Saturday, July 10, 2010

U.S. Women's Open Saturday: Let the Games Begin

It's finally moving day at Oakmont, but for over half the field it's going to be 1 of the longest days of the year, as many of them just finished their second rounds of the U.S. Women's Open a couple of hours ago or less. Here are the pairings for the 3rd round--all I can say is thank some entity that Lexi Thompson is paired with Ji-Yai Shin and Ai Miyazato. Now NBC has no excuse not to focus on the 2 best golfers in the world (with Cristie Kerr and Suzann Pettersen right along with them, that is). After a quick shower (just shot a 4-over-in-my-last-6-holes 77), I'm off to my buddy's house to watch it on tv! Back this evening....

[Update 1 (8:07 pm): Well, turns out NBC was glued to the last 2 groups, with cutaways only to great or weird shots from other pairings (like Wendy's Ward's wedge almost bouncing in the hole, then sucking back 30 yards off the green or Inbee Park's approach on an early par 3 hit the flag high and rebound into the greenside bunker). I'm not complaining, because I got to see Oakmont's starting holes (and Natalie Gulbis) in HD, see Sakura Yokomine get a little bit of bad luck on each of her 1st 3 holes and end up going 5-over in that stretch, and see some great putts by Suzann Pettersen, Paula Creamer, and Brittany Lang. That and play with a 3-year-old boy whose parents know a lot about Kelli Shean because, like her, he needs help to hear. Cool experience and now I'm weighing whether to drive down to Pittsburgh tomorrow early morning or play some golf myself.

When I left, Golf Channel said Paula Creamer was -1 and Ai Miyazato was +10. Well, Creamer's back to -1 after following up a bogey on 7 with a great birdie on 10. But Ai-sama has gone from bad to worse. Even though she broke a 2-hole bogey streak on the back with a great birdie on the long par-5 12th and had 2 birdie holes ahead of her, she doubled the short par 3 and could only par the short par 4. Just like that, she's +7 on the day and officially out of the tournament. The difference has been her putting, which had been saving her the 1st 2 rounds. Heard on the coverage that they rolled the greens between rounds today and maybe it's just a question of misjudging the speed. Or putting the ball in the wrong place.

Whatever the reason, Miyazato's not alone in struggling today. Sophie Gustafson appears to have forgotten how to make birdies at Oakmont. After notching 11 in her 1st 2 rounds, she has 0 through 11 holes today, which is particularly bad timing, as she started double-bogey-bogey and added another bogey 3 holes later. If she can't turn things around immediately (she's +5 today and +7 overall), she'll have shot herself out of the tournament. Brittany Lang, after snagging birdies on 2 of her 1st 4 holes, has bogeyed 4 of her last 6 holes to drop back to +3 on her day and +4 for the tournament. Even Cristie Kerr is having trouble--she just made her 3rd double of the day (4th, 5th, and 10th) to go to +4 on her day and +5 for the tournament.

Don't get me wrong--there are some great rounds out there, too. 15-year-old Lexi Thompson may be having the best 1 of the bunch, as she's -1 through 16 holes and only +4 overall. Unlike the 1st 2 rounds, when she made 11 bogeys, she's only made 1 today and birdied 2 par 3s. Can you spell C-i-n-d-e-r-e-l-l-a? Ya Ni Tseng may not be too excited about today's 73, as she closed with a 38 on the front and took 34 putts in the round, leaving her at +9, but it may end up being 1 of the lowest scores of the day. And Wendy Ward had fought back from that hard-luck double by going -3 in her last 12 holes--she's alone in 2nd at +2 right now.]

[Update 2 (8:13 pm): Suzann Pettersen continues to hit more greens than anyone this week, but she's only made 1 birdie today and has bogeyed 2 of her last 4, which should show just how tough Oakmont is playing. She's alone in 3rd at +3. Amy Yang had been there after battling back from a tough start with birdies on the 4th and 10th, but she, too, just bogeyed the long par-5 12th to fall back to +4 with Lang and Thompson. The 12th knocked Natalie Gulbis back to +5 after she had gotten back-to-back birdies on 10 (which she tripled yesterday) and 11. In-Kyung Kim joins Kerr and Gulbis at +5, as she's +2 through 13 today.

So as well as Creamer is playing, there's still a heck of a lot of golf left to be played. As long as there's still daylight, that is.]

[Update 3 (8:16 pm): After a weak finish to her 2nd round, when she had a chance to break 70 and ended up with a 72, Jeong Jang has clawed her way back into the mix. A birdie at the long par-4 15th (which she had bogeyed the previous 2 rounds) brings her back to +2 on her day and +5 overall. Also at +5 is Karrie Webb, whose only big mistake today is bogeying the par-5 9th. She's parred every hole on the back and is playing 17, which is playing the easiest of any hole on Oakmont today. Onechan would be excited if Kerr, Creamer, and Gulbis--her 3 favorite players--were in the mix on Sunday!]

[Update 4 (8:19 pm): Wow! Thompson has followed up her birdie on 16 with another on 17 to get to +3 overall and -2 on her day!]

[Update 5 (8:21 pm): Uh-oh, Pettersen bogeyed another hole--the long par-5 12th, which should play to her strengths.]

[Update 6 (8:28 pm): Whoops, I had skipped Christina Kim, who's been battling today. She managed to make a birdie immediately or soon after each of her 3 bogeys on the front, but followed up the last of them on the tough 10th with disappointing bogeys on the next 2 holes to drop back to +5. Another player I skipped is Ji-Yai Shin, whose bogey-free 35 on the front brought her to +4 overall, but she's since bogeyed 10, 13, and 15 and only got it back to +6 with a birdie on 17. She's tied with Gulbis (who's now bogeyed 2 of her last 4 holes), Gustafson (who made her 1st birdie of the day on the long par-5 12th), Yokomine (who ended up with a 42 on the front), Stacy Lewis (who bounced back from a 40 on the front with a par-birdie-bogey-birdie start on the back), and Na Yeon Choi (who was -1 over her last 7 holes to secure her solid 72). Don't count any of these players out just yet.]

[Update 7 (8:32 pm): Rookie of the Year race leader Azahara Munoz continues her fine play--a walkoff birdie on the 9th gives her a 71, keeping her at +7 overall. Inbee Park and Shi Hyun Ahn matched Tseng's 73, putting Park at +8 and Ahn with Tseng at +9 for the tournament. Could we see a Sunday charge from any of these relatively well-rested players, who won't have to come out early to finish their 3rd rounds?]

[Update 8 (8:36 pm): Ugh--Ai-sama finished with an 80, leaving her at +14. Don't know if she of Song-Hee Kim (+13 after going 76-78 her last 2 rounds) is having a more disappointing Open. Morgan Pressel can't be too happy with her showing, she's +11 and has broken 75 only once so far at Oakmont this week.]

[Update 9 (8:39 pm): Speaking of disappointments, Lexi Thompson must be kicking herself for missing the 18th (only her 3rd green not hit in regulation all round!) and failing to get up and down. Still, a 70 on moving day is exactly what the doctor ordered. She's T3 right now, 6 shots behind a blazing-hot Paula Creamer, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if she was in the final group tomorrow and 3 shots behind when all is said and done.]

[Update 10 (8:45 pm): Gutsy 72 for Ji-Yai Shin to join Na Yeon Choi at +6, just as play was suspended for darkness. The last group will have 5 holes left to play. Couldn't have come at a better time for Cristie Kerr, who just bogeyed the long par-5 12th to go to +5 on her day and and +6 overall.]

[Update 11 (8:54 pm): Enjoy some live-tweeting from the LPGA and Beth Ann Baldry and live blogging from David Shefter.]

[Update 12 (9:12 pm): More scores have been posted as some players elected to finish their holes. Paula Creamer bogeyed the short par-3 13th to fall back to -1 on her day and for the tournament. Wendy Ward failed to birdie the short par-4 17th and will start tomorrow at 8 am on the tough 18th, hoping to shoot a 70 and stay at +2 overall. Suzann Pettersen birdied the short par-4 14th to get back to +1 on her round and +3 overall. She gets to start to start tomorrow on the tough 15th. Hoping to pass Alexis Thompson at +4 are Brittany Lang and Amy Yang. Lang starts on the tough 15th, while Yang plays the long par-3 16th, which nevertheless has been playing easy in the 3rd round. Natalie Gulbis birdied the short par-4 17th to get back to +5, joing Christina Kim (through 14), In-Kyung Kim (through 16), and Jeong Jang (through 17). Karrie Webb bogeyed 18 to post a 73 and join Ji-Yai Shin and Na Yeon Choi at +6. Angela Stanford starts with a birdie hole, the 17th, in an effort to join them. Maria Hjorth also starts with 17, hoping to pass Inbee Park at +8 and catch Azahara Munoz at +7. Chie Arimura's 76 leaves her at +9 with Ya Ni Tseng and Shi Hyun Ahn, while Brittany Lincicome and amateur Jennifer Johnson have a great chance to pass them, as they finish on the short par-5 9th.]

[Update 13 (9:15 pm): I'd really like to go to Pittsburgh to follow Ai-sama early and then decide which leaders to follow, but I also need to work on my own game. My short game is starting to come around, but I'm not hitting the ball well enough to go low just yet. It's frustrating being stuck in the high 70s on the Easiest Course in the World less than a week before the Utica City Amateur, but if I play I won't be able to follow Ai-sama.... Decisions, decisions!]

[Update 14 (9:20 pm): But if I go, I get to do my part to prove the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Ron Cook dead wrong. He wrote that "It's
pretty hard to imagine much of the country giving up a gorgeous summer weekend to stay inside to watch how Japan's Ai Miyazato and Korea's Jiyai Shin do at the U.S. Women's Open." Aaaaarghhhhh. Maybe I'd better not go. Might run into him.]

[Update 15 (9:24 pm): Just noticed that Ai-sama improved her ball-striking, hitting 10 fairways and 11 greens, but took 39 putts. Itai!!]

[Update 16 (9:41): Really liking what the Golf Digest Woman live-blog is doing. Ashley Mayo even posted audio of Ai-sama being interviewed between the 2nd and 3rd rounds!]

[Update 17 (9:44 pm): Nice job by Golf Channel's Randall Mell, too!]

[Update 18 (9:54 pm): You gotta love Christina Kim! Given that I had to wait on every shot today, I'm particularly frustrated by slow play right now!]

[Update 19 (10:06 pm): Have been mostly sticking with the USGA site lately, so it was neat to go to and find these profiles of the top contenders for #1 in the Rolex Rankings. And of course the Ai Miyazato "My Favorite Things" profile.]

[Update 20 (7/11/10, 6:17 am): Here's Mike Southern (who has real internet connectivity again for the 1st time in a while) on Paula Creamer's chances of getting her 1st major.]

[Update 21 (11:48 am): Nice look at how the field played the 1st hole on moving day by Ryan Ballengee.]

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