Friday, July 31, 2009

Women's British Open Friday: Hanging On

Conditions appear to be no easier at the Women's British Open today than yesterday, at least going by the early scoring. Song-Hee Kim bogeyed the 4th and 5th to fall back to E for the tournament through 25 holes. Maria Hjorth followed up yesterday's walkoff double with 3 bogeys in her 1st 6 holes and only a birdie on the 7th has brought her back to +2 for the tournament. Perhaps her tweeted observation that the wind is the opposite of yesterday's has something to do with the early difficulties she and many other players are running into.

Still, there are some who have gotten off to good starts, among them Kim and Hjorth's playing partner, Becky Morgan, who birdied 3 of her 1st 4 holes and has climbed back to +5 for the tournament. Ya Ni Tseng birdied 2 of her 1st 3 holes and joins Kim at E through 25. Brittany Lang is now -3 over her last 16 holes (going back to #15 in her 1st round) and +7 through 30. And Gwladys Nocera is -4 over her last 9 holes (never mind what she was before). More later.

[Update 1 (6:00 am): Mark Garrod follows up his late-night story with an early-morning report. At least if the wind stays the same the back should play easier. Morgan Pressel claims it's a more difficult, if lighter, wind. Song-Hee Kim would agree--she went from a 32 on the front yesterday to a 38 today. Hjorth fell almost as hard, from 34 to 38. Conversely, Moira Dunn went 43-36 today to break 80 for the 1st (and last) time this week. Shiho Oyama could use a similar comeback if she wants to make the cut; her 2nd triple of the tournament, this time on the par-5 6th, helped bring her to +10 through 32 holes. If she can stay there through 36, I think she'll be playing on the weekend. After a 40 on the front, Juli Inkster is +11 with 6 holes left to play. She'll need to make a run to help justify Beth Daniel's most likely captain's pick for the US Solheim Cup team.]

[Update 2 (6:09 am): Jane Park needs to win to make the team, and if she can make a birdie coming home, she'll be the leader in the clubhouse for a long time to come. She's +3 through 34 holes, tied with Michelle Wie (who's +3 through 30). Lang shot a 34 on the front and has added 2 more birdies on the back; she's now -4 over her last 18 holes and riding an 11-hole bogey-free streak (tied for 3rd-longest in the tournament thus far). Too bad the same can't be said for Paula Creamer, who's riding a 28-hole birdieless streak and is +6 for the tournament. Nicole Castrale will need to make a charge over her last 9 holes today to avoid her 2nd-straight missed cut heading into the Solheim Cup. And Natalie Gulbis (+8 through 28) needs to hang on to give herself a chance to get any more points and make it more difficult for anyone to take that 10th and last guaranteed spot away from her.]

[Update 2 (6:11 am): Tseng is impressing me. She came back from yesterday's back-9 birdieless 40 with a front-side bogey-free 32--both against the wind--so is poised to improve on her -1 total for the tournament thus far.]

[Update 3 (6:13 am): Catriona Matthew, who's fighting for a spot on the European Solheim Cup team, just went eagle-eagle (the latter a hole in one!) to fight back to -2 on her day and E for the tournament. Wow!]

[Update 4 (6:36 am): Park birdied 18 for a great 72 that leaves her at +2 heading into the weekend. Kim stopped the bleeding with a birdie on 10 that brings her back to E for the tournament. Creamer finally made her 1st birdie of the tournament on the 11th hole. Maybe she can pull off what Candie Kung did at the U.S. Women's Open after not making a birdie for so long in the early going there.]

[Update 5 (6:54 am): Lang's bogey-free streak ended at 13 holes and she had to settle for a 70 today, but an 11-shot comeback is nothing to sneeze at. A 78 by Suzann Pettersen that leaves her at +10 for the tournament puts her on my expected bubble, though.]

[Update 6 (6:58 am): A solid 73 by resurgent Senior Standout Sun Young Yoo means she'll live to play another weekend; at +8, she's a lock to make the cut.]

[Update 7 (6:59 am): Matthew is on fire--she followed up her pair of eagles with a birdie to join Tseng at -1 for the tournament.]

[Update 8 (7:32 am): If is to be believed, Matthew is now -7 through 7 holes on the back, -5 on her day, and -3 for the tournament!]

[Update 9 (7:49 am): Warren Ellis's FreakAngels is worth a read. Set in post-apocalyptic London, it's pretty compelling weekly webcomic psi-fi. I bring it up b/c of the mind-over-matter feats of Song-Hee Kim, now, too. She's -4 over her last 8 holes of bogey-free golf and tied with Matthew at -3 overall. And not to be outdone, Guilia Sergas has birdied 4 of her last 5 holes and has a 15-hole bogey-free streak going--the longest of the tournament--to jump to -2 through 33 holes. Jane Park won't be leader in the clubhouse for much longer!]

[Update 10 (7:54 am): Just realized that Tseng had had a share of the lead until she broke her 13-hole bogey-free streak with a double on the 14th. She can become the 3rd player in the field to break 70 with 2 pars or better on her last 2 holes--barring a disaster from Matthew, who finally bogeyed a hole, the 17th, to drop to -4 on her day. Sergas, meanwhile, birdied the 16th--her 4th in a row--to tie Kim for the lead. Yuko Mitsuka and Ai Miyazato have early birdies, Mitsuka on the 4th and Ai-sama on the 1st (I'm trying that out over Ai-sempai, which I fear makes me sound like a teenager).]

[Update 11 (8:00 am): 3 birdies in her last 4 holes gave Karrie Webb a 71 that keeps her in the hunt at +4. A walkoff double dropped Wie a shot behind her. A double on the previous hole dropped Momoko Ueda a shot behind her. Inkster, Gulbis, Helen Alfredsson, and Janice Moodie all joined Pettersen on my expected bubble at +10 (T94 right now). People had better take advantage of the relatively good weather while it lasts!]

[Update 12 (8:02 am): My bad--Sergas has a 17-hole bogey-free streak going, going back to the 17th yesterday, which she doubled. She's playing it now.]

[Update 13 (8:03 am): Wow, Matthew birdied 18 for a 30 that brings her back to -3 for the tournament. Wonder if Sergas can beat that?]

[Update 14 (8:04 am): Kim bogeyed 14--her 4th of the day--to fall back to E on her round and -2 overall.]

[Update 15 (8:06 am): Creamer birdied 2 of her last 4 holes to shoot her 2nd straight 74. Not out of it at all.]

[Update 16 (8:07 am): Speaking of +4, that's what Hjorth now is on her day and for the tournament as she plays 18. And Ji-Yai Shin got back there with a birdie on 1.]

[Update 17 (8:59 am): Girls woke up! Let's catch up. Sergas parred out for a bogey-free 67, tying her with Matthew and putting her 2 shots up on Kim, who bogeyed out. A bogey on 17 forced Tseng to accept a 70, which puts her 3 back of the co-leaders. Young Kim is the latest player to go on a tear; she's -4 over her last 12 holes of bogey-free golf and +3 for the tournament, tied with Shin, who's now -2 on her day. Cristie Kerr is -1 through 5 and Kristy McPherson +1 through 6 to join them. Christina Kim bogeyed her 1st to join Ai-sama at +2. Mitsuka doubled 6 and bogeyed 8 to drop to +1 for the tournament; Angela Stanford went birdie-bogey-triple in her 1st 3 holes to join her. And those are the players at the top of the leaderboard on the course right now.]

[Update 18 (9:05 am): Becky Morgan bogeyed 3 of her last 5 holes to settle for a 71 and join Lang at +7. Hjorth ended up with a 76, tied with Webb and Creamer at +4. Joining Wie at +5 is fellow rookie M.J. Hur, who shot a solid 73 and takes an 8-hole bogey-free streak into Saturday. Young Kim's own bogey-free streak came to an end on the 14th. Let's see if she can get it going again. Sandra Gal just got off a 6-hole bogey train that has dropped her all the way back to +4 overall.]

[Update 19 (9:12 am): Nicole Castrale shot a 77 that ensures she'll miss her 2nd-straight cut. But at least she beat Nocera, who ended up settling for a 74 today. Paula Marti's 2nd-straight 83 kept Nocera out of DFL, though. Right now the projected cut line includes the top 67 golfers at +7 or better. Is it top 60 and ties at the WBO? Or is it lower of top 70 and 10 shots within the lead?]

[Update 20 (9:48 am): Off to story time! It's daddy day, and once the Full Metal Archivist brings the Super-Prius back from work at Buffalo, we're heading out to Grandpa and Grandma's house tonight and the Syracuse Futures tour event tomorrow. Onechan and imoto are pumped! I'm pumped to see Se Ri Pak go -3 over her last 8 holes of bogey-free golf and fight back to +3 for the tournament. And to see Mitsuka birdie 9 to get back to E through 27. Must be a bottleneck on the par 5s right now--Ai-sama's score hasn't been updated in a long time.]

[Update 21 (1:30 pm): Done with lunch, now a little down time before we nap. Lots to catch up on before then. A nice 71 by Mitsuka--her 2nd straight thanks to a -3 finish over her last 10 holes--puts her 1 out of the lead. 2 birdies in her last 4 holes allowed Christina Kim to tie Tseng at E through 36. A great 69 by Marianne Skarpnord--fueled by a bogey-free 32 on the back--gives her a 12-hole bogey-free streak heading into moving day and ties her at +1 with Sophie Gustafson, who recovered from an opening double to post a 71. Ai-sama bogeyed the 9th to offset her 1st hole birdie, then birdied 3 of her next 4 before tripling the par-4 14th. But she birdied the par-5 15th and parred out for a 71 that ties her with Jane Park at +2, still in the thick of things at T11 right now. 71s by Pak and Kerr allowed them to catch Shinobu Moromizato at +3 overall, but Kerr won't be happy going 33-38 on a day like today. 71s by Webb and Shin allowed them to catch Mika Miyazato and Inbee Park (along with Creamer, McPherson, and Hjorth) at +4. Young Kim had to settle for a 71, too, thanks to her walkoff double, so she climbs to +5 (which is where Gal ended up and Pressel stayed). A flawless 70 (well, except for that 6th-hole double) lifted In-Kyung Kim to +7, tied with Lang, Morgan, Lu and Na Yeon Choi (who fired a 71 of her own). Lorena Ochoa, Jeong Jang, and Laura Diaz will make the cut at +8, as will Yuri Fudoh and Anna Nordqvist at +9. The question now is, will it go as high as +10? Right now there are 74 players at +9 or better, but how many will be at +10 or better at the end of the day?]

[Update 22 (1:33 pm): Hee Young Park (-1 through 27) and Kyeong Bae (E through 31) continue to impress in recent majors. I'll be curious to see if Meena Lee and Vicky Hurst (both +2 on their round as they play the back and +4 overall) will be able to climb back into contention.]

[Update 23 (1:57 pm): Everyone at +10 must be hoping Carmen Alonso (+8 through 11) and Vicki Laing (+7 through 13) join them. Otherwise there will be 70 or 71 players ahead of them and they won't be playing on the weekend.]

[Update 24 (1:58 pm): Unless, that is, Allison Hanna-Williams (who's won on the Futures Tour this year) and Samantha Head (Johanna Mundy's sister) fall way back from +6 through 12.]

[Update 25 (2:00 pm): Oh, and that only works if nobody tied at +10 or behind that bunch gets back to +9 or better.]

[Update 26 (2:03 pm): Alonso parred 18. That leaves 3 who need to move way back and 0 who can move up. Odds are against Inkster, Gulbis, Pettersen, Alfredsson, Moodie, Wright, Kemp, Simon, Oh, Ahn, and Kang.]

[Update 27 (2:09 pm): Sad to see Seon Hwa Lee needing a miracle to make the cut. Stacy Lewis will have to make a serious move over her last 6 holes, too, to do so. Jee Young Lee, Melissa Reid, and Karen Stupples are already done. (Lee is 1 of 9 players not even to break 80 once this week.) OK, too depressing. Nap time!]

[Update 28 (3:07 pm): Girls won't nap. Bae shot 71, joining Tseng and Kim at E. Park hanging tough at -1 overall through 14. Vicky Hurst stumbled to a 75, now +5 for the tournament. Laing +9 on 18. Hanna-Williams and Head still +6 with 2 to play. Lewis got to +10 but a double at 17 did her in. Pat Hurst can make the cut with a -1 finish over her last 3 holes (she's at +10). 11 players have now failed to break 80 either day.]

[Update 29 (3:12 pm): Bogey at 15 makes Park +2 over her last 9 holes, E overall. Lee still +3 overall with 2 to play. If Hanna-Williams triples 18, Laing bogeys it, and Pat Hurst fails to get to -9, everyone at -10 is in for the weekend.]

[Update 30 (3:27 pm): Some fun stats at the WBO. Well, fun if you're not playing in it.

# of players under par both days: 1 (Yuko Mitsuka)--unless Hee Young Park goes -2 over her last 2 holes.

# of players under 75 both days: 14 13 (unless Park and Meena Lee blow up down the stretch) [I still don't think anyone will make it through all 4 rounds--and look in the next update, Park couldn't do it this round]

# of players over 80 both days: 11 (this number could still go higher [but didn't])

Scoring was definitely lower today, so maybe with both kinds of winds the players will be ready for anything on the weekend, but so far, wow, Royal Lytham is winning!]

[Update 31 (5:27 pm): Yikes. Hee Young Park bogeyed 3 of her last 4 holes to fall to +2 for the tournament, now tied for 10th with Ai-sama, Jane Park, and Angela Stanford. That makes 13 players within 5 shots of the lead heading into moving day. And 9 of them are due to not break 75 tomorrow or Sunday. The cut line ended lower than I expected, at +9. Ouch.]

[Update 32 (5:30 pm): Here's Hound Dog!]

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Women's British Open Thursday: Hanging in There

The winds are only in the 20 mph range at Royal Lytham and St. Annes, so we may see some decent scoring from a handful of players at the Women's British Open. The JLPGA's Yuko Mitsuka has picked up where she left off last week, offsetting her 3 front-side bogeys with 3 birdies and an eagle on the par-5 7th, but back-to-back bogeys on 14 and 15 dropped her back to E on the day until she birdied the par-4 17th to secure her 71. The only player on the course right now with a great chance to beat her today is Angela Stanford, who has played 13 holes of bogey-free golf, including an eagle on the 7th and a birdie in the par-4 13th.

I wouldn't be at all surprised if Stanford and Mitsuka are the only 2 players under par at the end of the day. My favorite to win this thing, In-Kyung Kim, took an 11 on the par-5 6th and bogeyed the 7th to add insult to injury for an opening 42, then proceeded to shoot a 39 on the back. She'll need a round near or under par tomorrow just to have a hope of making the cut. Jeong Jang, who knows a little something about winning at the WBO, shot a birdieless 79. Ji-Yai Shin, the defending champion, opened with 2 consecutive bogeys and closed with a pair of walkoff doubles for her 77.

So I'm pleased as punch that Mika Miyazato's roller coaster ride ended with her only taking a 76 (of her 7 bogeys, 6 came in back-to-back pairs evenly spaced over her 1st 12 holes), that despite taking a double on the par-3 12th Morgan Pressel is only +1 with 2 to play, and that Ai Miyazato has fought back from 3 straight opening bogeys (and 6 in her 1st 14 holes) to get back to +2 with 3 holes to go.

[Update 1 (7:33 am): Darn it, Morgan followed up her birdie on 16 with a bogey on 17 to drop back to +2. Her playing partner, the JLPGA's Shinobu Moromizato, also bogeyed it to join her and Kristy McPherson there. Ai-sempai (yes, I'm sticking with Mika Miyazato's formulation) parred 16 while her playing partner Lorena Ochoa birdied it to fight back to +2 (Ochoa bogeyed 4 and 6, then birdied 7, 8, and 10, then went double-bogey-bogey on 12 through 14, so she's riding a roller coaster of her own today). I'd say par is 74 today.]

[Update 2 (7:36 am): Looks like Stanford's 14-hole bogey-free streak may have come to an end. The leaderboard has her at -2 through 15, even though her scorecard hasn't yet been updated on]

[Update 3 (7:37 am): Yeah, I'm using, even though they don't have any performance stats, because both the WBO's and the LET's live-scoring options are deeply disappointing.]

[Update 4 (7:45 am): On the other hand, the WBO twitter feed is teh awesome. And I'm not just saying that b/c I want them to retweet my link to this post. Well, not only.]

[Update 5 (7:47 am): Whut the..?! McPherson and Moromizato finished with 74s, but Pressel tripled 18 for a 77?! Not seeing confirmation of her terrible finish on her scorecard yet. Let's stay calm.]

[Update 6 (8:15 am): Darn it, Ai-sempai and Lorena bogeyed 18 for 75s. Stanford needs to par it to match Mitsuka's 71.]

[Update 7 (8:45 am): Great birdie on 18 for Stanford. Nobody's going to beat that 70 today, but Hee Young Park's giving it the old college try after a 33 on the front. Tough day for my picks, though. Cristie Kerr parred her 1st 8 holes and birdied the par-3 9th, but then went double-par-bogey-bogey-bogey to open the back and couldn't make any birdies down the stretch. Still, a 76 won't prevent her from winning if she can put together 3 good rounds to finish the tournament. The same holes tripped up U.S. Women's Open champion Eun-Hee Ji--she had shot a 35 on the front, but went bogey-bogey-double-par-bogey on the way to her 76.]

[Update 8 (11:46 am): One of my picks is doing well: Song-Hee Kim just fired a bogey-free 32 on the front. Hee Young Park rocketed her way to a great 71. Looks like she's figuring out how to play steady golf in majors. Also under par so far are 3 other volatile players: Ya Ni Tseng (-1 through 10), Michelle Wie (-1 through 11), and Maria Hjorth (who birdied 3 of her last 4 holes on the front for a 34). We'll see if they prove me wrong over the course of 72 holes.]

[Update 9 (11:49 am): Solid 73s today from Christina Kim and Kyeong Bae, 74s by Sophie Gustafson, Vicky Hurst, and Meena Lee, and 75s by Stacy Prammanasudh and Katherine Hull. If they can fight their way back to par over the next 2 days, they'll be in contention on Sunday.]

[Update 10 (11:50 am): But things can change in a heartbeat out there. Shiho Oyama birdied her 1st hole and was only +2 through 13, but she just tripled the 14th.]

[Update 11 (11:52 am): The JLPGA's Mi-Jeong Jeon would have had a solid round, too, were it not for a quad on the 4th. You gotta figure over 72 holes everyone's going to have at least a couple of doubles or worse. It's how you bounce back from disasters that will determine whether you can make the cut and contend this week.]

[Update 12 (11:54 am): Even 1 bad 9 doesn't necessarily kill you, but Stacy Lewis and Sun Young Yoo, who both went 35-44, will need to put 2 good ones together tomorrow if they want to play on the weekend.]

[Update 13 (11:55 am): Seon Hwa Lee's Dr. Jekyll (35 on the front) and Mr. Hyde (47 on the back) performance may be too painful to recover from, though. We'll see.]

[Update 14 (11:57 am): Brittany Lang, another one of my picks, was +10 through 14, but she just birdied 16. Let's see if she can break 80 and build some kind of positive momentum for Friday.]

[Update 15 (11:58 am): 3 doubles kept my buddy Moira Dunn from breaking 80, but if she can keep from going double digits over par after 36, she'll probably make it to the weekend.]

[Update 16 (12:01 pm): 80 by Pat Hurst and 81 by Wendy Ward ought to mean the end of their Solheim Cup hopes, but maybe not if they can find a way to make the cut tomorrow. Having more luck in their bids to make their respective teams are Catriona Matthew (now -1, thanks to an eagle on 7 and a birdie on 13 that offset her 3 bogeys near them) and Jane Park (who bogeyed 17 for a 74).]

[Update 17 (12:02 pm): Song-Hee Kim is now -4 after a birdie on 13. The longest bogey-free streak I know of is Stanford's at 14....]

[Update 18 (12:06 pm): Good news. is adding performance stats after players finish their rounds. So far Hull (26 putts) and Gustafson (27) had the hottest flat sticks in the field. More after lunch!]

[Update 19 (1:51 pm): Wow, leave for a little and a lot happens. Hjorth is now -2 as she plays the 18th. Kim has dropped back to -1, having ended her bogey-free streak on the 14th hole and added 2 more for good measure. Wie was +2 over her last 7 to finish with a 73. Matthew finished double bogey-bogey for her 74. Lang held on for her 81. Momoko Ueda had an up-and-down 74, with 2 birdies in her last 3 holes offsetting 4 in her 1st 6 on the back, while Paula Creamer opened with a birdieless 74. Suzann Pettersen went 35-41, but the real breakdown occurred after she got it to -2 through 7. She bogeyed 8 and 9, doubled 14, and bogeyed 17 and 18. But she still finished 1 shot better than Karrie Webb (35-42), 2 better than Juli Inkster (35-43), 3 better than Natalie Gulbis (37-42), and 4 better than Yuri Fudoh (34-46).]

[Update 20 (1:54 pm): We could see half the field failing to break 80 today. Less than 30 players will break 75. I'll bet everyone in the field fails to break 75 at least once this week.]

[Update 21 (2:06 pm): Tseng was -2 through 8 holes of bogey-free golf, but since then has played 8 holes of birdieless golf at +3 as she heads into the holes that tripped up Pressel badly.]

[Update 22 (2:14 pm): Hjorth doubled 18 to shoot the 1st 72 of the day. Kim birdied it to tie Stanford for the lead at -2. Tseng bogeyed it to join the big group at +2 (T13 right now). Forget what I said about 74 being par. Probably 76 is.]

[Update 23 (2:16 pm): Will Sandra Gal, now -3 and bogey-free through 11 after making consecutive birdies to start the back, be the home holes' next victim?]

[Update 24 (2:18 pm): Like clockwork, Gal ends her bogey-free streak on the 12th. By my count, it was the 3rd-longest of the day.]

[Update 25 (3:50 pm): Yikes, another one of my picks will be struggling to make the cut tomorrow. Na Yeon Choi fired a birdieless 80.]

[Update 26 (3:52 pm): By contrast, Se Ri Pak's 2-birdie 76 isn't looking all that terrible.]

[Update 27 (3:57 pm): Looks like the key to playing Royal Lytham when the wind is blowing the way it did today is to take advantage of the 1st 7 holes (and if you're lucky, the entire front 9), then try to survive the last 11. But the winds will probably be different each day....]

[Update 28 (3:59 pm): I've been waiting for Katie Futcher to make a McPherson-like quantum leap this season; wouldn't it be cool if it came this week? She was bogey-free over her 1st 10 holes and is +1 on the 18th.]

[Update 29 (4:05 pm): Gal goes birdie-bogey-birdie as the sun goes down--can she break 70 before play is called for darkness? Would hate to have to start on 18!]

[Update 30 (4:07 pm): Case in point: Futcher doubled 18 for a 40 on the back that dropped her to +3 overall.]

[Update 31 (4:23 pm): Gal did it! She was the only player to break 70 all day! With 1 group left on the course, here's Jamie's take on the very early action over at Crosscourt Birdies. Amazing what a difference the back makes!]

[Update 32 (4:36 pm): OK, the final group got in, so that makes it 1 player under 70, 5 under par, 23 under 75, and 87 under 80. Tough, tough day. Wonder what tomorrow will bring. Initial reactions: very happy to see Kyeong Bae and Meena Lee continuing their good play of late; would love to see Stanford win, with everything she's been going through lately; would love to see Christina Kim, Michelle Wie, Vicky Hurst, and Jane Park keep playing well (they should play on a lot of Solheim Cup teams together over their careers!); would love to see Mitsuka and Moromizato of the JLPGA continue to play as well or better than Ai-sempai and Ueda, both for the competition-to-come in late summer on their tour and in hopes they consider (re)joining the LPGA next year.]

[Update 33 (5:15 pm): Every player in the field this week has a great story, even if few make it into the press tent for post-round interviews. Lisa Mickey discovers Haeji Kang's: she started the season choosing Monday qualifying on the LPGA over the Futures Tour, came in 4th at the Wegmans, and qualified for the WBO. If she can put it together tomorrow, she still has a chance to make the cut after today's 80. Like Amy Yang, who ballooned to an 83, she comes to the LPGA from Korea by way of Australia.]

[Update 34 (8:04 pm): Hound Dog's 1st round overview surveys the carnage. If Carnoustie is Carnasty, what's a good nickname for Royal Lytham? Only thing I can think of is that the players will need some Royal Lithium after 72 holes on it. I'm sure you can top that! What is Saint Anne the patron saint of?]

[Update 35 (7/31/09, 5:31 am): Here's Jamie's take on the 1st round.]

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Women's British Open Preview/Predictions/Pairings

It's major time again on the LPGA! And some of my favorite golfers are playing great heading into the Women's British Open. If you've read Hound Dog's tournament preview and Hot 20, you'll know what you need to know, but check out his critique of the majors mystique for a classic HD growl at conventional wisdom.

And if you're interested in the debate he's trying to start there, head on over to for Brent Kelley's argument that Michelle Wie is a no-brainer as a captain's pick for the US Solheim Cup team (assuming she doesn't win this week) and that captain Beth Daniel should be choosing between Stacy Lewis and Meaghan Francella for her 2nd pick (should nobody knock Natalie Gulbis out of the 10th and last guaranteed spot on the team this week). Me, I agree Wie deserves a spot, but I think Ron Sirak is right that the next pick is going to be Juli Inkster. I'm fine with that, even if Wendy Ward has been playing better than her and Pat Hurst (who hasn't done much of anything since winning early this season). Unless someone displaces Gulbis at #10 (and I'm rooting for Jane Park to do it), I don't think this week's results will matter much in Daniel's decision-making. With the style of course and weather so different from what the players will be facing in mid-August, it's hard to see even a standalone terrible result from one of the contenders for the captain's picks being all that significant.

OK, enough about the Solheim Cup. Most of the best players in the world aren't eligible to play in it, anyway. But more on that later. The question that's uppermost in my mind is what combination of accuracy and persistence will allow a player to come close to par this week? I can't imagine playing a course with that many bunkers--and that much trouble on the right on just about every hole--in the kinds of winds they're going to be getting this week. And if it rains as much as some players are expecting it to.... Yikes! Plus, the cold. Urgh!

OK, focus! When you're checking out Golf Observer's historical stats for the WBO, keep in mind that the ladies played Royal Lytham and St. Annes in 1998, 2003, and 2006. So perhaps there's some advantage for those in the field with more experience at links golf? But Lorena Ochoa noted in her pre-tournament interview that the course is much lusher and softer than it was in 2006. So your picks this week are as good as mine, or the Golfweek gang's, or the rest of the PakPickers.

1. Kim In-Kyung
2. Creamer
3. Kerr
4. Shin Ji-Yai
5. Miyazato Ai
6. Choi Na Yeon
7. Ji Eun-Hee
8. Kim Song-Hee
9. McPherson
10. Lang
11. Ochoa
12. Kung

Alts: Oyama; Ueda; Moromizato

Yup, I'm predicting an Ai-chan bounce from the Japanese contingent in the field, despite the fact that I'd normally expect them to play better the hotter it is.

The 1st-round draw (or pairings, as we're wont to call them this side of the Atlantic) are as interesting as you'd expect for a major. Ochoa sounds as pleased as I am that she'll be playing with Ai Miyazato for the 1st 2 rounds:

Q. Ai, a good friend of yours, can you give your reaction to her finally winning a tournament?

LORENA OCHOA: I was very super happy for her. I almost cried, we were watching her on TV on Sunday afternoon, and I got very emotional. She's been a good friend and I know how hard she works, how much pressure she has from the media back in her country.

And I just saw the news that I am going to play with her for the first two rounds, I'm happy about that. It's always nice to feel comfortable out there and to have somebody that you like. So I wish her the best and congratulations again.

They go off with Karen Stupples at 7:47 am. I think Ochoa's going to be inspired by Ai-chan's win, herself, and play more like the golfer who was -10 over the middle of the Evian Masters than the one who struggled out of the gates and down the stretch.

My other favorite pairings include In-Kyung Kim, Tania Elosegui, and Mika Miyazato at 6:52 am, because it gives Elosegui a taste of what playing full-time on the LPGA would be like; Jeong Jang, Stacy Prammanasudh, and Yuko Mitsuka right after them for the same reason, although Mitsuka would be playing with 2 LPGA regulars trying to forge comebacks rather than come fully into their own; and, well, I could go on and and about how great each pairing is and why, but I think one example should suffice for general awesomeness: Natalie Gulbis, Michelle Wie, and Momoko Ueda at 12:32 pm. As the great Stan Lee would say, 'nuff said.

[Update 1 (8:48 pm): Here's Jamie's WBO preview from Crosscourt Birdies. Glad that I can finally read what he's been posting the last few days--his site redesign and my browsers weren't cooperating until now!]

[Update 2 (9:09 pm): Hound Dog summarizes the race to make the Solheim Cup teams (and supports Sirak's and my conclusions through much more detailed and thoughtful reasoning).]

The Things I Do for My Readers

Hound Dog's regulars already know about the Mirassou wine LPGA sweepstakes, but for any of mine who aren't one of them, here's the set-up to my punch line:

One winner and a guest will receive the California wine and golf getaway of a lifetime, including round-trip air transportation to San Francisco, hotel accommodations, VIP passes to the CVS/Pharmacy LPGA Challenge tournament, a meet-and-greet with an LPGA player, and more. Plus, the winners will also dine California-style at a special dinner with wine expert David Mirassou. Visit to enter now through July 31.

Since courtgolf and Tim Maitland have both publicly questioned my Ai Miyazato fanboy standing, I went ahead and entered this contest. So I'm counting on all of you not to. At least until after July 31st. I mean, the Full Metal Archivist and I are taking the girls to Skate Canada to watch Daisuke Takahashi's comeback attempt around Thanksgiving, but how cool would it be for us to escape from them enjoy a romantic getaway the last week of September? We deserve an Ai-chan/Dai-chan double shot, right? Right?!

This post was brought to you the Mostly Harmless Ai Miyazato Half Week organizing committee.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

News Flash: Ai-chan Moves the Needle, Too

Let's just go ahead and declare this the Ai Miyazato Half-Week at Mostly Harmless. Beth Ann Baldry will be forgiven her tired "rock star" reference because I'm still so happy about Ai-chan's win at Evian. I'll bet Marsha Evans and company at LPGA HQ are pretty happy, too, at least after seeing Jon Show and Dick Friedman pass along last week's web traffic figures at!

[Update 1 (3:33 pm): Nice to see that the Rolex Rankings caught up this week to Hound Dog's and mine--Ai-chan jumped 14 spots to #13!]

Monday, July 27, 2009

Ai Miyazato's Mid-Year Status Report and Prospects

Now that I'm done celebrating Ai Miyazato's first LPGA win, I'm ready to take a look back at the last 6 months since I surveyed her prospects this season and look ahead to the next 4 months.

Obviously, at #4 on the money list with $921.4K already this season, she's doing better than I expected, winnings-wise. I picked her to finish #16 in the post-season rankings, which roughly translates to an expectation she would win between $750K and $1M. But now she's on track to break the $1M barrier in season winnings for the 1st time in her LPGA career. If she does it, she'll most likely pass World Golf Hall of Famer Ayako Okamoto in career winnings on tour and could well become the 2nd player in her rookie class and generation to cross the $3M rubicon (after Seon Hwa Lee).

The reason I'm hopeful she'll accomplish these feats is that all her key performance stats indicate she's playing at least as well as she was from 2004 until her injury in the middle of the 2007 season, when she took the golfing world by storm. Her current scoring average of 70.62 is very close to her career low of 70.59 in the 2005 JLPGA season and her 3.76 birdies per round rate slightly exceeds the 3.71 she averaged in 2006 on the LPGA. It all starts with her driving. She's averaging 256.5 yards off the tee and hitting the fairway 75.2% of the time this season, so it's no surprise that she's hitting 70.5% of her greens in regulation. The difference lately has been her putting. Her putts per green in regulation rate has been creeping downward all season, and now it's at 1.767, the lowest of her LPGA career (and it could go much further down--she putted the lights out in Japan in 2006, averaging 1.728 PPGIR). At Evian, she hit 76.4% of her greens, made 24 birdies, and averaged only 27.25 putts per round. Her overall putting average this season, 29.16, may sound high compared to her lows of 27.36 in 2007 and 28.04 in 2008, but she was hitting many fewer greens in regulation those years. The more apt comparison is to 2006, when she hit 69.3% of her greens in regulation and averaged 29.59 putts per round. When your ballstriking and putting are so solid, it stands to reason you'd go under par a lot (65.5% of the time, 6th on tour) and break 70 quite often (20 times, tied for 8th on tour; she needs 4 more to set her personal record on the LPGA). To put her improvement since her mid-2007 injury in perspective, she's breaking 70 far more often this season than she went under par in 2007. So it's not just in wins and winnings that this has already been the best season of her career. She's become a steadier and more explosive player than ever before on the LPGA.

Looking over her performance chart this season, several other things stand out. She's finished outside the top 20 only once in her last 9 events, when she couldn't go low enough at the Farr to keep pace with the leaders. But she was playing well enough to win the Corning, State Farm, and U.S. Women's Open. Looking ahead, I'm encouraged by the fact that she's broken 70 in 3 of 4 rounds in 4 of her last 6 events. And that she's gone under par on 6 straight Sundays and broken 70 in her last 2. She's getting comfortable putting herself in contention and performing under pressure late on Sunday afternoons again, against an even higher level of competition than before. It's not just her skills that have improved, it's also that she's mentally tougher, better at turning mediocre rounds solid, solid rounds good, and good rounds great. Right now, I would rank her with In-Kyung Kim, Eun-Hee Ji, and Angela Stanford as the players closest to the LPGA's Big 6 of Lorena Ochoa, Cristie Kerr, Paula Creamer, Ji-Yai Shin, and Ya Ni Tseng. She's not just riding a hot streak--she's worked hard to get her game back to this level and she's capable of taking it to the next one. If she gets used to putting 3 or 4 good rounds together per week, the sky's the limit.

Given that Ai-chan already knows how to win in bunches from her JLPGA years, I'm not ruling out more wins this season. I don't expect her to make the adjustment from mountain golf to links golf well enough to win the Women's British Open, but I do expect her to contend again--and to win on the JLPGA when she decides to tee it up there in August. In fact, I expect her to stay in Japan through the Konica Minolta Cup (the JLPGA's 2nd major), jet to California for the late-September Samsung and CVS events on the LPGA, return to the JLPGA for the Japan Women's Open in early October, and not rejoin the LPGA until they come to Asia in late October, perhaps even as late as the Mizuno Classic in early November. She could play the last 2 LPGA events and still make the Ricoh Cup (the JLPGA's last major) at the end of the month. Which means we may see Ai-chan only 6 more times on the LPGA and only 3 more times in the States. But she could play as many as 12 more times on the JLPGA. She's 75th on their money list right now, and if Momoko Ueda, Shiho Oyama, Mika Miyazato, and Ji-Yai Shin decide to play schedules at all similar to hers, it would be very interesting to see how high she and they could rise on it. Sakura Yokomine (who's passed up all opportunities to play outside Japan this season), Shinobu Moromizato, Mi-Jeong Jeon, Yuko Mitsuka, Ji-Hee Lee, Chie Arimura, Miho Koga, Erina Hara, Yuri Fudoh, Akiko Fukushima, Ayako Uehara and the rest of the JLPGA's finest will not make things easy for them.

Bottom line, though, Ai-chan has given herself a chance to do something truly special this season. She's never won on the LPGA and the JLPGA in the same year. There are still 1 LPGA major and 3 JLPGA majors for the taking. As she said in her post-round interview, "my dream has almost come true." Here's hoping she makes it happen over the rest of this season and beyond.

[Update 1 (7/28/09, 8:38 am): Here are Brian Heard and Hound Dog on Ai-chan's win and other matters.]

[Update 2 (9:09 am): And here's Stephanie Wei.]

Orender to LPGA: Not Interested

Or rather, it's WNBA boss Donna Orender telling the media to tell the LPGA she has no interest in taking over from Carolyn Bivens and Marsha Evans. I'll have more to say about the commissioner search after the Women's British Open.

More Disappointment for Kimberly Kim

She lost the U.S. Girls 6&5 to Amy Anderson. Still, making it to 2 match-play finals for national championships will feel good in retrospect. If she can lose her teenage angst at the University of Denver, she could become a great one on the LPGA.

Futures Tour Update

Misun Cho got her 2nd win of the season and moved up to 2nd on the Futures Tour money list yesterday in New Hampshire. As Jamie at Crosscourt Birdies notes, Cho is now in the race for the 1st-ever battlefield promotion in Futures Tour history. 1 more win for Jean Reynolds, Mina Harigae, or Cho gets them automatic entry into any full-field LPGA event of their choice.

Whitney Wade had to settle for T2 thanks to a back-9 collapse, 1 shot behind Cho along with Paola Moreno (who closed with a 65), Gerina Mendoza, and Ashley Knoll. I was psyched to see Pernilla Lindberg finish with a 64 to tie Harigae and Samantha Richdale at -8, along with solid tournaments from Jennie Lee and Angela Oh (T14), Reynolds and Song Yi Choi (T26), and Hannah Yun (T29), but I was sad to see that Tiffany Joh and Onnarin Sattayabanphot missed the cut by a stroke, Hannah Jun and Jane Chin missed it by 2, and Pornanong Phatlum missed it by 3.

Playing in soaking wet conditions is never easy. Hopefully the weather will be better this week in Syracuse. I'm taking onechan and imoto there at the end of the week to see the folks and hang out at Drumlins as much as possible. The only player I wanted to meet who won't be there is Harigae. It's going to be tough to decide who to follow!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Ai-chan, Omedetou Gozaimasu

Having hit my allotted 73 updates in today's Evian Masters not-quite-live-blog (the number of holes it took for Ai Miyazato to secure her 1st LPGA win), I hereby christen this the official Mostly Harmless Ai Miyazato Celebration Post. The Constructivist family has already celebrated in traditional American/Japanese fashion: we went to McDonalds for lunch and then cleaned the house (everyone except imoto, that is, who's declared herself a nudist and therefore exempt from okadazuke and soji shimas duties). Congratulations to Ai-chan and thanks to The Florida Masochist, Hound Dog, The Squire, and the Seoul Sisters crew for getting the party started in our absence.

OK, time for some highlights from Japan, including a live interview with Ai-chan from Evian at the end of the clip:

For reference, here's what the tournament organizers (in charming French) and Golf Channel (in patronizing English) focused on.

Here's an interview from right after the awards ceremony, with Ai-chan still wiping tears from her eyes:

Next, a slideshow from youtube's biggest Ai-chan fan:

And a few words from Ai-chan herself. Will try to get a translation from the Full Metal Archivist after the girls fall asleep.

[Update 1 (7/27/09, 4:30 am): Boiling down a long post to its essentials, Ai-chan says she's happy, excited, and above all grateful for all the support she's received over the years. Among all the usual suspects, she thanks the Japanese players at Evian by name. Three parts of the post stood out to the Full Metal Archivist, one near the start where she notes how calm she felt all week, another in the middle where she says that now all her struggles and the experience she gained from them haven't been wasted, and the last at the end where she says this is a new starting line for her career. It seems that both she and I agree that there's no reason she can't sustain this level of play for a long while. I'll try to get a translation of Mika Miyazato's post later. Playing in a scramble today, weather permitting.]

[Update 2 (4:39 am): In the meantime, here's the notes and interviews page. Didn't know Gustafson's birdie attempt in the playoff was resting in a ball mark.]

[Update 3 (7:21 am): Nice of the SI Guys to spare a few seconds for the LPGA this week.]

[Update 4 (7:34 am): By contrast, here's the top sports recap show in Japan:

Can't wait to see the frenzy for the WBO!]

[Update 5 (7:36 am): Here's what it was like watching it live in Japan:

Ironic that I'd have seen more of the tournament if I were still visiting family there than being here without being able to afford TV!]

[Update 6 (7/29/09, 5:18 pm): Momoko Ueda's post (so far only in Japanese) is almost as cute as Mika Miyazato's, but she can't refer to Ai as "Ai-sempai" like Mika-chan. Think it's time for everyone to start referring to Ai-chan as Ai-sempai now!]

[Update 7 (8/26/09, 10:56 am): Momoko Ueda's team finally got around to translating her congratulations to Ai-sama into English!]

Evian Masters Sunday: Race to the Finish

As the 4th-round set-up from Evian Masters TV helps remind us, there's a lot at stake today for the 9 players within 3 shots of the lead and 15 within 5 shots at the Evian Masters.

Let's start with the co-leaders at -12. Playing in the final pairing, In-Kyung Kim is looking to become the 1st Korean winner in the history of the tournament and make a case for her inclusion among Lorena Ochoa's top challengers. Her playing partner Sophie Gustafson is looking to put her name alongside the prestigious European winners of the event and mark her return from her final-round collapse last June when she had a chance to run away with the Ginn Tribute. Meanwhile, Becky Brewerton is playing for her 2nd win in a row on the LET, one that would give her the membership on the LPGA that she failed to attain in last year's Q-School.

Playing with Brewerton and only 1 behind her is Cristie Kerr, who's let 2 wins at majors slip between her fingers this season, but has put herself in a position to join likely Solheim Cup teammates Juli Inkster, Paula Creamer, and Natalie Gulbis as this decade's odd-year-winners of the tournament. In the group ahead of them is my favorite player in the field Ai Miyazato, still looking for her 1st LPGA win and 1st win anywhere since 2006, which would put her alongside Hiromi Kobayashi as Evian champions. Playing alongside her and 2 back is Hall of Famer Karrie Webb, who's looking for her 2nd Evian win, which would be her 2nd win of the season and 37th of her career.

Helen Alfredsson is only 3 back and looking for her 4th win at Evian. She's playing with Paula Creamer, who's looking for her 2nd win at Evian and 1st of 2009. Like In-Kyung Kim, former KLPGA star Na Yeon Choi (3 back) is looking to become the 1st Korean winner at Evian, while current JLPGA star Yuko Mitsuka (4 back) hopes to become the 2nd Japanese winner, which would get her the same ticket to LPGA membership that Momoko Ueda got by winning the Mizuno Classic in 2007.

Needing to make an early charge are Hall of Famer Se Ri Pak--the only active Hall of Famer who hasn't yet won at Evian--and Brittany Lang, who like Miyazato and Choi is still looking for that 1st LPGA victory. Also at -7 are Wendy Ward and Stacy Lewis, fighting to displace Natalie Gulbis from the last automatic spot on the US Solheim Cup team, and Junior Mints Song-Hee Kim and Ji Young Oh, the former looking for her 1st LPGA win and the latter looking for her 3rd.

With this many players in the hunt, the winner is going to have to go low. And there ate certainly opportunities to do just that, judging from the early rounds. Jane Park bounced back from yesterday's 80 with a tournament-low 30 on the back for a 66. Angela Stanford shot a 33 on the front and still hasn't made a bogey today as she heads into the short closing trio of holes. Juli Inkster shot a 34 on the front and is looking to make a statement to US Solheim Cup captain Beth Daniel over her final 4 holes. And Brittany Lincicome impresses once again in a big event with 3 birdies in her 1st 6 holes.

But it's not just the Americans making noise early. Katherine Hull bounced back from her 4th-straight bogey on the par-4 2nd hole with 6 birdies between the 6th and 16th and could match Park's 66 with another on 18. Laura Davies made 5 birdies on the front on the way to her 32 there and is looking to make more on her last 2 holes. Shiho Oyama is -5 through 13, having birdied 4 of her last 5 holes, while Hee Kyung Seo, who has dual KLPGA and LET membership this year, has birdied her 1st 2 on the back to climb to -4 through 11. And Lindsey Wright birdied her 1st 3 holes and is -4 through 6.

Should be a great round! Refresh this page regularly, as I'll be updating it while my kids remain asleep--and hopefully until we find out who wins the race to the finish.

[Update 1 (6:06 am): Davies birdied 17 to get to -5 on her day; with her length, an eagle isn't out of the question on 18. Guilia Sergas is -3 through 15 and playing bogey-free golf.]

[Update 2 (6:12 am): Chie Arimura, last week's winner on the JLPGA, shot a 33 on the front and just bounced back from a bogey on 11 with a birdie on 12 (the hole that her compatriots up the leaderboard, Miyazato and Mitsuka, both doubled earlier in the tournament). Lincicome and Wright are both -4 through 7 now. Hull, meanwhile, couldn't birdie 17 or 18, so had to settle for a 67. Ya Ni Tseng got a moral victory, at least, by eagling the 18th to get back to E today and +5 for the tournament. Better luck next week, Ya Ni!]

[Update 3 (6:14 am): Jeong Jang also got a walkoff eagle. She's coming off wrist surgery, so that -3 finish over her last 4 holes is quite encouraging. Go, JJ!]

[Update 4 (6:21 am): No fireworks for Stanford; she finished where she started the back, at -3. And Davies bogeyed 18 for a 68. But don't look now, Lorena Ochoa is off to her 1st fast start this week. She's -2 through 5, -5 for the tournament, and -10 over her last 39 holes.]

[Update 5 (6:31 am): Bogeys on 14 for Arimura and Seo. But a birdie on 15 brings Johanna Westerberg to -3 on the day and a chance to make a late push up the leaderboard.]

[Update 6 (6:41 am): Wright birdied 9 for a 31 on the front. Lincicome doubled it for a 34. Sergas ended up with a 69. Meena Lee has birdied 2 of the 1st 4 holes to get to -8. Yuko Mitsuka birdied 1 to get to -9. And Na Yeon Choi did the same to get to -10.]

[Update 7 (6:59 am): Oyama birdied 18 to match Park's 66. She's the leader in the clubhouse at -5 for the tournament. Choi bogeyed 2 to fall back to -9. Paula Creamer birdied 1 to take her place at -10. Meena Lee is now -3 through 5 and -9 for the tournament. Lincicome bounced back with a birdie on 11.]

[Update 8 (7:02 am): Miyazato and Webb parred 1 to remain at -11 and -10, respectively. Creamer bogeyed 2 to join Lee, Choi, and Alfredsson at -9. Mitsuka bogeyed 3 to join Stacy Lewis and Song-Hee Kim at -8.]

[Update 9 (7:08 am): Webb has hit 51 of 55 greens thus far. Maria Hjorth is -3 through 10. Good to see her making a charge. Ochoa birdied 9 for bogey-free 33 on the front to join her at -6 for the tournament. Momoko Ueda heads into the 9th having birdied 3 in a row to join them.]

[Update 10 (7:10 am): Ai-chan birdied the tough 2nd hole to join Brewerton, Gustafson, and Kim at -12. They now have a 2-shot lead on Kerr, who bogeyed the 1st. Webb's bogey on 2 makes it 6 players at -9.]

[Update 11 (7:12 am): Westerberg ended up with a 68. Ji-Yai Shin birdied 10 to get to -3 on her day and -6 for the tournament. There are now 23 players within 6 shots of the lead.]

[Update 12 (7:15 am): Michelle Wie eagled the 9th to get to -5 for the tournament. She's caught Wendy Ward, who's +2 on her day.]

[Update 13 (7:19 am): Kim and Gustafson opened their Sundays with pars. But Brewerton bogeyed 2 to fall back to -11. So far nobody's broken the -12 barrier!]

[Update 14 (7:21 am): Seo ended up with a 69. There's a real logjam on the 12th. Scores for Lincicome and Wright haven't been updated in forever.]

[Update 15 (7:27 am): The players are as tiny as they were last year on Evian Masters Live TV, but I suppose I'll have to watch the leaders come in. Girls still asleep. Ueda makes it 4 in a row on the 9th, joining Wright and Lewis at -7.]

[Update 16 (7:31 am): The JLPGA's finest are out in force today. A bogey-free 34 brings Ji-Hee Lee to -5 on the tournament and Mi-Jeong Jeon is hanging tough a hole behind her and a shot ahead of her. Arimura birdied her last 2 holes for a 68 that brought her even with Seo and Westerberg at -3.]

[Update 17 (7:33 am): Meena Lee is now -4 through 10 and only 2 shots back. She's the only player in the lead chase pack making an early charge.]

[Update 18 (7:36 am): Erina Hara just birdied 13 to get to -3 for the tournament. The Japanese media must be going nuts.]

[Update 19 (7:37 am): Ueda makes it 5 in a row on the 10th. She's only 4 back now!]

[Update 20 (7:38 am): Mitsuka birdied 6 to get within 2 of the lead! Is this a JLPGA event??]

[Update 21 (7:42 am): Seriously, Jeon just birdied 9 for a 34 that gets her to -7. Your move, Ai-chan!]

[Update 22 (7:45 am): Imoto is up and drawing at the kitchen table. Took her and onechan to the driving range yesterday. Imoto swings like a hockey player, onechan like a baseball player. It was more fun than miniature golf, where the girls just wanted to throw their balls in the ponds and fish them out. Back to the action, Brewerton is on a 3-hole bogey train, her longest of the tournament. She's bounced back from back-to-back bogeys before, so let's see how tough she is today.]

[Update 23 (7:48 am): Ueda is now only 3 back and has a tournament-best 6-hole birdie train chugging along.]

[Update 24 (7:52 am): Ai Miyazato and In-Kyung Kim are now alone at the top after a Gustafson bogey on 4. Sorry, Inky, but I'm rooting for Ai-chan.]

[Update 25 (7:54 am): There are still 11 players within 3 shots of the lead. But an Ochoa double on 12--that hole again!--dropped her back to -4.]

[Update 26 (7:57 am): Meena Lee is now -5 on her round, too. So here's how the leaderbard looks right now:

-12 Ai-chan, Inky
-11 Lee, Kerr, Gustafson
-9 Ueda, Mitsuka, Alfredsson, Creamer, Webb, Brewerton


[Update 27 (8:00 am): Darn it, Ai-chan just bogeyed the par-4 6th. Onechan will be happy to hear that Webb birdied it. She's rooting for Webb and Creamer; we'll see whose player wins!]

[Update 28 (8:02 am): Ueda's birdie train ends on 12. Mitsuka bogeyed 7 to join her at -9. Shin is now -4 on the day and -7 overall. And Gustafson birdied 5 to tie Kim for the lead at -12.]

[Update 29 (8:03 am): Creamer joins Webb at -10 with a birdie on 7.]

[Update 30 (8:04 am): Evian Masters Live TV moves around and zooms in, so I probably won't be doing what I did last year and confusing Choi, Alfredsson, and Angela Park--who, by the way, is definitely not retiring.]

[Update 31 (8:07 am): Natalie Gulbis is -2 with 4 to go--she needs to make a move to get some Solheim Cup points and make it harder to knck her out of the #10 spot.]

[Update 32 (8:11 am): Some weird glitches on Wright's and Lincicome's scorecards right now.]

[Update 33 (8:33 am): Onechan woke up and kicked me off the computer I was on. I'm now on the backup laptop we got fixed in Akihabara in June. So it's fitting that Yuko Mitsuka birdied 4 of her last 6 holes on the front for a 32 that has brought her into a tie for the lead a -12 with Gustafson, Inky, Kerr, and...yes...Ai-chan, who birdied the par-3 8th for the 3rd time this week.]

[Update 34 (8:38 am): Ueda bogeyed the 13th to fall back to -4 on her day. Wright shot a 38 on the back for a 69 that ties her with Oyama and Karine Icher (who als shot a 69 today) at -5. Lincicome ended up with a 70 that puts her at -4. Hjorth can become the new leader in the clubhouse with a par or better on 18.]

[Update 35 (8:44 am): Anna Nordqvist has birdied 3 of her 1st 4 holes on the back to get to -8. She's only 4 back now. But Meena Lee bogeyed the 12th and 13th, just like yesterday, to fall back to -3 on her day and -9 for the tournament. Still only 3 back.]

[Update 36 (8:46 am): It's a bitter back for Ochoa, with a bogey to follow up on her 2nd double of the side. All of a sudden she's +2 on her day. So much for building momentum heading into the WBO.]

[Update 37 (8:51 am): Hjorth parred 18 for a 69 that brings her to -6. She's the leader in the clubhouse for the moment. Just saw Shin make a nice lag putt on 18. Hopefully it was for eagle. If she does birdie that hole, she'll tie Hjorth.]

[Update 38 (8:54 am): Ai-chan is the 1st to break the -12 barrier! Here's a leaderboard update:

-13 Ai-chan
-12 Mitsuka, Kerr, Gustafson
-11 Brewerton, Inky
-10 Lee, Choi, Alfredsson, Creamer, Webb


[Update 39 (8:56 am): Ueda needs to regroup after another bogey on the par-5 15th. Let's see if she can birdie 17 and 18!]

[Update 40 (9:02 am): Creamer and Webb have joined Inky and Brewerton at -11. Shin did birdie 18 for a 69 that makes her co-leader-in-the-clubhouse with Hjorth at -6. But Ji-Hee Lee can pass them with a par or better on 18.]

[Update 41 (9:05 am): Gustafson is the next to break the -12 barrier. Meena Lee just birdied 14 and 15 to get back to -5 on her day and -11 overall.]

[Update 42 (9:08 am): But Ai-chan birdied 11--her 3rd in her last 4 holes--to take the lead alone at -14. The 12th will be key for her. Ji-Hee Lee birdied 18 for a bogey-free 67 that brings her to -8. Momo-chan can catch her with a birdie on 18 and Jeon has 2 holes left in which to pass her.]

[Update 43 (9:11 am): Wie birdied 3 of her last 4 holes to offset her 3 earler bogeys on the back and finish with a 70. She's T21 at -5 right now, 2 shots ahead of Gulbis (T30). Ward is +3 through 14 and -4 for the tournament. She still has time to make a statement.]

[Update 44 (9:18 am): Ueda made a nice 2-putt on 18. Unfortunately it was only for par. Her 69--and -7 overall total--has to feel disappointing after that ride on the birdie train for 6 holes, but breaking 70 in 3 of her 4 rounds this week is a great confidence-builder heading into the WBO.]

[Update 45 (9:21 am): Kerr and Mitsuka have joined Gustafson at -13, 1 behind Ai-chan. Time is running out for Meena Lee. She'll need to go birdie-eagle on 17 and 18 for a 64 that would get her to -14 in order to have a chance to win.]

[Update 46 (9:26 am): Lee birdied 17! Wow! Jeon absolutely stuck her approach on 18--and tapped it in. Her 2nd-straight 68 makes her the leader in the clubhouse at 9. Ji had a 6-footer for what I hope is a birdie--and canned it. Nope, it was for par. Still, a top 30 after winning the U.S. Women's Open is just fine.]

[Update 47 (9:30 am): Time for a leaderboard update. Let's limit it to those double digits under par.

-14 Ai-chan (through 12)
-13 Mitsuka (through 13), Kerr (through 11), Gustafson (through 11)
-12 Lee (through 17)
-11 Brewerton (through 11), Inky (through 11), Creamer (through 13), Webb (through 12)
-10 Choi (through 13)

Gambare, Ai-chan!]

[Update 48 (9:34 am): Kerr bogeyed 12 to fall back to -12. Choi bogeyed 14 and is now -9, tied with Jeon and Alfredsson. Meena Lee is trying to chip in from just off the back of the green. No, looks like she putted it--good speed, but it just slid by the hole on the right.]

[Update 49 (9:38 am): Turns out Lee's missed putt was for eagle. Her birdie at 18 gives her the low round of the tournament, a 65 that makes her the leader in the clubhouse at -13. But Gustafson just joined Ai-chan at -14 with a birdie on the 12th. With Mitsuka's bogey on 14, she and Kerr are 1 behind Lee and 2 behind the co-leaders.]

[Update 50 (9:39 am): Inky's birdie at 12 also pulls her within 2 of the lead.]

[Update 51 (9:48 am): Song-Hee Kim just made a nice 11-footer on the 18th for a walkoff eagle that ties her with Jeon at T10 (-9). Ward and Lewis are playing 18 now.]

[Update 52 (9:52 am): Ward stuck her approach to 5 feet and Lewis has a long eagle (?) attempt from just off the left side of the green. Oops, she was too aggressive and her chip went into the fringe behind the hole on the back right. But she quickly stepped up to the 10-footer and slammed it home. Ward calmly followed up with a perfect putt.]

[Update 53 (9:56 am): Ward's was for her 2nd birdie in a row, after 3 straight bogeys. Don't know what Daniel will make of that, or her T27 finish. Lewis's putt also gave her her 2nd birdie in a row and brought her back to E on the day and -7 for the tournament. She's tied with Ueda and Nordqvist at T16.]

[Update 53 (10:00 am): A Gustafson bogey on 13 means it's time for another leaderboard update.

-14 Ai-chan (through 14)
-13 Lee (65), Gustafson (through 13)
-12 Kerr (through 13), Inky (through 13)
-11 Mitsuka (through 15), Creamer (through 15), Webb (through 14), Brewerton (through 13)
-10 Alfredsson (through 15)

We should start seeing more birdies now as the leaders enter the 15th through 18th holes.]

[Update 54 (10:05 am): With Pak and Lang on 18 the lead groups are playing slow! Oh no, the live tv feed froze while Pak was contemplatng her chip from just past pin high on the left back of the green!]

[Update 55 (10:09 am): Phew, the feed is back--but just in time for nobody to be there for a few holes.]

[Update 56 (10:15 am): Oh, no! Ai-chan bogeyed the 15th for the 2nd time this week. She's tied for the lead now with Gustafson and Lee. Choi and Mitsuka are playing 18, trying to get back to double digit under par.]

[Update 57 (10:18 am): Choi faded a hybrid or fairway metal in from the right rough to the left side of the green, just off the fringe about pin high. She has 20 feet or so for eagle, I believe.]

[Update 58 (10:24 am): Pak and Lang finished at -8, btw, tied for 13th now that Brewerton bogeyed 15 to go to +4 on her round. Choi's decided to chip. She raised her arms as it tracked toward the pin, but hit it and bounced out somehow. She tapped in for what I believe is a birdie. Mitsuka made her 3-footer. They both join Webb at -10. Creamer's only at -11 headig into 18. She'll need to make an eagle to give herself a chance.]

[Update 59 (10:28 am): Creamer split the fairway and was just past the new fairways bunker. It looked like she went for the green with a long iron, but the camera couldn't follow her shot. Alfredsson put her mid-iron approach to the back-middle of the green. Less than 15 feet for an eagle that would get her to -11.]

[Update 60 (10:36 am): Alfredsson sank her eagle putt and saluted the crowd with a high fist pump. Creamer missed a tap-in for birdie. Here's how the leaderboard looks as Ai-chan plays 18:

-13 Lee (65), Ai-chan (through 17), Gustafson (through 15)
-12 Kerr (through 16)
-11 Alfredsson (70), Creamer (70), Webb (through 17), Inky (through 15)
-10 Mitsuka (70), Choi (71)

Come on, Ai-chan!]

[Update 61 (10:45 am): Ai-chan had to lay up. She waited for Karrie to hit her 3rd shot, waved back the Japanese TV crew, and calmly put a wedge about 10 feet from the cup on about the same line as Alfredsson's eagle attempt. It all comes down to this for her. Gustafson parred 16, so Ai-chan needs this putt to put any pressure on her. Kerr is -12 heading into 18. Inky's -11 heading into 17. Webb's pitch from the lettuce to the left of the green rolled right by the cup and came to rest about 8 feet away. She'll need that to stay at -11. I counted 8 "Silence!" signs that went up around the green as Ai-chan stepped up to her putt. And she made it!!!!!]

[Update 62 (10:48 am): Webb made hers, too. She's T5 with Alfredsson and Creamer, but Inky has a chance pass her with a birdie or better and Kerr needs an eagle to catch Ai-chan.]

[Update 63 (10:54 am): Things are falling into place for Ai-chan. Gustafson failed to birdie 17, so she needs a birdie to catch Ai-chan and an eagle to beat her. Kerr either hit a monster drive or had to lay up way back. Let's hope it's the latter, because she stuck her approach to the length of Creamer's missed tap-in.]

[Update 64 (10:58 am): Brewerton babied what I'm guessing was her 30-foot eagle attempt. Kerr's putt is a little longer than Creamer's, actually. She's really grinding over it. Big fist pump when she made it. But it was only for birdie.]

[Update 65 (11:00 am): Can Gustafson win this outright? She has the length to go for 18 in 2.]

[Update 66 (11:04 am): She's in the middle of the green, putting a little bit up and then down the ridge over 25 feet from the hole, so I assume she did hit it in 2. Inky left her chip from the left side of the green 6 feet above the hole. Gustafson's putt died on the lip. She tapped in for...par!!! Ai-chan wins! Ai-chan wins!!!!!!!!!!]

[Update 67 (11:11 am): Dammit, You can't keep doing this to me. Gustafson did birdie 18. There's a playoff!!!! Here's how the leaderboard looks after 72 holes.

-14 Ai-chan (69), Gustafson (70)
-13 Lee (65), Kerr (70)
-11 Alfredsson (70), Creamer (70), Webb (71)
-10 Mitsuka (70), Choi (71), Inky (74)

Gambare, Ai-chan!]

[Update 68 (11:13 am): The carts are taking the players and their caddies back to the 18th tee. If Gustafson can put her drive anywhere in play anywhere that gives her a shot at the green in 2, she'll have a big advantage.]

[Update 69 (11:23 am): Man, if I had thought to have my twitter feed open, I wouldn't have had to deal with that little whiplash back there. Ai-chan split the fairway on her drive and looks like she's thinking about going for the green in 2. She hit a fairway wood, it looked like, but where the hell dd it end up? Twitter says bunker--behind the green, I assume. Gustafson had a good lay-up. She has a great look from less than 80 yards. But she didn't put the ball in an easy spot for her birdie putt. Looks like she's to the right of the pin, a little short of it on or near the fringe.]

[Update 70 (11:25 am): Ai-chan's sand shot from just past pin high right of the green didn't land soft and skidded 5 feet by, but she has a better angle than Gustafson for birdie.]

[Update 71 (11:29 am): Gustafson yanked hers from the start. Ai-chan's putt was really only 3 and a half feet--and she canned it. Then the tears started flowing and the hugging began. Mitsuka snuck through the sea of cameras to give her a quick one before she left the green.]

[Update 72 (11:30 am): Now it can be said for real: "Ai-chan wins! Ai-chan wins!!!!!!!!!!"]

[Update 73 (5:22 pm): Appreciate the linkage and congrats out there. To the good people at Golf Babes, the only thing I can say is domo arigato (and I've found that somen noodles work better than udon). To Hound Dog, arigato gozaimasu (but onechan is actually sad for Karrie Webb and Paula Creamer).]

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Evian Masters Saturday: Who Will Make a Move?

I hope Marsha Evans, David Higdon, and the rest of the LPGA leadership are paying close attention to the ways the organizers of the Evian Masters have welcomed the international contingent in the field. Of course, when you watch highlights on Evian Masters TV, you find out how the French players did as well as the leaders, but you also get features like the one on the lengths taken to make the Asian players feel at home. The LPGA could learn a lot from how this event is run and promoted. A tournament doesn't have to be as well-funded as this one to have the kind of web presence it does.

Unlike in most American tournaments, they reshuffle the pairings after every round. With the field down to 74 now, they are actually going off in pairs today. There are definitely some surprises among those at the bottom of the leaderboard. Caroline Rominger is outplaying Mika Miyazato, Maria Verchenova is outplaying Ya Ni Tseng, and Guilia Sergas is outplaying Melissa Reid. But probably the biggest surprise of all is that nobody is making a huge move on a front side that can be had. Shi Hyun Ahn's 33 (which must be seen to be believed, featuring a double bogey-eagle turnaround) and Catriona Matthew's 34 are the only early scores worth writing home about, while Amy Yang's 3 birdies in her 1st 6 holes, Hee-Won Han's 2 in her 1st 4, and Eun-Hee Ji's 2 in her 1st 3 are the only exciting starts. There are far more disasters than even solid starts to report on, but I'll refrain from adding insult to injury. I don't know if the course is playing tougher because of all the rain this week, or what, but so far we're not having much of a moving day.

What this suggests is that the leaders are going to have to be sharp. It may be easier to move backward than forward today. We'll see!

[Update 1 (5:16 am): OK, Momoko Ueda has birdied both par 3s on the front to go -2 on her round and for the tournament. She's the 9th golfer playing right now to get there. Ji leads those on the course 1 stroke lower, good enough for T22 right now. Someone at this level is going to need to get into the mid-60s today to have a hope of being in contention tomorrow, unless all 9 players at -7 or better completely collapse.]

[Update 2 (5:25 am): All right, Suzann Pettersen has birdied 2 in a row to join Ji and Hee Young Park at -3 for the tournament.]

[Update 3 (5:30 am): Ah, count on Morgan Pressel for the weather report. Expect the scores to heat up as the temperatures do.]

[Update 4 (5:34 am): OK, Yang held steady for her 34. Han birdied 8 to get back to -2 on her day and for the tournament. But Pettersen continues to mirror Han's start--she just bogeyed 5, just like Han did.]

[Update 5 (5:39 am): Hope everyone is following the Evian Masters's twitter feed and that other tournament organizers are taking note of how to live-micro-blog an event.]

[Update 6 (5:41 am): All right, Lorena Ochoa just got off her 6-hole par train with a birdie on the 7th. She's finally under par for the tournament--only took her 43 holes to get there!]

[Update 7 (5:44 am): Tseng is still playing badly, but at least Verchenova isn't outplaying her anymore! Still, she needs to eagle 18 just to shoot a 72 today.]

[Update 8 (5:48 am): Well, Momo-chan got both the par 3s but neither of the par 5s on the front. Her 34 allows Ahn to hold onto low 9 of the day by herself. Let's see how Han does on the 9th.]

[Update 9 (5:49 am): Right now there are 6 players at -3, chasing Jin Joo Hong, who birdied the 2nd to get to -4, and Karen Stupples, who parred the 1st to stay there.]

[Update 10 (5:51 am): Her 4th birdie of the day on the 13th hole gets Johanna Westerberg to -2 for her round and -1 for the tournament. If she hadn't doubled the 1st, she'd have the best round of the day going. As it is, it's still tied for 2nd-best behind Ahn.]

[Update 11 (5:55 am): Ji Young Oh is now -4 on the tournament after her 1st birdie of the day on the par-4 3rd. A double on 14 brings Ahn back to -1 on her day, too. Looks like it's going to be tough to sustain good momentum today.]

[Update 12 (5:56 am): The 1st scores of the day are in and they're not pretty: Rominger 75, Mika Miyazato 77. Ouch.]

[Update 13 (5:57 am): Next: Tseng 74, Verchenova 77. Yeesh.]

[Update 14 (5:59 am): Jin Joo Hong makes it 2 birdies in a row and is the 1st player to reach -5 today.]

[Update 15 (6:09 am): I finally decided to check the LET Order of Merit, because I couldn't believe Hound Dog's recent claims that Gwladys Nocera leads it. So with her MC Nocera will fall from her #6 spot if Jade Schaeffer (+6 through 53 holes) and/or Westerberg (E through 50) can play well enough to pass her. But she won't lose much ground to #2 Marianne Skarpnord (+9 through 53) or #4 Melissa Reid (77 today, +8 overall), who will be playing together in tomorrow's 1st pairing unless Jane Park can't make a birdie or 2 in her last 3 holes. So that leaves #1 Diana Luna, #3 Tania Elosegui, and #5 Becky Brewerton with the best chances to make big moves up the LET money list this week.]

[Update 16 (6:29 am): Checking around the golfoblogosphere, Jeff Skinner not unexpectedly plays the nationalist card he claims not to want to play and calls on Creamer, Kerr, and Pressel to save the LPGA by beating the furriners. Whatevah. I'm more interested in revisiting Hound Dog's claim that the LET is the weakest by far of the major tours. Consider this: of the top 10 in scoring average on tour, only 4 are LET regulars and only 1--Melissa Reid--is under 70.50 (there are 8 on the LPGA and 22 with better scoring averages than Becky Brewerton, who's the 4th-best LETer). You'd think it would get better in the next 10, and it does, but there are still 3 LET irregulars in that bunch. You get out of the top 20 and nobody's averaging 72 or better, whereas you have to get to #39 on the LPGA before that happens. Yes, the JLPGA only has 12 players with scoring averages under 72, but they have fewer players than the LET does and of those going lowest only 1--Ai Miyazato--isn't a regular on tour.]

[Update 17 (6:32 am): Man, Sergas's 72 would still be the low score of the day were it not for Matthew's bogey free 69 (she's T37 right now). The player with the best chance to beat her is the JLPGA's Ji-Hee Lee, who could shoot a 31 on the back with a birdie on 18.]

[Update 18 (6:33 am): Han is -4 through 12, so she has a chance to go low, too.]

[Update 19 (6:43 am): Count Yang in, too, after her 2nd birdie in her last 3 holes. She has a tough par 5 and 3 short ones to go to improve on her -4 start to her day.]

[Update 20 (6:44 am): Ji birdied 8 and 9 to match Ahn's opening 33--hang on, now has Ahn for a 35 on the front! So that means that Ji has low front right now.]

[Update 21 (6:51 am): Yikes, Jane Park's 80 suggests that either her back problems are not behind her or her game hasn't recovered yet. She's officially out of the Solheim Cup captain's pick race. Laura Diaz's and Stacy Prammanasudh's MCs and generally terrible seasons should put them out of the running, too. Inkster's 73 is respectable enough to keep the Hall of Famer a front-runner for the 1st pick. It's up to Wendy Ward and Pat Hurst to displace Natalie Gulbis from the #10 spot or to seriously outplay Michelle Wie this weekend and next week. Let's see if they can do it.]

[Update 22 (6:53 am): Oh, and Stacy Lewis needs a win this week and a great finish at the Women's British Open to put herself in the conversation. She's parred her 1st 2 holes today. Let's see if she can get something going.]

[Update 23 (6:54 am): Ji-Hee Lee parred 18 for a 68. It's low round of the day so far, but Yang just needs to birdie 17 or 18 to surpass her.]

[Update 24 (6:59 am): All right, so how are those in the lead chase pack actually starting out today? Early on, Pressel, Stupples, and Alfredsson are +2; Pak, Webb, Icher, Hjorth, and McPherson are +1; Kerr, Creamer, Lewis, and Ward are E; Lang, Hong, Oh, Nordqvist, and Gustafson are -1; and Meena Lee is -2 (1 off the lead).]

[Update 25 (7:06 am): What the scoring patterns suggest thus far is that a low round will be worth even more today than on most moving days. If only a few people move in the right direction in a big way, they'll be able to pass a lot of people. Sometimes just holding steady is a victory. Sun Young Yoo got off to a horrible birdie-double-bogey-bogey-par-bogey start, but since then has fought back to E on her day with 5 more birdies and only 1 more bogey. With the 3 short holes left to play, she can still end up with 1 of the best rounds of the day!]

[Update 26 (7:10 am): Yuko Mitsuka parred her 1st hole. She'd better bring it today if she wants to keep her lead on the other top JLPGA stars in the field. Lee's 68 brings her to -4 on the tournament, while Mi-Jeong Jeon is at -5 after making birdies on 4 of her last 6 holes. With 5 holes to play, she has a great chance to post one of the best rounds of the day.]

[Update 27 (7:16 am): Wow, Yang also couldn't break 68. Let's see if Ueda, Han, or Jeon can. If Ueda does it, she'll have birdied her last 2 in a row and 3 of her last 5. Han will need to make up for her recent bogey quickly to do so.]

[Update 28 (7:18 am): Don't look now, but Lorena's -7 over her last 30 holes and she's played bogey-free golf to do it. She may be turning it around just in time for the WBO.]

[Update 29 (7:54 am): Oh no! Disaster for Ai Miyazato! She started par-bogey-bogey-triple!! Time to regroup, Ai-chan!]

[Update 30 (7:57 am): Still nobody going low. Ueda shot 68, Ochoa 69 (9 birdies and 1 bogey in her last 34 holes). So if Na Yeon Choi can build on her 2-hole birdie train (ongoing), she can put some serious distance between herself and the field. But Brewerton bounced back to the field when she hit -11, so anything can happen.]

[Update 31 (8:17 am): OK, maybe the leaders are leaders for a reason. Sophie Gustafson just eagled the par-5 7th to go to -3 on her day and -10 for the tournament. Paula Creamer birdied it to go -2 and -9, respectively. Cristie Kerr has birdied 2 of her last 3 holes to move to -2 and -8, respectively. The 5th 68 today, from the JLPGA's Mi-Jeong Jeon (which brings her to -5 for the tournament), is definitely in jeopardy for low round of the day standing. Ji has a chance to beat it with a birdie on 18, but I seem to recall saying that before...]

[Update 32 (8:22 am): I'm encouraged on Ai-chan's behalf that Seon Hwa Lee was -2 over her last 14 holes after tripling the same hole she did, the par-4 4th. But even more so by the fact that she didn't triple the 4th! almost gave me a heart attack! With her birdie on the par-4 6th, she fights back to +1 on her round and -8 for the tournament!]

[Update 33 (8:26 am): Ji Young Oh has birdied 3 of her 1st 4 holes on the back to finally offset her late-front-9 pair of bogeys and climb to -3 on her day and -6 for the tournament. And Becky Brewerton is back to double digits under par for the tournament.]

[Update 34 (8:44 am): Ji couldn't do it, either! That makes it 6 68s tied for low round of the day. Natalie Gulbis's 71 is looking pretty good today, by the way. Pat Hurst is +3 through 14 and E for the tournament and Wendy Ward is E through 11 to stay at -5 overall. Michelle Wie's 70 only puts her 1-up on Natalie heading into the final round. Ward and Wie are going to have to do something special tomorrow to make up any serious ground on Gulbis for the #10 spot on the US Solheim Cup team.]

[Update 35 (8:48 am): Ji-Yai Shin twice got to -3 for the tournament and both times fell back a shot. She'll need to finish very strong on 17 and 18 to have a hope of making a final-round charge meaningful. I'm talking birdie-eagle. Suzann Pettersen missed her chance with 3 bogeys in the middle of her round today. Lots of big names just playing for position tomorrow.]

[Update 36 (8:51 am): Speaking of position, Brewerton has taken the top spot from Choi. Ai-chan and Yuko Mitsuka have joined Creamer at -9, the former with her 2nd birdie in her last 3 holes and the latter with her 2nd in a row.]

[Update 37 (8:54 am): A double at 5 and a bogey at 10 have offset Stacy Lewis's 3 birdies on the front. She's back at -6, in danger of dropping out of the lead chase pack.]

[Update 38 (9:02 am): Karrie Webb is showing why she's a Hall of Famer. After a double on 3 dropped her back to -5 for the tournament, she's made 4 birdies and only 1 bogey to get to -8, just 3 shots off the lead, tied with Mitsuka (who bogeyed 9) and Kerr. Creamer's birdie to get to -10 leaves Ai-chan alone in 5th right now at -9.]

[Update 39 (9:05 am): A birdie n the par-3 8th--there sure have been a lot of them today!--brings In-Kyung Kim back to E on her day and -8 for the tournament. We now have 9 players within 3 shots of the lead and 14 players within 5.]

[Update 40 (9:07 am): Choi's 34 on the front makes it 2 players who have hit -11, bounced back, and bounced back from the bounceback.]

[Update 41 (9:09 am): Inky's 2nd birdie in a row brings her to -9 with Ai-chan. 2 of my favorite golfers are back in the thick of things!]

[Update 42 (9:13 am): Gustafson's -4 on her round today and tied for the lead at -11. Ai-chan is now -10. Great 35 after that +2 start!]

[Update 43 (9:17 am): Now Mitsuka is back to -9 after a birdie on 10. The birdies are coming fast and furious, finally.]

[Update 44 (9:19 am): Inky makes a it 3 in a row and joins Paula and Ai-chan at -10!]

[Update 45 (9:21 am): Time for Stacy Lewis, Se Ri Pak, and Meena Lee at -6 and Helen Alfredsson and Song-Hee Kim at -7 to get on their horses. The train is leaving the station!]

[Update 46 (9:25 am): Ji Young Oh made 6 birdies but 4 bogeys today and ends up at -5. That's going to be too far back to win. Brewerton is -12 and nobody among the leaders is backing down or backing up.]

[Update 47 (9:28 am): OK, well, Ai-chan bogeyed 10 to fall back to E on the day and -9 for the tournament. She had a weak finish Thursday and a strong one Friday. Let's see how many shots she can make up on the leaders today.]

[Update 48 (9:31 am): Man, many of my picks in this week's PakPicker are really letting me down. Precision players like Ji-Yai Shin (-3), Natalie Gulbis (-2), Morgan Pressel (-2 through 52 holes), and Kristy McPherson (-2 through 51) are not living up to their hot play of late. Seon Hwa Lee is barely hanging in there at E, and Mika Miyazato is out of it at +8. Guess I should have trusted Ji to shake off her celebration's aftereffects quickly.]

[Update 49 (9:34 am): Cristie Kerr is now -9 after her birdie on the par-3 14th. That makes it 8 players within 3 shots of the lead and 12 within 5.]

[Update 50 (9:37 am): Waitasec--Oh only made 3 bogeys, it turns out. Her 69 brings her to -6. Lang could become the co-leader-in-the-clubhouse at -6 if she can break the curse on 18 and actually birdie it.]

[Update 51 (9:40 am): Choi bogeyed 11 to fall back to -10. Song-Hee Kim bogeyed 12 to fall back to -6. Mitsuka doubled 12--just like Ai-chan did on Thursday--to fall back to -7. So it's even more amazing that Lang birdied 18 to join Oh at -6. If other leaders falter, a low- or mid-60s round tomorrow by either one of them culd win it for them.]

[Update 52 (9:42 am): Hold on! Brittany Lang actually shot the 7th 68 of the day and moved to -7 overall. She's right in it!]

[Update 53 (9:46 am): Ward has made 3 birdies and 3 bogeys today. As she enters the final holes she could put some distance between herself, Gulbis, and Wie by joining Lang at -7.]

[Update 54 (9:47 am): Oh, man! I wish would make up its mind. Now Lang is back to 69/-6. Did she bogey 16 or didn't she??]

[Update 55 (9:49 am): About time to get ready to leave for onechan's violin lessons. Webb has joined Miyazato and Kerr at -9.]

[Update 56 (4:55 pm): Wow, missed a lot, didn't I? Gustafson and Kerr made the biggest moves with their 67s, but 68s by In-Kyung Kim, Karrie Webb, and Helen Alfredsson bring the total to 10 on the day (yes, Lang's was actually a 68, after all!). Ai-chan had a chance to finish the day in the lead, but bogeyed 18 instead of birdieing it. Here's Hound Dog's 3rd-round overview, which goes into a lot of detail on the GC coverage.]

[Update 57 (5:36 pm): As Hound Dog points out, we're all set up for a Sunday free-for-all. There are 15 players within 5 shots of the lead, 9 within 3, and only 3 players who have broken 70 every round (Brewerton, Inky, Webb). I always like someone who didn't go low on moving day but is close to the lead for the win. That means that my pick Ai-chan and Hound Dog's pick Creamer are in a great position to go low tomorrow. I stand by my prediction of a -16 to -21 winning score. Nobody's going to back into a win with this many players in the hunt. That means we'd need so see something extraordinary from those more than 3 back. I'm talking 64 or lower, with more needed the further back you are. If you can't get to -15, you won't put any pressure on the last 5 twosomes.]

[Update 58 (5:45 pm): By my system, Na Yeon Choi, Yuko Mitsuka, and Ward, Pak, Lewis, and Song-Hee Kim are also threats to go low tomorrow.]