Sunday, July 11, 2010

U.S. Women's Open Saturday, Part 2: The Stage Is Set

Hound Dog and Brent Kelley focus on how the leaders finished out their 3rd rounds at the U.S. Women's Open. Paula Creamer continues to impress the heck out of me. I didn't even pick her in this week's PakPicker, thinking her thumb wasn't in any condition to handle Oakmont, but she has a 3-shot lead on Wendy Ward, a 4-shot lead on Suzann Pettersen, Christina Kim, and Amy Yang, and a 5-shot lead on Lexi Thompson heading into the final round. Of them, only Pettersen is striking the ball really well, so she might be Creamer's biggest threat today.

But frankly, I wouldn't put anyone still single digits over par out of this until we see how Creamer plays the front 9. There are some really good golfers at +5, from bombers Sophie Gustafson and Sakura Yokomine to straight shooters Cristie Kerr and Brittany Lang to precision players In-Kyung Kim and Natalie Gulbis. The names at +6 are just as impressive, comprising Hall of Famer Karrie Webb, recent world #1 Ji-Yai Shin, last week's winner Na Yeon Choi, straight shooter Angela Stanford, and Jeong Jang, who was one of the best players in the world before her wrist needed surgery. Young 'uns Stacy Lewis and Azahara Munoz along with veteran Maria Hjorth are definite threats at +7. Inbee Park at +8 is having a great year, loves USGA events, and is a fantastic putter. And Ya Ni Tseng is ready to break through whatever barriers are in her way at +9, Brittany Lincicome is hitting a bunch of greens, and Chie Arimura is accurate and tenacious.

Realistically, though, I'd expect the winner to be in the +2 to +5 range. Given that there's been only 1 score under 70 all week--and that was only a 69--anyone more than 5 behind Creamer at the start of the day will need a lot of help from her and most of the lead chase pack to have a chance. If I had to pick my favorite dark horses today, I'd go with In-Kyung Kim, Cristie Kerr, and Inbee Park.

Me, I decided to play 27 holes this morning, rather than drive down to Pittsburgh to watch the Open in person. My game is this close to coming together and I have my favorite tournament of the year coming up next week (my 1st one since 2004, no less). I'm going to see if anyone wants to watch the end of the Open with me this afternoon!

Here are the final-round pairings. Pretty cool that Amy Yang's in the final group! You might be seeing some fireworks from the Webb-Shin-Choi group early on! Going by the scoring summary for today's round, the last 6 holes on the front and the last 5 holes on the back appear to be more welcoming than the rest of Oakmont.

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