I was telling the Full Metal Archivist last night why I wasn't going to be doing any not-quite-live-blogging for the final round of the Honda LPGA Thailand. 1st, and most important, our girls didn't let us really celebrate her birthday, so the night was hers. 2nd, this tournament was reminding me a lot of last year's Canadian Women's Open. As I responded to Jamie Belyea's history of Suzann Pettersen's Sunday collapses in my last update last night, he
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....
Well, Miyazato shot a 63 and got to -21. Pettersen's bogey-free streak ended on her 63rd hole. At that point, after that 2-shot swing on the 9th, she was -19 and Ai-sama was -16. And this leads into my 3rd reason for not wanting to not-quite-live-blog the final round. I would have been an absolute wreck no matter what. If somebody else was going low--besides Momo-chan, Inky, or the Stone Buddha--I would have been wondering, "why not Ai-sama?" And if Ai-sama was the one to challenge Pettersen, I would have lived and died with every update. Knowing Ai-sama's perfectly capable of breaking 65 and "watching" her try to actually do it by building on her opening 32 are 2 very different things. Finally, I would have been exhausted afterwards, and I owe a colleague and her students a Tiger Woods post, which I only have this morning to write. (Don't worry, LPGA fans, it's not going up here.)
To say I'm shocked by the actual result would be the understatement of the year. Hardly anybody went low besides Ai-sama, so it's not like the course was set up easy. Sure, 14-year-old Thai amateur Ariya Jutanugarn shot a roller-coaster 68, Stacy Lewis fired a bogey-free 67 that included a walkoff eagle, Laura Davies came out of nowhere with a 65 that brought her to T6, and Karrie Webb's bogey-free 67 brought her to T4. But the only other players to break 70--Ya Ni Tseng (-15, 3rd), Na Yeon Choi (-8, T13), Amanda Blumenherst (-6, T18), and Ji-Yai Shin and Michelle Wie (both -5, T22)--barely did so with 69s. Big names like Cristie Kerr (70, -13, T3), Angela Stanford (70, -7, T16), and Lorena Ochoa (72, -6, T18) just couldn't get it in gear today.
Which makes Ai-sama's Sunday back-9 charge all the more amazing and impressive. She followed up her birdie on the 9th with 2 more on the next 2 holes, cutting Pettersen's lead to 2 (Pettersen birdied the 10th for the 4th time this week). Birdies on 13 and 15 erased Pettersen's lead entirely, and when Pettersen made her 2nd bogey of the tournament on the par-3 16th, Ai-sama had the lead. When she matched Pettersen's par on the 17th and birdie on the 18th, the win was hers. But of course it wasn't as simple as that. To save you a trip to LPGA.com for the details, here's their description, reordered:
Pettersen missed her eight-foot par putt at 16 while Miyazato chipped-in from 10 yards behind the pin at 18 for a two shot swing. Pettersen’s 72nd-hole eagle effort slid by the hole, but she tapped in for birdie to take runner-up honors by a stroke.... Miyazato, who was 10-under-par in her final 16 holes, chipped-in for birdie at 18 to clinch her second-career LPGA victory.... This year, a bogey at the 16th hole and a short birdie-putt miss on 17 cost [Pettersen] a chance at a seventh LPGA title.
2 chip-ins in her last 3 holes to take the win! Sugoi!!!!
Too bad onechan's violin teacher is part of a strings concert on campus this afternoon! Not only are we going, but even if we weren't, I'm pretty sure our friends with the 2 boys onechan's and imoto's age and whom we watched a few events with last season will also be at the concert. Maybe I'll see if they can tape it for us.
More on the meaning of this win tomorrow, when I update my list of the top 2-time winners on the LPGA Tour!
[Update 1 (8:58 am): OK, in my excitement, I wrote as if Ai-sama and Pettersen were playing together (and so, by the way, did LPGA.com). But of course Ai-sama was 2 groups ahead of Pettersen. So Pettersen wasn't able to see anything Ai-sama did, and vice versa. From interviews and twitter, here's what I was able to piece together:
Pettersen knew Ai-sama was making a charge, but didn't know quite how serious it was until mid-way through the back: "When I came up to 14, I saw she was 20-under so I knew she was playing well."
Pettersen's 2nd bogey of the tournament was a straight 8-footer on the 16th. And the short birdie putt she missed on the 17th was "about six feet, down, left to right," according to Pettersen's interview.
Miyazato knew where she stood on the 18th tee: "I knew I needed to make birdie at the last because I saw the scoreboard before I go to the green. The pin position was really difficult for me and for everyone. I was trying to get it close on my third shot and I missed. It wasn’t that bad chipping it. Only 10 yards from the hole to the pin. I was lucky."
Pettersen just missed hitting the 18th in 2; she "[g]ripped down on [her] rescue so it would come down soft. It was 197, plays uphill about 12 [yards]." Her eagle putt from the fringe was, according to the LPGA, about 23 feet long, and she said it "broke right to left pretty much the whole way."
So Ai-sama played inspired--and, yes, lucky--golf down the stretch, and Pettersen had trouble with her putter under pressure. Amazing!]
[Update 2 (9:03 am): Why am I so stubborn to insist on 1st doing this stuff on my own, only consulting primary sources, when I could have simply linked to stories by my blogging buddies Bill Jempty and Hound Dog?]
[Update 3 (9:09 am): Check out Ai-sama's tempo:
I'll post more clips as Ai-sama's fans get on the ball!]
[Update 4 (12:12 pm): Here's Brent Kelley on Ai-sama's win and Creamer's WD.]
[Update 5 (12:33 pm): Lots of great pics up at Seoul Sisters.com!]
[Update 6 (2/22/10, 12:42 am): Here's Golf Girl's take on Ai-sama's win!]
[Update 7 (12:48 am): Here's Hound Dog's epilogue!]
[Update 8 (12:52 am): Wanchai Rujawongsanti, whose preview post was too wacky for even me to link to, had really great stories about Ai-sama's galleries, Hee Young Park's short shorts, and other gallery favorites. Must-read!]
[Update 9 (12:55 am): Wanchai's "Avian Open" made me think of other cross-language phonetics stories. The funniest recent one was when my mom called me last night and said, excitedly, "Ai won a tournament!" Having heard, "I won a tournament," I tried to find out which one and when she played it and where. Two minutes later, we had it all straightened out....]
[Update 10 (1:10 am): Nice choice of music by MH regular LPGA Fan!
Sorry, 1 more Wanchai response here, prompted by seeing the slide show. I'm not sure Wanchai knows Ai-sama's from Okinawa....]
[Update 11 (2:24 am): Here's LPGA Fan's full-field slideshow:
Great visual of the tour's diversity!]
[Update 12 (2:34 am): Whoops, overlooked Candie Kung's closing 68. Sorry, Candie!]
[Update 13 (4:24 am): My friend did tape the Golf Channel coverage for me and seeing it I realized that there was no chip-in for Ai-sama on 16, just a good sandie. Too bad the Champions Tour went into a playoff; it was cool to see Bernhard Langer shaping his approach shots on the 18th in opposite directions to close out the final round and put himself in position on the 1st playoff hole for that amazing sand shot from the plugged lie, but since it meant missing almost every single one of Ai-sama's birdies, I'm against it.]
[Update 14 (11:25 pm): Here's Beth Ann Baldry on the experience of reporting from Asia. Ai-sama, by the way, is now #4 in the Rolex Rankings and #6 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index!]
[Update 15 (11:59 pm): Check out the Thailand LPGA Rewind--most of the Ai-sama birdies Golf Channel didn't have time to show are there!]