Saturday, December 4, 2010

LPGA Tour Championship Saturday: Amy Yang Hangs Tough, Maintains 1-Shot Lead

2nd-round leader Amy Yang got off to a bad start for the 2nd-straight day at the LPGA Tour Championship and after a double bogey on the par-5 2nd and a bogey on the par-4 7th was trailing Maria Hjorth by a shot. In fact, she was tied with her 1st-round co-leader Seon Hwa Lee at -4 until she birdied the par-3 12th and Lee doubled it. When Lee went on to bogey the par-4 13th and Hjorth the par-4 14th, Yang had fought her way back to a tie for the lead. And when she bounced back from a bogey on the par-5 16th with back-to-back birdies to close out her round, her 73 left her at -6 with a 1-shot lead on Hjorth, a 3-shot lead on Lee and Cristie Kerr (who fired her 3rd-straight 71 of the week), and a 4-shot lead on Laura Diaz (whose 5-birdie 69 was the best--and only sub-70--round of the day).

For Yang, who added to her LET win at age 16 with 2 more wins over there in 2008, this is her best chance to get her 1st LPGA win. For Hjorth, who found her game in Asia and now has a great chance to get her 4th LPGA win and 1st since 2007, this is her best chance to win one for her fellow mothers on tour. She'll need to close better on Sunday than she has over the 3 previous rounds--she's a combined +4 on holes 13 through 18 with no birdies on any of them. For Lee, who's looking for her 5th LPGA victory and 1st since 2008, this is her chance to salvage what would otherwise have been the absolute worst season of her career. She'll need to keep riding a hot putter (only 73 putts in 54 holes, in part because she's hit only 26 greens in regulation!).

But of course the pressure on this trio is almost nothing compared to that on Cristie Kerr. If she were to win tomorrow and Na Yeon Choi were to continue to struggle (especially on the 9th and 12th through 16th holes, where she's shot herself out of contention), Kerr would take the Player of the Year award and the Vare Trophy and Choi would have to settle for having clinched the money-list title today when Ji-Yai Shin's 76 today guaranteed she wouldn't make the top 30. Congrats to Na Yeon for becoming the 2nd Korean (after Shin) to top the LPGA money list. As for current POY race leader Ya Ni Tseng, a pair of doubles today almost caused her to miss the cut, but as long as Kerr (or Choi) doesn't win the Tour Championship, Tseng will take the POY.

If all these players falter tomorrow, maybe In-Kyung Kim can build on today's 5-birdie 70 and make it 2 wins in a row to close out the season, matching Ai Miyazato's feat at its start. As for Miyazato, even though she shot a 71 today (1 of only 9 sub-par rounds), her +1 finish on the front over what turned out to be her final 8 holes of the LPGA season was just bad enough to put her on the wrong side of the cut line by a single shot. Paula Creamer, too, missed the cut by the same margin. That's gotta hurt worse than Suzann Pettersen's firing 3-straight 73s at Grand Cypress, but not by much. It's looking like a lot of players will be taking a lot of extra motivation for 2011 from the way their 2010 seasons ended.

So let's see how the final 18 holes of 2010 on the LPGA turn out. I'm rooting for Seon Hwa Lee to return to the winner's circle, but it would be pretty cool for the LPGA if Cristie Kerr were to come through on a Sunday when the pressure's on!

[Update 1 (6:52 pm): Here's Hound Dog's 3rd-round overview.]

[Update 2 (7:34 pm): Here are the notes and interviews from]

[Update 3 (7:37 pm): Nice job by Ryan Ballengee on Paula Creamer's failed effort to make the 3rd-round cut.]

[Update 4 (12/5/10, 6:46 am): bangkokbobby surveys the historic possibilities for the final round.]

No comments: