The ShopRite Classic illustrates why the occasional 54-hole event adds a lot of excitement to the LPGA schedule. M.J. Hur followed up yesterday's 67 with a blistering 64 today on the par-71 Bay Course to take a 1-shot lead on Paula Creamer (65) and a 2-shot lead on Ai Miyazato (67) and Katherine Hull (63) heading into tomorrow's final round. But there are 9 other players within 5 shots of her, including defending champion Seon Hwa Lee (67, -6) and Morgan Pressel (66, -7).
Hur's scorecard stands out, however, because she's done most of her damage on the back 9--a 31 yesterday and a 30 today on the par-34 track--whereas most of her closest competitors have taken the most advantage of the front. Take Hull, for instance. She got to -1 yesterday with a walkoff eagle on the 9th hole, then shot a 31 on the front today (with birdies on its last 4 holes). Where Hull is -10 on holes 1-12 over 2 days and +1 on the closing 6, Hur is -8 and -3, respectively. The only player among the leaders to do better is Hee Won-Han, who's -4 over that closing stretch and -8 overall (Creamer is -2 and Miyazato, Suzann Pettersen, and Sherri Steinhauer are -1). So if it does come down to the wire tomorrow, watch out for Hur and Han. On the other hand, given that Hull went -10 in a 17-hole stretch between her 16th hole yesterday and 14th today, we really can't count anyone already under par completely out of this thing just yet.
Plus, when you consider how many players did worse today than yesterday in a big, big way, I would say a huge come-from-behind win is possible tomorrow. Just look at what happened to Natalie Gulbis (65-73), Tamie Durdin (68-76), Katie Futcher (69-77), Brandie Burton (69-77), Grace Park (67-76), Adrienne White (67-76), Tania Elosegui (65-75), Kris Tamulis (66-76), or, for that matter, Vicky Hurst (76-89). If I'm not even listing swings of 4-7 shots (including Steinhauer, Jeong Jang, and Azahara Munoz at the upper end of that spectrum), you know there were a bunch of them, as well. In other words, anyone can blow up at Seaview in either a great or a terrible way, so almost anything can happen tomorrow.
For more insight into what happened today, check out LPGA.com's notes and interviews page, which may also give some hints as to what to expect tomorrow from certain players. Me, I'm sticking with my pre-tournament pick and predicting that Ai-sama, who turned 25 today, will be giving herself a great birthday present tomorrow. I just don't see Creamer being able to keep up her amazing play for 54 holes with her thumb in the condition it's in. I don't see Hur getting the better of Ai-sama again like she did in the 2nd round of the Sybase. I don't see Hull starting a new hot streak. And I don't see anyone from back in the pack running down a mid-60s round from Ai-sama. But that's the great thing about 54 holes--we don't have long to wait and see what happens!
[Update 1 (11:48 pm): Check out Alexis Thompson's scorecard when you get a chance--it's a super-roller coaster, to say the least! Lots of potential and lots of room for improvement with that kid. BTW, here's Jennifer Song's scorecard from the Futures Tour major that's her 1st professional event--and which she's leading at -10 through 54 holes!]
[Update 2 (6/20/10, 2:34 pm): Here's Hound Dog's 2nd-round overview.]