Friday, July 29, 2011

Ricoh Women's British Open Friday: Se Ri Pak and Inbee Park Tie Carnoustie Tournament Record with 64s, But Caroline Masson Takes Lead at Halfway Point

Hall of Famer Se Ri Pak and past U.S. Women's Open champion Inbee Park put on a show today, tying the Carnoustie tournament record of 64 in perfect conditions on the morning of the 2nd round of the Ricoh Women's British Open. Both had their chances to shoot 63s, but a bogey on the par-4 12th kept Park from doing it (her only 2 bogeys in her 1st 2 rounds have come on 12!), while for Pak a very short missed birdie putt on the vulnerable par-5 17th did her in.

Still, Pak is -10 over her last 24 holes (and counting) of bogey-free golf and has caught Na Yeon Choi (67) and Dewi Claire Schreefel (66) at -8 for the tournament. Park, meanwhile, was alone as the leader in the clubhouse until early in the evening, when she was joined at -10 by 1st-round leader Meena Lee, who birdied 17 and 18 to close out a fine 69. But they were both preempted by LET super soph Caroline Masson, who fired a fantastic bogey-free 65 to get to -11 and take the midway lead. Masson, who's -8 over her last 20 holes (and counting) of bogey-free golf, is 18th in LET Solheim Cup points and needs a great week to make the team. At least she's putting herself on Team Euro captain Alison Nicholas's radar!

World #1 Ya Ni Tseng also took advantage of the amazing scoring opportunities in the morning, going -3 over her 1st 6 holes and -4 over her last 5 holes to post a 66 that moved her all the way to alone in 7th at -7 through 36 holes. But she wasn't the only highly-ranked golfer to go low today. Suzann Pettersen and Ji-Yai Shin were able to kick it into a new gear after disappointing 1st rounds; their bogey-free 66s moved them to -2 and -3 for the tournament, respectively. Stacy Lewis's and Michelle Wie's 68s (highlighted by 6 birdies in a row to start the back for Lewis and 6 birdies and a great par save on 18 for Wie) weren't quite as impressive as Linda Wessberg's 8-birdie 66 or Janice Moodie's 5-birdie, 1-eagle 67, but they did help the Americans join Pettersen (and Moodie, Sun Ju Ahn, Kristy McPherson, and Karen Stupples) at -2. Speaking of Americans, Cristie Kerr was poised to go super-low today, with 3 birdies in a row to start the front, 2 birdies in a row to start the back, and an eagle on 17, but she made 2 bogeys and a walkoff double in other 5 closing holes to settle for a 69 that left her at -3 with Shin (and a host of other golfers, including Karrie Webb, Morgan Pressel, Maria Hjorth, Sun Young Yoo, Song-Hee Kim, Anna Nordqvist, Eun-Hee Ji, Vicky Hurst, Cindy LaCrosse, and Danielle Kang).

As you can see, those who barely broke 70 or just got under par today were passed by a passel of players. But don't count out Brittany Lincicome (71), Mika Miyazato (69), Caroline Hedwall (69), or Amy Yang (70) at -6, even though Lincicome had a roller-coaster finish over closing holes she dominated Thursday, Miyazato squandered a 1st-hole eagle and 3 subsequent birdies with a +1 finish over her last 5 holes, Hedwall took 33 putts on a day she hit 15 greens in regulation, and Yang birdied only 1 of 3 par 5s today. Ditto for Paula Creamer (70) at -5, who suffered a walkoff bogey for the 2nd day in a row, as well as Catriona Matthew (69), Sophie Gustafson (71), Pat Hurst (69), and Sophie Giquel-Bettan (68). Although Gustafson probably directed a few choice words at her putter and Creamer, Matthew, Hurst, and Giquel-Bettan can identify several mightabeens, they've all managed to avoid the kind of major mental meltdowns that saw Angela Stanford take 2 doubles in her last 5 holes today, the 1st because of trouble in the heather on the par-5 14th and the last because she failed to declare that her rehit from the 18th fairway was a provisional because she assumed her 1st was out of bounds (it wasn't). At -4 with Hee Young Park (70), Momoko Ueda (71), Brittany Lang (70), and Tiffany Joh (69), Stanford is by no means out of this, but she's significantly reduced her margin for error over the weekend.

Still, at least she's playing on the weekend. Last week's winner at Evian, Ai Miyazato, won't be, thanks to a terrible start to the week, a weak finish today, and a generally cold putter throughout her 2 disappointing rounds. But she isn't the only top-notch player going home early this week. The JLPGA's only Billion Yen Woman, Yuri Fudoh, faded to +3, as well, as did Hall of Famer Juli Inkster, Seon Hwa Lee, LET stars Ashleigh Simon, Diana Luna, and Becky Brewerton, and NYers Moira Dunn and Meaghan Francella. Further back were Grace Park, Wendy Ward, Jane Park, Gwladys Nocera, Lee-Anne Pace, Mina Harigae, Jennifer Song, Jessica Korda, and Jenny Shin, and Pornanong Phatlum at +4, Jee Young Lee, Mindy Kim, and Beatriz Recari at +5, Laura Davies at +6 (thanks to a walkoff 9), Sakura Yokomine and Sherri Steinhauer at +7, Mi Hyun Kim and Paige Mackenzie at +8, and Christina Kim at +10. Even in great weather, Carnoustie was plenty nasty for these very good golfers.

And even for those playing very well this week, it's been difficult to put it all together for more than a few holes at a time. Consider that Masson, Lee, Choi, Mikan, and Hedwall were the only golfers to break 70 both rounds. Even with a great weather forecast for moving day, it's difficult to imagine more than 2 of them doing it for the 3rd time in a row. And if Carnoustie starts showing its teeth....

[Update 1 (7/30/11, 7:22 am): Great tribute to Se Ri by bangkokbobby!]

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