Sunday, May 1, 2011

Avnet LPGA Classic Saturday: Thompson, Kim, and Yang Looking for 1st LPGA Win

There's an exciting trio of golfers at the top of the leaderboard in the Avnet LPGA Classic looking to become the 3rd Rolex First-Time Winner in a row on the LPGA. Even though former KLPGA star and LPGA rookie Hee Kyung Seo shot the round of the day--a bogey-free 65 that not only moved her up to T7 at -4 through 54 holes (tied with, among others, fellow Kia Classic winner Sandra Gal, who stumbled to a 75 today), but also eclipsed IlHee Lee's Friday 66 for low round of the week--she was overshadowed by the fantastic putting of Lexi Thompson (67, -7), the gritty comeback of Song-Hee Kim (70, -7), and the sweet swing of Amy Yang (72, -6). But as Hound Dog and's overviews both make crystal clear, there are a host of proven winners within 5 shots of the trio of leading ladies, with the only exceptions being Paige Mackenzie (71, -4), Sun Young Yoo (74, -2), and Sarah Kemp (74, -2). Consider the possibilities in this potential 19-player free-for-all:

  • The LPGA's most recent winners could stage a Sunday charge: Even though Gal moved backwards on the back as Stacy Lewis did so on the front, they need to remind themselves that they're only 3 and 4 back, respectively, and they've gotten their bad round out of their systems already.
  • The LPGA's veteran moms could show the youngsters what's what: Maria Hjorth's 67 could easily have been the story of the day, what with her 5 birdies and an eagle, while Karen Stupples could easily have been a leader or co-leader; as it is, they're 3 and 2 shots off the pace and have the length and experience to handle Magnolia Grove's Crossings course under final-round pressure. And let's not forget Juli Inkster, while we're at it, as her 69 put her within 4 of the lead. While the media's going nuts over the possibility of the LPGA's youngest winner being crowned tomorrow, this Hall of Famer may make them pay attention to the opposite possibility.
  • The LPGA's winner's circle exiles may make a return to the promise of their multi-win seasons. Yup, Suzann Pettersen (71, -5), Angela Stanford (68, -4), Grace Park (72, -2), and even defending champion Se Ri Pak (75, -1) are very much in the hunt. And if you don't require what feels like long-ago wins in bunches for membership in this group, then count in Anna Nordqvist (68, -3), Christina Kim (72, -3), and Katherine Hull (71, -2).
  • The Best of the LPGA might strike: All it would take is for Na Yeon Choi (71, -4) or Cristie Kerr (69, -1) to really get their putters going in the final round.
Take a peek at the early pairings to keep an eye out for later today: 7:04 am: Brittany Lang, Tiffany Joh--nothing to lose, may as well play fast and go low 7:28 am: Stacy Prammanasudh, Amanda Blumenherst--time to start that Solheim Cup qualification charge 8:00 am: Hee Young Park, Harukyo Nomura--they had so much fun yesterday, they wanted to play together again today 8:40 am: Mina Harigae, Dewi Claire Schreefel--Futures Tour, represent 8:48 am: Karrie Webb, Azahara Munoz--ROY power, activate 9:04 am: Laura Davies, Paula Creamer--Solheim Cup singles preview? 10:24 am: Se Ri Pak, Jennifer Song--once and future queens? The contenders start at 11:04 am with Grace Park and Sun Young Yoo, while Lexi Thompson and Song-Hee Kim are the last to leave the 1st tee at 12:16 pm. In between, it's pretty awesome that Christina Kim and Juli Inkster can fire each other up, it's pretty sweet that future Solheim Cup Team Euro mainstays Anna Nordqvist and Sandra Gal can play it cool together, and it's pretty neat that Maria Hjorth, who denied Amy Yang her 1st LPGA win in the last event of last season, get a rematch. I can't wait to get back from imoto's birthday party and enjoy the action with her and onechan (and maybe even the Full Metal Archivist). Imoto, by the way, is rooting for Ji-Yai Shin to win in Japan! [Update 1 (5:24 am): While Jeff Skinner focuses on Lexi Thompson, bangkokbobby puts the spotlight on Song-Hee Kim. Me, I'd love to see Na Yeon Choi come from behind for her 1st win of 2011 right before she heads out to the JLPGA's 1st major of 2011, the Salonpas Cup.]

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