Sunday, March 20, 2011

RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup Friday: Stanford's 66 Puts Her 1-Up on Lincicome and Song

Since, bangkokbobby and Ruthless Mike have already done such a bang-up job in their overviews of the 1st round of the RR Donnelley LPGA Founders Cup (not to mention other goodies), and since I'm so incredibly late with my own post, I'll just chip in with a little color commentary here.

Top Big-Name Surprises on the Upside

1. Angela Stanford: Once in the conversation about best American on the LPGA, she slipped to #18 in my final ranking of 2010 (down from #9 the year before and #7 in 2008) and #19 in my pre-season prediction. So of course she bounces back from a double bogey with an eagle from a fairway bunker to close out the front 9 and throws 3 birdies at each side to boot in her 1st tournament of 2011! And she burned the hole a few other times, as well. On Thursday I picked other straight shooters to finish ahead of her (Cristie Kerr, Song-Hee Kim, Sun Young Yoo), but she's making me kick myself for leaving her out of my top 15 entirely!

2. Sophie Gustafson: The LET's top dog in 2009 plummeted all the way down to #43 by the end of the 2010 LPGA season, but she still has plenty of game, as evidenced by her 3 birdies and eagle in her 1st 5 holes on the front (her back) yesterday. Of course, she wouldn't be Sophie Gustafson if she didn't ride the roller coaster over the rest of her round!

3. Brittany Lincicome: She had 2 top 20s on the Asian swing, but I picked other bombers to do better this week--Ya Ni Tseng, Karrie Webb, Amy Yang--as I was worried about her accuracy off the tee. I still am, but since no longer includes performance stats on players' scorecards and Golf Channel didn't have any footage of the morning rounds, I have no idea how she made her 6 birdies on Friday.

4. Aree Song: The former teen phenom who started her comeback by medalling at Q-School kept on rolling with a bogey-free 67 in her 1st round of the 2011 LPGA season!

5. Seon Hwa Lee: Starting on the back with Brittany Lang and Kyeong Bae, she won the battle of the '06ers despite going +2 in her 1st 5 holes, thanks to 6 birdies the rest of the way. Her 69 was 1 better than Bae and 3 better than Lang, but more important, it was a huge turnaround from her 80-75 finish in Singapore. I'd love to see her return to the LPGA's super-elite, where she was in her 1st 3 seasons on tour!

Honorable Mention: Julieta Granada. Except for a double at 8 and a bogey at 17--drat those penultimate holes!--this '06er played some really solid golf on her way to her 71. Given that she went under par only 14% of the time last year and that this was her 1st LPGA round since closing out 2010 by going 78-76, I'm really pleased for her.

Top Big-Name Surprises on the Downside

1. Ya Ni Tseng: The world #1 erased her 2 birdies in her 1st 5 holes with a double bogey on the par-4 3rd, then bogeyed the 10th and 11th before getting back to +1 with a walkoff birdie.

2. Katherine Hull: She bogeyed 3 of her 1st 6 holes on the back, birdied 3 of her next 5 as she made the turn onto the front, but then closed with 3 bogeys and only 1 birdie in her last 7 holes. The result: a 74 that left her way back in the pack.

3. Jee Young Lee: I'm guessing she's coming off an injury that cut last season short and gave her a late start to this one, but even so I'm surprised that she was so rusty yesterday, with 5 bogeys and a double that more than offset her 3 birdies. Looks like her 6-event top-20 run dating back to last October is coming to an end this week.

4. Christina Kim: Playing with Morgan Pressel and Vicky Hurst, she birdied the 1st and finished -2 over her last 6 holes, but in between she made 4 bogeys and a double to open with a 75. Someone remind her this is a Solheim Cup year!

5. Azahara Munoz: Last season's Rookie of the Year may have gone to Arizona State, but it sure didn't show on Friday, as she opened bogey-bogey-double, closed bogey-par-par-double, and only made 1 birdie in between on the way to her 78.

Dishonorable Mention: Grace Park: Coming off yet another medical exemption, she was -1 with the last 4 holes on the front left to play. But she almost batted for the bogey cycle, making a bogey, a double, and a triple to open with a crushing 77.

Top No-Name Surprises on the Upside: Just look at the top of the leaderboard! 68s by Mina Harigae, Amelia Lewis, and Nannette Hill? 69s from Jean Reynolds, Mindy Kim, and Dewi Claire Schreefel? Is this the LPGA or the Cactus Tour? Just kidding, ladies! Keep up the great golf!

Top No-Name Surprises on the Downside: As you might expect, they're clustered near the bottom of the leaderboard--an 81 from Alison Walshe, a 78 from Tiffany Joh, a 77 from Sarah Kemp, a 75 from Cindy LaCrosse--but you certainly wouldn't have expected such high numbers from how well they played on the other side of the globe on the LET last month. Sara Brown's opening 77 can be attributed to rust, at least....

Best Aspects of Golf Channel's Coverage: That one's easy: Juli Inkster! 'Nuff said! Although the profiles of the founders they featured were very well done, too.

Worst Aspect of Golf Channel's Coverage: Except for a few missed putts from Ya Ni Tseng, a mention of Ai Miyazato at the top of the broadcast and of Na Yeon Choi by Juli Inkster, and an appearance or 2 from Hee Kyung Seo whenever she happened to be standing near Cristie Kerr or Angela Stanford, I can't remember seeing or hearing about any Asian players. Not that I don't enjoy watching Paula Creamer, Morgan Pressel, Vicky Hurst, Natalie Gulbis, Cristie Kerr, and Angela Stanford, but it would be nice to find out how non-Americans are doing in more detail than the scoreboard crawl gives!

Time to watch the 2nd round! I haven't even looked at an updated scoreboard yet--I know, very unlike me....

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