Ya Ni Tseng went out early and finished the 2nd round of the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship hot on the front but not as hot as Amy Yang did at the end of the day yesterday on the very same side. Despite a closing 32 that brought the world #1 to -9 and made her leader in the clubhouse for most of the day, Yang closed by going birdie-par-eagle-birdie-par for a 32 of her own and an overall 64 that made her Tseng's co-leader heading into the final round. Having followed Yang in the final round of the Wegmans LPGA Championship and argued that she should be included on the short list of players who can face down Tseng even when she's playing well, I probably should have seen this showdown coming, but due to her 2 missed cuts in a row heading into this week, I didn't even put Yang among my top 15 predictions.
Even after getting a chance to analyze the results of the 1st round, I can't say that my precognitive powers appear all that impressive. Given how many big moves were made yesterday, that date with destiny between defending champion Tseng and hometown favorite Stacy Lewis I was speculating about last post just got a lot more crowded. Sure, Lewis made 4 birdies and broke 70 for the 2nd time this week, but she bogeyed 2 of her last 4 holes on the front as she closed out her round and got leapfrogged by Taylor Leon, who made her 1st--and only--bogey of the competition early in her round but came back to log her 2nd-straight 67 of the week and is only 1 behind Tseng and Yang. Lewis, meanwhile, has a lot of company at -7, including Cristie Kerr, Inbee Park, and Jin Young Pak. Kerr didn't look like she was ever in the groove while on camera, but she birdied her last 2 holes in a row for a sweet 66. Park had a great chance for a 64 or better after she followed up a bogey-free 31 on the front with birdies on 13 and 14, but she bogeyed 16 and couldn't find another birdie on the 2 par 3s down the stretch or the final par 5. Pak, too, faltered a bit at the end of her round, as she bogeyed the par-3 17th and failed to birdie the 18th, but like Leon she's on track to radically improve on her #90 standing on the LPGA money list.
Speaking of which, several of the golfers I followed last post who were fighting to break into the top 80 or top 100 of the money list had tough days. Lisa Meldrum and Moira Dunn couldn't recover from their bad Friday finishes and joined Grace Park, Katherine Hull, Christina Kim, Natalie Gulbis, Danielle Kang, Vicky Hurst, Juli Inkster, Sun Young Yoo, Seon Hwa Lee, Michelle Wie, Hee Young Park, and Ryann O'Toole in missing the cut. But Adrienne White hung in there for an even-par 71 that kept her at -2 (with the likes of In-Kyung Kim and Sandra Gal!) and ensures she'll get her 1st LPGA paycheck of 2011. Even though she's not low Canadian any more--as Jessica Shepley (#118 on the money list) fired a bogey-free 66 to vault into T28 at -3 with the likes of Mi Hyun Kim, Mika Miyazato, Brittany Lang, Cindy LaCrosse, Tiffany Joh, and fellow card questers Pernilla Lindberg (#96) and Ilhee Lee (#113)--I'm pretty sure White is psyched, as are Christine Song (#139) and Reilley Rankin (#83), who join her at T37 thus far. Even happier at the end of moving day was Harukyo Nomura, who's won on both the Futures Tour and the JLPGA this year, but hasn't played as well on the LPGA. Despite a couple of hiccups late in the back (her front), she bounced back with a bogey-free 32 and at -5 is T12 with Solheim Cuppers Azahara Munoz (bogey-free 65), Brittany Lincicome (6-birdie 66), and Karen Stupples (4-birdie 70). Also at -5 are Mina Harigae, Chella Choi, and Sara Brown, who's now 1-for-9 in made-cuts on the LPGA this year, thanks to a fantastic 6-birdie, 1-eagle 65 yesterday. Another smooth move came from Kris Tamulis (#84), who followed up Friday's 70 with a 68 Saturday that brought her into the top 20 with Suzann Pettersen, Na Yeon Choi, Hee-Won Han, Amy Hung, Beatriz Recari, Christel Boeljon, and Amanda Blumenherst at -4. But perhaps the happiest of all the big movers from low on the money list was Belen Mozo (#116), who opened her round with 4 birdies in her 1st 7 holes and closed it with a walkoff eagle on the par-5 18th. Not only did her bogey-free 65 put her into a tie for 8th at -6 with Ai Miyazato (who needs to make her 1st birdie of the week today on a Pinnacle Country Club par 5 to have a chance of winning her 2nd LPGA title of the year), Paula Creamer (whose 5 bogeys in 36 holes are the most of anyone near the top of the leaderboard), and Morgan Pressel (whose bogey-free 30 on the back was great payback to the course after a terrible front 9), but it also make Mozo the low Spaniard thus far in a week when Munoz and Recari have been playing great golf.
So let's see how high up the money list Mozo, Nomura, Brown, Tamulis, Shepley, Lindberg, Lee, White, Song, and Rankin can climb after today's action. Also making the cut and outside the top 80 on the money list are Jennifer Rosales (+2, #137), Jennie Lee (+2, #130), Laura Diaz (+2, #123), Jee Young Lee (+2, #122), Amelia Lewis (+2, #105), Stephanie Louden (+2, #98), Jane Park (+2, #93), Jessica Korda (+2, #92), Lorie Kane (+2, #82), Karin Sjodin (+1, #89), Silvia Cavalleri (+1, #88), Dina Ammaccapane (E, #146), Dori Carter (E, #133), Minea Blomqvist (E, #128), Jeehae Lee (E, #121), Ashli Bunch (-1, #117), and Na On Min (-1, #100). Like White and Brown, Birdie Kim also made her 1st LPGA cut of 2011 yesterday, although at +2 she'll need to go super-low to make any kind of serious move on the money list, given that there are 27 other over-#80s even with or ahead of her after 36 holes.
So even as we track the top of the leaderboard--and see if Yang can get her 1st career LPGA victory, if Kerr, Creamer, or Pressel can bring home her 1st win of 2011 on the eve of the Solheim Cup, if Lewis or Miyazato can get her 2nd win of the season, if Lincicome can come from behind for her 3rd win of the year and her 2nd in a row, if Park can get her 1st LPGA win since taking the U.S. Women's Open what feels like eons ago, if Mozo can turn her rookie year around in a big way with her 1st LPGA win, if Leon, Pak, or Brown can shock the world, or if Tseng can turn the screws on the best women golfers on the planet yet again--let's also take some time to see which veterans and youngsters will increase the odds that they won't have to go to Q-School to keep their 2012 LPGA cards. With 27 players within 5 shots of the lead and 26 players trying to break into the top 80 on the money list, there'll be plenty of action to follow later today!
[Update 1 (1:55 pm): Here's a belated link to the 2nd-round notes and interviews from LPGA.com! And to the final-round pairings!]