Karen Stupples (68, -10), Suzann Pettersen (67, -9), and Ya Ni Tseng (67, -9) pulled away from the field at the Kraft Nabisco Championship on moving day. Hot back 9s kept Lorena Ochoa and Song-Hee Kim within 3 of Stupples, while Karrie Webb bounced back from an early double bogey to round out the lead chase pack at 5 off the pace.
There were actually plenty of low numbers today, but for these players it was more a matter of pride and money than a chance to get into contention. Catriona Matthews, who could tell Stupples a thing or 2 about winning a major during your comeback from a maternity leave, matched the low round of the day and tournament with a 67 that brought her all the way to T15 at -2 overall. Se Ri Pak did the same and moved all the way from the cut line to T26. Like Pak, Momoko Ueda (68) eagled the 2nd and moved back to +2 for the tournament. Meanwhile, Chie Arimura shot a 68 of her own, but she did all her damage on the back, where she fired a 30 that included birdie trains of 3 and 2 holes over her final 6. But probably the most impressive round of the day belonged to none other than Grace Park, whose 68 brought her to -3 along with Arimura, Yokomine, Ji-Yai Shin (69), Sophie Gustafson (70), and Michelle Wie (71). Others breaking 70 on moving day included Brittany Lang (-4, T7), Angela Stanford (-1, T18), Anna Nordqvist (-1, T18), and Mika Miyazato (+2, T29).
Then there were those who put themselves into contention today, only to fall back. An opening birdie brought Cristie Kerr to -7, but 17 birdieless holes at +3 dropped her out of the lead chase pack. Sakura Yokomine got it to -6 overall with 7 to play, but made 2 bogeys and a walkoff double to settle for a 72 that left her 7 off the pace. Birdies at 9 and 11 brought Stacy Lewis back to -5 overall after an early double, but she proceeded to make 4 bogeys down the stretch and fall 8 behind Stupples.
So there's plenty of drama heading into KNC Sunday. Can Stupples and Pettersen continue their superior ball-striking this week and turn the year's 1st major into a 2-player shootout? Or will they stumble, opening the door to Tseng, Ochoa, and Kim? Can Webb, Kerr, or Lang go low and put pressure on the rest of the leaders? Can somebody else post a super-low number earlier in the day and go from leader in the clubhouse to KNC champion? Or will the weather make this a game of survival for everyone? They're going out in threesomes tomorrow to fit as many golfers into CBS's 3-hour broadcast window as possible. Here's hoping I'll be able to see the action!
[Update 1 (11:40 pm): Looks like LPGA.com beat me to the punch by a few minutes.]
[Update 2 (11:59 pm): Here's Hound Dog!]
[Update 3 (4:20 am): Mike at Ruthless Golf crunches the key performance stats and picks a Stupples win, with Tseng falling by the wayside. I say "past results do not indicate future performance." Just because you've been doing something well (or not well) for 54 holes doesn't mean too much over the last 18, and especially the last 9.]