Saturday, March 26, 2011

Kia Classic Friday: Ji-Yai Shin's 64 Opens Up a Big Lead

Ji-Yai Shin began the Kia Classic on Thursday with a birdieless 37, but after going 33-32-32 over her next 27 holes and running up her bogey-free streak to 32 holes and counting, she has already gotten to -12 and has opened up a 4-shot lead on Sandra Gal, who was making a little run of her own before darkness halted play on Friday. Gal apparently loves the 5th through 8th holes at Industry Hills: the only one of them she hasn't already birdied twice is the par-4 6th. If she can pick up where she left off on the back this morning, and nobody else from the lead chase pack can keep pace with her, Gal can join Shin well ahead of the field with 36 holes left to play.

Amanda Blumenherst struggled in the late afternoon yesterday after her opening 66, but she held it together and is still -6 with 9 holes to go in her 2nd round. However, she has the narrower front-side to play this morning, so her odds of passing Chella Choi, whose earlier 68 left her at -6 through 36, might be pretty long. In-Kyung Kim, meanwhile, has the 14th through 18th on which to try to improve on her -5 standing and separate herself from Sun Young Yoo and Anna Nordqvist, the only other golfers within 7 shots of Shin's lead. The scary thing about that lead is that Shin actually missed several great birdie opportunities coming down the stretch at Industry Hills. Her competitors have to hope that her run of 14 birdies in 22 holes is over for good and that she doesn't begin a new birdie barrage when she finally starts her own moving day sometime this afternoon.

It'll be interesting to see if Ya Ni Tseng and Cristie Kerr can get some momentum on moving day with strong finishes to their 2nd rounds this morning--both are at -2 with the same holes left to play as Kim (in fact, Kerr is paired with her and Morgan Pressel, who like Kristy McPherson is at +1 with 5 holes left to play on the back, 1 shot behind Angela Stanford). Surprisingly, Karrie Webb, who's going for her 3rd LPGA victory in a row, is fighting just to make the cut. She's at +2 with those same 5 holes to play.

There are a bunch of great players who will need fantastic moving days to put themselves into the conversation. Mika Miyazato and Michelle Wie are at -3 after struggling relative to their fast starts on Thursday. Ai Miyazato and Katherine Hull are at -2. Na Yeon Choi and Suzann Pettersen are at -1.

Still other equally great players are sweating out the cut line. I already mentioned Webb, who should make the cut if she can join Paula Creamer at +2 or pass her, but Song-Hee Kim is +3 (T70) with 7 holes on the front left to go and Jee Young Lee and Eun-Hee Ji, who are at +4, have even less golf left to play this morning. Others who hope to be in the top 70 include Seon Hwa Lee, Shiho Oyama, and Nicole Castrale--all at +3--but there's no hope of making the cut for defending champion and 2011 rookie Hee Kyung Seo, along with Hee-Won Han, Se Ri Pak, Natalie Gulbis, and Helen Alfredsson and a host of players from the new blood and young gun generations on the LPGA.

More after the 2nd round is complete!

[Update 1 (3/27/11, 1:06 am): Wow, Mindy Kim ended up firing a 66, Sandra Gal a 68, and both In-Kyung Kim and Song-Hee Kim a 69! Those are some strong finishes right there! So Gal got within 1 of Shin and Inky within 5. Not half bad!]

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