Despite a 2-hole bogey train midway through her 2nd round in the Safeway Classic, Ai Miyazato fought back to double digits under par with a 67 yesterday. She takes a 3-shot lead over Song-Hee Kim (64) and Na Yeon Choi (67)--and a 4-shot lead over fellow rivals for #1 in the world of women's golf Cristie Kerr (67) and Ji-Yai Shin (68)--into today's final round.
Miyazato was a little fortunate that the players who went super-low on moving day had pedestrian 1st rounds. Kim made 6 birdies and an eagle (on the par-5 10th) yesterday, but only managed 3 birdies and 3 bogeys on Friday. Ji-Young Oh, who fired a bogey-free 30 on the front yesterday thanks to 4 birdies in a row and an eagle on the par-5 8th, and followed it up with a 3-birdie, 2-bogey 34 on the back, could only manage a 37-37 performance the day before. And In-Kyung Kim, who opened with a birdieless 39 on the par-35 back 9 Thursday, continued her comeback with 4 birdies and an eagle between the 6th and 10th holes yesterday, but stalled out after that with only 1 birdie and 1 bogey the rest of the day to settle for a 66 that left her 6 shots off the pace.
Meanwhile, Choi, Shin, and Kerr have not been as sharp as we've come to expect them to be. Choi made 6 birdies Friday but also went double bogey-bogey on the same stretch of holes that Miyazato bogeyed yesterday, then twice got to -9 in her 2nd round but both times fell back with bogeys on the back. Shin was -4 through her 1st 6 holes on Thursday, but bogeyed 4 holes in a row as she made the turn and needed a birdie and an eagle on 2 of her 3 closing par 5s to break 70. Then yesterday she also made a pair of bogeys on the back, turning a great round into merely a really good one particularly with her walkoff bogey. And after a 4-birdie, 2-bogey 70 on Thursday, Kerr had it going yesterday with a 5-birdie, bogey-free 32 on the front but lost her momentum with bogeys on the par-3 11th and par-4 13th. She did well to recover with 2 birdies in her last 4 holes to get back within 4 of Miyazato.
If Miyazato keeps putting as well as she has the 1st 2 days today, this tournament is as good as over. She's averaging 13 greens and 25 putts per round over her 1st 2 rounds. She's bombing it out there over 277 yards off the tee (on the measuring holes), which translates into loads of birdie opportunities, and thanks to her hot putter, she's made 13 in 36 holes.
That kind of performance is even more impressive when you consider who missed the cut this week: not just defending champion M.J. Hur and Rookie of the Year race leader Azahara Munoz, but also the likes of Morgan Pressel, Paula Creamer, Christina Kim, and Karen Stupples. Ghost Creek is by no means an easy course, but Miyazato has made it look easy through 36 holes. Let's see if she can handle the pressure of going for her 5th LPGA win of 2010!
[Update 1 (9:05 am): Yes, I have been living under a rock lately--I didn't know about Juli Inkster's DQ until I read Hound Dog's excellent 2nd-round overview. Actually, the house hunt has gone into high gear and the fall semester starts tomorrow, so what with not-so-vicariously experiencing the girls' jet lag and having trouble getting online with the laptop the Full Metal Archivist took to Japan with her, I haven't had much time for golf blogging lately. I know, sacrilege!]
[Update 2 (9:13 am): Further evidence of Ghost Creek's toughness.... 2-time major winner this season Ya Ni Tseng barely made the cut--right on the number. Rookie Mina Harigae followed up her opening 69 with a 76 on moving day. Fellow rookie Mariajo Uribe went 77-69 to join Harigae in making the cut. But the only other not-quite-ready-for-prime-time New Blood (and not-yet-New Blood) generation players to join them were Alison Walshe (73-68), Cindy LaCrosse (73-71), Jennifer Song (75-72), nd Paola Moreno (74-73). No Amanda Blumenherst, Gwladys Nocera, Beatriz Recari, Pernilla Lindberg, or Christine Song today .... No former ROYers Dorothy Delasin (70-81) or Angela Park (78-75). And no Mi Hyun Kim! :(]
[Update 3 (9:22 am): Here's LPGA.com's notes and interviews page.]