Sunday, August 21, 2011

Safeway Classic Saturday: Can Stacy Lewis Chase Down Na Yeon Choi?

Thanks to steady play in tough afternoon conditions at Pumpkin Ridge's Ghost Creek course, Na Yeon Choi takes a 3-shot lead over Stacy Lewis into today's final round of the Safeway Classic. Lewis fired a rollercoaster 68 in the morning to get to -5, but Choi responded with a 3-birdie 69 that brought her to -8 through 36 holes. With no other golfer breaking 70 twice this week and Mika Miyazato the only other player among the 82 who made the cut at +7 to be within 5 shots of the lead, it's looking very unlikely that we won't witness a match-play-like situation later today to decide who succeeds Ai Miyazato as the Safeway Classic champion.

True, when you look at the number of bogeys, doubles, and worse pretty much everyone has been making, it's possible that Choi or Lewis could come back to the field in a big way. I suppose if In-Kyung Kim can miss the cut by going 80-79, Sun Young Yoo by going 82-74, Morgan Pressel with a 76-77 combo, Angela Stanford with a 76 and a 78, and Amy Yang with a 76 and 74, anything is possible. And, yes, a 75 by Se Ri Pak, 74s by Suzann Pettersen and Ai Miyazato, and 73s by Grace Park, Anna Nordqvist, and Hee Kyung Seo show how easy it is to move backwards at Ghost Creek. But I just don't see Choi or Lewis getting spooked. They'll be playing in their own twosome and facing pretty much the same conditions as the other 12 players within 7 shots of the lead. Somebody there will have to get off to a hot start and avoid the mid-round mistakes that have sabotaged most good starts to take advantage of any slips from the final pairing. I just don't see it happening.

That's not to say that there won't be a lot of interesting things happening before the final twosome tees off. I'm particularly intrigued by the Karrie Webb-Mi Hyun Kim pairing at 9:03 am, Michelle Wie and Moira Dunn at 9:35, Tiffany Joh and Paola Moreno at 10:23, Juli Inkster and Kristy McPherson at 10:39, Inbee Park and Lexi Thompson at 11:43, Suzann Pettersen and Se Ri Pak at 11:51, and Ji-Yai Shin and Azahara Munoz at 12:07 pm. So you can bet I'll be checking the online leaderboard before Golf Channel coverage begins at 7 pm. Whether or not I post anything before then depends on just how interesting these and other players are....

[Update 1 (11:09 am): bangkokbobby focuses on Na Yeon Choi and Grace Park, but includes lots of great photos and a rundown of the entire leaderboard.]

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