Friday, April 2, 2010

Kraft Nabisco Championship Thursday: Pettersen and Ochoa Go Low, Webb and Tseng Lurking

In her pre-tournament video interview with Ryan Ballengee at Waggle Room, Suzann Pettersen said the rough was so high and thick and the greens so firm and fast at Mission Hills that going under par at all in the Kraft Nabisco Championship would be an accomplishment, and that shooting 4 70s would be enough to put you in contention. Well, she has a great chance to prove herself wrong in today's round; if she can follow up her scorching 67 yesterday with another great round in today's afternoon winds, she could get to the -8 mark in 36 holes. But surprisingly Pettersen hasn't put much distance between herself and the lead chase pack. Among those who played well, scoring was lower than I expected: 9 players broke 70, 22 went under par, and 33 shot par or better. And as points out, many major winners have already put themselves in the hunt:

  • Lorena Ochoa: if she can shoot a 68 while hitting only 6 fairways, how low can she go if she gets her driver straightened out this week?
  • Karrie Webb: 12 fairways and greens, 4 birdies, 1 bogey--solid start!
  • Ya Ni Tseng: only 247 off the tee, only 7 fairways, 3 bogeys in her 1st 4 holes as she made the turn onto the front, yet she still shot a 69? Even with 5 birdies, it took an eagle on the par-5 11th to do it.
  • Karen Stupples: her 69 was a mashup of Ochoa's driving and Webb's approach shots--somehow she hit 15 greens from only 6 fairways!
  • Brittany Lincicome: -4 through 12 and bogey-free, her lack of accuracy off the tee (only 7 fairways all day) caught up to her down the stretch, as she went +2 over her last 6 holes of birdieless golf.
  • Cristie Kerr: only hit 8 fairways all day and got off to a slow start when a double at the par-3 17th broke a 7-hole par-streak, but she played bogey-free the rest of the way, making 3 birdies along the way.
  • Morgan Pressel: averaged only 234 off the tee, but closed out her round with 12 straight pars after opening the back with 3 birdies and 2 bogeys in her 1st 6 holes.
  • Grace Park: hit 11 fairways and almost averaged 280 off the tee; here's hoping she can build on her opening 71 today!
  • Pat Hurst: roller-coaster 71, due mostly to only hitting 7 fairways.
  • Ji-Yai Shin: her 72 was a moral victory, considering her driving average was down near 225 and she hit only 9 fairways.
Among my top 25 on tour without a major, #7 Song-Hee Kim (#1 on my winless list, too) lead the way with 4 birdies in her 1st 6 holes. She had to settle for a 69 when she made her only bogey of the day on the par-4 12th. #20/#7 Vicky Hurst had an even more disappointing finish, bogeying 2 of her last 3 holes on the front for her 69. #5 Michelle Wie averaged 306 yards off the tee and hit 14 greens, but made only 1 birdie and 17 pars. Meanwhile, the JLPGA's top gun, Sakura Yokomine, scrambled her way around the Dinah Shore course, not hitting it very far or very accurately by her standards, but still shooting a 70 and beating the KLPGA's top gun, Hee Kyung Seo, by 2 shots.

Of course, more than 2/3 of the field did not take advantage of the unexpectedly fine scoring conditions yesterday. My big disappointment is obviously Ai Miyazato, who shot a birdieless 74, but at least she didn't blow up completely like Jee Young Lee (77), Sun Young Yoo (77), Angela Stanford (78), Christina Kim (78), or Se Ri Pak (79).  Let's see if they can turn things around and if Na On Min and Becky Brewerton, who both opened with 69s, can keep it going today!

[Update 1 (8:04 am): For a sampling of the best blogging on the 1st round of the KNC, check out Mike at Ruthless Golf, Jamie at Snap Hook Herald, Jeff at LinksLifeGolf, and Golf Girl.]

[Update 2 (8:12 am): Here are today's pairings. Stupples, Ochoa, Wie, Lincicome, Tseng, Park, and Shin are among those who will have to deal with colder but calmer conditions. The rest of the leaders go off in the afternoon.]

[Update 3 (12:19 pm): Sweet! Randall Mell is blogging from Mission Hills!]

[Update 4 (9:12 pm): Here's Hound Dog on the 1st round and ESPN's coverage.]

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