Sunday, June 5, 2011

ShopRite LPGA Classic Saturday: Can Cristie Kerr Close the Deal?

On a much calmer day in Galloway, NJ, which nevertheless gave 1st-round standouts in the ShopRite LPGA Classic Ji-Yai Shin and Sandra Gal fits, 3 golfers used hot putters to distance themselves a bit from the field. Playing in the morning with Shin and Gal, Catriona Matthew made 4 birdies in her last 10 holes to set the bar at -7 for those in the afternoon groups. Brittany Lincicome responded with the round of the week, a bogey-free 64 in which she hit 12 of 14 fairways, averaged 279 yards off the tee, hit a lot of wedges in good spots, and sank a passel of putts, but still ended moving day 1 shot behind Matthew. But Cristie Kerr, playing in the final afternoon group off the 1st tee, outdid both Lincicome and Matthew. Making putts from seemingly everywhere, Kerr calmly shruggled off a double-bogey hiccup midway through her round and finished with a flurry of 3 birdies in her last 5 holes to bookend her 3 consecutive birdies to open her round. For playing partner Mika Miyazato, it must have seemed like shades of the LPGA Championship last year in Pittsford, when Kerr simply transcended the field and Mikan had a front-row seat on how hard it would be to keep pace with her. The question, however, is whether Kerr, who hasn't yet missed a fairway and has missed only 7 of the Bay course's small greens over her 1st 36 holes, can close the deal today. She's given herself a lot of chances for win #15 and Hall of Fame point #17 in the past year, but come up with bupkus since winning the State Farm and LPGA Championship last June.

And it's not just Matthew and Lincicome she has to contend with. Shin bounced back from a terrible start to get back to -5 and is hitting fairways and greens as well as anyone in the field. Amy Yang made 7 birdies in the morning to match Matthew's 67 and stay within 3 shots of the lead, as well. And Mindy Kim joined them with a bogey-free 65 at the end of the day that even earned her some air time on Golf Channel. With 13 golfers within 5 shots of the lead, including my pick to win this week, In-Kyung Kim, Kerr will need to stay aggressive to stay ahead of her lead chase pack.

Here are today's pairings. If I were in NJ, I'd follow Tiffany Joh and Angela Stanford for the 1st 6 holes, then wait for Mika Miyazato and Chella Choi for the next 6 holes, then pick up Michelle Wie and Pornanong Phatlum for the last 6 holes, and finally make my way back to the final groups. Along the way, I'd hope to catch glimpses of the Karrie Webb-Vicky Hurst, Ai Miyazato-Jenny Shin, Momoko Ueda-Jimin Jeong, and Mina Harigae-Meena Lee groups before following Shin and Yang for long enough to see whether they were playing well enough to contend for the lead.

I can't close this post without mentioning my surprise at who missed the cut this week: not only American precision players Stacy Lewis, Morgan Pressel, and Kristy McPherson, but also international straight shooters Sun Young Yoo and Shanshan Feng. I can't say I was surprised that media faves Lexi Thompson and Jessica Korda struggled at Seaview, or that Hee Young Park finally missed a cut on the LPGA this year, but I was disappointed that Moira Dunn missed playing today by a single shot. So I'll leave you with a link to's 2nd-round notes and interviews and try to make it back from Toronto today in time to catch the final round live!


Jim C said...

Wie and Creamer were both 72-71 for the first two rounds, well back in the field. In such a situation why not make an attractive pairing putting them together?

The Constructivist said...

I think they follow the tradition of ordering players by when they posted their scores when deciding how to put together pairings, but I agree with the thrust of your rhetorical question. LPGA tournament organizers certainly have a free hand to put together elite players in interesting ways in the 1st and usually 2nd rounds, so why not tweak 3rd- and 4th-round pairings the way you suggest?