Saturday, July 9, 2011

U.S. Women's Open Friday Morning: In-Kyung Kim on 32-Hole Bogey-Free Run; Leads by 2 over Lewis and Ward

In-Kyung Kim put on a clinic yesterday in the U.S. Women's Open, starting with a bogey-free 70 and extending her run to 32 holes and counting in the afternoon and early evening as she added birdies on 6, 9, and 11 to get to -4 for the week. Her closest competitors, Stacy Lewis and Wendy Ward, have to be feeling completely differently about trailing her by 2 shots right now. For Lewis, who was leading for most of ESPN2's coverage, but who came back from a rain delay with a bogey on the 413-yard par-4 14th and a double on the 432-yard par-4 15th, she has to be wondering what hit her. For Ward, who's riding a 20-hole bogey-free wave of her own and who's made 5 birdies in that stretch, she has to be itching to get back on the course.

The same goes for Paula Creamer, who's -3 in her last 22 holes of bogey-free golf and is only 3 behind Kim with 2 holes to play. But Ryann O'Toole must be happy for the chance to recover and regroup after making bogeys in 3 of her last 4 holes on the front 9 (her back). If she can shake off that finish to Friday's play, she has a great chance to get back under par in her last 4 holes of her 2nd round and pull ahead of Angela Stanford and Lizette Salas. But if she falters, she might find herself at +1 with the KLPGA's So Yeon Ryu or get passed by Suzann Pettersen, Ji-Yai Shin, or Chella Choi, who are all at +2 with several holes left to play. For that to happen, though, Pettersen and Shin has better figure out what's up with their drivers, as the former hit only 40% of her fairways Friday while the latter only 45% of them thus far in her 2nd round. Ditto for Ya Ni Tseng, who put on a clinic with her driving accuracy and putting at the much narrower and faster Locust Hill 2 weeks ago--she hit only 52% of her fairways Friday and looked super-tentative and uncertain on the Broadmoor's greens--but still has a chance to fight back to +1 or +2 for the week with a strong finish on the par-3 8th and par-5 9th Saturday morning. It's the same story for KLPGA star and LPGA rookie Hee Kyung Seo, who despite hitting only 4 of 11 fairways in her 2nd round and suffering a 3-hole bogey train on the back (her front), can still turn it around with a strong finish on the 6th through 9th holes later this morning.

For many players, however, their only hope for making the cut rests in the leader or leaders posting as high a 36-hole score as possible. With the top 60 and ties perhaps being expanded by those within 10 shots of the lead, such Asian stars as Shinobu Moromizato (76-72), Bo-Mee Lee (77-72), and Sun-Ju Ahn (76-76) and Europeans Anna Nordqvist (74-76), Sophie Gustafson (74-76), Silvia Cavalleri (79-73), and Melissa Reid (+8 with 7 to play) are just hoping to be able to keep playing on the weekend, as are LPGA stars and Lewis's playing partners Brittany Lincicome (+8) and Na Yeon Choi (+11), who only have the 17th and 18th to turn things around on and will still need help from others to make the cut. No such worries for Morita Jutanugarn, who bounced back from her opening 76 with a 69, tying So Yeon Ryu for low 2nd round in the clubhouse. She has a great chance to be low amateur through 36 holes when the 2nd round is finally completed sometime this afternoon.

Speaking of which, the players who finished their 1st rounds early Friday morning will have a late start Saturday and the better they play, the more rest they'll get between their 2nd and 3rd rounds. So I stand by my contention that their leaders will have a big advantage over those who had to endure Friday's marathon. As the trouble many of those playing well yesterday ran into after the rain delay shows--take Danielle Kang, who returned to double the 402-yard par-4 6th and bogey the 426-yard par-4 7th, as a case study--fatigue and changing course conditions definitely played a role. True, if Kim, Lewis, Ward, and/or Creamer can finish strong later this morning, they put some pressure on those chasing them who didn't even touch their clubs after yesterday morning. But Amy Anderson, Karrie Webb, the Miyazatos, Maria Hjorth, Cristie Kerr, Inbee Park, Cindy LaCrosse, and Mi-Jeong Jeon can focus in on their next 18 holes knowing they're not likely to play that many more today and facing an even softer course than did those who had to play 27 holes or more yesterday. Let's see who takes advantage!

[Update 1 (3:05 am): Here are notes and interviews from the 1st and 2nd rounds.]

[Update 2 (1:03 pm): Kim's bogey-free run ended at 32 holes, but she did par her last 3 to shoot a 69 and become the leader in the clubhouse at -3. A bogey on 18 dropped Lewis to -1 overall, tied with O'Toole, who birdied the 7th to join her there. Creamer, Stanford, Salas, and Ward all ended up E at the halfway point, the 1st by ending her bogey-free run at 22 holes and the last by doubling the 433-yard par-4 18th. The scoring gets worse quickly after Ryu's +1 total. Shin, Seo, and Azahara Munoz join Moriya Jutanugarn at +3. Tseng, Pettersen, Song-Hee Kim, Sakura Yokomine, Brittany Lang, and Catriona Matthew are stuck at +4. And everybody at +7 or worse is likely to miss the cut, unless scoring conditions today get a lot more difficult. But more on that in another post!]

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