Saturday, July 3, 2010

Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic Saturday: Christina Kim Closes Gap on Na Yeon Choi

As the leaders finish out their rounds at the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic on Highland Meadows's 2 closing par 5s, it's worth noting who's made the biggest moves on moving day today.

Kyeong Bae and Morgan Pressel are looking to do what Ai Miyazato did last week--shoot herself out of contention in the 1st round, but come charging back over the next 3 for a top-3 finish. Both opened with 74s, but responded with 65-68 and 68-66, respectively, over the past 36 holes, with Pressel riding a 22-hole bogey-free streak into the final round. They're likely going to be way too far back to catch the leaders tomorrow, but another mid-60s round and they could be seeing top 5s. Right now Bae sits at -6 and Pressel at -5.

Like Pressel's, some of the best rounds of the day came from those going out the earliest. Firing 67s were Brittany Lincicome, Tamie Durdin, and Alison Walshe, which were good enough to move them from just making the cut to T29 right now.

They were able to move so far up because so many golfers who had been playing well struggled or stalled today. While there won't end up being many rounds above par among the top 45, there weren't as many sub-70 rounds as you'd expect on a relatively welcoming par-71 course, and the rest of the field had a lot of trouble even shooting even par. Some of the worst culprits in the "moving backward sweepstakes" were 2 of my favorite young Americans, Mina Harigae (75) and Vicky Hurst (79), but Chella Choi (74) and Libby Smith (72) also lost a lot of ground to the field.

But they shouldn't feel too bad--it can happen to anyone. Take Alena Sharp, who got it to -11 for the tournament with her birdies on 2 and 3. But then she entered a birdie drought, just as she got barraged with bogeys and worse. With only the 18th left to play, she's +2 on the day and -7 for the tournament. At least she's still ahead of rookie Beatriz Recari, who made 4 birdies on the front but could manage only an even-par 34, and ended the day at +1 (-5 for the tournament). Fellow rookie Pernilla Lindberg? Even-par 71 kept her at -5, as well. Stacy Lewis got it to -8 at the turn, but after 3 bogeys on the back, she ended her day at even par, as well, and -6 for the tournament, right with world #3 Ji-Yai Shin, who could only manage her 2nd-straight 70.

Even those right in the hunt could fall out of contention. Inbee Park? She started the day at -9 but needs a walkoff birdie to get to double digits under par. In-Kyung Kim? A 70 got her only to -7.

OK, enough about those who didn't take advantage of Highland Meadows today. What about those at the top of the leaderboard who did? Back in a flash!

[Update 1 (4:49 pm): Stacy Prammanasudh's bogey-free streak ended at 37 holes, but she broke 70 for the 3rd-straight day and sits at -8, T8 with Meena Lee, who fired her 2nd-straight 67. They got leapfrogged by Rookie of the year race leader Azahara Munoz, though, who matched Pressel's 66 today and has gone on a 35-hole bogey-free run to reach -9 for the tournament, tied with Song-Hee Kim, who hit 15 greens today but had to settle for a 68.

As for those who did get to double digits under par, well, the plot started thickening on the back 9. Inbee Park ended up making birdies on 2 of her last 3 holes to join Kristy McPherson (67) and Katherine Hull (65) at T3. Hull played her last 5 holes in even par, so her round of the day could have been even better. At the time Hull was making her move, though, it looked like Na Yeon Choi was running away with the tournament. A hole in 1 on the par-3 8th accompanied by 3 birdies in her 1st 13 holes got her to -16 for the tournament. But then she made 2 bogeys in a row and failed to birdie either closing par 5, so had to settle for a 68 that brought her to -14 overall. That means that there are 7 golfers now within 5 shots of the lead. And the closest of all to the leader is Christina Kim, who's gone 66-67-67 thus far and is only 1 behind Choi.]

[Update 2 (5:03 pm): Only 5 players have broken 70 all 3 rounds and only 15 have stayed under par each day. I expected the field to do better this week (hence my -20 to win prediction). Let's see if Christina Kim, Kristy McPherson, or Stacy Prammanasudh can win one for the ol' U.S. of A. tomorrow!]

[Update 3 (5:19 pm): Hound Dog notes in his 3-round overview how rare a Choi win would be this week. BTW, both she and Kim are going for their 3rd career LPGA win tomorrow!]

[Update 4 (6:08 pm): Some pretty cool pairings tomorrow. Pernilla Lindberg and Beatriz Recari face off at 11:23 am, Morgan Pressel and Eunjung Yi get to recapitulate their playoff at 11:39 am, followed by Class of '09 standouts Ji-Yai Shin and Stacy Lewis, and a few groups later by Kyeong Bae and Na On Min. Then there come the real contenders:

Start Time: 12:43 PM
Stacy Prammanasudh
Angela Stanford

Start Time: 12:51 PM
Song-Hee Kim
Meena Lee

Start Time: 12:59 PM
Inbee Park
Azahara Munoz

Start Time: 1:07 PM
Katherine Hull
Kristy McPherson

Start Time: 1:15 PM
Na Yeon Choi
Christina Kim

95% chance the winner comes from one of these pairings. 50-50 it becomes a Choi-Kim showdown.]

[Update 5 (11:32 pm): Congratulations to Misun Cho, Allison Hanna, and Libby Smith, who joined Jean Reynolds and Lisa Meldrum in qualifying for the Women's British Open. 1 of the 3 who qualified in the playoff today owes thanks to Marisa Baena, who qualified yesterday but declined the invitation. See's notes and interviews for more from the 3rd round!]

[Update 6 (7/6/10, 3:03 am): Here's Christina Kim on her moving day.]

[Update 7 (9:28 pm): Here's Jamie Belyea's take on CK's position after 54 holes.]

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