Saturday, February 20, 2010

Honda LPGA Thailand Saturday: Yang Breaks Through, Leaders Stall in Early Going

It was moving day at the Honda LPGA Thailand for those lower down the leaderboard, led by Amy Yang's 8-birdie 65 that brought her to -9 for the tournament, but the leaders were playing a different kind of game. While Christina Kim was lighting up the Old Course with a 66 that included an eagle on the par-5 7th, In-Kyung Kim was moving to -8 overall on the strength of her 6-birdie-plus-eagle 67, Jee Young Lee and Amanda Blumenherst were bouncing back with 68s, and Lorena Ochoa, Ji-Yai Shin, Na Yeon Choi, and Brittany Lang were firing 69s, leader Suzann Pettersen was quietly extending her bogey-free streak for the tournament to 46 holes while making her 3rd birdies of the tournament on the 1st and 10th holes, Ai Miyazato saw her bogey-free run come to an end on her 41st hole of the tournament and needed 2 birdies just to stay within 5 of the lead and tied with playing partner Momoko Ueda, who bogeyed 2 of her 1st 5 holes but responded with 4 birdies in her next 6, as well as Hee Young Park, who had a very un-Rocket-like front side to remain at -11 overall.

Behind them, things were as quiet or quieter from those with a chance to make up ground on Pettersen: the explosive Ya Ni Tseng had offset her front-side double with a back-side eagle to remain at -8, Maria Hjorth was riding the roller-coaster (5 birdies, along with 2 bogeys and a double, over her 1st 13 holes), and the normally-efficient Song-Hee Kim was only able to produce 2 birdies and a bogey in that same stretch. So while Kim made it to double digits under par and Hjorth returned there on the 13th after 1st getting there on the 1st, Tseng needed a birdie on the 14th to catch Yang, and Cristie Kerr and Catriona Matthew have chances pass Kim and join the lead chase pack if they continue their fine play, nobody within reach of Pettersen is making a serious run at her thus far on moving day.

The leaders have about 6 holes to go, so let's see what they make of them.

[Update 1 (3:33 am): I think of the Rocket as an adventure golfer in the style of Hjorth and Sophie Gustafson, but for one stretch in this event she had a 20-hole bogey-free streak going and she's working on a 10-hole run right now. Pettersen's entering the part of the course she's owned the 1st 2 days. She's made 5 birdies and an eagle in her 2 runs through the last 6 holes of the Old Course thus far, so maybe she's been conserving her energy for another late-round explosion.]

[Update 2 (3:36 am): Yang is familiar with chasing Pettersen on the LET; if she hadn't made a double a day her 1st 2 rounds, and if she hadn't let her 22-hole bogey-free run come to an end on the tough 17th today, Pettersen would be feeling a lot more pressure from her lead chase pack. And if wishes were fishes....]

[Update 3 (3:39 am): How's this for an explosive finish? M.J. Hur went birdie-par-birdie-par-birdie-eagle to get to -8 for the tournament! Her 68 puts her in the top 10 right now.]

[Update 4 (4:14 am): Nice runs by Tseng and Kim. Tseng turned her single birdie into a 3-hole birdie train to get to -11, while Kim birdied 15 and 16 to get to -12. If everyone else can get back on track with a few closing birdies, and if Pettersen keeps it in neutral, there could be as many as 13 players with a hope of going super-low Sunday and chasing her down.]

[Update 5 (4:18 am): Among those players is Cristie Kerr. She closed with her 2nd eagle of the day and threw in a pair of birdies down the stretch to post a 66 that brought her to -11 overall. Game on!]

[Update 6 (4:21 am): Seon Hwa Lee is one of my favorite players on tour and someone I'll be tracking pretty closely all year. She dropped out of the tour's elite for the 1st time in her career last year, so I'm expecting a big comeback this one. Well, she seems to be where Ai Miyazato was at the start of last year: showing signs of playing well, but making too many mistakes still to break 70. With her 14 birdies in 54 holes, and at -6 overall, she's probably ahead of where Ai-sama was at this time last year. Here's hoping the Stone Buddha goes low tomorrow!]

[Update 6 (4:54 am): Nice comebacks by Ai-sama and Momo-chan. The latter birdied her last 2 holes and the former her final hole to get to -12 for the tournament, tied with Tseng (68) and 1 shot behind Kim (68). But Pettersen birdied the 17th and has a chance to get to -18 or -19 through 54 holes, depending on how she plays the 18th.]

[Update 7 (5:24 am): Nice birdie by Pettersen. She takes a 5-shot lead on Kim, a 6-shot lead on Miyazato, Ueda, and Tseng, and a 7-shot lead on Kerr, Hjorth, and Park into the final round. Somebody's going to have to break 65--and probaby by a lot--to have any chance tomorrow. Pettersen's a much better golfer now than the one who almost gave up a 7-shot lead to Laura Davies here.]

[Update 8 (5:33 am): Some fantastic pairings tomorrow, even before the main event. Super Sophs Stacy Lewis and Anna Nordqvist get to battle it out starting at 10:06 am, Se Ri Pak and Michelle Wie take center stage at 10:22, uber-tweeters Christina Kim and Morgan Pressel get started at 10:46, the Brittany Ls (Lang and Lincicome) follow right after them, comebackers Seon Hwa Kee and Stacy Prammanasudh go off at 11:34, and then Hall of Famers Karrie Webb and (soon) Lorena Ochoa see if they can salvage the week.

Start Time: 11:50 AM
M.J. Hur
Catriona Matthew

Start Time: 11:58 AM
Amy Yang
In-Kyung Kim

Start Time: 12:06 PM
Maria Hjorth
Hee Young Park

Start Time: 12:14 PM
Ai Miyazato
Cristie Kerr

Start Time: 12:22 PM
Ya Ni Tseng
Momoko Ueda

Start Time: 12:30 PM
Suzann Pettersen
Song-Hee Kim

Lucky for Momo-chan to be paired with her good friend!]

[Update 9 (9:36 am): Check out the notes and interviews. Is somebody there a Mostly Harmless fan? Impressive use of "young guns" to refer to Miyazato, Ueda, and Tseng there. To be precise, Tseng is the #1-ranked Young Gun, Miyazato is #7, and Ueda is #13. While that ranking system looks back at performance over the course of the Young Guns' short careers, it's worth noting that Miyazato is ranked #1 and Ueda #4 in my more forward-looking list of 1-time winners and Tseng is #1 among my ranking of the LPGA's 2-time winners. All my wins-based lists are meant to be predictive, focusing on which players right now are the most likely to add to their totals.]

[Update 10 (7:14 pm): Jamie at Snap Hook Herald asks the key question about Pettersen: can she hold this lead? Although he misses some earlier history--like the major Morgan Pressel ended up winning before Pettersen began her 5-win run late in the 2007 season--and he's generally right about what has to happen for anyone to have a chance tomorrow, where I really disagree with him is how relevant Pettersen's recent history is. Her mindset and conditioning seem awesome heading into the final round and most important her ball-striking is close to perfect. I just don't see her faltering at all tomorrow. Figure she's going to get to -21 no matter what and then you know what someone needs to shoot to have a chance to catch her....]


LPGA Fan said...

"Is somebody there a Mostly Harmless fan?"

Wouldn't surprise me, cause you are are an important noteworthy person.
In your blog and I believe in your life you are a nice guy and respond graciously.

Me, I'm now an ol' opinionated guy and I don't have to be so nice.

Poor Mika. Someone testing Mika-chan. Now she has Kristy McPherson.
I would prefer Ai and HeeYoung be paired with someone else. But then no one ask me.

Maybe some heard me complain about the lack of photos cause Day 2 & 3 has a good variety.

The Constructivist said...

Don't worry about Mika-chan--or "Mikan" (like a clementine orange), as her super-awesome nickname goes. Speaking of which, I wonder if "O My Darlin' Clementine" would be good background music for a new youtube clip on her! (Just a crazy idea!) I think she'll be fine with McPherson. But maybe b/c I really like Kristy....

Anyway, the weekend pairings are what they are, pretty much always done by who shot what 1st....

But, yeah, I'd love to see Ai-sama completely outplay Kerr tomorrow!

LPGA Fan said...

Not familiar with or heard the story of "her super-awesome nickname", "Mikan".

And I have been searching the last 1 1/2 hrs for the next song/music. The slide show is at 4 min 16 sec before Sundays pics and final adjustments. Just located a "Oh My Darling Clementine" at 4 min 33 sec.

Think I'll leave it out of this show for the main reason I want to be respectful to Ai, Mika, Momoko, & Shinobu. Nice images of them and also Hee-Young.

Interesting that the Japanese ladies many times are misidentified. Mika was listed as Shinobu. The Korean pic's always have the last name listed first. Why?

I see the last round has begun.

LPGA Fan said...

Had to give you an update on this. I woke up looked at the clock, 2:32am, pulled the cover over my shoulder, turned over, "Mikan". NOW I GET IT.

Senior moments turn into senior minutes which become senior days then weeks, months and so on and so on.

Mikan - I got it, I think.
Need to see more of Mika (aka Mikan)

And I didn't see any photos of Candy Kung.

HSBC field looks the same as the Honda field.