Thursday, December 2, 2010

LPGA Tour Championship Thursday: Orlando Enters the Twilight Zone

As Emily Kay and Ryan Ballengee point out, the 1st round of the LPGA Tour Championship was a potentially crushing disappointment for Ai Miyazato (2nd in the Player of the Year race, she hit 4 greens at Grand Cypress and shot an 80) and Ji-Yai Shin (2nd on the money list, she went +6 over her last 7 holes and posted a 77)--and it wasn't all that encouraging for POY leader Ya Ni Tseng (who made 3 bogeys in a row as she made the turn and ended up with a 75) or money-list leader Na Yeon Choi (who was rolling at -4 through 12 holes, but went double-double-bogey to drop back to +1, where she ended her round), much less Suzann Pettersen (who salvaged a 73 herself with a walkoff birdie after bogeying 2 of the 3 previous holes). In fact, the only player among those in contention for one of the LPGA's season-long races for whom today wasn't a big disappointment was Cristie Kerr, who recovered from a double bogey on the par-4 9th with a bogey-free 33 on the back and sits only 4 shots off the lead shared by Amy Yang and Seon Hwa Lee. Yang eagled her 2nd hole of the day, the par-5 11th, and followed it up with 4 more birdies and only 1 bogey the rest of her round, while Lee rattled off 3 birdies on each side and only 1 bogey in all.

As Ryan pointed out, this may be a week for players with little left to lose rather than the golfers who have the most to gain. When Julieta Granada, who hasn't been the same player since winning the ADT Championship at the end of her rookie year 4 years ago, sits alone in 3rd at -3, when the top of the leaderboard is filled with names of players whose LPGA campaigns have been disappointing in 2010--Tania Elosegui, Leta Lindley, and Laura Davies at -2, with Taylor Leon having a chance to improve on that score when play resumes tomorrow morning--and when the only highly-ranked player to join Cristie Kerr under par is Song-Hee Kim at -1, well, you have to wonder if more than the winds account for the disastrous openings for Miyazato and Shin (along with Stacy Lewis and Vicky Hurst, who shot 78s), shaky opening by Tseng (and Paula Creamer, who also shot a 75), and disappointing openings by Choi and Pettersen (along with In-Kyung Kim, Morgan Pressel, and Angela Stanford, who also shot 73s). Not all the bad scores came when the wind was up, after all. Mika Miyazato, who finished T2 in the JLPGA's season-ending Ricoh Cup last week and played with Seon Hwa Lee and Song-Hee Kim, shot a 79.

But now the tables are turned. For Yang, who's looking for her 1st and long overdue LPGA win, the pressure's now on. For Lee, who's endured the worst year of her career, so bad that she didn't even bother going to Japan to try to keep her JLPGA card in their Q-School this week, this event is her last chance to save her season. For Granada, it's her last chance to avoid yet another return to Q-School. Let's see how they handle the pressure tomorrow!

[Update 1 (8:34 pm): Hound Dog does a great job tracking players fighting for their '11 cards as well as those fighting for '10 end-of-season honors.]

[Update 2 (6:48 am): Awesome 1st-round interviews at Do yourself a favor and see what Annika Sorenstam, Laura Davies, and Leta Lindley in particular have to say!]

[Update 3 (9:40 am): Here's bangkokbobby on the 1st round. Check out his recent posts for much more on the Tour Championship and the LPGA.]

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