Somehow Ai Miyazato held onto a share of the lead at the CN Canadian Women's Open despite charges from Tiffany Joh and Michelle Wie and about a half-dozen putts that looked from 6 inches out like they would drop that didn't. If T-Joh had been able to sustain her early birdie barrage, where she birdied 7 of her 1st 11 holes but took "one delicious chili dip" from close range on the par-5 12th to stop her momentum dead--or if Wie had gotten another few close birdie tries to fall instead of hanging on or burning the edge of the cup--Miyazato would have been left in the dust. As it is, she shares the lead for the 3rd straight round, now at -12.
On a moving day when few players made big moves--Hee-Won Han's 66 and Maude-Aimee LeBlanc's 67 were the only really nice numbers put up besides Joh's bogey-free 65 and Wie's 5-birdie 68--Miyazato and 2nd-round co-leader Angela Stanford let the field back into contention with shaky ballstriking on the latter's part and a less magical putter than the previous 2 rounds on the former's. As a result, Catriona Matthew, Jennifer Johnson, Natalie Gulbis, and Anna Nordqvist pulled within 5 shots (or less) of the lead by matching Wie's 68, while 69s brought Brittany Lincicome within 1 and Cristie Kerr, Na Yeon Choi, and Ji-Yai Shin within 2 of the co-leaders. All in all, with 24 players within 5 shots of the lead, I wouldn't be surprised to see another 65--or better--from one of them later today, while most struggle to break 70. After all, we have only 4 players left--Wie, Lincicome, Choi, and Kerr--who have broken 70 all 3 rounds
So who's going to pull this one out tomorrow? There are so many great potential stories. Successful title defense from Wie on the eve of the Solheim Cup would be the best for the tour and the corporate media. Solheim Cup statements by Stanford, Lincicome, or any other Team USA member would also work (although one by Catriona Matthew would be almost as good). Sunday redemption for Choi after last Sunday's collapse would be awesome. Charges by Creamer, Kerr, Shin, or Kim to break their winning droughts (or mini-slumps) would be super-cool (a Stanford or Matthew win would also fall in this category). Star-is-born stories for Joh, Jennifer Johnson, Caroline Hedwall, or hometown fave Maude-Aimee LeBlanc would be heart-warming (and get Hedwall a Solheim Cup captain's pick for sure). And let's not forget Becky Morgan at -10. A win for her would also guarantee her a spot on Team Euro for the Solheim Cup. Naturally, I'm pulling for a win from one of my faves, namely Ai Miyazato, Tiffany Joh, or Na Yeon Choi, in that order. But I mostly want an exciting finish. It seems pretty likely I'll get it, given that LeBlanc is riding a 50-hole-and-counting bogey-free run, Shin has missed only 1 fairway all week, Kerr's made only 1 bogey all week and is riding a 45-hole-and-counting bogey-free run of her own, Ai's wielding her irons like a brain surgeon, and Lincicome hasn't come close to playing her best this week but is only 1 back. Whoever beats them--if anyone does--will have accomplished something very significant.
I'm hoping that the CBC's announcing and production team successfully conveys a sense of that significance. One major gaffe they made yesterday makes me worried, though. I was stunned that they failed to mention T-Joh's 2 WAPL wins at any time during yesterday's broadcast. The announcers seemed to be at a loss for what to say about Joh, mostly repeating that she came from San Diego and UCLA and hardly ever going deeper. If you couldn't tell from yesterday's interview at LPGA.com, T-Joh has one of the truly awesome personalities on the LPGA--and the planet. I'm not just saying that because I've been following her career for years or because she granted me a long interview right after finishing the Wegmans LPGA Championship. Nope, just check out the music videos she's made that bangkokbobby embeds in his 3rd-round recap post (which also includes other good background on Joh and observations on the other leaders). You'll see what I mean. If the CBC can't get across what T-Joh is like to their audiences, they'll have missed a major opportunity.
That said, Joh's going to have to conquer the last several holes of Hillsdale's Laurentien course (provided she can keep herself in contention that long today) if she wants to walk away with a win. On Thursday, a walkoff double made her go +2 over her last 5 holes; on Friday, 2 late bogeys put her at +2 over her last 4. Given that recent history, she was right to be satisfied Saturday with her even-par finish over her last 7 holes. But she'll need to hang in there for all 18 holes to get her 1st LPGA win.
Here's hoping Mother Nature treats Montreal better than Hurricane Irene's been treating NYC! The tournament organizers are sending the players out early in threesomes, so the tv coverage that starts at 2 pm will be tape-delayed. Still, the LPGA should get a little more of a spotlight from the golfy media than usual, what with the Barclays reduced to 54 holes and all. (Too bad the U.S. Amateur's final's happening today, too. Go, Cantlay!) Time to shine, ladies!