think of her as the beneficiary of Michelle Wie's struggles down the stretch on Saturday. It's not quite as impressive a run as Lorena Ochoa's utter dominance for most of the first half of last season, but give Angela time--she's not done yet.

2. Katherine Hull: She decided to start her season at home on the ALPG--and what a great decision it was. She was runner-up to Sarah Oh and Gwladys Nocera in consecutive weeks before running away with the ANZ Ladies Masters and making a great comeback last weekend to finish T6. So in her 14 starts from the Canadian Women's Open to the Women's Australian Open, Hull has 2 wins, 3 runner-ups, 8 top 5s, 11 top 10s, and 13 top 20s (her worst finish? T23!).

3. Paula Creamer: Yes, Paula struggled in the high winds of Hawaii and could only manage a T15 at the SBS Open. Plus, she couldn't beat Johanna Mundy on the SunCoast Series in January, finishing T5. But you know what? She hasn't finished outside the top 20 in any tournament she's played since the very beginning of July '08. In that 13-tournament run, she has 2 wins and 9 top 10s.

4. Cristie Kerr: Her hot streak dates back to last May, for in her last 18 tournaments, she's only finished outside the top 20 twice (her worst being a T34 in China), while garnering 10 top 10s, including a runner-up and a win.

T5. Brittany Lang and Jee Young Lee: Both are riding 6-event top 10 runs, Lang since the Longs Drugs and Lee between the Kapalua Classic and SBS Open. Although Lee has a non-member win, both are on my short list of the most-likely-to-become-Rolex-First-Time-Winners-in-2009.

Honorable Mention: In early international competition, So Yeon Ryu, Hye Yong Choi, Hye Yoon Kim, and Hee Kyung Seo are picking up right where they left off last season. There should be some great rivalries on the KLPGA in '09! Look for Ha Neul Kim and Sun-Ju Ahn to bounce back from their recent struggles off the KLPGA, too.


1. Brittany Lincicome: She's still plumbing the depths of the worst slump of her career.

2. Julieta Granada: Did great at LET Q-School but terrible in her 1st LPGA start of '09.

3. Inbee Park: She pulled out of the Australian Swing and won't play till Thailand. Hopefully the additional rest and prep time will do her good.

4. Se Ri Pak: Her slump continues. Hopefully she'll play well in Asia.

T5. Ji-Yai Shin and Amy Yang: Both blew up in the wind at Hawaii and missed the cut last weekend. Shin may be having problems with her hands or wrists--she was briefly hospitalized after the second round of the ANZ Ladies Masters. Yang has no such excuse. Neither will be playing till the Showdown in Singapore, so I'm pushing the panic button until we see how they do then.

Dishonorable Mention: Mollie Fankhauser, Haeji Kang, and Anna Rawson squandered their momentum from their strong play in LPGA Q-School last season and on the ALPG this season.

Daijo Bu

1. Ya Ni Tseng: On a 2-event top 5 streak in '09, she seems fully recovered from her late-season struggles last winter.

2. Na Yeon Choi: Also seems to have recovered from her late-season stumbles last winter when she missed out on many chances to take the Rookie of the Year title from Tseng.

3. Eun-Hee Ji: Now has a 20th-, 10th-, and 5th-place finish over her last 3 starts.

4. Johanna Mundy: With 2 wins and a runner-up on the SunCoast Series, her T15 in Hawaii was only slightly disappointing--and part of a great bounce-back from a bad '08.

5. Anja Monke: Sure, her T32 in the SBS Open was nothing special, but with 2 wins, 5 top 10s, and nothing worse than a T24 in her last 7 starts on the LET since last August and a convincing performance at LPGA Q-School, she remains among the hottest players on the planet.

6. Ai Miyazato: Not only did she get a top 5 in Hawaii--her 1st on the LPGA since contending at the Women's British Open--a T12 in Australia, and 2 top 3s at the end of the JLPGA season after a terrible Mizuno Classic, she's currently riding a streak of 9 straight rounds of par or better dating back to the very end of last season (her worst in her last 14 was a 73). She's hitting greens and making birdies like the Ai-chan of old. Watch out for her this season!

T7. Natalie Gulbis and Sarah Lee: Last weekend was Natalie's 1st top 10 since the 2008 Women's British Open and Sarah's since the 2007 ADT Championship, which suggests they're both healthy and ready to compete at elite levels again.

Honorable Mention: Encouraging starts from Grace Park, Candie Kung, Hee-Won Han, and most of the LPGA's rookies.

[Update 1 (2:52 pm): Chigger at Seoul wished Stacy Lewis a happy birthday today, so let me add my own best wishes for a great year she's beginning!]

[Update 2 (2:54 pm): Here's why I blog, in a nutshell.]

[Update 3 (6:33 pm): Jamie at Crosscourt Birdies puts in his $.02 for Angela Stanford as the hottest player in the world of women's golf. Anyone disagree with him?]

[Update 4 (8:29 pm): Jason Sobel's Weekly 18 is always a decent barometer for me of how much LPGA news crosses over to the big-time golfy media; well, this week it was Wie, the new Korean TV deal, and Stanford who made his cut. I would have thought he'd have tried to find a way to get Laura Davies's win down under on the average ESPN golf fan's radar. And since his theme was youth, looking at the rookies and young guns who shone last weekend would probably have been appropriate, as well.]

[Update 5 (9:48 pm): Hey, check out the new Rolex Rankings! Michelle Wie's silver moved her into the top 90 in the world. When you've played as few events as she has in the last 2 years, and done as badly as she has in most of them, a very good recent result like last weekend's makes a big difference. The hard part will be continuing to move up: Laura Davies had a terrible '08, too, but only moved up 4 places with her win (to #64) and Sarah Lee did even worse but only moved up 6 spots (to #71) with her top 10. Anja Monke and Johanna Mundy also made big moves, but the weight of all their past events means this week counts for less. As Wie accumulates events, she's going to find it harder to move up--unless she can get as many top 3s and top 10s as, say, Ya Ni Tseng did in her rookie season. Speaking of Tseng, she's almost within 5 points of Ochoa--still a chasm, but a shrinking one....]

[Update 6 (2/17/09, 1:07 pm): Here's Alan Shipnuck on Wie's near-miss. Can't wait for him and Sirak to broaden their focus!]

[Update 7 (5:06 pm): Armchair Golfer has a nice little feature on Stanford.]

[Update 8 (5:16 pm): It's Lisa Mickey to the rescue with a feature on the new American Big 3--Wie, Lewis, Hurst. Shin deserves being left out of the picture for missing the cut. From a quick look at the stats page, it looks like putting was a big part of Shin's problems, so that second round of hers could have just been a wind-induced flat stick nightmare day than anything to do with her health. But it's worth noting that it was her putting that suffered in Australia, as well.]

[Update 9 (2/19/09, 4:30 pm): Jay Busbee is asking the right question about Angela Stanford.]

[Update 10 (5:22 pm): Jimmy Burch suggests the answer may not be "hot streak." But let's face it--she had a streaky 2008 and she has a bad shoulder. I'm rooting for her to prove me wrong again this year--I put her down in the 20s in my preseason predictions....]

[Update 11 (2/21/09, 12:36 am): Stina Sternberg brings the glam while profiling "America's Angels" (Wie, Hurst, Lewis). Well played, Stina!]

Sunday, February 15, 2009

So That's Why Michelle Wie Is Taking Japanese at Stanford

Momoko Ueda's blog is now available in English, so of course Michelle Wie is in Japanese commercials, hanging with a famous actress/singer, and speaking like a native:

Maybe she should have been trying this yesterday from the 13th hole on!

[Update 1 (11:14 am): The Full Metal Archivist says this is her favorite energy drink. She's not such a fan of Jackie Chan, but this commercial gave her a chuckle:

She's actually a little mad at Michelle for taking Daisuke Takahashi's place:

But Michelle's in pretty good company, internationally speaking, eh?]

[Update 2 (2/16/09, 2:39 pm): Appreciate the hat tip from Golf Babes. Would appreciate one from]

[Update 3 (9:35 pm): Hey, Golf Spelled Backwards is jumping on the bandwagon. A little attribution, please?]

Women's Australian Open Sunday: OMG, Laura Davies Takes the Lead!

Laura Davies is 2-up on Tania Elosegui with a few holes left to play in the Women's Australian Open. That's what going -12 over your last 33 holes--and going eagle-birdie in the last 2--will do for you. Stay tuned!

[Update 1 (12:29 am): How huge a story would it be if Davies were to win right after receiving an honorary life membership from the ALPG? Hope she isn't thinking about that already--she just bogeyed the 16th and her lead is down to 1. At 2 back with 1 to play, it looks like time has run out on Melissa Reid, but Hye Yong Choi, the KLPGA's #2 rookie last season, still has 5 holes to make up that 2-shot deficit. And Elosegui has 4 to play.]

[Update 2 (12:32 am): Speaking of comebacks, Katherine Hull bounced back from a 76-74 start with a pair of 70s on the weekend to guarantee herself yet another top 10 finish and give herself a chance for a top 5. And Nikki Campbell bounced back from an opening 79 to post a top 10.]

[Update 3 (12:38 am): Elosegui just birdied the par-5 15th to pull even with Davies at -7. Reid finished at -5 and Choi just dropped 3 back with a bogey on the par-5 14th. That's 3 in her last 7 holes....]

[Update 3 (12:48 am): Wow, Davies just birdied the 370-meter par 4 17th to regain the lead at -8. 2nd- and 3rd-round leader Chang-Hee Lee just birdied the 14th to stay within 3.]

[Update 4 (1:24 am): Wow! Elosegui birdied the 17th to take the lead at -8 after a Davies bogey on 18 dropped her to -7, but she doubled the 18th. Meanwhile, Choi failed to birdie the par-5 15th, but if she can birdie the 18th, it'll not only be her 3rd in a row, but will force a playoff with Davies!]

[Update 5 (1:45 am): It's Davies for the win! Too bad for Choi--a final-hole bogey dropped her into a tie for 3rd.

Here are the top 10 and notables:

1st/-7 Laura Davies (74-76-67-68)
2nd/-6 Tania Elosegui (69-72-75-70)
T3/-5 Melissa Reid (76-72-70-69), Hye Yong Choi (72-73-71-1), Chang-Hee Lee (69-70-75-73)
T6/-2 Katherine Hull (76-74-70-70), Karrie Webb (66-75-75-74)
T8/-1 Nikki Campbell (79-70-73-69), Lisa Hall (74-73-74-70), Hye Yoon Kim (70-73-75-73), Marianne Skarpnord (71-71-76-73), Clare Queen (70-75-72-74)

T13/E Georgina Simpson (73-68-77-74), Diana D'Alessio (72-76-69-75), Christel Boeljon (74-71-72-75)
T16/+1 Sarah Oh (74-75-73-71), Anne-Lise Caudal (74-75-69-75), Alison Walshe (77-69-69-78)
T19/+2 Becky Brewerton (75-73-76-70), Gwladys Nocera (79-73-71-71), Joanne Mills (74-69-76-75), Lynn Kenny (72-72-75-76), Nikki Garrett (73-75-71-75), Rebecca Hudson (72-74-71-77)
T26/+3 Aram Cho (75-77-72-71), Tamie Durdin (78-74-70-73), Beth Allen (73-69-73-80)
T30/+4 Trish Johnson (75-74-76-71)
T34/+5 Kristie Smith (80-74-73-70), Nina Reis (76-76-74-71), Il-Hee Lee (76-71-75-75), Beatriz Recari (70-77-72-78)
T39/+6 Rebecca Flood (71-72-75-80), Emma Bennett (72-71-73-82)
T42/+7 Rebecca Coakley (77-72-76-74)
T47/+8 Martina Eberl (72-73-74-81)
50th/+9 Samantha Head (75-75-74-77)
T57/+12 Titiya Plucksataporn (81-73-78-72)
T65/+16 Lotta Wahlin (75-79-74-80)
70th/+25 Stephanie Na (80-74-80-83)

Congrats to Laura Davies!!]

Saturday, February 14, 2009

SBS Open Saturday: Stanford Over Wie

Michelle Wie had taken a 3-shot lead over Angela Stanford after 10 holes in the final round of the SBS Open, but a rookie double bogey on the par-4 11th opened the door and the veteran came storming through it with 3 consecutive birdies on the 13th, 14th, and 15th holes. By the time Wie had missed a short birdie putt on the 16th and bogeyed the par-4 17th hole, she and Stanford had reversed positions completely. Big win for the hottest player on the planet and a good result for Wie, despite getting left in the dust in that 7-hole stretch.

This really was a 2-golfer race to the finish, but a similar 6-shot swing--this time over their final 16 holes--put Na Yeon Choi (69) and Angela Park (75) in a tie for 3rd, 3 shots behind Wie (Choi even birdied the same 3 holes in a row as Stanford). And Ya Ni Tseng needed birdies over 3 of her last 5 holes to catch Ai Miyazato in a tie for 5th, 1 shot further back.

Meanwhile, a bogey-free 69 by Cristie Kerr and a roller-coaster 69 by Sarah Lee vaulted them into the top 10 (and impressed Golf Girl's friends, no doubt), tied with Brittany Lang at -2. And Natalie Gulbis and Eun-Hee Ji caught Jee Young Lee and Taylor Leon as the only other golfers to remain under par for the entire tournament and round out the top 10. Unfortunately for my hopes in the season's first Pakpicker competition at Seoul, Paula Creamer and Johanna Mundy finished 1 shot out of that tie, while Stacy Lewis's 76 dropped her to T20 with Momoko Ueda (78), Hee-Won Han (72), and Stephanie Louden (69) and In-Kyung Kim and Lindsey Wright continued their bad play from yesterday.

Even though they didn't get top 10s, I was happy to see Hee Kyung Seo, Candie Kung, and Vicky Hurst join Creamer and Mundy at T15. With her dual membership on the KLPGA and LET this season, Seo looks to be gearing up for LPGA Q-School in December. And despite Ha Neul Kim's disastrous rounds in Hawaii, I expect her to be duelling with So Yeon Ryu, Hye Yong Choi, Hye Yoon Kim, and Seo all season on the KLPGA. Speaking of Choi and Kim, both are in contention in the final round of the Australian Women's Open, on which more in a sec.

With the scoring so high this week, it's hard to get excited about top 30s by Laura Diaz, Morgan Pressel (thanks to a bogey-free 70 today), Kyeong Bae, and Meaghan Francella or top 40s by Grace Park, Suzann Pettersen, Juli Inkster, Meena Lee, Nicole Castrale, and Moira Dunn--and the barely-top-50 finishes by Allison Fouch, Christina Kim, Shiho Oyama, and Shanshan Feng were not at all inspiring (not to speak of worse results by Mika Miyazato, Anna Nordqvist, Katie Futcher, Louise Stahle, Stacy Prammanasudh, Linda Wessberg, and Aree Song)--but one tournament does not a season make. Making the cut in Hawaii's windy conditions is nothing to sneeze at, as Mollie Fankhauser and Haeji Kang, who decided to fly to Hawaii rather than keep up their good play in Australia this week--and missed the cut by a stroke for their troubles--can testify.

Back soon with linkage for ya!

[Update 1 (11:21 am): Looks like Hound Dog beat, too! I've said it before but I'll say it again: his final-round play-by-play can't be beat.]

[Update 2 (11:27 pm): Ah, here's's notes and interviews!]

[Update 3 (2/15/09, 12:03 am): Jaymes Song does it again! Give this guy a regular job, AP!]

[Updaye 4 (12:09 am): Nice job by Brian Hewitt and the Shag Bag Blog crew at GC. Here's hoping their highlights are halfway decent.]

[Update 5 (12:15 am): Hey, Charlie Hanger at Press Tent Blog live-blogged Wie's final round. He manages to get in a few notes on Ueda, Park, and, oh yeah, Stanford, too, along the way.]

[Update 6 (12:43 am): OK, granted, he focuses on Wie and cracks a joke about Bivens's corporate-speak, but I haven't heard Geoff Shackelford sound this impressed about the LPGA since the ADT Championship last year.]

[Update 7 (2:05 am): Golf Channel comes through with highlights, analysis, and more (and better) analysis.]

[Update 8 (11:11 am): Here's Hound Dog's epilogue!]

[Update 9 (2/16/09, 2:34 pm): Nice Colbert reference by Ron Sirak in his Wie piece. But it would have behooved him to have reminded his readers that Stanford had her own Sunday demons to overcome last season--she let one get away early in the year--and only broke through with her winning tear after years of "almosts" of her own. And that many other top-notch rookies had trouble this week, either on Saturday or earlier. And that Wie beat Kerr, Creamer, and Pettersen by a lot....]

[Update 10 (2/20/09, 12:17 am): Stanford's win has Bill Jempty wondering about 2 of his preseason predictions. I think it's safe to say he and I both underranked Stanford.]

Love Love Love Live

The Full Metal Archivist didn't think my earlier Valentine's Day post was romantic enough. Here's one of her favorite groups from her high school years, Dreams Come True, performing live, impromptu, in a park:

What a voice, eh? Just as good for 50 people as 50,000:

Women's Australian Open Saturday: Walshe Takes Advantage of Moving Day

Alison Walshe posted her 2nd-straight 69 today in the Women's Australian Open to pull within 1 shot of leader Chang-Hee Lee. But it's anyone's tournament tomorrow, as 27 golfers are within 6 shots of the lead. Laura Davies' 67 shows she's still capable of playing at an elite level. And Karrie Webb is still within easy reach of her 3rd straight victory here. If Hye Yong Choi can break 70 for the 1st time this week, she may just walk away with the title.

Here are the top 10 and notables:

1st/-5 Chang-Hee Lee (69-70-75)
T2/-4 Alison Walshe (77-69-69), Beth Allen (73-69-73)
T4/-3 Hye Yong Choi (72-73-71), Emma Bennett (72-71-73), Karrie Webb (66-75-75), Tania Elosegui (69-72-75)
T8/-2 Laura Davies (74-76-67), Diana D'Alessio (72-76-69), Rebecca Hudson (72-74-71), Christel Boeljon (74-71-72), Clare Queen (70-75-72)

T13/-1 Anne-Lise Caudal (74-75-69), Melissa Reid (76-72-70), Hye Yoon Kim (70-73-75), Rebecca Flood (71-72-75), Marianne Skarpnord (71-71-76), Georgina Simpson (73-68-77)
T19/E Nikki Garrett (73-75-71), Beatriz Recari (70-77-72), Martina Eberl (72-73-74), Lynn Kenny (72-72-75), Joanne Mills (74-69-76)
T26/+1 Katherine Hull (76-74-70)
T31/+3 Tamie Durdin (78-74-70), Nikki Campbell (79-70-73), Sarah Oh (74-75-73), Il-Hee Lee (76-71-75)
T36/+4 Gwladys Nocera (79-73-71)
T39/+5 Aram Cho (75-77-72), Samantha Head (75-75-74), Becky Brewerton (75-73-76)
T45/+6 Rebecca Coakley (77-72-76), Trish Johnson (75-74-76)
T49/+7 Nina Reis (76-76-74)
T53/+8 Kristie Smith (80-74-73)
61st/+9 Lotta Wahlin (75-79-74)
68th/+13 Titiya Plucksataporn (81-73-78)
69th/+15 Stephanie Na (80-74-80)

[Update 1 (10:39 am): Liz White does a great job setting the scene for the final round.]

[Update 2 (10:45 am): As does Mark Hayes.]

Totoro iPhone Ocarina Theme/Robo-Murasaki

For Valentine's Day.

Plus a robot that recites the Tale of Genji, courtesy of Bill Benzon.

Yep, Mostly Harmless is romance central.

Friday, February 13, 2009

SBS Open Friday: What the...?!

Just how good was Angela Park's 68 today at the SBS Open? Stop me if you've heard this one before!

Park was the only golfer in the field to break 70 all day--even Ai Miyazato, who opened with an eagle on her way to a bogey-free 31 on the front (her 1st 9), and Michelle Wie, who got on a 3-hole birdie train early on the front (her 2nd 9), couldn't walk away with a round in the 60s. Nor could Angela Stanford, although she did extend her bogey-free streak to 36 holes and tie Wie for the halfway lead at -8. In fact, it'll be a feat if more than 12 players go under par in their rounds today. Much more typical were struggles by the likes of Cristie Kerr, Hee-Won Han, and Moira Dunn (5 shots worse than yesterday), Juli Inkster, Laura Diaz, and Stacy Prammanasudh (6 shots worse), Silvia Cavalleri (7 shots), Lorie Kane, Shiho Oyama, and Alena Sharp (8), Ya Ni Tseng, Teresa Lu, and Jimin Kang (9), and In-Kyung Kim, Lindsey Wright, and Audra Burks (10). (Plus, Taylor Leon, Kyeong Bae, and Mika Miyazato are still suffering through their rounds as I write.) And that's just the players who made the cut! Take a look at Jeanne Cho-Hunicke's Jekyll and Hyde performance--I dare you! I'll be taking arguments over who had a more disappointing season opener, Ji-Yai Shin or Amy Yang, in comments, along with your most agonizing missed cut candidates (right now it's looking like +6 will be the magic number, but it's been rising all day).

In light of this widespread carnage, Park's 68 looks like a miracle. But then she has a good history at this tournament in her brief career--although she'll have some serious demons to confront tomorrow, a year after her slow-play penalty not only helped cost her a chance at her 1st career LPGA win but, even worse, got her 1st half of the season off on the wrong foot. Being in the final group with Stanford and Wie will be another great learning experience for her. After all, until the former went on one of the hottest of hot streaks of 2008, she had a reputation for struggling on Sundays when she was in contention. And the latter is notorious for going winless since she was in diapers, or something like that.

I'm assuming Momoko Ueda will be paired with Stacy Lewis and Vicky Hurst tomorrow, and Ai Miyazato with Ya Ni Tseng and Brittany Lang. That's a lot of players looking for their 1st official win as an LPGA member, as Ueda won as a non-member and Lewis's amateur win was an unofficial rain-shortened one--and the only one who has one already, Tseng, had 5 silvers and 2 bronzes in her own rookie campaign to go with her playoff win over Maria Hjorth.

I'm thinking anything at all can happen Sunday on Valentine's Day. How about you?

[Update 1 (2/14/09, 9:22 am): Here's Hound Dog!]

[Update 2 (9:50 am): The notes are much better written than last season's. Now if only the interviewers would come up with better questions!]

[Update 3 (9:55 am): Good AP story, too.]

[Update 4 (10:55 am): Golf Channel highlights rightly focus on Wie's putting tightening up over her last 3 holes. If she's no longer on fire with the short stick today, what kind of number will she be able to put up? But as usual they have their major brain farts, like nothing on Angela Park or Vicky Hurst.... Come on, people!]

Australian Women's Open Friday: Webb Stumbles, Leaderboard Tightens

Conditions remained challenging at the Women's Australian Open today, as only 4 players broke 70 and the cut came at +8. Karrie Webb did 9 shots worse than yesterday and fell 2 behind Korea's Chang-Hee Lee, along with Spain's Tania Elosegui and England's Georgina Simpson. Among those making a big move up the leaderboard were Curtis Cupper Alison Walshe, who recovered from an opening 77 with a 69 today, and fellow American Beth Allen, whose 69 moved her into the top 5.

Here's where the top 10 and notables stand at the mid-way point:

1st/-7 Chang-Hee Lee (69-70)
T2/-5 Georgina Simpson (73-68), Tania Elosegui (69-72), Karrie Webb (66-75)
T5/-4 Beth Allen (73-69), Marianne Skarpnord (71-71)
T7/-3 Joanne Mills (74-69), Justine Lee (73-70), Emma Bennett (72-71), Rebecca Flood (71-72), Hye Yoon Kim (70-73)

T12/-2 Lynn Kenny (72-72)
T14/-1 Christel Boeljon (74-71), Martina Eberl (72-73), Hye Yong Choi (72-73), Clare Queen (70-75)
T19/E Alison Walshe (77-69), Rebecca Hudson (72-74)
T22/+1 Il-Hee Lee (76-71), Beatriz Recari (70-77)
T26/+2 Melissa Reid (76-72), Becky Brewerton (75-73), Nikki Garrett (73-75), Diana D'Alessio (72-76)
T34/+3 Nikki Campbell (79-70), Rebecca Coakley (77-72), Trish Johnson (75-74), Anne-Lise Caudal (74-75), Sarah Oh (74-75)
T41/+4 Katherine Hull (76-74), Samantha Head (75-75), Laura Davies (74-76)
T51/+6 Gwladys Nocera (79-73), Tamie Durdin (78-74), Nina Reis (76-76), Aram Cho (75-77)
T62/+8 Titiya Plucksataporn (81-73), Kristie Smith (80-74), Stephanie Na (80-74), Lotta Wahlin (75-79)

Missing the cut were Simi Mehra, Ursula Wikstrom, Brandie Burton, Sarah Kemp, Kiran Matharu, Sunny Park, Bettina Hauert, Riko Higashio, Bo Bea Park, Frances Bondad, Clare Choi, and Yuki Sakurai. Ouch!

It'll be interesting to see which Webb shows up tomorrow and if anyone will put themselves in the mix on moving day. With a lot of the people who had been playing great the last several weeks playing pretty blah or worse, and scores see-sawing the way they have for so many players, this week is a great opportunity for everyone at E and better through 36 holes to really make a statement.

SBS Open Thursday: Game On!

How good were the opening rounds at the SBS Open by Angela Stanford (bogey-free 65), Ya Ni Tseng (7-birdie 66), Michelle Wie (8-birdie 66), Kyeong Bae (bogey-free 67), and Momoko Ueda (5-birdie, 1-eagle 68)? Well, you could check the Golf Channel highlights, but then you'd see nothing of Stanford's 17-green-in-regulation round, 1 chip from Tseng's, a mention of Bae, and nothing on Ueda. (Don't even get me started on their decision to leave Ji-Yai Shin out of their "different paths to the LPGA" rookies feature or to show a bomb from Morgan Pressel on an otherwise indifferent day when Paula Creamer finished birdie-eagle for her 70!) So if like me you don't have Golf Channel, you're reduced to scoreboard watching to put their rounds in context.

The best measure for me of how good this quintet played yesterday was the number of players who looked like they were going to put together special rounds but couldn't. Wie's putter was clearly on fire (24 putts with only 12 greens in regulation) and all the other leaders putted almost as well as she did, but after Ueda bogeyed 2 straight holes after getting to -5, I thought she was going to be my case study of how Turtle Bay can get ya. Thanks to her final-hole birdie on the 9th, though, I'll pass over Juli Inkster's 6-birdie 69 and Silvia Cavalleri's 6-birdie 71 and instead pick on Laura Diaz, who opened with a bogey-free 32 but needed a final-hole birdie to salvage a 70. But Diaz was by no means alone: Lindsey Wright had late bogeys on each side to drop her back to -2, Jee Young Lee matched Ueda's eagle on the par-5 3rd but fell from -4 to -1 over the next 5 holes before ending her day with a par on the 9th, Shin twice got to -2, but both times fell back with pairs of bunched bogeys, Meaghan Francella was -2 through her 1st 5 holes but stumbled to E by the end of her round, and Eun-Hee Ji was -3 with 6 to play but ended up with a 73.

In a similar vein, but less dramatically, Ai Miyazato fought back to -1 through 8 with back-to-back birdies, but lost her momentum with back-to-back bogeys on the front before salvaging a 72 with a final-hole birdie on the 9th. (Rookie Mika Miyazato, meanwhile, bounced back from an opening-hole bogey with 3 birdies between the 9th and 13th to post a 70, tied with Vicky Hurst, who made a similar recovery, and 1 shot better than Stacy Lewis and Shiho Oyama. These rookies are good!)

Another measure of how tough the conditions were yesterday is how very many huge numbers were made out there: Stephanie Louden was -1 and bogey-free until the 18th, when she made a snowman, Christina Kim's and Se Ri Pak's came on the par-5 12th, Sun Young Yoo made a triple on her 2nd hole of the day, the par-4 11th, as did Janell Howland, Pat Hurst followed up her eagle on the 3rd with a triple on the 4th, Russy Gulyanamitta, Julieta Granada, and Amy Hung tripled the par-4 7th, Ha Neul Kim tripled the par-4 2nd, and Young Jo made the rare double triple (and narrowly avoided an additional triple double).

They've kept the same threesomes together for the 2nd of 3 rounds, so we could have someone struggling to make their 1st cut of the season playing right alongside someone fighting for their 1st win of '09! Should be fun. Time for me to go out and buy a lottery ticket so we can afford cable this year!

Before I go, though, I want to welcome Jamie Saengsawang to the round-by-round commentary club. With him and Hound Dog doing overviews, it frees me up to follow through on my own quirky interests. Thanks, guys. Fun to be talking about golf again, isn't it?

[Update 1 (6:36 am): Yes! Jaymes Song is on the AP beat!]