Saturday, August 21, 2010

Safeway Classic Friday: Is Ai Miyazato Back?

Yesterday was "fortunately, unfortunately" day at the Safeway Classic.

Fortunately, my favorite golfer, Ai Miyazato, fired a bogey-free 66 to take the lead after round 1. Hitting 13 greens and taking only 25 putts was the key to her round. Ai-sama credited her great results to her near-win in Japan last week as well as a different mental approach to putting in her interview, but I have to wonder if improved distance off the tee--264 yards on measured holes--played as big a role in helping her attack Ghost Creek.

Unfortunately, one of my favorite golfers, Jeong Jang, withdrew after an opening 78. As Hound Dog pointed out recently, JJ had been making steady progress this season after last year's wrist surgery and seemed poised to rejoin the LPGA's super-elite. Here's hoping she didn't reinjure her wrist. Only bright side if she did is that this isn't a bad time in the LPGA schedule to need some time off....

Fortunately, Jee Young Lee, another favorite of mine who's been struggling a bit lately, got it going at Ghost Creek yesterday with a 6-birdie 67. If it weren't for her walkoff bogey, she'd be tied with Ai-sama at the top, instead of their fellow '06er Teresa Lu. Good driving and putting characterized both their rounds, as well. Lee only hit 6 fairways, but when you bomb it out there over 278 yards, you give yourself chances to hit a lot of greens. And she came through 15 out of 18 times and took only 28 putts in all. Meanwhile, Lu hit 12 of 14 fairways and like Miyazato was getting it out in the mid-260s, so it should come as no surprise that she hit 14 greens and took 27 putts.

Unfortunately, fellow '06er Julieta Granada opened with an 81 that included 7 bogeys and 2 doubles. Her struggles on the LPGA seem neverending.

Fortunately, former Rookie of the Year Dorothy Delasin gave hope that it's possible to play through a long-term slump, as she matched the 70s by Cristie Kerr and Laura Davies on the strength of 288-yard driving, 13 greens in regulation, and only 28 putts.

Unfortunately, former Rookie of the Year Angela Park couldn't take advantage of Ghost Creek yesterday, opening with a 78. She was even through her 1st 7 holes, but suffered through a stretch in the next 9 in which she made 4 bogeys and a triple--this despite averaging 255 yards off the tee and hitting 10 greens.

Fortunately, someone who was planning to be involved in this year's Rookie of the Year race finally got it going at Ghost Creek. Mina Harigae was 1 of 13 players to break 70 in the 1st round; her 69, sparked by nearly 270-yard drives and 15 greens in regulation, tied Juli Inkster, Ji-Yai Shin, Na Yeon Choi, Eun-Hee Ji, and Stephanie Louden. Wouldn't it be awesome if Harigae made like defending champion M.J. Hur this time around and got a surprise win in her rookie season?

Unfortunately, a triple bogey on the par-4 17th, her 8th hole, helped drop M.J. Hur to an opening 74, tied with Paula Creamer, Seon Hwa Lee, Sophie Gustafson, Katherine Hull, Kristy McPherson, Jane Park, Paola Moreno, and the Pacific Northwest's own Paige Mackenzie at T61. Here's hoping they all make the cut today!

Fortunately, Momoko Ueda bounced back from another disappointing JLPGA result to post a 6-birdie 68 yesterday, tying Taiwan's own Amy Hung, sweet-swinging Chella Choi, and long-hitting Brittany Lincicome in the process. Momo-chan couldn't quite match Lincicome's 290 yards off the tee (averaging just over 281 herself), but she hit 14 greens and took only 28 putts in all.

Unfortunately, long-hitting Ya Ni Tseng couldn't bounce back from a par-double-bogey start, despite averaging almost 287 yards off the tee and hitting 10 fairways, and had to settle for a 75 that put her at T77 with Jennifer Song, Mika Miyazato, and Stacy Prammanasudh, among others.

Fortunately, Inbee Park continued her long-hitting ways of this season, averaging 290 yards off the tee herself and keeping herself in the mix with a solid 71....

There's more to be said about the 1st round, but not by me. We've got a lot of houses to look at in a few hours, so time to get some rest.

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