With the temperatures at Rancho Mirage already in the 90s in the morning and peaking over 100 degrees by mid-afternoon, Stacy Lewis and Brittany Lincicome fired a pair of sizzling 66s to take a 1-shot lead on Mika Miyazato and Sandra Gal, a 2-shot lead on Chie Arimura and Jane Park, and a 3-shot lead on Karrie Webb, Anna Nordqvist, and Reilley Rankin in the 1st round of the Kraft Nabisco Championship. For the most part, though, the firm and increasingly fast greens at Mission Hills gave golfers fits yesterday, even those who started out well.
Take Melissa Reid, for instance. She was -6 with 7 holes left to play on the back and ended the day at -1. But last year's #3 player on the LET wasn't alone. Mariajo Uribe was -4 and bogey-free with 3 holes left to play on the front; 2 bogeys in a row and a par on the par-5 9th later, she had to settle for a 70. Shiho Oyama was -4 with 7 holes left to play on the front after eagling the par-5 2nd but ended the day at -1. Seon Hwa Lee was -4 with 5 holes left to play on the front but finished 1 shot worse than Oyama. Na On Min was bogey-free and -3 with 4 holes to play on the front but closed with a double and bogey to join her at T27. Hee Young Park was -3 with 6 holes to play on the back but suffered the same fate. And yet at least they finished the day at or under par. Laura Davies went from bogey-free and -2 to +1 over her last 4 holes. Paula Creamer's troubles came with 3 quick 3-putts as she made the turn from the back to the front to make the exact same plunge as Davies.
By contrast, it seemed like many fewer players came back from bad starts. Amy Yang was one of them. She opened with a roller-coaster 37 on the back (2 birdies, a bogey, and a double on the par-4 16th) but fired a bogey-free 33 on the front. Angela Stanford opened with a birdieless 39 on the front and was still +3 with only 5 holes to play, but a birdie and an eagle later and she had salvaged a 72. Sophie Gustafson bogeyed 3 of her 1st 8 holes but came back with 3 birdies in her next 4 holes, so of course she parred out.
Unfortunately, most who started off badly ended worse. Cristie Kerr was exhibit A, where 5 terrible holes in a row on the back put her 73-event finished-event streak (dating back to a WD at the '08 HSBC Women's Champions event) and 91-event made-cut streak (going back to May 2007) in jeopardy. At +6 and T101, she's certainly not alone--41 golfers failed to break 75 and one of the best of the JLPGA's finest, Mi-Jeong Jeon, couldn't even break 80--but that doesn't make her task today any less difficult.
I have to say I was impressed by Golf Channel's coverage of both the morning and afternoon pairings, from their focus on the KNC's history of great finishes to a moving profile of Morgan Pressel, from great calls like Judy Rankin noticing how stressed Kerr was--well before the wheels started coming off on the back--to great shots like Ji-Yai Shin bouncing a short approach shot off a tree trunk and back onto the green on 1 hole and then almost slam dunking another short approach shot on the next. Sure, there was the occasional bad call, like when Rankin credited Mika Miyazato for leading the LPGA in putts per green in regulation last season (it was actually Ai Miyazato), and there were several missed opportunities (like failing to mention Mikan's experience losing the '09 Japan Women's Open in the final round and winning it the very next year, failing to note that Shiho Oyama was the 1st player to break Yuri Fudoh's JLPGA money-list title streak, and failing to repeat last year's great split-screen shots of Brittany Lincicome's and Ai Miyazato's swings). But overall the crew did a great job--including Rich Lerner as host, feature-introducer, and post-round interviewer. And it was only the 1st round!
For the 2nd round, I'll be rooting for lots of players, but particularly for Mi Hyun Kim (at -2 and T10), who was the biggest pleasant surprise of the day for me. With Ya Ni Tseng, Morgan Pressel and Momoko Ueda also lurking at -2 and Se Ri Pak, Ai Miyazato, and Song-Hee Kim at -1 (tied with mo'-riding Mindy Kim and Marcy Hart!), I have plenty of other faves in the mix (besides those at the top of the leaderboard). And with Ji-Yai Shin and Na Yeon Choi at +1, In-Kyung Kim at +3, Jee Young Lee at +5, and Mina Harigae at +6, I have plenty of others to root for comebacks from. Can't wait to see what happens next--but don't expect too much from me later today, as we're travelling to meet the parents in central NY in the afternoon.