Friday, February 26, 2010

HSBC Women's Champions Friday: Fortunately, Unfortunately Day?

Many top players moved in opposite directions in a big way during the 2nd round of the HSBC Women's Champions, while nobody among the 1st-round leaders managed to separate herself from the field. Let's take a look at the widest--and wildest--swings 1st, before focusing on the bunched leaders.

Fortunately, Angela Park bounced back from an opening 76 with a 69 today, which included a run of 3 birdies in a row as she started the front (her back). It's great to see the former Rookie of the Year breaking 70 again, something she hasn't done since the 1st round of the Navistar Classic last October. Here's hoping it's a sign of better things to come for her.

Unfortunately, world #1 Lorena Ochoa had one of the worst days on the course in her career, ballooning to a 79 after an opening 68 and dropping from T1 to T39. Her birdieless performance included 3 bogeys in a row as she made the turn and a disastrous bogey-triple finish. Ouch!

Fortunately, Momoko Ueda bounced back from a lackluster start (she was +3 over her 1st 20 holes) with a 5-hole birdie train on the back (her front), which continued early on the front with another pair of birdies before she derailed and bogeyed 3 holes in a row near the end of her round. Even with that weak finish, she still shot a 68 today and moved up to T15 (-1).

Unfortunately, Kristy McPherson moved backwards from her opening 70 in a big way today, making 3 bogeys and a double in a birdieless day that dropped her back to +3 overall with Ochoa.

Fortunately, Ya Ni Tseng bounced back from her lone bogey of the day on the par-5 5th hole (her 14th) with 3 straight birdies to close out her round and post a 67, which brought her to -3 overall and T8, only 2 shots out of the lead.

Unfortunately, Christina Kim, who had been ebullient about her day 1 ball-striking after her opening 69, shot a birdieless 39 on the back to drop back to E (T21) overall.

Fortunately, Hee-Won Han matched Tseng's 6-birdie, 1-bogey performance, moving up to -4 for the tournament (T3) on the strength of 3 birdies in her last 5 holes.

Unfortunately, Hee Young Park made 4 bogeys in her last 10 holes today and could only offset 2 of them with birdies, so she fell from T1 to T10.

Fortunately, Na Yeon Choi joined her at -2 overall with back-to-back birdies to end her roller-coaster round, which had earlier seen her make 3 birdies in the last 6 holes on the back (her front) and then follow them up with 2 bogeys in her 1st 4 holes on the front.

Unfortunately, co-leader Angela Stanford's bogey-free streak ended at 29 holes and in her last 7 she plummetted from -8 to -5 overall. has done a good job of highlighting her struggles with her swing thus far this week, so I'm assuming they caught up with her down the stretch. As she said on Thursday, "you know, you can get away with certain golf swings, and I was getting away with it today. But that doesn't mean that later in the week under pressure, that same golf swing is going to hold up.... I think as the week goes on and you feel like you need to make more birdies and be more precise‑‑that's why I'm a little uncomfortable with it."

Actually, though, this may be the kind of week where nobody's able to go low and stay low. I don't know if the wind is up, the greens are hard, or what, but it's been very difficult for anyone to play consistently well over the 1st 36 holes. Take a look at the scorecards of the 2 hottest players on tour right now, Suzann Pettersen and Ai Miyazato. Where the former played flawless golf but struggled to make birdies (she's averaging 2.50 per round, far below her career average), the latter had to make birdies to recover from her many mistakes today (she's averaging 4 of them per round but also 2 bogeys per round this week). Or take Cristie Kerr, who's also been playing very well already this year. She seemed to have figured out something about her putting stance on the back yesterday, but made back-to-back bogeys early on the front and could manage only 1 birdie coming in. Sure, Pettersen and Miyazato are T3 at -4 and Kerr is still in the hunt at -3 (T8), but you know they're capable of running away from the field and they're just not doing it. Maybe this won't be the shootout everyone expected but instead a war of attrition.

When the hottest players in the field aren't scoring as well as they're playing, that opens the door for everyone else. Song-Hee Kim, who's looking for her 1st win on the LPGA, is in a great position to get it this week. Despite bogeying her penultimate hole to drop back to -5 overall, she's still tied with Stanford for the lead. And if Sun Young Yoo can figure out how to score on the front on the weekend (she has 2 37s on that side already) and keep it going on the back (where she has a pair of 33s), she may just beat Kim to graduating from my best among the LPGA's winless list. But don't count out Hall of Famers Juli Inkster and Karrie Webb. If it weren't for weak finishes--the former bogeyed her last 2 holes and the latter, like Lorena, suffered a walkoff triple--they'd both be at the top of the leaderboard instead of T3 and T10, respectively.

With defending champion Ji-Yai Shin hanging around at -2, right with Dubai champion In-Kyung Kim--and a total of 26 players within 5 shots of the lead--the weekend should be very interesting. Stanford knows that she missed an opportunity today: "My caddie made the comment that it's only Friday, but like I said yesterday, these girls are so good that if you have the opportunity to create some space, you should." But she wasn't the only one to do so. The question is, who will take advantage of her opportunities tomorrow?


Mike said...

I don't know if we can write too much into these performances yet. It's still only the 2nd event of the season, even if some of the girls did play a couple of other events before the season started. I suspect their games are gonna be a little erratic for another week or two as they try to get back into a rhythm.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it. ;-D Go Cristie!

The Constructivist said...

You're absolutely right and I'm not trying to read anything into the normal score swings as people scrape the rust of their games and get used to tournament golf again. But I do find I get a better feel for the big picture when I can go back and check the patterns in the little details I post from each round.

And I do think it's pretty clear already that Pettersen, Miyazato, Kerr, and a few others have very little rust to scrape off....