Sunday, August 29, 2010

Canadian Women's Open Saturday: Wie-Shin Showdown in the Works

Even though Michelle Wie missed more greens yesterday than in the previous 2 days combined and gave back every 1 of her 3 birdies with a corresponding bogey in rainy conditions, she kept her hopes for a wire-to-wire win at the Canadian Women's Open alive. It took Ji-Yai Shin a flurry of 3 birdies in her last 6 holes to tie Wie for the 54-hole lead at -10, but she may be the only real challenger left in the field, as Suzann Pettersen, Na Yeon Choi, and Jee Young Lee couldn't get many birdie putts to fall and are 4 back, while the only really low rounds of the day--a 66 by Rachel Hetherington, 67s by Catriona Matthew, Cristie Kerr, and Mina Harigae, and 68s by Christina Kim, Se Ri Pak, Brittany Lang, Mika Miyazato, and Lorie Kane--came by players who started the day so far back they'll need to shoot in the mid-60s or lower today to have a ghost of a chance of getting in the mix. In short, very few players with a chance of stopping Wie from getting her 2nd career LPGA tour victory made much of a move on moving day. Sometimes when you open the door, very few people walk through it.

But when the player who did may well be the best woman golfer in the world, it doesn't really matter that she's virtually alone. In a classic showdown between bomber and precision player, Shin will get to put pressure on Wie with her approach shots all day today. Only problem for Shin is that her ball-striking has been surprisingly suspect this week. She's hit 2/3 of her fairways and just under 2/3 of her greens in regulation, which would be acceptable for most top-level players, but are simply sub-par results (and not in a good way) for her. Unlike many of her fellow precision players, Shin does not seem to have an extra gear off the tee. While many are putting up straight-shooter-like numbers on St. Charles's firm fairways, Shin is barely averaging more than 250 yards off the tee. And while many of her fellow pea-shooters are also having trouble hitting fairways and greens this week--check out Morgan Pressel's numbers for a representative example (and note that she went +3 in her final 8 holes yesterday to fall out of contention), but see also Paula Creamer and In-Kyung Kim--it's Shin's putter that's keeping her alive thus far. She's not only made a lot of birdie putts but also a lot of par saves.

So in a day of marquee pairings--most notably Brittany Lincicome and Katherine Hull at 10:49, Ai Miyazato and Amy Yang at 10:57, Cristie Kerr and Christina Kim at 11:45, and Paula Creamer and Morgan Pressel at 11:53--all eyes will be on the final group. But it's worth noting that each of the final 3 pairings

Start Time: 12:09 PM
Suzann Pettersen
Catriona Matthew

Start Time: 12:17 PM
Jee Young Lee
Na Yeon Choi

Start Time: 12:25 PM
Ji-Yai Shin
Michelle Wie

feature 1 player who's significantly longer than her playing partner. Can Pettersen, Lee, and Wie take advantage of their length today? If Wie does, Shin is the only player in the field who can beat her. Should be pretty interesting, whether it turns into a shootout between Wie and Shin in their 4th round in a row together or a Sunday free-for-all. I may just have to bother one of my friends who has Golf Channel in a few hours!

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