Sunday, March 28, 2010

Kia Classic Saturday: Pressure? Seo What!

Hee Kyung Seo played some cool, calm, and collected golf yesterday at the Kia Classic, firing a 69 that brought her to double digits under par, while most of the rest of the 2nd-round leaders treated Saturday's round like it was moving backwards day. Sure, Shanshan Feng (-4, T3), Anna Nordqvist (-3, T5), and Cristie Kerr (E, T19) outdid Seo by a shot, and Candie Kung (-5, 2nd), Ji-Yai Shin (-3, T5), and Jimin Jeong (E, T19) kept pace with her, but everyone else in the field lost ground to the leader, often by a large margin.

As I expected, La Costa put a lot of pressure on the LPGA's precision players. 1st-round leader Na On Min shot her 2nd-straight over-par round to drop to -3 overall, and she fared better than most. In-Kyung Kim, who had been playing great golf over the 1st 36 holes, couldn't do anything right yesterday, and turned a bad round into a terrible one when she finished double-triple-par for a 78 that dropped her all the way back to E (T19). Seon Hwa Lee, who hadn't gone over par in any of her 1st 4 9s, didn't make a birdie all day and followed up a 37 with a 40 to join Kim and Kerr 10 shots behind Seo. Stacy Prammanasudh? 73 (-2, T13). Morgan Pressel? 75 (E, T19). Inbee Park? 76 (+1, T24). But, really, every kind of player struggled. Christina Kim and Jee Young Lee both had great rounds going fairly late into the day, but neither could finish them off; Kim was +2 over her last 6 holes to settle for a 72 (-2, T13), while Lee bogeyed 3 of her last 5 to fall from -6 to -3 overall with a 73 (T5). Meanwhile, Golf Channel's featured pairing of Michelle Wie (73, -4, T3) and Vicky Hurst (74, -3, T5) exemplified the oldest golf cliche in the book, "drive for show, putt for dough"; neither could get anything going all day, despite having many opportunities to attack La Costa. Even a straight shooter like Song-Hee Kim imploded yesterday, making a double on each side on her way to a 75 that dropped her 8 shots behind Seo into a tie for 13th place.

So despite nice scores by Teresa Lu (70, -3, T5), Tamie Durdin (71, -3, T5), Pat Hurst (72, -3, T5), Amy Yang (70, -2, T13), and Na Yeon Choi (72, -2, T13), the fact is that they all threw away too many shots over the 1st 54 holes to be doing anything more than playing for the silver on Sunday.

Unless Seo comes back to them in a big way, that is. But our leader has made only 2 bogeys all tournament. And she hasn't even made a birdie on 2 of the 4 par 5s at La Costa, the 8th and 18th. Maybe her KLPGA mentor, the "final round queen," can come out firing at pins and put some early pressure on her. But Candie Kung is the only player within 5 shots of her. And with players who have already won this season way behind her--Ya Ni Tseng and Ai Miyazato are T54 at +6, Karrie Webb is T43 at +4, and Laura Davies is T27 at +2--and most of the world's best also out of the picture--Lorena Ochoa is T49 at +5, while Suzann Pettersen is T36 at +3--this win is Seo's for the taking. I hope she takes advantage of this opportunity to join the LPGA!

[Update 1 (3:45 am): Nice job again by Heather Daly-Donofrio is a great interviewer!]

[Update 2 (4:00 am): Just a reminder that there are lots of Seoul regulars on-course this week: Verdant Garden, IceCat, None, and Say_You_SeRi (twice).

[Update 3 (4:02 am): John Strege continues his mini-profiles series, this time on In-Kyung Kim. Which raises the question: is there a Local Knowledge jinx?]

[Update 4 (4:10 am): Forgot to mention I actually got to watch this thing on the telly. Loved Tom Abbott and Judy Rankin in the booth, couldn't stand the fact that they only showed the 1st page of the leaderboard for most of the 1st hour of coverage, hated the commercials and promos and "Golf Center Updates." Just show some golf, people! Appreciated what I could get of Christina and Jee Young and Candie and I have to admit it was really fun watching Michelle and Vicky blast it off the tee and seeing Hee Kyung and In-Kyung go in different directions. But it felt like I barely caught a glimpse of the players who actually ended up with really good rounds. And I got no sense of who was making a charge from behind, or that so many top players were moving backwards so far and so fast. Probably because despite all the hoopla about the GC contract, this was actually a lo-budget affair. A couple of camera crews on the last 2 pairings and on the last few holes is probably all they have.]

[Update 5 (4:40 am): Check out Lisa Mickey's reports from Mexico on the Futures Tour's 2nd round of the Riviera Nayarit Challenge. Now that's what golf writing oughtta be!]

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