Saturday, June 25, 2011

Wegmans LPGA Championship Saturday Morning: On Following Se Ri Pak and Ji-Yai Shin

By a stroke of luck, I ran into Se Ri Pak and Ji-Yai Shin just as I made it to the top of the hill at the 10th tee, so instead of checking into the media tent to orient myself on moving day of the Wegmans LPGA Championship, I decided to follow them for the back 9. The course was soft, the greens were holding but still very slick, the rough was thick, the rain was holding off, and the winds were intermittent, swirling, and apparently different at tree top level than on the ground. So you needed to use great judgment along with great ball-striking to give yourself scoring opportunities. When even a Hall of Famer and former world #1 were stymied by Locust Hill in these conditions, I have a feeling things are going to be even tougher on the leaders. Pak made 1 birdie and 1 bogey to secure an even-par 72, but she gave herself a lot of great birdie chances down the stretch and couldn't convert. Shin, meanwhile, had the best approach of the day--a stuck short iron on 16 that spun back toward the pin, but made 2 bogeys and couldn't convert her other birdie opportunities on the back, either. Both players seemingly missed as many greens as they hit and made a lot of solid chips and pressure putts in the 4-to-7-foot range. It was great to compare notes with IceCat of Seoul at the 18th green; he followed Grace Park, who matched Shin's 73, over all of Locust Hill.

Still, some players took advantage of approachable pins on the par-5 11th, par-4 13th, and par-3 15th, among other holes. When I saw literally hundreds of people following Cristie Kerr and Michelle Wie as they made their way from the 9th green to the 10th tee, I had no idea how they were doing. Little did I know that Kerr would rattle off birdies on 10, 13, 16, and 17 to head into the final hole -5 on the day as well as for the tournament. I was actually planning to follow Mika Miyazato and Suzann Pettersen; Mikan was -2 through 10, and after a stop at the driving range to meet up with Golf Channel's John Goldstein, I planned to catch up with them on the 11th or 12th hole. But when I got a call from the Full Metal Archivist, who was jet-lagged and lost with the girls on the way to Pittsford, I had to leave the course to find them and caravan our way to the hotel, from where I'm now writing this. Too bad--Mikan ended up shooting a great 68, with birdies on 2, 7, 9, 10, 12, and 13 (offset a bit by bogeys on 3 and 4), while Pettersen righted the ship after a roller-coaster 34 on the front that had more birdies and bogeys than pars with a bogey-free 35 on the back to move to -3 for the tournament.

Others having good rounds in the morning were Katie Futcher and Jeehae Lee, so if they can do it, you know anyone in the afternoon can, as well. Right now I have to decide if I'm going to return to the course or just watch the Golf Channel coverage. A lot depends on how good the girls would be while the FMA is napping (good thing she bought them a Nintendo DS in Japan!). If I stay here, I'll go into a bit more detail on Pak's and Shin's rounds as I update my Locust Hill scouting report post. If I go, you won't hear from me for awhile, as we have dinner plans with friends in Rochester.

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