Saturday, October 30, 2010

Hana Bank Championship Saturday: Can Song-Hee Kim and Na Yeon Choi Stay Ahead of the Pack?

Inbee Park closed with a 31 today at the Hana Bank Championship to post the low score of the week, a 67, but even her birdie-par-birdie-eagle finish could only bring her within 3 shots of Na Yeon Choi and 4 of Song-Hee Kim, the only golfers in the field to break 70 each of the 1st 2 rounds. Despite 68s by KLPGA rookie Jung-Min Lee, major winner Jeong Jang, world #2 Ji-Yai Shin, and Hall of Famer Juli Inkster, Choi and Kim achieved a small measure of separation from the field by matching that number, each with 6 birdies and a pair of bogeys today. Kim bogeyed her next-to-last hole and birdied her last to regain a 1-shot lead on Choi, -8 to -7.

Still, with 11 players breaking 70 today and 12 within 5 shots of the lead heading into tomorrow's final round, we're much more likely to see a Sunday free-for-all than a duel on the Ocean course. Vicky Hurst also birdied her last hole of the day to pull within 2 of Kim, Inkster's only 3 back, Park, Suzann Pettersen, Hee-Won Han, Mika Miyazato, So Yeon Ryu, and Amanda Blumenherst are 4 behind, and Shin and Jang are 5 off the pace. With Cristie Kerr, In-Kyung Kim, Jee Young Lee, Sun Young Yoo, Stacy Lewis, and Kristy McPherson among those at -2 and the likes of Paula Creamer, Katherine Hull, Michelle Wie, Karen Stupples, Maria Hjorth, and Catriona Matthew at -1, I wouldn't put it past any of them to mount an early charge tomorrow.

There are certainly birdies to be had out there. To give one example of many, the KLPGA's Ryu had 6 birdies yesterday and 7 today, but has gone only 70-70. Even though a pair of doubles on the front did her in today, Ryu's 1st 36 holes shows that there's still time for someone to put pressure on Kim, who's been seeking her 1st LPGA win for what feels like forever. It should be a very exciting Halloween!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Hana Bank Championship Friday: Song-Hee Kim and Vicky Hurst Lead Bunched Field

Just like on the JLPGA today, only 4 players broke 70 in the 1st round of the Hana Bank Championship, with Song-Hee Kim and Vicky Hurst taking a 1-shot lead over Na Yeon Choi and Amy Hung. Trailing by 2 are last week's winner Jimin Kang, the red-hot Mika Miyazato, the almost-as-hot Katherine Hull and Jee Young Lee, rookie Amanda Blumenherst, the KLPGA's So Yeon Ryu, Euro hottie Karine Icher, and a study-abroad student you may have heard of by the name of Michelle Wie. With the likes of Cristie Kerr, Suzann Pettersen, Juli Inkster, Brittany Lincicome, and Stacy Lewis only 3 behind the co-leaders and In-Kyung Kim, Paula Creamer, and Morgan Pressel only 4 off the pace, anything can happen over the weekend. I wouldn't even count out Ji-Yai Shin, Inbee Park, and Amy Yang at +1, Christina Kim and Seon Hwa Lee at +2, or the KLPGA's Hee Kyung Seo and Jung Min Lee at +3, although they'll all need to go pretty low to claw their way back into contention.

As Mike Southern noted, Song-Hee Kim made it to -5 before bogeying the par-4 16th. Defending champion Na Yeon Choi also made 5 birdies today, but twice bogeyed par 4s on the back. Most of the other big-name players weren't as sharp. Shin, for instance, was -1 through 13 but doubled the par-4 14th and bogeyed the par-3 17th before bouncing back with a walkoff birdie on the par-5 18th. Her playing partner Wie needed 2 birdies in her last 2 holes to offset her 2 bogeys in her previous 5 holes that had erased her pair of birdies on the front. The 3rd member of the group, Kerr, had it going for a while with 3 birdies in a 5-hole stretch late on the front, but couldn't sustain her momentum for the next 5 holes before slipping with bogeys on 14 and 16. Her only bright spot after the 8th hole was a birdie on the par-4 15th.

But hey, at least they didn't lose it like the 14 players who failed to even shoot a 75, among them KLPGA stars Shin-Ae Ahn (76), Bo-Mee Lee (77), and Ran Hong (79) and LPGA stalwarts Hee Young Park (76), Momoko Ueda (77), and Brittany Lang (77). Good thing for them there's no cut this week!

[Update 1 (5:06 am): Here are notes and interviews from]

[Update 2 (9:36 am): Here's Hound Dog's overview.]

Hisako Higuchi IDC Otsuka Kagu Ladies Friday: Nikki Campbell and Mayu Hattori Lead Bunched Field

Only 4 players broke 70 in the 1st round of the Hisako Higuchi IDC Otsuka Kagu Ladies today, with Nikki Campbell and Mayu Hattori taking a 1-shot lead over Akane Iijima and Hiromi Mogi. Sakura Yokomine and Mi-Jeong Jeon, hoping to take advantage of money-list leader Sun-Ju Ahn's taking a week off to prepare for the Mizuno Classic, are only 3 shots off the pace heading into the 2nd round, while Chie Arimura and Yukari Baba are another shot back.

Here's how the leaders and notables did today:

T1/-4 Nikki Campbell, Mayu Hattori (68)
T3/-3 Akane Iijima, Hiromi Mogi (68)
T5/-2 Na-Ri Kim, Asako Fujimoto, Kaori Aoyama, Tamie Durdin, Ritsuko Ryu, Ikue Asama, Mikiyo Nishizuka, Yoko Inoue (70)

T13/-1 Sakura Yokomine, Mi-Jeong Jeon, Shiho Oyama, Ayako Uehara, Mie Nakata, Miki Saiki, Eun-A Lim, Rikako Morita, Na-Ri Lee, Yuki Ichinose (71)
T27/E Chie Arimura, Yukari Baba, Hyun-Ju Shin, Yun-Jye Wei, Jae-Hee Bae (72)
T40/+1 Shinobu Moromizato, Ji-Woo Lee, Maiko Wakabayashi, Miho Mori [a] (73)
T51/+2 Li-Ying Ye, So-Hee Kim, Erina Hara, Onnarin Sattayabanphot, Serena Aoki [a], Harukyo Nomura [a] (74)
T64/+3 Akiko Fukushima, Yuko Mitsuka, Rui Kitada, Hiromi Takesue, Chieko Amanuma (75)
T90/+6 Esther Lee (78)
T95/+8 Ai-Yu Tu (80)

Nice starts by Durdin and Oyama, although both let a lot of shots slip away. Durdin opened with a bogey-free 32 and closed with a birdie-less 38, while Oyama made a double and 2 bogeys to nearly offset her 5 birdies. If they want to keep their cards for 2011, they'd better minimize their mistakes the next 2 rounds. This is probably their best chance to get top 5s before the fields get a lot stronger on the JLPGA. Hyun-Ju Shin's another player who cancelled out her 5 birdies today; she opened with a pair of them, then made 2 doubles in a row midway through her round, then bounced back with 3 birdies in a row near the end of her round. I'd love to see her make a run this week, but mistakes like those are what's keeping her from becoming the top 10 player she was for the 1st 4 years of her JLPGA career. Oh, and let's see if veteran Nishizuka can capitalize on today's hole-in-one. She's been having the worst season of her long career and is in desperate need of a great finish to hope to avoid Q-School.

Just to underscore the importance of avoiding trouble, I'll close by noting that the co-leaders each made the same number of birdies as Oyama, but limited their mistakes to 1 bogey each. Meanwhile, Yokomine made like Durdin and went 33-37 and Jeon needed 3 late birdies to salvage her 71. Let's see how they all handle the pressure on the weekend!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

This Makes Me Proud

Onechan, a 1st-grader, is trying to read a 50-page "Step 3" illustrated story based on The Incredibles--which we've been watching every other day for the last few weeks (not to mention watching the awesome short "Jack-Jack Attack" much more often!). Guess which words and phrases she's been having no problem reading on her own....

"bad guy"
"ran for our lives"
"his own robot"
"after us"
"Syndrome's guards"
"in trouble"
"pretend to be normal"
"not a real Super"
"slipped into her force field"
"super speed"
"she set us free too"
"with his remote control"
"We got there just in time"
"turned into a fireball"
"Super-strong little monster"
"We have the best family!"
"save the day"

Oh, and guess who's going trick-or-treating as Violet?

All I can say is, there's hope for that girl yet!

Hana Bank Championship Preview, Predictions, Pairings

It's deja vu all over again as the LPGA's finest return to chilly Korea to take another key step toward deciding who will win the season-long races for the money-list title, Player of the Year, Vare Trophy, and top spot in the Rolex Rankings. That's right, it's time for the Hana Bank Championship, where the top golfers from the KLPGA will try to prevent a 3rd consecutive victory by the visiting LPGAers at the Sky 72 Golf Club and the most recent champions Suzann Pettersen, Candie Kung, and Na Yeon Choi will try as hard as Jin Joo Hong, Shi Hyun Ahn, and Jee Young Lee before them--whose non-member wins in Korea got them LPGA membership--to become the 1st-ever repeat winner of this event.

The Ocean Course (also known as The Champion--Candie Kung Course!) is not so different from the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club from last week's Malaysia event: lots of water in play puts good judgment on strategy and club selection, trust in your swing, solid ball-striking, accuracy, and guts at a premium. So who in this packed field will excel this week? Seoul's KLPGA stats, Hound Dog's Hot 20 and tournament preview, and's preview and pre-tournament notes and interviews (and Jennifer Song's vlog!) are all worth checking out. But the key factor to keep in mind is that the cold weather and longer par 3s and par 4s may shift the advantage this week from the precision players to the straight shooters. So here are my entries in this week's PakPicker:

1. Kerr
2. Choi Na Yeon
3. Shin
4. Kim Song-Hee
5. Creamer
6. Hull
7. Pettersen
8. Pressel
9. Miyazato Mika
10. Seo Hee Kyung
11. Park Inbee
12. Lee Bo Mee

Alts: Lee Jee Young, Yoo, Lewis

I dislike the tournament organizers' decision to segregate (for the most part) KLPGA and LPGA regulars in the 1st-round pairings. What's the point of a co-sponsored event if the players only mix in 2 of the 3 competitive rounds? Still, I have to admit there are some pretty good groupings that result. Here are my faves:

1st tee, 10:29 AM
Na Yeon Choi
Paula Creamer
Morgan Pressel

1st tee, 10:40 AM
Ji-Yai Shin
Cristie Kerr
Michelle Wie

1st tee, 9:56 AM
Song-Hee Kim
Maria Hjorth
Mika Miyazato

1st tee, 10:18 AM
Brittany Lincicome
In-Kyung Kim
Suzann Pettersen

1st tee, 9:45 AM
Jeong Jang
Stacy Lewis
Hee-Won Han

1st tee, 10:07 AM
Juli Inkster
Katherine Hull
Hee Young Park

10th tee, 9:45 AM
Eun-Hee Ji
Inbee Park
M.J. Hur

1st tee, 8:50 AM
Shi Hyun Ahn
Teresa Lu
Momoko Ueda

10th tee, 10:18 AM
Sun Young Yoo
Jee Young Lee
Amy Yang

1st tee, 8:39 AM
Mirim Lee
Bo-Mee Lee
Hee Kyung Seo

10th tee, 8:39 AM
Hyun-Hee Moon
Jennifer Song
Jung-Min Lee

With Ai Miyazato sitting this one out (in preparation for her stretch run of 5 tournaments in 5 weeks with 3 massive trans-Pacific flights mixed in for fun), this week is a great opportunity for the new #1 in the world of women's golf to consolidate her position in the Rolex Rankings and put herself in the lead or in serious contention for every season-end award the LPGA gives out. Kerr needs a great performance, as Choi and Shin are playing the entire Asian swing and Miyazato and Ya Ni Tseng spring back into action in the Mizuno Classic, which she's skipping. Let's see if she comes through!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Looking Ahead to the Mizuno Classic

I'm really pumped up for next week's Mizuno Classic, where everyone on the top 40 of the JLPGA money list except Yuri Fudoh will be teeing it up against most of the LPGA's finest.

Unfortunately, Cristie Kerr, Suzann Pettersen, In-Kyung Kim, Michelle Wie, Paula Creamer, Juli Inkster, Se Ri Pak, Shanshan Feng, Jeong Jang, Brittany Lang, Beatriz Recari, and Karen Stupples are taking the week off, while dual LPGA-JLPGA members Shiho Oyama, Teresa Lu, and Tamie Durdin failed to qualify for this elite event. But it'll be interesting to see if Inbee Park, who's played better in Japan than outside it this season, can continue to outshine fellow dual members Ji-Yai Shin, Ai Miyazato, and Momoko Ueda when they compete together on the JLPGA--and outplay Morgan Pressel, and Ya Ni Tseng, who hasve each won a JLPGA major this season [thanks, John!]. I wonder whether any of the top Koreans on the JLPGA like Sun-Ju Ahn, Mi-Jeong Jeon, Ji-Hee Lee, Young Kim, Eun-A Lim, Na-Ri Kim, Hyun-Ju Shin, Ji-Woo Lee, and Na-Ri Lee can accomplish what defending champion Bo-Bae Song did last year. And above all, I wonder if any of the top Japanese golfers--particularly Sakura Yokomine and Chie Arimura--will be able to follow in Ueda's footsteps and gain LPGA membership via a win next week.

Of course, all eyes will be on the battle between Shin, Miyazato, and Na Yeon Choi for worldwide supremacy in women's golf. Shin and Choi have done just about everything well this year but win in bunches. For Ai-sama, who's skipping the Hana Bank Championship to rest before what's looking like a 5-tournament run--Japan to Mexico to Japan to Florida--to end the 2010 season, a hot start in the Mizuno is particularly important. 5 of the 6 times she's broken 70 in the 1st round of an LPGA event this season, she's gone on to win (a T19 when she was defending last year's Evian Masters title was the only exception). She hasn't broken 67 on the LPGA since her win at the Safeway in late August and has broken 70 only twice in 17 rounds on the JLPGA, so she's probably due to start going low again, particularly given how well she's been putting on both tours. Plus she'll have the added incentive of needing to make up ground on her top competitors, who are all playing in Korea this week. Ai-sama was clearly the best player in the world in the 1st half of this season, but she'll need a spark at the Mizuno and a great stretch run to end the season that way.

Golf Channel did a cute profile on Ai-sama and Mikan:

Can't wait to see what the Japanese media comes up with--and what makes it onto youtube....

[Update 1 (11/1/10, 1:57 pm): Here's how the LPGA's key season-long races look following Na Yeon Choi's great win in Korea!]

[Update 2 (11/3/10, 3:13 am): With Nikki Campbell out, Teresa Lu is in. It's Lu's last chance to make the top 50 on the JLPGA money list and avoid a return to their Q-School to keep her card now, just as it is for Seon Hwa Lee. Let's see if they can rise to the challenge this week!]

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

There's a New #1 in Town: Cristie Kerr

After her strong weekend in Malaysia, Cristie Kerr took the yellow jersey from Ai Miyazato in the race to determine who will be the 1st player not named Sorenstam or Ochoa to end a season atop the Rolex Rankings. Miyazato also got leapfrogged by Ji-Yai Shin, who extended her money-list lead on Na Yeon Choi. Here's how all the season-long races look heading into the Hana Bank Championship as the LPGA's Asian swing moves into Korea this week.

1. Ji-Yai Shin $1.52M (1 win in 16 starts, 133 Player of the Year points, 70.17 scoring average, 3.88 birdies per round, 10.76 Rolex points [#2])
2. Na Yeon Choi $1.47M (1/19, 134, 69.94, 4.18, 9.38 [#6])
3. Ya Ni Tseng $1.44M (3/16, 2 majors, 176, 70.57, 3.77, 10.26 [#5])
4. Cristie Kerr $1.43M (2/18, 1 major, 166, 69.89, 4.22, 10.88 [#1])
5. Ai Miyazato $1.40M (5/18, 174, 70.47, 4.03, 10.63 [#3])
6. Suzann Pettersen $1.34M (0/16, 115, 70.05, 3.75, 10.31 [#4])
7. Song-Hee Kim $1.03M (0/18, 95, 70.14, 3.98, 7.29 [#8])
8. In-Kyung Kim $.86M (0/18, 83, 70.65, 3.76, 7.14 [#9])
9. Michelle Wie $.86M (1/17, 62, 71.25, 3.61, 8.06 [#7])
10. Inbee Park $.75M (0/17, 55, 70.97, 3.46, 6.24 [#12])
11. Paula Creamer $.74M (1/11, 1 major, 64, 71.08, 3.47, 7.09 [#10])
12. Katherine Hull $.71M (1/20, 66, 71.44, 3.30, 4.91 [#20])

Ryan Ballengee rightly points out that the differences between the top 5 in the Rolex Rankings are so small as to render them fairly useless for determining who actually is the number 1 female golfer in the world. That's why I've developed my own BCS-like ranking system, which, while sadly in need of an update, at least has the benefit of giving players who rank highly across a variety of other ranking systems a leg up on rivals who stand out in only 1 or 2. And it's why I've been focusing on season-long races in this series of posts that focuses on some of the data I believe ought to be used to develop a ranking system. (For the sake of simplicity, I don't include the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index or Hound Dog's Top 70 here.) Given that the LPGA no longer has a single dominant player, using a range of data and selecting an arbitrary endpoint (such as the end of the season) is really the only way to (temporarily) settle the question of who's the best in the world of women's golf for a time. And don't even get me started on how to factor in those who have been winning a lot on other tours, like Sun-Ju Ahn, Lee-Anne Pace, and Bo Mee Lee!

[Update 1 (3:41 am): Here's's breakdown of the various races!]

[Update 2 (1:31 pm): Here's Jay Busbee's sensible take on the significance of the Rolex Rankings.]

[Update 3 (1:33 pm): Here's Golf Girl!]

Monday, October 25, 2010

Masters GC Ladies Sunday: Sakura's Back!

Last year's JLPGA money leader Sakura Yokomine has been as close to invisible on tour this season as it's possible for a player of her caliber to be. Sure she'd won once coming into this week, finished within the top 10 in 15 of 22 previous events, and kept her scoring average below 71 for the 3rd-straight season, but she hadn't been getting into contention nearly as often as I've become used to seeing her be. Instead, she's been overshadowed by the brilliance of rookies Sun-Ju Ahn and Inbee Park, outwon by rival Mi-Jeong Jeon, and generally not the same player who broke the JLPGA's single-seasons winnings record last year.

Well, this week at the Masters GC Ladies, Yokomine stole the headlines from the rest of the JLPGA's finest and even overshadowed Paula Creamer's visit to Japan. A hole in 1 yesterday on the 195-yard 7th hole sparked an opening 32 that gave her a 3-shot lead on Yukari Baba and a 4-shot lead on Jeon heading into the final 9. Sure, Creamer birdied 5 holes on the front to make up a shot on her, but she, too, was 4 down as Yokomine made the turn. From there, all the leaders found it tough to make birdies except for Baba, who made 3 of them in a 4-hole stretch mid-way through the back and would have tied Yokomine except that the leader birdied the 1 hole Baba failed to during that run. It all came down to the last 3 holes, on which both players went par-bogey-par--and, voila, Sakura's back!

1st/-10 Sakura Yokomine (71-67-68)
2nd/-9 Yukari Baba (67-71-69)
3rd/-7 Mi-Jeong Jeon (69-69-71)
4th/-6 Paula Creamer (74-69-67)
T5/-4 Young Kim (71-70-71), Chie Arimura (71-69-72)
T7/-3 Saiki Fujita (73-71-69), Na-Ri Lee (71-72-70)
9th/-2 Maiko Wakabayashi (71-70-73)
T10/-1 Mayu Hattori (76-71-68), Ikue Asama (74-70-71), Li-Ying Ye (72-70-73)

T13/E Bo-Bae Song (77-72-67), Mie Nakata (73-72-71), Ji-Hee Lee (73-70-73), Jae-Hee Bae (71-71-74)
T18/+1 Ayako Uehara (73-72-72), Hiromi Mogi (70-75-72), Asako Fujimoto (74-69-74), Shinobu Moromizato (71-72-74), Tamie Durdin (69-70-78)
T23/+2 Kumiko Kaneda (77-70-71), Rikako Morita (73-74-71), Sun-Ju Ahn (73-73-72), Nikki Campbell (72-72-74), So-Hee Kim (72-72-74), Yuko Mitsuka (72-68-78)
T29/+3 Ah-Reum Hwang (76-70-73), Miki Saiki (72-73-74)
T31/+4 Kaori Aoyama (73-74-73), Eun-A Lim (73-74-73)
T37/+6 Akane Iijima (74-73-75), Ritsuko Ryu (71-75-76), Yuki Ichinose (72-73-77)
T42/+7 Na-Ri Kim (76-73-74)
47th/+9 Yuri Fudoh (71-76-78)
T48/+10 Kyung-Min Lin (75-74-77)
50th/+11 Chieko Amanuma (72-75-80)

Yokomine made up some serious ground on Ahn, but she has a long way to go if she wants to repeat as the JLPGA's money-list queen!

1. Sun-Ju Ahn ¥125.22M
2. Sakura Yokomine ¥92.40M
3. Mi-Jeong Jeon ¥77.87M
4. Yukari Baba ¥77.08M
5. Chie Arimura ¥66.41M
6. Saiki Fujita ¥61.17M
7. Yuri Fudoh ¥61.15M
8. Akane Iijima ¥57.42M
9. Rui Kitada ¥54.55M
10. Inbee Park ¥53.91M
11. Nikki Campbell ¥53.27M
12. Ji-Hee Lee ¥49.67M
13. Young Kim ¥46.90M
14. Shinobu Moromizato ¥41.35M
15. Ayako Uehara ¥40.47M
16. Mayu Hattori ¥39.89M
17. Miki Saiki ¥39.77M
18. Eun-A Lim ¥38.22M
19. Mie Nakata ¥36.97M
20. Na-Ri Kim ¥33.37M
21. Miho Koga ¥34.53M
22. Hyun-Ju Shin ¥34.38M
23. Ji-Yai Shin ¥33.38M
24. Hiromi Mogi ¥31.11M
25. Ji-Woo Lee ¥29.99M
26. Asako Fujimoto ¥29.85M
27. Hiromi Takesue ¥29.19M
28. Akiko Fukushima ¥28.86M
29. Bo-Bae Song ¥28.68M
30. Na-Ri Lee ¥28.07M
31. Ah-Reum Hwang ¥26.87M
32. Maiko Wakabayashi ¥25.31M
33. Kaori Aoyama ¥23.28M
34. Yun-Jye Wei ¥22.78M
35. Rikako Morita ¥21.80M

Final-round collapses were costly for Tamie Durdin and Yuko Mitsuka, who moved up only 1 spot each to #47 and #49, respectively. Shiho Oyama's missed cut leaves her at #71. Even Ai Miyazato is only at #46 (although she has 2 big-purse events to go on the JLPGA).... Things are really tightening up over in Japan!

Here's the field list for this week's event, which is named after JLPGA legend Hisako Higuchi. The week after that is the Mizuno!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia Sunday: Jimin Kang Fires 65 to Deny Juli Inkster

Jimin Kang was only 3 shots off the lead heading into the final round of the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia event, but I never considered for a second that she would be the one to prevail in the end--and in so doing take her 2nd career LPGA title. Sure, I had just promoted her to 6th-most-likely-to-win among the golfers with 1 LPGA victory to their names, but with Jee Young Lee (#2 on the same list) leading, Natalie Gulbis (#7) in the hunt, Song-Hee Kim poised to get her 1st win, and none other than the Final Round Queen, Ji-Yai Shin, only 3 back, as well, I figured almost anyone but Kang would win.

But after erasing a 1st-hole birdie with a 2nd-hole bogey, Kang was flawless, making 6 birdies and no bogeys the rest of the way. A closing flurry of birdies--3 in her last 4 holes, including a walkoff birdie on the 54th hole--put the pressure on Inkster, who had birdied 4 of her 5 previous holes heading into 18. But as Bill Jempty notes, Inkster pushed her approach into a right-side bunker and failed to save par. And just like that, as Golf Babes notes, Kang had her 1st win since 2005.

It was another good week for Mika Miyazato, but a weak finish on moving day and an inability to match Inkster's and Kang's closing charges today relegated her into a tie for 3rd with Maria Hjorth, who kept offsetting every birdie she made today with a follow-up bogey, capped off by her last on 18. Cristie Kerr made a charge to leap to solo 8th, but she would have tied Shin for 6th if she, too, hadn't bogeyed the final hole. With Ai Miyazato unable to go low after a terrible 1st round and tied for 28th, it'll be interesting to see if she gets passed by Kerr and Shin, or just 1 of them, and whether Shin will leapfrog Kerr in the Rolex Rankings.

More on this when we return to Dunkirk. We had a great time in Rochester, haging with my parents at the Strong Museum and talking science fiction and comics with Alter Ego (who let me read Warren Ellis's Planetary--awesome!). But now it's time to hit the road to get back in time for onechan and imoto's skating lessons! Speaking of which, congratulations to Daisuke Takahashi for winning the NHK Cup today in Japan. With Sakura Yokomine winning in Japan, Bo Mee Lee in Korea, and Lee-Anne Pace in China, it's been an eventful weekend in golf! More soon....

[Update 1 (9:14 am): In the meantime, here's Hound Dog's play-by-play!]

[Update 2 (8:09 pm): We travelled all across western NY looking for a Violet (from The Incredibles) costume for onechan, to no avail. So here's Hound Dog's epilogue while we go online to find it--and then to bed!]

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia Saturday: Jee Young Lee's Big Chance

Hound Dog and I have been predicting a breakthrough for Jee Young Lee for years now. She's now #2 on my list of the best golfers with only 1 LPGA victory. Well, if she can outpace Maria Hjorth, deny Song-Hee Kim her 1st win on tour, hold off Juli Inkster, Natalie Gulbis, and Mika Miyazato, and prevent anyone 3 shots or more behind her from taking a run at her tomorrow in the final round of the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia--such as world #3 and Final-Round Queen Ji-Yai Shin, who's only 3 back--she'll have her 2nd LPGA win and 1st as a member of the toughest tour in the world of women's golf. With 23 golfers within 5 shots of the lead and only 18 holes left to play, however, this could be anyone's tournament, particularly when it seems like water comes into play on every hole at the par-71 Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club. Should be a roller coaster of a final round tomorrow!

[Update 1 (10:49 am): Ouch--just realized that Seon Hwa Lee got it to -5 before making a double, a bogey, and no birdies in her last 5 holes. Contrast that to Amy Yang, who's finished strong with 3 birdies in her last 7 holes both rounds, and you see how dangerous even those at -2 are.]

[Update 2 (10:50 am): With Ai Miyazato, Cristie Kerr, Ya Ni Tseng, and Suzann Pettersen all over par this week, Ji-Yai Shin has a great chance to move up the Rolex Rankings tomorrow.]

[Update 3 (10:51 am): Here's the 2nd-round notes and interviews from]

Masters GC Ladies Saturday: Sakura Yokomine 67, ポーラ・クリーマー 69

Mi-Jeong Jeon and Sakura Yokomine--the #2-ranked and #3-ranked players on the JLPGA money list this season, respectively--caught 1st-round leader Yukari Baba today in the Masters GC Ladies. Late bogeys by each of the co-leaders made Yokomine's 67, Jeon's 69, and Baba's 71 just good enough to give them a 1-shot lead on Tamie Durdin (70) and a 2-shot lead on Yuko Mitsuka (68), 2 golfers looking to keep their JLPGA cards for the 2011 season. The 3 leaders have opened up a 5-shot lead on the visiting Paula Creamer (69) and an 8-shot lead on the tour's money-list leader Sun Ju Ahn (73), but with Chie Arimura and Young Kim both in the mix, it's looking like a Sunday free-for-all on the JLPGA.

Here's where the leaders and notables stand heading into the final round:

T1/-6 Sakura Yokomine (71-67), Mi-Jeong Jeon (69-69), Yukari Baba (67-71)
4th/-5 Tamie Durdin (69-70)
T5/-4 Yuko Mitsuka (72-68), Chie Arimura (71-69), Izumi Narita (68-72)
T8/-3 Young Kim (71-70), Maiko Wakabayashi (71-70)
T10/-2 Li-Ying Ye (72-70), Jae-Hee Bae (71-71)

T12/-1 Paula Creamer (74-69), Asako Fujimoto (74-69), Ji-Hee Lee (73-70), Shinobu Moromizato (71-72), Na-Ri Lee (71-72)
T17/E Saiki Fujita (73-71), Nikki Campbell (72-72), So-Hee Kim (72-72)
T21/+1 Ayako Uehara (73-72), Mie Nakata (73-72), Miki Saiki (72-73), Yuki Ichinose (72-73), Hiromi Mogi (70-75)
T27/+2 Ah-Reum Hwang (76-70), Sun-Ju Ahn (73-73), Ritsuko Ryu (71-75)
T32/+3 Kumiko Kaneda (77-70), Mayu Hattori (76-71), Akane Iijima (74-73), Kaori Aoyama (73-74), Rikako Morita (73-74), Eun-A Lim (73-74), Chieko Amanuma (72-75), Yuri Fudoh (71-76)
T46/+5 Bo-Bae Song (77-72), Na-Ri Kim (76-73), Kyung-Min Lin (75-74)

MC: Hiromi Takesue (76-74), Hyun-Ju Shin (75-75), Ji-Woo Lee (74-76), Shiho Oyama (81-70), Erina Hara (75-76), Esther Lee (72-79), Miho Koga (77-75), Riko Higashio (76-77), Yuki Sakurai (74-79), Onnarin Sattayabanphot (74-79), Akiko Fukushima (78-76), Yun-Jye Wei (78-76), Rui Kitada (76-78), Ai-Yu Tu (81-79), Woo-Soon Ko (82-79)

Mi-Jeong Jeon has a great chance to become the JLPGA's 2nd 4-time winner this season, while Sakura Yokomine needs a win to have much of a chance to win the money-list title for the 2nd straight year. Let's see if they can take advantage of Sun-Ju Ahn's birdies drought and hold off the rest of the leaders tomorrow!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Masters GC Ladies Friday: Yukari Baba 67, ポーラ・クリーマー 74

Paula Creamer was feeling the jet lag today during the 1st round of the JLPGA's Masters GC Ladies, opening with a 3-bogey-74 that put her 7 shots behind leader Yukari Baba heading into the weekend. Fellow LPGAer Tamie Durdin, who's coming off 2 straight missed cuts on the JLPGA and is fighting to remain in the top 50 on the money list and keep her card for 2011, had better luck, shooting a 6-birdie 69 that brought her within 2 of the lead. Money-list leader Sun-Ju Ahn, going for her 3rd straight win on the JLPGA, dug herself a little hole by opening with a 4-bogey 73, but she's been able to recover from worse starts this season, so we'll see if she can do it again.

Here's how the leaders and notables fared:

1st/-5 Yukari Baba (67)
2nd/-4 Izumi Narita (68)
T3/-3 Mi-Jeong Jeon, Tamie Durdin, Midori Yoneyama (69)
6th/-2 Hiromi Mogi (70)
T7/-1 Sakura Yokomine, Yuri Fudoh, Chie Arimura, Shinobu Moromizato, Young Kim, Maiko Wakabayashi, Ritsuko Ryu, Na-Ri Lee, Junko Omote, Jae-Hee Bae (71)

T17/E Yuko Mitsuka, Miki Saiki, Nikki Campbell, Chieko Amanuma, Esther Lee, So-Hee Kim, Li-Ying Ye, Yuki Ichinose (72)
T28/+1 Sun-Ju Ahn, Ji-Hee Lee, Saiki Fujita, Ayako Uehara, Mie Nakata, Kaori Aoyama, Rikako Morita, Eun-A Lim (73)
T40/+2 Paula Creamer, Akane Iijima, Asako Fujimoto, Ji-Woo Lee, Yuki Sakurai, Onnarin Sattayabanphot (74)
T49/+3 Hyun-Ju Shin, Erina Hara, Kyung-Min Lin (75)
T61/+4 Rui Kitada, Na-Ri Kim, Mayu Hattori, Hiromi Takesue, Riko Higashio, Ah-Reum Hwang (76)
T75/+5 Miho Koga, Bo-Bae Song, Kumiko Kaneda (77)
T91/+6 Akiko Fukushima, Yun-Jye Wei (78)
T102/+9 Shiho Oyama, Ai-Yu Tu (81)
T107/+10 Woo-Soon Ko (82)

Play has already begun in the 2nd round. I'll try to get up early tomorrow am for a timelier report!

Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia Friday: Mika Miyazato Stays Hot in Kuala Lumpur

Mike Southern, Hound Dog, and cover the 1st round of the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia event, so I don't have to! Sorry, but I've been swamped all day with moving (or rather getting ready to move), grading papers, and conferencing with my students, among other things, so can't do justice to Mika Miyazato's and Jee Young Lee's strong starts.

[Update 1 (8:27 pm): Check out the cool photos at Asian Ladies Golfer Appreciation!]

Recommended Reading: My Fantasy Fiction Students at sf@SF

Back in the day, Mostly Harmless had an expansive definition of "fun" (as its perpetual tag line, "for fun," and long links list over there on the left remind me every time I visit the site), which included science fiction, fantasy, anime, music, tv, films, theory, and politics, as well as golf. Fortunately, I've got a couple of academic/pop culture blogs, sf@SF and American Identities, that allow me to sound off on most of those topics when inspiration hits me and I don't feel like cross-posting it here. More important, though, they allow me to showcase some of the work my students have been doing in my courses.

Well, the time has come for my Fantasy Fiction students to start sharing their response essays with the world (or that portion of it that makes it to sf@SF!). And that's where my Mostly Harmless regulars come in: I'm asking you all to point your own intertubey (and other) networks at the most interesting essays from my students this semester. I think you'll see from the 1st post that their topics, views, and writing will be worth your time!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia Preview, Predictions, Pairings

"Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink" comes to mind when I look at the layout of the Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club, except that with all the heat and humidity greeting most of the LPGA's finest, they'd better be avoiding the drink and drinking lots of water this week. Hound Dog's preview and
hot 20 give a pretty good sense of who's most likely to prevail: a precision player who can avoid big mistakes and give herself a lot of birdie opportunities. With that in mind, here's my attempt to catch bangkokbobby in the season-long PakPicker competition at Seoul

1. Miyazato Ai
2. Miyazato Mika
3. Choi Na Yeon
4. Park Inbee
5. Shin Ji-Yai
6. Kim In-Kyung
7. Kim Song-Hee
8. Hull
9. Kerr
10. Pettersen
11. Tseng
12. Jang

Alts: Nordqvist; Lewis; Wie

The pairings are of course a treat. Here are my favorite groupings of players:

1st tee, 10:50 AM
Ai Miyazato
Cristie Kerr
Na Yeon Choi

1st tee, 10:39 AM
Ya Ni Tseng
Suzann Pettersen
Michelle Wie

1st tee, 10:28 AM
Beatriz Recari
Ji-Yai Shin
Katherine Hull

10th tee, 9:22 AM
Karen Stupples
Mika Miyazato
Jeong Jang

I'll try to get some early-morning LPGA and JLPGA blogging in over the next few days. Paula Creamer's going to see if she can stand up to the juggernaut known as "Ahn of Green Gables," aka Sun-Ju Ahn, who's going for her 3rd-straight win and 5th of the season. It'll be interesting to see if she can pull off what Inbee Park was unable to 2 weeks ago and Ji-Yai Shin couldn't do last week....

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Setting Up the LPGA's Asian Swing and Stretch Run

All right, so this is how all the LPGA's season-long races stand as the top 10 LPGAers of 2010 prepare to face off in Malaysia this week. Even resting, Ai Miyazato gained enough Rolex Ranking points last week to stay a hair's breadth ahead of Cristie Kerr and Ji-Yai Shin, who played some great golf on the LPGA and JLPGA, respectively--just not great enough.

1. Ji-Yai Shin $1.46M (1 win in 15 starts, 128 POY points, 70.20 scoring average, 3.86 birdies per round, 10.74 Rolex points [#3])
2. Na Yeon Choi $1.45M (1/18, 134, 69.89, 4.32, 9.41 [#6])
3. Ya Ni Tseng $1.43M (3/15, 2 majors, 176, 70.44, 3.84, 10.40 [#4])
4. Ai Miyazato $1.39M (5/17, 174, 70.41, 4.13, 10.90 [#1])
5. Cristie Kerr $1.38M (2/17, 1 major, 163, 69.88, 4.23, 10.81 [#2])
6. Suzann Pettersen $1.32M (0/15, 115, 70.00, 3.81, 10.36 [#5])
7. Song-Hee Kim $.99M (0/17, 93, 70.13, 4.05, 7.22 [#8])
8. Michelle Wie $.85M (1/16, 62, 71.20, 3.65, 8.30 [#7])
9. In-Kyung Kim $.84M (0/17, 83, 70.62, 3.77, 7.17 [#9])
10. Paula Creamer $.74M (1/11, 1 major, 64, 71.08, 3.47, 6.89 [#11])
11. Inbee Park $.74M (0/16, 55, 70.86, 3.52, 6.27 [#12])

Creamer is the only player on this list not to be entred in the Malaysia event, but her name shows up on the LPGA Hana Bank Championship final field list, so she's not shutting it down this season like I speculated last week; perhaps she'll play the Mizuno Classic in Japan, Lorena's invitational in Guadalajara, and the LPGA Tour Championship in Orlando, as well, but that remains to be seen. In her Sunday interview in Danville, Kerr revealed that she'll be skipping the Mizuno Classic, so Malaysia, Korea, Guadalajara, and Orlando are her last 4 events of the season. Ai Miyazato continues her tradition of skipping the Korea event (even though countrywomen Mika Miyazato and Momoko Ueda will be playing there once again), so her schedule most likely will be Malaysia, Japan, Guadalajara, Orlando. My guess is that Ji-Yai Shin will be playing the next 3 weeks, but skipping Guadalajara and returning for Orlando. Michelle Wie is entered in Malaysia and Korea; if, as I suspect, she's getting study abroad credit for the Asian swing from Stanford, she'll also be playing the Mizuno Classic, where she can practice her Japanese, as well, before returning to Guadalajara to defend her title. If she plays that many events, why not conclude the season in Orlando in December? Wouldn't it be funny if she turned out to be the only player on this list to play all 5 remaining events on the LPGA schedule? I have to wonder whether Choi, Tseng, Pettersen, the Kims, or Park will play both Japan and Guadalajara back-to-back. That's one brutal commute!

I'll let you know as soon as the Mizuno and Guadalajara field lists have been published, but my guess is that all the top LPGAers will play 4 of the 5 final events of the 2010 LPGA season. What we do already know is that Miyazato, Shin, and Park, along with Morgan Pressel and Mika Miyazato, will be playing the JLPGA's final event and major in 2010, the Ricoh Cup. And that all the Korean and Japanese golfers on this list will have to choose between individual glory and national pride when deciding whether to play in Orlando or in the Japan-Korea international team competition known this season as the Pinx Cup (it's called the Kyoraku Cup when it's hosted by Japan) the following week. So the resolution of both the LPGA races and the race to end the season at #1 in the Rolex Rankings could still be seriously affected by scheduling conflicts and choices. Wouldn't it be great if the end of the 2011 season was smoother?

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Best on the LPGA: 1-Time Winners, October 2010

1 may be the loneliest number, but I'll bet those on this list of best players on the LPGA with a single tour victory wouldn't prefer to return to my Best Without a Win list. At the same time, those on that list may want to avoid making their 1st win the U.S. Women's Open, the Safeway, the Farr, the State Farm, or any event in Mexico. It's looking like the Corning Classic's demise will spare 1st-time winners that particular jinx, unless LPGA commissioner Michael Whan finds a way to revive it. You'll see what I mean when you check out these profiles of 1-time winners on the LPGA, ranked in part by career achievements and mostly by what I expect from them over the rest of the 2010 season. This is the 1st time I've updated it since May; let's see where Sunday's winner Beatriz Recari ranks.

Most Likely to Win in 2010

1. Inbee Park: She's definitely slogged her way through her U.S. Women's Open jinx (see #28 and #29, below), having played well in Asia at the end of 2009 (T7 in Korea, T5 in Japan, T2 at JLPGA Q-School) and carried it over to a fantastic 2010 on both the JLPGA and LPGA. If all goes well for her, she'll end up on the top 10 on both tours' season-ending money lists.
2. Jee Young Lee: She's coming off her worst year in her 4 as an LPGA member following her non-member win in Korea in 2005, but she finally seemed to be on the comeback trail at its end, finishing 2009 with 3-straight top 20s and ending up #33 on my Best of the LPGA ranking. As I said back in February, "There's only 1 direction she can move in 2010. There's no way a player of her caliber has 2 bad seasons in a row." And lo and behold, she's moved up to #26 in August and is likely to move higher the next time I get around to updating it.

The Contenders

3. Sun Young Yoo: In the preseason, I wrote, "This late-blooming '06er has the game to contend any given week, but hasn't done it as often as she will in 2010. She gets a good number of top 20s (31 in 104 LPGA starts) and has started to get comfortable with her name near the top of the leaderboard (3 top 3s and 13 top 10s at the end of 2009 are big improvements on where she stood at the end of 2008)." Well, now that she's gotten that 1st win at the Sybase Match Play Championship, I'd say the sky's the limit for her. She's got a classic straight shooter game (think Cristie Kerr, Angela Stanford, Brittany Lang, and so on), even though her driving distance is down a little bit this season. All she needs is to improve her putting to graduate from this list.
4. Momoko Ueda: She won the 2007 Mizuno Classic as a JLPGA member and she did it with a bang:

Since then, she's brought her victory total on the JLPGA to 8, but has only cracked the top 10 as an LPGA member 7 times in 50 starts. So why do I rank her so high here? Well, she got 2 of them in the 2nd half of 2009, when the work she'd been putting into her game over the previous season and a half finally started to pay off. Unfortunately, her knee has been bothering her for most of the season and her results have been unimpressive on both the LPGA and JLPGA.
5. M.J. Hur: I never expected her to beat Vicky Hurst, Stacy Lewis, and Shiho Oyama from the class of 2009 to that 1st LPGA victory, but she faced down Suzann Pettersen and Michele Redman in a playoff at the '09 Safeway Classic to do it. Let's see if she can do better in the next few seasons than Soo-Yun Kang did after her lone LPGA win at the Safeway in 2005. With only 1 other top 10 in the 12 events she completed in 2009 (against 10 that she didn't finish), and only 2 top 10s in 19 starts this season, along with unimpressive ball-striking stats, I can't rank her all that highly here. But given how low she went at the ShopRite and how good a putter she is, I can't rank her any lower, either.

Quantum Leap Candidates

6. Jimin Kang: She's never matched her 1st full season in 2005, when she won the Corning Classic and finished 39th on the money list, but since then she hasn't lost her card and has added to her top 10 total every season (she now has 10). In 2009, she dropped to #74 on my year-end Best of the LPGA ranking, but this year she got everything going but her putter, got a top 10 at the LPGA Championship in Rochester, NY, and qualified for the Asian swing. [Update 10/26/10: Well, well, well, that was a fast win!]
7. Natalie Gulbis: Recurring back problems since her 2007 Evian Masters playoff victory over Jeong Jang have dropped her back where she was in her 1st 3 seasons on the LPGA--a player who makes her share of cuts but has trouble cracking the top 10. In fact, 24 of her top 10s and all 7 of her top 3s came between 2005 and 2007, when she was a regular on the top 20 of the money list. In 2009, she brought her scoring average back in the low 71s and--even though she had to shut things down when her back started acting up again in October and November--still ended up #30 in my final Best of the LPGA ranking. Despite my optimism for her this season, her back problems cropped up again and she just didn't play very good golf once she got off the tee. Let's see if she can turn it around in Malaysia.
8. Shi Hyun Ahn: Like Jee Young Lee and Momoko Ueda, her only LPGA win comes with an asterisk, as she got it as a KLPGA member in 2003, but since then she's played roughly 20 events on the LPGA each year, garnering 27 top 10s in the process. Whereas she was a regular on the top 30 of the money list over her 1st 4 seasons, she's slipped into the 50s the last 2, missing more cuts (10 in 38 starts) and getting fewer top 10s (only 3) than usual. In 2010, she's only gotten 3 top 20s in 13 starts. The main culprit, it seems, was a cold putter, but she did earn enough to qualify for the Asian swing, so she still has time to make this season less disappointing.
9. Meaghan Francella: She shocked the golf world with a win over Annika Sorenstam on the 4th playoff hole at the 2007 MasterCard Classic, but Annika's announcement a little later that season that she had been suffering significant back and neck injuries for some time put a little asterisk by that victory. To make matters worse, Francella had to deal with injury issues of her own over the next season and a half, but the Senior Standout bounced back in 2009 by getting her 5th and 6th top 10s on tour, breaking the 73 barrier in scoring average for the 1st time in her career, and returning to the top 50 of both the money list and my Best of the LPGA ranking. She continued her comeback this season with a top 10 at the LPGA Championship. But her approach shots and expecially her putting held her back the rest of the year. Let's see if she can improve on both in Malaysia.
10. Beatriz Recari: She's only made 5 cuts in 15 starts as a rookie, but her win on Sunday guaranteed she'll be back next year on the LPGA. She's young and healthy, so I won't rank her any lower than this right now, but she needs to hit more greens and putt better if she wants to graduate from this list.

On the Bottom, Looking Up

11. Eunjung Yi: Her playoff victory over Morgan Pressel at the Farr last year remains her only LPGA top 10 since her LPGA career began in 2008. She won Hound Dog's fluke victory of 2009 award, a dubious distinction. The only way things could be worse for her prospects in 2010 would be if her defeat of Pressel had come in a U.S. Women's Open (see Kim, Birdie, below). Seriously, it remains to be seen what she'll do over the next 2 seasons she's guaranteed high priority status on the LPGA. 2010 was pretty blah, although she did make the top 100 on the money list.
12. Leta Lindley: Injuries curtailed her schedule in 2009, not even allowing her to defend her 2008 Corning Classic title. But as that win gives her high-priority status through the 2011 season, she could afford the terrible spring and summer she had and take solace in her ability to break 70 in the fall of this season. She didn't add to her total of 33 career top 10s, but she's got some momentum for next year.
13. Heather Bowie Young: She won at the Farr in 2005 and has collected 26 top 10s since joining the LPGA in 2000. 2010 was her 2nd season in a row without 1, but she did improve from last year (when her made-cut rate plummeted to the lowest of her career) and will have full status in 2011, despite playing in only 16 events, the lowest number of her career.
14. Moira Dunn: Her 2004 win at the Giant Eagle Classic was the high point of an LPGA career that dates back to 1995, but her best season was probably in 2001. My junior golf buddy's been struggling to keep her card the last 5 seasons, so although she couldn't add to her 23 career LPGA top 10s in 2010, staying at #80 on the money list was another battle won in a long pro campaign.
15. Soo-Yun Kang: Her win at the Safeway Classic in 2005 was part of the best season of her career, where she got 6 top 10s and ended up #14 on the money list. But it was also the last season her stroke average dipped under 72. She's still making her share of cuts, but of her 17 career top 10s since she started on the LPGA in 2001, only 2 have come after 2005 and none came this year. She made the top 100 on the money list, though, so she'll be keeping her card for 2011.
16. Louise Friberg: Her come-from-behind rookie win at the MasterCard Classic in 2008 gives her high-priority status in 2010 and 2011, which is a good thing, because she made only 3 cuts in 21 starts in 2009 and 6 of 16 in 2010.
17. Silvia Cavalleri: She's only had 10 top 10s in an career that started back in 1999 and in that span has only cracked the top 50 on the money list once--in 2007, when she won the Corona Championship. She's finished outside the top 100 on the money list the last 2 seasons, and currently sits in the #100 spot on the current money list, as well. Assuming she has her card in 2011, she needs a good season to get off Hound Dog's fluke victories list!
18. Julieta Granada: This Senior Standout has been hanging on to her LPGA card by the skin of her teeth the last 2 seasons, playing well in Q-School both years to improve the priority status she earned from the regular season. HGer 2nd season as a dual LPGA-LET member was about as successful as her 1st, so she'll be back in Q-School again this year. That ADT Championship win at the end of her rookie season and those 10 top 10s in her 1st 2 years on tour are looking more and more like blips than foundations of a great LPGA career, but I can't justify ranking her lower than this just yet.

On the Outside, Looking In

19. Marisa Baena: Her LPGA career started in 1999, but after a terrible 2004, it looked like it was in jeopardy. She bounced back in 2005 with a win in the HSBC Women's World Match Play Championship from the 60th seed. Although this season she didn't get her 14th career top 10 and 2nd since 2005, she did make 2 of 4 cuts, so has a little bit of momentum if she decides tio try for Q-School.
20. Kris Tschetter: Her rookie season was 1988, she won the Northgate Computer Classic in 1992. Even though 2002 was her last solid season, her 50 career top 10s show that she's got the talent to bounce back, now that her kids are elementary school age. However, she missed the cut in all 7 starts this season, so she'll have to decide whether to do Q-School in December.
21. Kelli Kuehne: She got a medical exemption for 2010, but didn't come close to returning to her 1999-2004 form, when she won at the Corning Classic at the start of that run and notched 24 of her 26 career top 10s over the course of it. From 2005-2009, though, she hasn't broken the 73 barrier in scoring average in any season and has made only 33 of 86 cuts. And she went 0 for 10 in 2010. Will she try Q-School or hang up her spikes?
22. Young Kim: Last season was the 1st in her 7-year LPGA career that she failed to get a top 10. But after winning medalist honors at JLPGA Q-School last December, she dropped her LPGA membership and now sits at #13 on their money list. Whether she'll return to the LPGA remains to be seen, but provided she does, if anyone on this list is going to break the Corning Classic jinx (see #6 and #12), I would expect her to be the 1st to do it!
23. Nicole Castrale: Unfortunately, 2010 won't go down as the year she bounced back from a very disappointing 2009, when she missed 10 cuts, saw her scoring average approach 72.50, fell outside the top 50 on the money list, and only managed to get her 19th and 20th career top 10s on the LPGA. It'll instead be remembered as the year she had to cut her season short for shoulder surgery. Best wishes to this 2-time Solheim Cupper for a full recovery.
24. Sung Ah Yim: Like Joo Mi Kim, she joined the LPGA in 2005 and got her 1st win in 2006, at the Florida's Natural Charity Classic. But from 2007 to 2009, she neither added to her career total of 8 top 10s nor broke the 74 barrier in scoring average. And in 2010, she didn't get a single LPGA start from #227 on the priority status list. Looks like it's going to be difficult for her to play her way out of the #6 spot on Hound Dog's fluke victories list.
25. Jin Joo Hong: After playing 3 seasons on the KLPGA, she won the jointly sponsored event with the LPGA and switched tours for the next 3 seasons, ending 2009 ranked #10 in her rookie class. Well, she's decided to focus on the KLPGA in 2010.
26. Joo Mi Kim: She came to the LPGA in 2005 with 3 KLPGA victories under her belt and made a lot of cuts in her rookie season, then followed it up with a playoff win at the SBS Open (over Lorena Ochoa and Soo Young Moon) and 4 top 10s in all the next season, where she ended up 27th on the money list. She stayed in the top 50 for the 3rd straight season the following year, but has only played 32 events over the last 3 seasons and hasn't cracked the 73 barrier in scoring average in that span. This year, she's spent the fall on the KLPGA after failing to make an LPGA cut in spring and summer.
27. Kate Golden: Her win at the State Farm Classic in 2001 was part of a run from 2000-2004 when she averaged in the mid 72s in scoring and mid-$200Ks in winnings, but since then she hasn't made more than half her cuts in any season and has only added 1 top 10 to her career total of 14. At #225 on the priority status list in 2010, she got into 2 events and missed the cut in both of them in what might turn out to have been the last year of an LPGA career that started in 1992.
28. Birdie Kim: I had wanted to put her higher on this list, feeling that she had been coming back from the U.S. Women's Open jinx after her stunning 2005 win from the sand over then-amateurs Morgan Pressel and Brittany Lang. But no, she's only made 13 cuts in 33 starts over the last 3 seasons, hasn't added to her career total of 4 top 10s in that span, and has never broken the 73 barrier in scoring average since she started on the LPGA in 2004. Given that she got into only 2 events this season, my guess is that she won't be back for Q-School in December.
29. Hilary Lunke: She may never be knocked from the top spot in Hound Dog's fluke victory list. Thanks to a medical exemption, her 2003 U.S. Women's Open victory gave her the opportunity to play a full schedule in 2010, but she didn't tee it up on tour all season. Assuming she gets another medical exemption for 2011, her 2nd career top 10 can wait on remembering what it's like to make cuts: she's 6 for 36 over the previous 3 seasons.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

CVS/pharmacy LPGA Challenge Weekend: Shootout at the Blackhawk Corral

When Brittany Lincicome fell back to earth on Friday, the CVS/pharmacy LPGA Challenge became a classic free-for-all on the weekend. Moving day was dominated by LET-seasoned rookies Beatriz Recari (2 birdies in her last 5 holes to get to -12) and Gwladys Nocera (71 to get to -11), American veterans Michele Redman (walkoff eagle to get to -12) and Wendy Ward (69 to get to -11), and a few surprises--Ilhee Lee (eagle on 11 helped her get to -12), Karine Icher (birdied her last 3 holes for a 66 that got her to -10), and Libby Smith (31 on the back capped off a bogey-free 66 that got her to -9)--all looking to spoil the chances of pre-tournament favorites Cristie Kerr (bogey-free 66 got her to -9), Katherine Hull (her 2nd late double of the week almost offset her 3 birdies in her last 4 holes that took her to -9), and Brittany Lincicome (who only did 10 shots worse on Saturday than she did on Thursday and punched in at -8).

With Ji-Yai Shin taking 2nd place in the Fujitsu Ladies--even though she was the only player in the field to break 70 all 3 days, she lost to former KLPGA rival Sun-Ju Ahn by 7 shots, mostly because Ahn made 23 birdies in her 1st 47 holes!--it looks like Kerr still has a chance to take the #1 spot in the Rolex Rankings. But she'll have to put on the afterburners to get into the mix on the back 9 today. Even though none of the leaders are putting on a performance worthy of Sarah Kemp, who's -6 on her day as she plays the par-5 9th, her final hole, and -8 overall, Kerr is currently 3 shots behind Recari, 2 behind Redman, and 1 behind Nocera and Ward. Stay tuned!

[Update 1 (5:10 pm): Angela Stanford -3 and bogey-free through 13 today. At -8 overall, she'll need a lot of birdies down the stretch to have a chance!]

[Update 2 (5:11 pm): Shanshan Feng is the only other player making a real Sunday charge--she's got 5 birdies in her 1st 13 holes and is -9 overall.]

[Update 3 (5:14 pm): Too bad--Kemp eagled the 9th yesterday to salvage a 70 and eagled 5 on both Friday and Sunday, but she could only manage a par today on her final par 5. Still, her 66 is the low score of the day by 4 shots so far!]

[Update 4 (5:15 pm): Feng's now birdied 3 of her last 4 holes and would be better than -10 now if that non-birdie hadn't been a bogey!]

[Update 5 (5:16 pm): Amy Hung fell out of contention with a 74 yesterday, but after 2 birdies and 11 pars today, she's climbed back to -9 and still has a ghost of a chance!]

[Update 6 (5:18 pm): Karrie Webb eagled the par-4 8th and with her birdie on the 15th is now -3 on the day and -7 overall. Her walkoff triple yesterday is her only big mistake of the week--but what a mistake it must have been!]

[Update 7 (5:20 pm): Recari bogeyed the 11th to fall back to -12. Kerr's only 2 off the lead now!]

[Update 8 (5:23 pm): Leta Lindley is bogey-free and -4 through her 1st 15 holes today; only -5 overall, but still great to see her playing well.]

[Update 9 (5:27 pm): Stacy Lewis is battling back from a front-9 42 (which included a 7!) yesterday with 4 birdies and only a 1 bogey in her last 24 holes, but at -6 overall, she'll need to play great her last 3 to have a chance for a top 10.]

[Update 10 (5:29 pm): Oops, Lincicome is now 4 down with 4 holes left to play. Like so many at the top of the leaderboard today, she's E on her round thus far. The only real move backwards has been by Ilhee Lee--she's +4 through 11.]

[Update 11 (5:31 pm): Lindley makes it 2 birdies in a row and is now -5 today, -6 overall, with a par 4 and a par 5 on the front left to play.]

[Update 12 (5:35 pm): Nice 69 by Sarah Lee gets her to -5 overall, T22 right now. It's her best finish of the season and with luck she can even outdo her T17 at the Safeway last August.]

[Update 13 (5:36 pm): That may not sound like much--and it's not going to be enough to allow Lee to avoid Q-School--but any week you outplay Paula Creamer (70, -4) is a good week!]

[Update 14 (5:38 pm): Recari bounces back with a birdie on the 12th to get back to -13. 1 hole ahead of her, Nocera birdies the 13th to join Redman at -12.]

[Update 15 (5:41 pm): Odd, now has Recari making pars ever since her birdie on the 6th that got her to -13.]

[Update 16 (5:44 pm): Webb birdies 18 for a 68 that gets her to -8 overall!]

[Update 17 (5:47 pm): No birdie for Feng on the par-5 15th leaves her 3 back with 3 holes to play. Wait, she bogeyed the par-3 16th to drop back to -9. Out of it.]

[Update 18 (5:48 pm): She wasn't the only 1 to drop back to -9. Kerr bogeyed 13 to join her.]

[Update 19 (5:49 pm): Hull birdied 14 to get to -10. If she can do something special on the par 5, her 2nd win in as many weeks is still within her reach!]

[Update 20 (5:51 pm): Recari birdies the par-4 13th to get to -14. She's played the back great this week--let's see if she can keep it going!]

[Update 21 (5:52 pm): Even though she hasn't birdied the par-5 15th all week, she hasn't not birdied the 14th or 16th all week, either!]

[Update 22 (5:56 pm): Icher is now -11 after a birdie on the 14th!]

[Update 23 (5:57 pm): And Ward also birdied it to get to -12!!]

[Update 24 (5:59 pm): Lindley bogeyed the 8th. She'll need to birdie the par-5 9th to pass Lee and Jane Park at -5 and join Morgan Pressel and Jimin Kang at -6.]

[Update 25 (6:05 pm): Taking a little dinner break. Recari still leads Ward, Redman, and Nocera by 2.]

[Update 26 (6:45 pm): Birdie on 14 for Recari got her to -15. Even though she didn't birdie the par-5 15th, nobody else has gotten closer than 3, although Icher joined the group at -12. Nice 67 by Feng to get to -10.]

[Update 27 (10/18/10, 5:27 am): Here are and Hound Dog on Recari's win.]

[Update 28 (11:01 am): Here's Hound Dog with more on Recari and Lincicome; Golf Girl on Recari; and Golf Babes on Recari!]

[Update 29 (11:57 pm): Appreciate the kind words from Jay Busbee, but it's Hound Dog who deserves the play-by-play credit, not lil' ol' me!]

Fujitsu Ladies Sunday: Sun-Ju Ahn Becomes JLPGA's 1st 4-Time Winner of 2010

Sun-Ju Ahn cruised to her 2nd JLPGA victory in a row today at the Fujitsu Ladies and the 4th of her rookie season. Her margin of victory was 7 shots over former KLPGA rival Ji-Yai Shin, but it could have been much larger. Ahn was -4 through her 1st 11 holes but played her last holes in +2, while Shin birdied her last 3 holes in a row to pass Chie Arimura and Yukari Baba. Meanwhile, the round of the day belonged to veteran Yuko Shinsakaue, who fired an Ahn-like 64, who birdied 8 of her last 12 holes.

Here's how the leaders and notables finished:

1st/-19 Sun-Ju Ahn (65-62-70)
2nd/-12 Ji-Yai Shin (69-67-68)
T3/-11 Yukari Baba (71-66-68), Chie Arimura (66-69-70)
T5/-9 Yuko Shinsakaue (68-75-64), Na-Ri Kim (69-65-73), Young Kim (67-69-71)
T8/-8 Sakura Yokomine (69-71-68), Nikki Campbell (70-68-70)
T10/-7 Saiki Fujita (70-70-69), Miki Saiki (72-66-71)

T12/-6 Ji-Hee Lee (71-70-69), Harukyo Nomura [a] (67-74-69)
T14/-5 Na-Ri Lee (73-71-67), Esther Lee (72-69-70), Asako Fujimoto (70-70-71), Bo-Bae Song (66-72-73)
T18/-4 Yuki Ichinose (69-74-69)
T21/-3 Shinobu Moromizato (70-73-70)
T24/-2 Yuko Mitsuka (73-71-70), Miho Mori [a] (72-70-72), Ah-Reum Hwang (71-71-72), Jae-Hee Bae (69-71-74), Mayu Hattori (70-69-75)
T29/-1 Akiko Fukushima (71-73-71), Hiromi Mogi (68-75-72), Li-Ying Ye (68-75-72)
T33/E Maiko Wakabayashi (71-73-72), Ritsuko Ryu (69-71-76), Ayako Uehara (67-73-76)
T38/+1 Hyun-Ju Shin (72-72-73), Rui Kitada (67-73-77)
T45/+2 Shiho Oyama (72-72-74), Serena Aoki [a] (68-75-75)
T47/+4 Akane Iijima (72-73-75)
T52/+5 Yuri Fudoh (72-70-79)

Ahn's lead on the JLPGA money list is now even more commanding:

1. Sun-Ju Ahn ¥124.15M
2. Sakura Yokomine ¥70.26M
3. Mi-Jeong Jeon ¥69.26M
4. Yukari Baba ¥66.25M
5. Chie Arimura ¥60.87M
6. Yuri Fudoh ¥60.61M
7. Saiki Fujita ¥57.17M
8. Akane Iijima ¥56.69M
9. Rui Kitada ¥54.55M
10. Inbee Park ¥53.91M
11. Nikki Campbell ¥52.20M
12. Ji-Hee Lee ¥47.85M
13. Young Kim ¥41.36M
14. Shinobu Moromizato ¥40.09M
15. Ayako Uehara ¥39.20M
16. Miki Saiki ¥38.80M
17. Mayu Hattori ¥37.57M
18. Eun-A Lim ¥37.32M
19. Na-Ri Kim ¥35.74M
20. Mie Nakata ¥35.15M
21. Miho Koga ¥34.53M
22. Hyun-Ju Shin ¥34.38M
23. Ji-Yai Shin ¥33.38M
24. Ji-Woo Lee ¥29.99M
25. Hiromi Mogi ¥29.85M
26. Hiromi Takesue ¥29.19M
27. Akiko Fukushima ¥28.86M
28. Asako Fujimoto ¥28.59M
29. Bo-Bae Song ¥26.86M
30. Ah-Reum Hwang ¥25.90M
31. Na-Ri Lee ¥24.07M
32. Yun-Jye Wei ¥22.78M
33. Kaori Aoyama ¥22.38M
34. Maiko Wakabayashi ¥22.24M
35. Rikako Morita ¥20.73M

Tamie Durdin has fallen to #48, Yuko Mitsuka has held steady at #50, and Shiho Oyama has stayed at #69. Time is running out for them--and for Ah's bid to break Yokomine's single-season winnings record of 175 million yen plus.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Fujitsu Ladies Saturday: Sun-Ju Ahn Has Made 19 Birdies in Her Last 36 Holes!

Move over, Brittany! Where the LPGA's amazin' Lincicome made 18 birdies in the final round of the Navistar Classic and the 1st round of the CVS/pharmacy LPGA Challenge, Sun-Ju Ahn just did her 1 better in the 1st 2 rounds of the Fujitsu Ladies. She followed up yesterday's 9-birdie 65 with a 10-birdie 62 today, leaving the 4 other golfers who also broke 70 in the 1st 2 rounds of the tournament in the dust. And when those golfers' names are Ji-Yai Shin (69-67), Young Kim (67-69), Chie Arimura (66-69), and Na-Ri Kim (69-65), that's saying something! To put it another way, Yukari Baba (71-66) brings the total number of golfers within 10 shots of Ahn heading into the final round to 5. So while Lincicome's 65-61 performance outscores Ahn's 65-62, Ahn has a lot of room to outdo Lincicome over her next 18 holes as all she needs to do it beat the American's 76 by more than 2 shots tomorrow.

Here's how all the leaders and notables stand:

1st/-17 Sun-Ju Ahn (65-62)
2nd/-10 Na-Ri Kim (69-65)
3rd/-9 Chie Arimura (66-69)
T4/-8 Ji-Yai Shin (69-67), Young Kim (67-69)
6th/-7 Yukari Baba (71-66)
T7/-6 Miki Saiki (72-66), Nikki Campbell (70-68), Bo-Bae Song (66-72)
10th/-5 Mayu Hattori (70-69)

T11/-4 Saiki Fujita (70-70), Asako Fujimoto (70-70), Sakura Yokomine (69-71), Ritsuko Ryu (69-71), Jae-Hee Bae (69-71), Rui Kitada (67-73), Ayako Uehara (67-73)
T21/-3 Esther Lee (72-69), Ji-Hee Lee (71-70), Harukyo Nomura [a] (67-74)
T25/-2 Yuri Fudoh (72-70), Miho Mori [a] (72-70), Ah-Reum Hwang (71-71)
T29/-1 Shinobu Moromizato (70-73), Yuki Ichinose (69-74), Hiromi Mogi (68-75), Li-Ying Ye (68-75), Serena Aoki [a] (68-75)
T41/E Yuko Mitsuka (73-71), Na-Ri Lee (73-71), Shiho Oyama (72-72), Hyun-Ju Shin (72-72), Akiko Fukushima (71-73), Maiko Wakabayashi (71-73)
T49/+1 Akane Iijima (72-73)

MC: Ji-Woo Lee (74-72), So-Hee Kim (72-74), Megumi Takahashi [a] (68-78), Mie Nakata (75-72), Onnarin Sattayabanphot (71-76), Kaori Aoyama (76-72), Hiromi Takesue (74-74), Yun-Jye Wei (73-75), Tamie Durdin (73-78), Rikako Morita (77-75), Erina Hara (74-78)

Tamie Durdin sure likes to live dangerously! She'd better start making cuts if she wants to be playing outside Australia next year.

Besides Ahn's inevitable win and outdoing of Brittany Lincicome's most recent 54-holes total tomorrow, it'll be interesting to see if Shin can finish higher on the JLPGA than Song-Hee Kim on the KLPGA. Kim is currently 4 shots off the lead heading into the final round of the Hite Cup.

CVS/pharmacy LPGA Challenge Friday: Easy Come, Easy Go

Brittany Lincicome was as cold on day 2 of the CVS/pharmacy LPGA Challenge as she was hot on day 1. Well, not quite. She didn't follow up her 61 with an 83, after all. But she did take 15 more strokes than the day before on Blackhawk Country Club, opening the door in the process for 2 LET stars who have had ho-hum LPGA rookie seasons. Gwladys Nocera and Beatriz Recari fired matching 66s to take the lead at the halfway point at -10. Recari shot a record-breaking 29 on the back 9 and was actually -7 in a 9-hole stretch between the 9th and 16th holes, as well.

That's the way it's been at Blackhawk this week, though. Take Lindsey Wright, who started on the back with a 32, but then followed it up with a 42 on the front, dropping from -6 to -1 for the tournament in the process. Stacy Lewis went 30-37 over the same sequence of 9s to get in the mix but fail to put up a really low number and remain 2 off the lead. A 37 by Michele Redman on the front was her only 9 over 34 of the week, keeping her at -8, as well. Il-Hee Lee has played her last 23 holes of bogey-free golf in -6 to get to -8 for the week. Wendy Ward needed 2 birdies in her last 4 holes to salvage a 71 after being incapable of doing anything wrong the day before and also got to -8. Even Amy Hung, who made 7 birdies over her last 5 holes Thursday and 1st 6 holes Friday to get to -9, stayed there over her last 12 holes.

So even though Lincicome dropped from -11 to -7, she's still right in the thick of things. But with the leaders 1 shot worse after 36 holes than she was at 18, the door's been opened for a host of players to also put themselves in the mix on moving day today. Katherine Hull at -6, Karrie Webb, Laura Davies, Natalie Gulbis, and Jane Park at -5, even Seon Hwa Lee and Karine Icher at -4 and Cristie Kerr and Morgan Pressel at -3, all have to feel that 1 really low round on the weekend can get one of them a win.

To tell you the truth, the only players without a chance are the ones who missed the cut, among them Brittany Lang, Azahara Munoz, and Pat Hurst. There's no reason we couldn't see a player put together 2 rounds in the low 60s on the weekend. I'd love to see that happen!

[Update 1 (11:31 am): Lots of maturity from Lincicome in her post-round interview. She'll be back!]

Friday, October 15, 2010

Fujitsu Ladies Friday: Sun-Ju Ahn Keeps the Pedal to the Metal

With Mi-Jeong Jeon leading the KLPGA's 3rd major, the Hite Cup, ex-KLPGA star Sun-Ju Ahn, who had come back from a 4-stroke deficit to Jeon in the final round of the Sankyo Ladies last Sunday, had a great chance to extend her 40 million yen lead on Jeon in the JLPGA money list. So what does she do in the 1st round of the Fujitsu Ladies today but take the lead with a 9-birdie 65?

Unlike Brittany Lincicome, whose 11-birdie performance yesterday on the LPGA gave her a 4-shot lead on her nearest competitor, Ahn is pursued by a host of amazing golfers. 6 of the 7 players within 2 shots of her played bogey-free golf, including Chie Arimura, Bo-Bae Song, Ayako Uehara, Rui Kitada, and amateur Harukyo Nomura (who'll be competing for an LPGA card this December in Daytona Beach), and the 7th, Young Kim, is a former LPGA standout who opened with a 6-birdie 67. Only 4 back are none other than Sakura Yokomine and Ji-Yai Shin. Yokomine was last year's money-list leader and the 1st player in JLPGA history to break the 175 million yen barrier in a single season; there's no doubt she'd love to repeat this year and deny Ahn's bid to break her record. Shin, meanwhile, came up in the KLPGA right around the same time as Ahn and they were the top 2 players on tour for quite some time. A win for Shin this week could vault her to #1 in the Rolex Rankings, so she has extra motivation to reestablish her dominance over Ahn.

Let's see who among the leaders and notables make a charge at Ahn this weekend:

1st/-7 Sun-Ju Ahn (65)
T2/-6 Chie Arimura, Bo-Bae Song (66)
T4/-5 Rui Kitada, Young Kim, Ayako Uehara, Kaori Yamamoto, Harukyo Nomura [a] (67)
T9/-4 Hiromi Mogi, Li-Ying Ye, Yuko Shinsakaue, Serena Aoki [a], Megumi Takahashi [a] (68)

T14/-3 Ji-Yai Shin, Sakura Yokomine, Na-Ri Kim, Ritsuko Ryu, Yuki Ichinose, Jae-Hee Bae (69)
T21/-2 Shinobu Moromizato, Nikki Campbell, Saiki Fujita, Asako Fujimoto, Mayu Hattori (70)
T29/-1 Ji-Hee Lee, Akiko Fukushima, Yukari Baba, Maiko Wakabayashi, Ah-Reum Hwang, Onnarin Sattayabanphot (71)
T40/E Yuri Fudoh, Akane Iijima, Shiho Oyama, Hyun-Ju Shin, Miki Saiki, So-Hee Kim, Esther Lee (72)
T56/+1 Yuko Mitsuka, Tamie Durdin, Na-Ri Lee, Yun-Jye Wei (73)
T72/+2 Ji-Woo Lee, Hiromi Takesue, Erina Hara (74)
T77/+3 Mie Nakata (75)
T85/+4 Kaori Aoyama (76)
T88/+5 Rikako Morita (77)

I'm rooting for Oyama, Mitsuka, Durdin, and Hara to make the cut!

[Update 1 (1:29 pm): Scoring conditions were brutal over in Korea today; the JLPGA's Jeon ballooned to an 82 and dropped all the way to T30. The LPGA's Song-Hee Kim and Sun Young Yoo held it together and are right in the thick of things at the halfway point!]

CVS/pharmacy LPGA Challenge Thursday: Lincicome Fires Season-Low 61! Yes, 61

On a day when relatively few players went low at the CVS/pharmacy LPGA Challenge, and when many big names struggled, Brittany Lincicome fired an 11-birdie 61 that broke or tied all kinds of personal and LPGA records. Her closest pursuers are veterans Wendy Ward (bogey-free 65) and Moira Dunn (8-birdie 66), but she's put a comfortable distance between herself and last week's winner Katherine Hull (a double bogey midway through her round dropped her to her 4th-straight 67), the legendary Laura Davies (who made an eagle and 4 birdies on her way to a 68), and Hall of Famer Karrie Webb (bogey-free 69)--and she's opened up a 12-shot lead on Cristie Kerr, Paula Creamer, Angela Stanford, Christina Kim, and Azahara Munoz.

Lincicome is -18 over her last 36 holes, but this is by no means over. Hull is -10 in that span and fellow Aussie Lindsey Wright followed up last Sunday's 63 with a 69 that would have been much better if she hadn't bogeyed her last 2 holes. And as Kerr's switch from hot over her 1st 45 holes last week to cold ever since shows, the golf gods are pretty darn fickle. A lot of players are going to be able to put up some serious numbers this morning before Lincicome tees it up at 11:50. It'll be interesting to see who can put some pressure on her today!

[Update 1 (8:38 am): Here's Mike Southern on Lincicome and Ward and the next 6 weeks on the LPGA, among other topics he covers.]

[Update 2 (9:26 am): Here's Golf Babes on Lincicome!]

[Update 3 (10/16/10, 10:42 am): Stephanie Wei asks her readers to find a round better than Lincicome's.]

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Is It Even Worth Paging the AP at This Point?

How it is possible that the AP's main preview story for the CVS/pharmacy LPGA Challenge gets basic facts wrong about the 2 most prominent golfers in the tournament's field, Cristie Kerr and Paula Creamer?

It's hard to tell which is worse. The one about Creamer matters less to the major thrust of the article, but it reveals how little effort was put into the writing or editing of the piece. Look, I'm not expecting anyone who doesn't cover the LPGA regularly to visit Hound Dog's site or mine, but a quick trip to's pre-tournament interviews page or Paula Creamer's season performance rundown page would show that this couldn't possibly be Creamer's 2nd tournament back since surgery--more like her 10th!

The more I think about that mistake, though, the worse it feels. Making Creamer an afterthought in an article with a flawed major premise puts even more pressure on that premise. The New York Times at least softens the problem by titling the piece "Kerr Trying to Regain No. 1 Ranking," and while its core claim is technically correct, it nevertheless leaves key details out:

Miyazato, who has held the No. 1 ranking for eight straight weeks, tied for 27th at the Navistar Classic but is skipping this week's Northern California stop on the tour. Shin, Suzann Pettersen and Yani Tseng also are bypassing the tournament.

That means Kerr can regain the No. 1 ranking for third time this year with a win. Even a top-five finish will likely push her past Miyazato.

It's almost as if the AP's reporter is unaware that while Miyazato, Tseng, and Pettersen are indeed resting or travelling this week, Shin is playing in the JLPGA's Fujitsu Ladies. Given that she's only .24 points behind Kerr and .32 points behind Miyazato in the latest Rolex Rankings, a Shin win in Japan could complicate matters in next week's ranking considerably. The scenario in which Kerr passes Miyazato but Shin passes both of them isn't even in the realm of possibility for the AP's writer. How many points each player is losing from the event 2 years ago that's dropping out of the ranking will have an impact on how likely this scenario is.

You'd think that with so much attention on Tiger and Phil--and lately Lee and Martin--in the race for the #1 ranking in the OWGR, someone working for the AP would realize the Rolex Rankings use a similar methodology--if not the writer, then maybe a fact-checker or editor. I'm not saying Kerr can't or won't be #1 with a win this week in Northern California. I'm just pointing out that the same week Miyazato won on the LPGA and Shin on the JLPGA earlier this season, it was the latter who was the 1st to overtake Lorena Ochoa and become the LPGA's new #1. Shouldn't the AP have investigated the possibility that Shin could spoil Kerr's bid to replace Miyazato at the top of the world of women's golf?

[Update 1 (8:52 am): Randall Mell gets it. Why can't the AP?]

[Update 2 (9:03 am): You can trust the local media to get Creamer's story right. So why not the national media?]

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

CVS/pharmacy LPGA Challenge Preview, Predictions, Pairings

Since I wrote enough yesterday on the reasons for the relative weakness of the field in this week's CVS/pharmacy LPGA Challenge, let me focus instead on the spotlight that it can put on golfers not named Cristie Kerr or Paula Creamer. Even though Blackhawk is a relatively short course, its elevation changes put a premium on club selection and execution with approach shots in particular. With Monday qualifiers Alison Walshe and Libby Smith shooting a 68 and a 69, respectively, that's a pretty good indication the course is vulnerable to some really low numbers this week. Who will take advantage?

Among the LPGA's 2-time winners, I'd keep an eye on last week's winner Katherine Hull, but think that Morgan Pressel has an even better chance of winning this week and that Christina Kim and Karen Stupples are good dark-horse picks. I don't have a great feeling about any of the 1-time winners, although perhaps someone like Natalie Gulbis or Moira Dunn could get hot. I'm much higher on the chances of someone who hasn't won yet breaking through this week--maybe someone like Stacy Lewis or Lindsey Wright, who are healthier than Kristy McPherson (I just read that she'll need back surgery in the offseason) and Jane Park and whose games might be better suited to Blackhawk than Brittany Lang, Vicky Hurst, and Azahara Munoz (although Lang has a good history here). But wouldn't it be great if a Californian like Park or Mina Harigae were to get her 1st win in her home state?

If you're going with the odds, however, you'd stack your picks with lots of players with 3 to 6 wins on tour. Brittany Lincicome is probably the hottest player on this list right now, but Seon Hwa Lee is showing signs of life, Angela Stanford is always a threat, Maria Hjorth has a great history at Blackhawk, and Sophie Gustafson is the defending champion. There aren't that many players with 7 or more wins in the field, but with names like Kerr, Creamer, Inkster, Webb, Davies, and Kim among them, you'd be foolish not to pick at least some of them.

So, with Golf Observer's stats (for the last 4 years, in particular) in mind, here are my entries in this week's PakPicker at Seoul

1. Creamer
2. Pressel
3. Hull
4. Kerr
5. Wright
6. Stanford
7. Webb
8. Lewis
9. Lincicome
10. Lang
11. Park, Jane
12. Gulbis

Alts: Hurst, Vicky; Gustafson; Hjorth

I got skunked last week and dropped to #2 in the season-long competition. Let's see if I can get back in the saddle this week.

So much to talk about with the pairings for tomorrow's 1st round. Let's start with the prime-time quadrants. Here's the early-afternoon front-nine group:

Start Time: 11:40 AM
Alena Sharp
Laura Diaz
Stacy Lewis

Start Time: 11:50 AM
Natalie Gulbis
Amanda Blumenherst
Karrie Webb

Start Time: 12:00 PM
Juli Inkster
Christina Kim
Azahara Munoz

Start Time: 12:10 PM
Paula Creamer
Katherine Hull
M.J. Hur

Next on tap is the early-morning back-nine group:

Start Time: 8:20 AM
Karen Stupples
Mi Hyun Kim
Jimin Kang

Start Time: 8:30 AM
Brittany Lincicome
Meaghan Francella
Morgan Pressel

Start Time: 8:40 AM
Laura Davies
Angela Stanford
Cristie Kerr

Start Time: 8:50 AM
Shanshan Feng
Vicky Hurst
Kristy McPherson

Here is the early-morning front-nine group:

Start Time: 8:20 AM
Candie Kung
Hee-Won Han
Stacy Prammanasudh

Start Time: 8:30 AM
Lindsey Wright
Ji Young Oh
Sophie Gustafson

Start Time: 8:40 AM
Seon Hwa Lee
Michele Redman
Karine Icher

Start Time: 8:50 AM
Pat Hurst
Brittany Lang
Liselotte Neumann

And last but not least here is the early-afternoon back-nine group:

Start Time: 11:40 AM
Haeji Kang
Meena Lee
Louise Friberg

Start Time: 11:50 AM
Gwladys Nocera
Sherri Steinhauer
Brandie Burton

Start Time: 12:00 PM
Wendy Ward
Na On Min
Amy Hung

Start Time: 12:10 PM
Maria Hjorth
Lorie Kane
Leta Lindley

Monday qualifier Alison Walshe, who moved up to #98 on the money list after her great finish last week in only her 5th LPGA start of the season, is going 1st off the 1st with Gloria Park (#100) and Silvia Cavalleri (#110). Remember, the magic number to avoid Q-School is 100th on the money list! Simultaneously, players in a dogfight to secure their spots in the top 80--Sarah Jane Smith (#65), Karin Sjodin (#74), and Mina Harigae (#78)--lead those going off the 10th tee. Keep an eye on rookies Maria Hernandez (#68), Beatriz Recari (#90), and Pernilla Lindberg (#112) a few groups later--and Marianne Skarpnord (#127) and Katie Kempter (#145) right before them. Similarly, at the end of the day, rookies Mariajo Uribe (#84) and Cindy LaCrosse (#126) are looking to bring it on the back (although LaCrosse at least has the security of having won her 2011 card via her record-breaking year on the Futures Tour). The depth of the rookie class of 2010 will be put to the test this week. All it takes is 4 good rounds for an entire season to be turned around.

That's equally true of veterans like Lorie Kane (#85), Laura Diaz (#96), Moira Dunn (#75), and Jennifer Rosales (#72), prime-time players like Karin Sjodin (#74), Julieta Granada (#107) and Sarah Lee (#115), and young pros like Irene Cho (#76), Paige Mackenzie (#87), and Angela Park (#143). Even without most of the hottest golfers on the LPGA in the field, then, there will still be plenty of drama in Danville this week.

[Update 1 (4:54 pm): Hound Dog looks at the various races for cards much more systematically than me! Worth a read!]