Friday, February 11, 2011

Eagles Propel Lewis and Smith to 1-Shot Lead on Tseng in Aussie Ladies Masters

It seems like bygone days when Karrie Webb and Laura Davies would be regularly duelling for dominance Down Under, turning the rest of the fields at the Aussie Women's Open and Ladies Masters into bystanders. Sure, as the links in the previous sentence indicate, the vets are still winning in Australia recently, and to be honest, with a good deal of regularity, but it's getting harder and harder to keep up with the young guns these days. Last year, Ya Ni Tseng denied both of them in the final round of the Open last year, while Webb needed to go 64-61 on the weekend in the Masters to hold off challenges from Katherine Hull and Bo-Mee Lee. This year at the ANZ RACV Ladies Masters, Webb was the 1st-round co-leader, but there were 81 players within 5 shots of her 66. And after a bad day on the greens at Royal Pines left her at -7 after today's round, she opened the door to the rest of the field. Who took advantage?

Well, Australian Kristie Smith, who knows a thing or 2 about going low at home, joined Stacy Lewis in eagling the par-5 3rd hole and never looked back or held back until she had matched Lewis's bogey-free 65 and -12 score through 36 holes. Lewis, who hasn't bogeyed a hole all week, is outdriving last week's winner Ya Ni Tseng, who sits 1 shot behind them after a bogey-free 66. Tseng continues to put on a ball-striking clinic, hitting nearly 86% of her fairways and 92% of her greens thus far, but just hasn't been as hot with the putter as Lewis, who went under 1.70 putts per green in regulation for the 2nd round in a row. The final pairing for moving day should be quite a sight to see.

But let's not forget that there are 32 players still within 5 shots of the lead, including the defending champion. Only 2 shots behind Lewis and Smith are 6 players: Sandra Gal (who shot the 2nd-lowest round of the day, a bogey-free 64), Melissa Reid, Maria Hernandez, Ashleigh Simon, Shin Ae Ahn, and Ryann O'Toole. 3 shots back are another sixsome: Katherine Hull, Nikki Campbell, Becky Brewerton, Diana Luna, Karen Lunn, and Hannah Jun. Laura Davies, Eun-Hee Ji, Jennifer Song, Guilia Sergas, Sarah Jane Smith, and Dewi Claire Schreefel are in a big group 4 back that includes New Zealand amateur Cecelia Cho and Australian amateur Minjee Lee. Joining Webb 5 off the pace are the likes of Karine Icher, Lexi Thompson, Reilley Rankin, Becky Morgan, and Mollie Fankhauser (who got the low round of the day with a bogey-free 63 that opened with a 30 on the front!).

When you have to go -4 just to make the cut, you know anything can happen on the weekend. So let's not count out Christina Kim, Lee-Anne Pace, Jennifer Rosales, and Sarah Oh at -6, Tamie Durdin, Amanda Blumenherst, Cindy LaCrosse, Belen Mozo, Linda Wessberg, Julieta Granada, or Stephanie Na at -5, and Momoko Ueda, Marianne Skarpnord, Mariajo Uribe, Tiffany Joh, or Sarah Kemp at -4.

In fact, the only ones not still in this thing for sure are those who couldn't get to -4, among them Angela Stanford, Caroline Hedwall, Louise Stahle, Diana D'Alessio, and Jeehae Lee at -3, Gwladys Nocera, So-Yeon Ryu, Christel Boeljon, and Alison Walshe at -2, Louise Friberg, Anja Monke, and Cathryn Bristow at -1, Karen Stupples, Lorie Kane, and Maria Verchenova at E, Pernilla Lindberg at +1, Mina Harigae at +2, Jaclyn Sweeney and Ashley Ona at +3, and Minea Blomqvist at +6.

Still, I'm actually a little scared to see what Tseng can shoot when her putter gets hot at Royal Pines. She may well be playing the best golf of her career these 2 weeks in Australia. Let's see who can hang with her over the weekend!

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