Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Best on the LPGA: 1-Time Winners, May 2011 Edition

1 may be the loneliest number, but I'll bet those on this list of the LPGA's 1-time winners are happy to be off the Best Without a Win list. By the same token, those on that list may want to avoid making their 1st win the U.S. Women's Open, the Safeway, the Farr, the State Farm, or any event in Mexico. (It's looking like the Corning Classic's demise will spare 1st-time winners that particular jinx, unless the rumors of its potential revival come true.) You'll see what I mean when you check out these profiles (which, sadly, I haven't updated since last October), ranked in part by career achievements and mostly by what I expect from them over the rest of the 2011 season.

Most Likely to Win in 2011

1. Stacy Lewis: She's not only 1 of the hottest players on the LPGA right now, having followed up her Kraft Nabisco Championship victory over world #1 Ya Ni Tseng with a top 5 in the Avnet and a top 10 at the Sybase, she's also one of the most consistent, never having finished outside the top 30 in 2011.

2. Sun Young Yoo: I still believe the sky's the limit for this late-blooming '06er. She's got a classic straight shooter game (think Cristie Kerr, Angela Stanford, Brittany Lang, and so on). If she can play better on the weekends and putt better from here on out, she'll give herself a lot of chances to graduate from this list this season.

3. Inbee Park: She's been concentrating on the JLPGA of late, where she won their season-opening event and is currently 5th on their money list, but her good play in Japan hasn't been translating well to the LPGA as of yet, and she's not playing this week at the Sybase.

The Contenders

4. Momoko Ueda: Although she couldn't take the JLPGA's 1st major a few Sundays ago, she now has 4 top 10s in 7 starts there and is currently #11 on their money list, so I'm looking for her to come back to the States with some confidence and momentum.

5. Sandra Gal: Her worst finish of the year came in her 1st event, but T26 is nothing to sneeze at and her other finishes were all top 15s, including her breakthrough win at the Kia where she outduelled Ji-Yai Shin on a Sunday and her best-ever finish in a major, T15 at the KNC. I'd say she's for real.

6. Jee Young Lee: Just as she started to play really good golf again, it appears she got hurt late last season and its effects seem to have carried over into this one. She just made her 1st LPGA cut of 2011 at the Avnet, but got bounced out of the Sybase in the 1st round. Hopefully she's getting healthier for the LPGA's late spring and early summer.

Quantum Leap Candidates

7. Hee Kyung Seo: A 3rd-round 65 at the Avnet not only helped her to her 1st top 10 of 2011 but also showed what the '10 Kia Classic champion and '11 Rookie of the Year race leader is capable of.

8. M.J. Hur: She hasn't done anything all that special since her top 10 in Thailand to kick the season off, but her strong putting has kept her from falling off a cliff. She'll need to improve her tee shots to move up or graduate from this list, however.

9. Beatriz Recari: Dating back to the end of last season, she's made 11 of 12 cuts, a sharp improvement on last year's overall record, when she made only 5 cuts in 15 starts. She still needs to capitalize better on her excellent driving, however, with more greens hit, more birdie chances, and more made putts, before she can think about moving up or off this list.

10. Natalie Gulbis: Recurring back problems since her 2007 Evian Masters playoff victory over Jeong Jang have dropped her back where she was in her 1st 3 seasons on the LPGA--a player who makes her share of cuts but has trouble cracking the top 10. In fact, 24 of her top 10s and all 7 of her top 3s came between 2005 and 2007, when she was a regular on the top 20 of the money list. It seems like every season since then starts with a lot of optimism about the state of her back. With 6 made cuts in 7 starts and a driving average over 250 yards thus far, this season is no exception, but let's see if she can stay healthy all year.

On the Bottom, Looking Up

11. Julieta Granada: Has she finally started to emerge from the long slump that threatened her ability to hold onto her LPGA membership the last few seasons? She's missed the cut 3 times already in 2011, but the 2 times she made it, she ended up with top 10s! 1 more and she matches her 2007 total; 5 more and she matches her rookie season's total....

12. Shi Hyun Ahn: Like Jee Young Lee and Momoko Ueda, her only LPGA win comes with an asterisk, as she got it as a KLPGA member in 2003, but since then she's played roughly 20 events on the LPGA each year, garnering 27 top 10s in the process, with only 3 of them coming since the end of the 2007 season. Whereas she was a regular on the top 30 of the money list over her 1st 4 seasons, she's slipped into the 50s and 60s in recent years. And she's started 2011 super-frigidly, with a WD at the Avnet the low point of a year in which she has yet to break par and her normally-reliable putter has been repeatedly failing her.

13. Meaghan Francella: She shocked the golf world with a win over Annika Sorenstam on the 4th playoff hole at the 2007 MasterCard Classic, but Annika's announcement a little later that season that she had been suffering significant back and neck injuries for some time put a little asterisk by that victory. To make matters worse, Francella had to deal with injury issues of her own over the next season and a half, but the Senior Standout bounced back in 2009 by getting her 5th and 6th top 10s on tour, breaking the 73 barrier in scoring average for the 1st time in her career, and returning to the top 50 of both the money list and my Best of the LPGA ranking. She continued her comeback in 2010 with a top 10 at the LPGA Championship and stayed in the top 60 of both the money list and my ranking, despite her approach shots and expecially her putting holding her back. So far this season she's made 4 of 5 cuts but hasn't yet cracked the top 20.

14. Leta Lindley: Injuries curtailed her schedule in 2009, not even allowing her to defend her 2008 Corning Classic title. But as that win gives her high-priority status through this season, she could afford the terrible spring and summer she had and take solace in her ability to break 70 in the fall of 2010. Let's see if she can add to her total of 33 career top 10s, this season. She's hitting the fairways over 78% of the time, but not doing much else all that great in the stop-and-start segment of the LPGA's schedule, but she has made 3 cuts in 4 starts and the ShopRite features one of the shortest courses on tour.

15. Heather Bowie Young: She won at the Farr in 2005 and has collected 26 top 10s since joining the LPGA in 2000. 2010 was her 2nd season in a row without 1, but she did improve from 2009 (when her made-cut rate plummeted to the lowest of her career) and has full status in 2011, despite playing in only 16 events, the smallest number of starts in a season in her career. So far this season, she's been hitting the ball great but been putting terribly. Still, she's gotten 2 top 25s already in official events and was leading in Brazil after the 1st round.

16. Eunjung Yi: Her playoff victory over Morgan Pressel at the Farr in 2009 remains her only LPGA top 10 since her LPGA career began in 2008. She won Hound Dog's fluke victory of the year award that year, a dubious distinction. The only way things could be worse for her prospects in 2011 would be if her defeat of Pressel had come in a U.S. Women's Open (see Kim, Birdie, below). Seriously, it remains to be seen how she responds to her guaranteed high priority status on the LPGA running out at the end of this season. 2010 was pretty blah, although she did make the top 100 on the money list, and she's gotten off to a terrible start in 2011.

17. Moira Dunn: Her 2004 win at the Giant Eagle Classic was the high point of an LPGA career that dates back to 1995, but her best season was probably in 2001. My junior golf buddy's been struggling to keep her card each year sinc the 2006 season, so although she couldn't add to her 23 career LPGA top 10s in 2010, staying at #80 on the money list was another battle won in a long pro campaign. She's off to a slow start in 2011, with 2 missed cuts in 3 starts, but if she can improve her iron play, everything else should fall into place.

18. Nicole Castrale: Unfortunately, 2010 didn't go down as the year she bounced back from a very disappointing 2009, when she missed 10 cuts, saw her scoring average approach 72.50, fell outside the top 50 on the money list, and only managed to get her 19th and 20th career top 10s on the LPGA. It'll instead be remembered as the year she had to cut her season short for shoulder surgery. She's back on tour full time in 2011 and has made 4 cuts in 6 starts, but is clearly still rusty with her irons and putter.

19. Louise Friberg: Her come-from-behind rookie win at the MasterCard Classic in 2008 gives her high-priority status through the end of this season, which is a good thing, because she made only 3 cuts in 21 starts in 2009 and 6 of 16 in 2010. So far she's 0 for 4 in 2011 and has broken 75 only once.

20. Silvia Cavalleri: She's only had 10 top 10s in an career that started back in 1999 and in that span has only cracked the top 50 on the money list once--in 2007, when she won the Corona Championship. She's finished outside the top 100 on the money list the last 3 seasons, and currently sits in the #104 spot on the money list, as well. She needs a good season to get off Hound Dog's fluke victories list, but has barely made the cut twice and missed it twice thus far this year.

On the Outside, Looking In

21. Young Kim: She joined the JLPGA in 2010 and ended up ranked 14th on tour; this season, she's 25th on the money list. Whether she'll return to the LPGA remains to be seen, but provided she does, if anyone on this list is going to follow in Jimin Kang's footsteps in breaking the Corning Classic jinx (see #14), I would expect her to be the next to do it!

22. Soo-Yun Kang: Her win at the Safeway Classic in 2005 was part of the best season of her career, where she got 6 top 10s and ended up #14 on the money list. But it was also the last season her stroke average dipped under 72. Of her 17 career top 10s since she started on the LPGA in 2001, only 2 have come after 2005 and none came in 2010. Having made the top 100 on the money list, she retains LPGA membership this year, but she's spent all her time on the JLPGA thus far, where she's #41 on their money list.

23. Jin Joo Hong: After playing 3 seasons on the KLPGA, she won the jointly-sponsored event with the LPGA and switched tours for the next 3 seasons, ending 2009 ranked #10 in her rookie class. Since then, she's decided to focus on the KLPGA.

24. Joo Mi Kim: She came to the LPGA in 2005 with 3 KLPGA victories under her belt and made a lot of cuts in her rookie season, then followed it up with a playoff win at the SBS Open (over Lorena Ochoa and Soo Young Moon) and 4 top 10s in all the next season, where she ended up 27th on the money list. She stayed in the top 50 for the 3rd-straight season the following year, but has only played 32 events over the last 3 seasons and hasn't cracked the 73 barrier in scoring average in that span. She spent the fall of 2010 on the KLPGA after failing to make an LPGA cut in spring and summer and is playing full-time there this year.

25. Birdie Kim: I had wanted to put her higher on this list, feeling that she had been coming back from the U.S. Women's Open jinx after her stunning 2005 win from the sand over then-amateurs Morgan Pressel and Brittany Lang. But no, she's only made 4 cuts in her last 19 starts dating back to 2009, hasn't added to her career total of 4 top 10s in that span, and has never broken the 73 barrier in scoring average since she started on the LPGA in 2004. She's 0-for-3 in made cuts thus far this season, but can get into any event she wants, based on her medical exemption that leaves her at #83 on the priority status list.

26. Marisa Baena: Her LPGA career started in 1999, but after a terrible 2004, it looked like it was in jeopardy. She bounced back in 2005 with a win in the HSBC Women's World Match Play Championship from the 60th seed. Although she failed to get her 14th career top 10 and 2nd since 2005 last season, she did make 2 of 4 cuts. At #218 on the priority status list, she might be able to get into 1 or 2 events if she tries this year.

27. Kris Tschetter: Her rookie season was 1988, she won the Northgate Computer Classic in 1992. Even though 2002 was her last solid season, her 50 career top 10s show that she's got the talent to bounce back, now that her kids are elementary school age. She had a terrible 2010 on the course but wrote a moving account of her friendship with Ben Hogan off it.

28. Kelli Kuehne: She got a medical exemption for 2010, but didn't come close to returning to her 1999-2004 form, when she won at the Corning Classic at the start of that run and notched 24 of her 26 career top 10s over the course of it. From 2005-2009, though, she hasn't broken the 73 barrier in scoring average in any season and has made only 33 of 86 cuts. And she went 0 for 10 in 2010. She's #217 on the priority status list, but I have to wonder if she's going to play at all in 2011.

29. Kate Golden: Her win at the State Farm Classic in 2001 was part of a run from 2000-2004 when she averaged in the mid 72s in scoring and mid-$200Ks in winnings, but since then she hasn't made more than half her cuts in any season and has only added 1 top 10 to her career total of 14. In 2010, she got into 2 events and missed the cut in both of them in what might turn out to have been the last year of an LPGA career that started in 1992. She's still listed at #225 on the priority status list, but hasn't gotten into any events thus far this year.

30. Sung Ah Yim: Like Joo Mi Kim, she joined the LPGA in 2005 and got her 1st win in 2006, at the Florida's Natural Charity Classic. But from 2007 to 2009, she neither added to her career total of 8 top 10s nor broke the 74 barrier in scoring average. And in 2010, she didn't get a single LPGA start from #227 on the priority status list. With no LPGA status in 2011, this won't be the year she plays her way out of the #6 spot on Hound Dog's fluke victories list.

31. Hilary Lunke: She may never be knocked from the top spot in Hound Dog's fluke victory list. Thanks to a medical exemption, her 2003 U.S. Women's Open victory gave her the opportunity to play a full schedule in 2010, but she didn't tee it up on tour all season. She's now listed at #240 on the priority status list.

Monday, May 30, 2011

The 2011 Worldwide Women's Developmental Tour Schedule and Results

Here's an update to my guide to playing opportunities custom-made for up-and-coming female pros, from the major tour-affiliated organizations like the Futures Tour in the USA, the Step-Up Tour in Japan, the Dream Tour in Korea, and the LET Access Series in Europe to mid-size tours like the ALPG in Australia, the LAGT in Asia, and the CLPGA in China, to the even smaller ones like the TLPGA in Taiwan, the CN Canadian Women's Tour in Canada, the Generali Ladies Tour in Europe, the Cactus Tour in Phoenix, AZ, and the SunCoast Series in Florida. You'll note from the list of winners and links to leaderboards that a good number of well-established and even big-time players will often compete on these developmental and mini-tours, so pay attention!


2-3 St. Georges Basin Country Club Pro-Am (ALPG) JOANNE MILLS

17-19: Hyundai China Ladies Open (CLPGA/KLPGA) HYE YOUN KIM


6-8 Royal Open (TLPGA) MI RIM LEE
8-9 Xstrata Coal Branxton Golf Club Pro-Am (ALPG) RACHEL BAILEY

12 NRE Gujarat Russell Vale Challenge Cup (ALPG) RYANN O'TOOLE
13-14 Moss Vale Golf Club Classic (ALPG) KATHERINE HULL
14-16 Taifong Open YA NI TSENG

16-17 Mount Broughton Classic (ALPG) KATHERINE HULL
18-20 Orange Tree Country Club (SCS) CINDY LACROSSE
21-23 Bing Lee Samsung NSW Women's Open (ALPG) CAROLINE HEDWALL; Hitachi Classic (TLPGA) PORNANONG PHATLUM

24-26 West Orange Country Club (SCS) LAURA DIAZ
28-30 ActewAGL Royal Canberra Ladies Classic (ALPG) ASHLEY ONA [a]
31-2/2 The Legacy (CT) MINDY KIM


1-3 Red Tail Country Club (SCS) MOIRA DUNN
3-6 Women's Australian Open (ALPG/LET) YA NI TSENG

7-9 Papago (CT) JULIE YANG [a]
8-10 Magnolia Plantation (SCS) CHELLA CHOI
10-13 ANZ RACV Ladies Masters (ALPG/LET) YA NI TSENG

14-16 Wigwam Red (CT) ALENA SHARP
15-17 Mission Inn Resort--Las Colinas (SCS) HYUN-JI KIM
17-20 Pegasus New Zealand Women's Open (ALPG/LET) KRISTIE SMITH

22-24 CC of Mount Dora (SCS) KRIS TAMULIS
24 Lady Anne Funerals Ryde Parramatta Pro-Am (ALPG) SARAH KEMP
24-26 Yumeya Championship (LAGT) SAKURA YOKOMINE

28-3/2 Ocotillo (CT) MINA HARIGAE

MARCH 2011

1-3 LPGA International--Champions (SCS) PAIGE MACKENZIE

7-9 Florida Women's Open (CT) ISABELLE BEISIEGEL

14-15 Encanterra (CT) JENNIFER JOHNSON
16-18 Terre Blanche Ladies Open (LETAS/GLT) HENRIETTA ZUEL

21-23 Palm Valley--Palms (CT) JOY TROTTER
25-27 Florida's Natural Charity Classic (FT) TZU-CHI LIN

29-31 Mission Inn Resort--El Campeon (SCS) RACHEL CONNOR

APRIL 2011

1-3 Daytona Beach Invitational (FT) HARUKYO NOMURA; Shanghai Classic (CLPGA) LI YING YE; Q-School [for foreign players] (CLPGA)
5-7 Falcons Fire GC (SCS) NICOLE HAGE

8-10 Santorini Riviera Navarit Classic (FT) RYANN O'TOOLE
11-13 Seville (CT) JOY TROTTER
12-14 Rock Springs Ridge (SCS) CHELLA CHOI
13-15 La Nivelle Ladies Open (LETAS/GLT) ANNE-LISE CAUDAL

22-24 Yangzhou Challenge (CLPGA) PORANI CHUTICHAI

25-26 KLPGA Dream Tour #1 HYE NA JUNG
25-27 The Legacy (CT) JOY TROTTER
26-28 Harmony Golf Preserve (SCS) RENEE SKIDMORE
29-5/1 Symetra Classic (FT) LISA FERRERO

MAY 2011

2-4 Southern Dunes (CT) DINA AMMACCAPANE
3-5 Eastwood GC (SCS) LISA MELDRUM

9-11 Ocotillo (CT) KENDALL DYE
10-12 Stoneybrook East GC (SCS) MARIA HJORTH
11-12 KLPGA Dream Tour #2 HAE RIM KIM

16-18 Squamish Valley GC (CWT) JESSICA SHEPLEY
20-22 Beijing Renji Challenge (CLPGA) PORANI CHUTICHAI

30-31 KLPGA Dream Tour #3 DA SOM LEE

JUNE 2011

2-3 Deodeo Cup (SUT) AOI NAGATA
3-5 Ladies Titan Tire Challenge (FT) KATHLEEN EKEY

7-8 KLPGA Dream Tour #4
8-10 Forest Lake (SCS) GINGER HOWARD
10-12 Teva Championship (FT) LISA FERRERO; Yantai Yangmadao Challenge (CLPGA) TIAN HONG

13-14 KLPGA Dream Tour #5
13-15 Club de Golf Beloeil (CWT) KATY HARRIS
16-19 Tate & Lyle Players Championship (FT) VALENTINE DERREY

24-26 Island Resort Championship (FT) STEPHANIE KIM; Caofeidian Wetlands Challenge (CLPGA) PATCHARAJUTAR KONGKRAPHAM

28-29 Blue Springs (CWT) JESSICA WALLACE [a]
30-7/2 South Shore Championship at White Hawk (FT) TIFFANY JOH

JULY 2011

5-7 Stoneybrook West (SCS) JACQUI CONCOLINO

12-14 LPGA International (SCS) GINGER HOWARD
13-14 KLPGA Dream Tour #6
15-17 ING New England Golf Classic (FT) BRITTANY JOHNSTON

18-20 Harmony Golf Preserve (SCS) GINGER HOWARD
22-24 The International at Concord (FT) JESSICA SHEPLEY
25-26 KLPGA Dream Tour #7

27-28 Castrol Ladies (SUT) CHIAKI TAKAHASHI
29-31 Alliance Bank Golf Classic (FT) KATHLEEN EKEY


1-2 KLPGA Dream Tour #8
5-7 Pennsylvania Classic (FT) CATHRYN BRISTOW

8-9 KLPGA Dream Tour #9
8-10 Whirlwind (CT) KAYLA MORTELLARO
9-11 Orange County National (SCS) HAEJI KANG
12-14 Eagle Classic (FT) MO MARTIN; China vs. Korea (CLPGA/KLPGA)

16-18 Falcon's Fire (SCS) GINGER HOWARD

22-23 KLPGA Dream Tour #10
22-24 The Legacy (CT)
26-28 Vidalia Championship (FT)

29-31 Wigwam Red (CT)


6-8 Southern Dunes (CT); Reunion Resort (SCS)
7-8 KLPGA Dream Tour #11
9-11 Price Chopper Tour Championship (FT); China vs. Chinese Taipei (CLPGA/TLPGA) China Cup Pro-Am Championship (CLPGA)

13-15 Reunion Resort (SCS)
16-18 Wenzhou Yangyi Challenge (CLPGA)
17-18 Women's Cup Sanyou Newspapers (SUT)

20-22 Reunion Resort (SCS)
21-23 Dinard Ladies Open (LETAS/GLT)
23-25 Wuhan Challenge (CLPGA)
27-28 KLPGA Dream Tour #12

29-10/2 Imperial Springs LPGA (CLPGA/LPGA)


6-7 KLPGA Dream Tour #13

11-13 TBA (CT)
12-13 KLPGA Dream Tour #14
13-14 Aso Guranvirioredisu Rutoinkappu (SUT)
13-15 Trophee Preven's (LETAS)

17-20 AZ Open (CT)
18-20 TBA (SCS)
19-20 KLPGA Dream Tour #15
21-23 Sanya Ladies Open (LAGT/CLPGA/LET)

24-26 Palm Valley--Palms (CT)
25-27 TBA (SCS)
28-30 Suzhou Taihu Ladies Open (LAGT/CLPGA/LET)


7-9 Ocotillo (CT)

14-16 Legacy (CT)
16-18 LPGA International (SCS)
17-19 Murcia Ladies Open (LETAS)

21-23 LPGA International (SCS)
25-27 Zhuhai Challenge (CLPGA)


9-11 Hero Honda Women's India Open (LAGT/LET)

16-18 Ladies Indonesia Open (LAGT)
16-19 Hyundai Motor China Ladies Open (CLPGA/KLPGA)

Tournament Number 8 Will Start a Pretty Heavy Slate

The eighth tournament of the year, the Shop-Rite Classic, will be held at Galloway, New Jersey, this week. The final field of 148 players will be the largest of the year. It will also be one of the strongest fields assembled thus far this year, with Inbee Park the only notable player missing from the field. Here are some of the details:

Course: Seaview-Dolce Resort Bay Course
Defending Champion: Ai Miyazato
Par 71
Yardage: 6155

There have been many holes thus far this year in the schedule as the first 7 tournaments have been played over a span of 16 weeks. That will now change as the next 18 tournaments (including the Solheim Cup) will be played over the next 25 weeks. The next 9 weeks will not only bring us 6 tournaments, it will also bring us 3 majors. Look for this period to bring us the most exciting golf of the year.

My 2011 Player of the Year Update:

1- Stacy Lewis 94.66 points
2- Yani Tseng 94.22
3- Karrie Webb 75.20
4- Suzann Petterson 61.84
5- I.K. Kim 57.76
6- Michelle Wie 57.70
7- Angela Stanford 54.84
8- Morgan Pressel 52.68
9- Sandra Gal 51.24
10-Na Yeon Choi 49.48
11-Cristie Kerr 44.72
12-Mika Miyazato 38.70
13-Chie Arimura 38.20
14-Maria Hjorth 36.56
15-Paula Creamer 35.48

Hard to believe stat of the week:

Hee Young Park has shot under par in only 2 of her 20 rounds this year. She has yet to shoot under 70. I am not even counting the Brazil Cup, an unofficial event played this past weekend where her plus 9 score only beat 3 players in a field of 30.

Tim Maitland on Mariajo Uribe's Win in Brazil

Uribe Boosts South American Golf with HSBC Brasil Cup Win
Tim Maitland

With five years to go before Brazil hosts golf’s return to the Olympics, Colombia’s Mariajo Uribe gave the women’s game in South America a significant boost by winning the HSBC LPGA Brasil Cup in Rio de Janeiro.

The 21-year-old from Bucaramanga gained her first victory as a professional, shooting a 9-under-par 135 for the US$720,000 two-round event at the Itanhanga Golf Club in the Barra de Tijuca district of Rio. Uribe, the 2007 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion, won by a stroke from Australian Lindsey Wright who narrowly missed a seven-foot breaking putt to force a play-off.

“It’ll make a huge impact on South American golf, especially women’s golf. With the Olympics coming up we need a lot of representatives from South America, so I think it’s a big deal,” said Uribe, who enjoyed enormous local support during her six-under-par final round.

“That’s how Latin people are! It’s not only because I’m Colombian, if you play with passion and if you’re emotional on the course they support you. The Brazilian fans reacted to me as if I were one of their own.”

Uribe added that even though the tournament is not considered an official LPGA event win and the prize money doesn’t count on the tour’s money list, it is playing a significant role in a country that, despite its population of 200 million, only has 25,000 golfers.

“A lot of the kids I saw last year are training more because they met me and they have someone closer to relate with. I think my win is going to create a huge buzz,” she said.

The President of the South American Golf Federation (the Federacion Sudamericana de Golf) and of the Brazilian Golf Confederation (the Confederacao Brasileira de Golfe), Rachid Orra, said Uribe’s victory was as significant to the region as Jhonattan Vegas’s victory at the Bob Hope Classic in January; even though Vegas’s win has single-handedly changed Venezuela president Hugo Chavez’s attitude to the sport.

“Symbolically it’s the same thing because it’s a girl that has beaten some of the best players in the world!” declared Orra.

“It’ll be all over the newspapers in Brazil that South America has one girl, and others, that can compete equally with some of the best players. It’s a great thing that one girl from South America has beaten some of the best players in the world. It’s very important for us. It’s an example for the young girls that want to play golf to see one girl from Colombia, a country like Brazil, can win a very important tournament. We are very happy. The coming of the HSBC LPGA Brasil Cup was a very important step for us, taken three years ago. This is another one. Both are very, very, very important,” he explained.

Uribe’s victory is South America’s first at the LPGA level since Paraguay’s Julieta Granada scooped the million dollar jackpot at the ADT Championship in November 2006. The last Colombian win was Marisa Baena’s 2005 triumph as a complete outsider in the HSBC Women’s World Match Play Championship in 2005.

“Golf in Brazil and in the region is at such an embryonic stage that every step in the right direction, every little thing that gains attention and increases the interest to a broader audience, is of enormous importance,” said David Kotheimer, Deputy CEO and Vice Presidente of tournament sponsors HSBC Bank Brasil.

“The sport has been so energised here by its introduction to the Olympics and the prospect of its return in the 2016 Rio Games, but a ‘local’ win at the HSBC Brasil Cup will still play a substantial part in fanning those flames even more. This event really can be a catalyst, just as the WGC-HSBC Champions has been a catalyst for growth in China. That was the strategy behind investing here just as we have in Asia,” he added.

Relatively forgotten in the excitement was the performance of the 31-year-old Wright, who was overjoyed at getting back into contention for a title for the first time since she finished runner-up at the LPGA Championship, one of the women’s Majors, in 2009.

“To finish second and to have a chance of winning was awesome; just for my confidence. I felt really pleased because I went for every shot. On the last hole I went for it, pulled off the shot and nearly holed the putt. I was happy to be in that position; really happy to get the nerves and that “Yeah! This is great!” feeling… and I haven’t had that feeling in a long time,” Wright said.

As the World Turns III

This irregular Mostly Harmless feature seems to becoming a monthly thing! Check out my March and April installments!

It Couldn't Have Happened to a Nicer Person! Mariajo Uribe fired a 66 to win the HSBC Brazil Cup by 1 shot over Lindsey Wright and 2 over Maria Hjorth. How do I know Uribe is nice? Read on!

Who Comes after the New Blood? Given that I've named the rookie classes of 2006-2008 the Young Guns and 2009-2011 the New Blood, what should I call the next LPGA generation? I better think fast, as there are some high-quality college golfers turning pro this summer, among them U.S. Women's Amateur champion Danielle Kang, LSU's Megan McChrystal, Arizona State's Carlota Ciganda, USC's Lizette Salas, Auburn's Cydney Clanton, Wake Forest teammates Natalie Sheary and Michelle Shin, Florida's Jessica Yadloczky, recent U.S. Women's Open qualifier Joanna Coe, and Arkansas's Kelli Shean. [Update (6/1/11): Add Stacey Miller to the list!]

Hope they all get their applications to the 1st stage of LPGA Q-School in soon--they're due between June 1st and July 15th for everyone not already on a Rolex Rankings-recognized tour or in its top 100 on 7/12/11.

Cannonade of Babies! It's well-known that Annika's 2nd child, Will, is now home and doing well and that Lorena's expecting, but I wonder how many people are following Jeong Jang on facebook or via Seoul Sisters.com? Well, the recently-married Jang is also expecting and has decided to take the entire year off from competitive golf. Congrats to all the LPGA's new and expecting moms and here's hoping that more choose to follow in the footsteps of Juli Inkster. Especially JJ!

Corning Classic Reboot Coming? That's what the local papers in Corning, NY, were buzzing about last week. Here's hoping we see a new and improved tournament by 2013!

Me and Sergio Down on the Back 9.... What is it about golf where you can go from Mr. Hyde to Dr. Jekyll so quickly and find it so hard to even get back to playing decently? In my 3rd round of the year, I was playing Harvest Hill in Orchard Park for the 1st time and out of the blue fired a bogey-free 33 on the front and recovered from a 3-putt bogey on the par-5 10th with a birdie on the par-3 12th to get back to -3. 6 holes later, I ended up with a 77! The turning point? One skanky drive way right off the 13th tee, then a pull-hooked 3-wood into the heather on the same hole, and I had no idea where my next miss was going. It took 9 horrible holes the next morning on the same course to get back to playing at least halfway-decent golf again on the same back 9 I collapsed on the day before. My best-ball over those 2 rounds: 71. My worst-ball: 95. I know it's the early season and all, but this is ridiculous! Good thing the Buffalo District Mid-Am is tomorrow, eh?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Yonex Ladies Sunday: Hiromi Mogi Beats Ji-Hee Lee with Walkoff Birdie

It was a war of attrition in today's final round of the Yonex Ladies, but in the end, the golfer who shot the round of the day, Hiromi Mogi, won the tournament with a birdie on the final hole, a 478-yard par 5.

Mogi's 5th career JLPGA victory was fueled by a bogey-free 33 on her final 9 and aided by the collapses of most of her competitors. Miki Sakai, who had to go to Q-School to keep her card for this season, was -5 after eagling the 373-yard par-4 8th hole, but she proceeded to double the 417-yard par-4 9th and shoot a birdieless 39 on the back. Sakura Yokomine, who started the day 1 off the lead, was still at -4 through 5 holes, but doubled the 513-yard par-5 6th and followed it up with a bogey on the 8th. It was a bogey on the 9th and a double on the 363-yard par-4 12th that derailed defending champion Mi-Jeong Jeon; she, too, had been at -4. In the end, only 2nd-round leader Ji-Hee Lee was in the hunt, despite stumbling out of the gates with a birdieless 38 to drop to -3. She fought back to -4 with a birdie on the 472-yard par-5 13th, then bounced back from a bogey on the 167-yard par-3 16th with a clutch birdie on the 403-yard par-4 17th. But Mogi applied pressure to her from 1 group ahead of her with a walkoff birdie and when Lee failed to match it, the tournament was Mogi's.

Here's how the leaders and notables ended up:

1st/-5 Hiromi Mogi (70-71-70)
2nd/-4 Ji-Hee Lee (69-70-73)
T3/-3 So-Hee Kim (72-70-71), Ayako Uehara (71-71-71)
5th/-2 Sakura Yokomine (69-71-74)
T6/-1 Eun-Bi Jang (74-69-72), Mi-Jeong Jeon (72-70-73), Eun-A Lim (72-70-73)
T9/E Akane Iijima (74-69-73), Ritsuko Ryu (69-72-75), Miki Sakai (71-69-76)

T12/+1 Inbee Park (68-75-74), Hyun-Ju Shin (70-72-75)
T14/+2 Li-Ying Ye (72-73-73), Yuki Ichinose (71-73-74), Yukari Baba (69-73-76)
T20/+4 Kumiko Kaneda (76-72-72), Young Kim (76-69-75), Miki Saiki (71-73-76)
T23/+5 Na-Ri Lee (79-69-73), Kaori Aoyama (70-74-77), Rui Kitada (74-69-78)
T26/+6 Mie Nakata (75-72-75), Shiho Oyama (78-68-76), Asako Fujimoto (73-73-76)
T31/+7 Miho Koga (76-74-73)
T34/+8 Rui Yokomine (72-77-75), Miki Uehara (73-75-76), Esther Lee (74-73-77)
T37/+9 Yun-Jye Wei (73-76-76)
T40/+10 Yumiko Yoshida (77-72-77), Erika Kikuchi (72-77-77), Julie Lu (73-73-80)
T48/+11 Mayu Hattori (78-71-78), Megumi Kido (73-75-79)
T50/+12 Maiko Wakabayashi (77-73-78), Mika Takushima (74-75-79), Yuri Fudoh (75-71-82)
T55/+13 Erina Hara (74-75-80)
T58/+14 Teresa Lu (74-76-80), Rikako Morita (77-71-82)

Note how high the scoring was--I wonder if that Supertyphoon that hit Okinawa affected the weather in Niigata? In any case, here's who's in the JLPGA Top 40:

1. Miki Saiki ¥38.55M
2. Sun-Ju Ahn ¥32.42M
3. Yuri Fudoh ¥30.10M
4. Hiromi Mogi ¥21.77M
5. Inbee Park ¥21.51M
6. Ji-Hee Lee ¥20.91M
7. Kumiko Kaneda ¥19.58M
8. Sakura Yokomine ¥19.49M
9. Rui Kitada ¥17.44M
10. Yukari Baba ¥14.56M
11. Momoko Ueda ¥13.77M
12. Teresa Lu ¥11.99M
13. Mi-Jeong Jeon ¥11.64M
14. Ji-Woo Lee ¥11.06M
15. Chie Arimura ¥10.99M
16. Ji-Yai Shin ¥10.67M
17. Saiki Fujita ¥10.01M
18. Mayu Hattori ¥9.22M
19. Bo-Bae Song ¥8.94M
20. Kaori Aoyama ¥8.67M
21. Ritsuko Ryu ¥8.34M
22. Ayako Uehara ¥7.67M
23. Bo-Mee Lee ¥7.49M
24. Yumiko Yoshida ¥7.37M
25. Young Kim ¥7.29M
26. Rikako Morita ¥7.20M
27. Mie Nakata ¥6.87M
28. Megumi Kido ¥6.75M
29. Shinobu Moromizato ¥6.46M
30. Shiho Oyama ¥6.23M
31. Akiko Fukushima ¥6.09M
32. Akane Iijima ¥5.98M
33. Asako Fujimoto ¥5.93M
34. Hyun-Ju Shin ¥5.78M
35. So-Hee Kim ¥5.76M
36. Ji-Na Lim ¥4.79M
37. Na-Ri Lee ¥4.70M
38. Yuki Ichinose ¥4.66M
39. Na-Ri Kim ¥4.65M
40. Miki Sakai ¥4.49M

Next up is the Resort Trust Ladies, in which the only newcomer to the JLPGA is Soo-Yun Kang. Everyone with dual LPGA-JLPGA membership is either already in or heading to the States, it seems, for the LPGA's stretch run of early-summer fireworks.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Yonex Ladies Saturday: Inbee Park Falters, Ji-Hee Lee and Sakura Yokomine Pounce

Inbee Park loves playing golf in Japan, but after an opening 68 that gave her the 1st-round lead in the Yonex Ladies just days after competing in 3 rounds of match play in New Jersey, I'm guessing she was feeling the effects of jet lag just a little bit today, as she stumbled to a 6-bogey 75 that dropped her 4 shots behind Ji-Hee Lee and 3 shots behind Sakura Yokomine and Miki Sakai. Although Yokomine matched Park's eagle on 18 from yesterday's round, the round of the day today belonged to former JLPGA money-list title-holder Shiho Oyama, who improved 10 shots on yesterday's disastrous round with a scintillating 6-birdie 68.

Heading into the final round, here's how the leaders and notables stand:

1st/-5 Ji-Hee Lee (69-70)
T2/-4 Miki Sakai (71-69), Sakura Yokomine (69-71)
T4/-3 Hiromi Mogi (70-71), Ritsuko Ryu (69-72)
T6/-2 Mi-Jeong Jeon (72-70), Eun-A Lim (72-70), So-Hee Kim (72-70), Ayako Uehara (71-71), Hyun-Ju Shin (70-72), Yukari Baba (69-73)

T12/-1 Akane Iijima (74-69), Rui Kitada (74-69), Eun-Bi Jang (74-69), Inbee Park (68-75)
T16/E Miki Saiki (71-73), Yuki Ichinose (71-73), Kaori Aoyama (70-74)
T19/+1 Young Kim (76-69), Li-Ying Ye (72-73)
T22/+2 Shiho Oyama (78-68), Yuri Fudoh (75-71), Asako Fujimoto (73-73), Julie Lu (73-73)
T30/+3 Mie Nakata (75-72), Esther Lee (74-73)
T33/+4 Na-Ri Lee (79-69), Rikako Morita (77-71), Kumiko Kaneda (76-72), Megumi Kido (73-75), Miki Uehara (73-75)
T42/+5 Mayu Hattori (78-71), Yumiko Yoshida (77-72), Erina Hara (74-75), Mika Takushima (74-75), Yun-Jye Wei (73-76), Rui Yokomine (72-77), Erika Kikuchi (72-77)
T50/+6 Maiko Wakabayashi (77-73), Miho Koga (76-74), Teresa Lu (74-76)

MC: Lala Anai (76-75), Shinobu Moromizato (75-76), Tamie Durdin (74-78), Tao-Li Yang (81-72), Pei-Ying Tsai (79-76), Kaori Ohe (78-79)
WD: Bo-Bae Song (76-WD)

Will Lee or Yokomine break what for them is a long spell without a win on the JLPGA (nearly a full year for the former and just under half a season for the latter), or will we see one of the other 18 players within 5 shots of the lead (including defending champion Mi-Jeong Jeon) take the crown tomorrow? There's only 1 way to find out....

Friday, May 27, 2011

Yonex Ladies Friday: Inbee Park Takes Slim Lead on Sakura Yokomine, Ji-Hee Lee, Yukari Baba

Inbee Park bounced back from her 3rd-round loss to Ai Miyazato in the Sybase Match Play Championship last Saturday with a 4-birdie 68 in the Yonex Ladies today that was capped off by a walkoff eagle on the 478-yard par-5 18th. It vaulted her ahead of Sakura Yokomine, Ji-Hee Lee, and Yukari Baba, all of whom birdied it, as well as Ritsuko Ryu, who could only manage to par it. Nobody else in the field could break 70, and some big names ran into some serious trouble, Shiho Oyama by shooting a 78, Young Kim, Miho Koga, Kumiko Kaneda, and Bo-Bae Song 76s, Yuri Fudoh and Shinobu Moromizato 75s, and Teresa Lu a 74. Defending champion Mi-Jeong Jeon made 2 birdies and 2 bogeys to stay within 4 shots of Park, while money-list leader Miki Saiki kept herself within 3 by spreading around 4 birdies and 3 bogeys in today's round.

Here's how the leaders and notables stand after 18 holes:

1st/-4 Inbee Park (68)
T2/-3 Sakura Yokomine, Ji-Hee Lee, Yukari Baba, Ritsuko Ryu (69)
T6/-2 Hyun-Ju Shin, Hiromi Mogi, Kaori Aoyama, Kyoko Furuya (70)
T10/-1 Miki Saiki, Ayako Uehara, Yuki Ichinose, Miki Sakai (71)

T14/E Mi-Jeong Jeon, Eun-A Lim, So-Hee Kim, Li-Ying Ye, Erika Kikuchi, Rui Yokomine (72)
T24/+1 Asako Fujimoto, Yun-Jye Wei, Julie Lu, Megumi Kido, Miki Uehara (73)
T35/+2 Teresa Lu, Akane Iijima, Rui Kitada, Tamie Durdin, Erina Hara, Esther Lee, Mika Takushima, Eun-Bi Jang (74)
T47/+3 Yuri Fudoh, Shinobu Moromizato, Mie Nakata (75)
T59/+4 Young Kim, Miho Koga, Kumiko Kaneda, Bo-Bae Song, Lala Anai (76)
T73/+5 Rikako Morita, Maiko Wakabayashi, Yumiko Yoshida (77)
T81/+6 Shiho Oyama, Mayu Hattori, Kaori Ohe (78)
T89/+7 Na-Ri Lee, Pei-Ying Tsai (79)
T98/+9 Tao-Li Yang (81)
WD Jae-Hee Bae (WD)

Should be interesting to see how the leader and her lead chase pack hold up over the weekend. Stay tuned!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

U.S. Women's Open Sectional Qualifying Results: 25 May 2011

Here are the results from the U.S. Women's Open sectional qualifier at Crestview in Agawam, MA, according to the USGA and MassLive.com:

Qualifiers: Alison Walshe (142), Dewi Claire Schreefel (144), Anna Grzebien (145), Jennifer Kirby [a] (146), Brittany Marchand [a] (148), Harukyo Nomura (148), Jaclyn Sweeney (149--won in playoff). Alternates: Alexandra White [a] (149), Brittany Altomare [a] (149). Notables Who Did Not Qualify: Christa Johnson, Guilia Sergas, Louise Stahle, Pernilla Lindberg, Mollie Fankhauser, Miriam Nagl, Samantha Richdale, Jessica Shepley, Briana Vega, Sara Brown, Susan Choi, Gina Umeck.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Tim Maitland on the HSBC Brazil Cup and 2016 Olympics

The HSBC Brazil Cup, an unofficial LPGA event, begins in a few days at Itanhanga Golf Club in Rio de Janeiro. Suzann Pettersen, Cristie Kerr, Hee Young Park, Brittany Lang, and a couple dozen other golfers will be competing on the 28th and 29th. Here's a piece by Tim Maitland linking the tournament to Brazil's hosting of the 2016 Olympics.

Golf: Getting Ready To Make the Most of the Olympic Opportunity
Tim Maitland

The LPGA is preparing for the most-important unofficial, small-field, two-round golf tournament anywhere in the world. The HSBC Brazil Cup is just one ingredient in the recipe that can make the sport's return to the Olympics a success. Tim Maitland reports.

A 27-player, two-day tournament is not normally associated with the start of something big in the wide world of golf, but the HSBC Brazil Cup could be the veritable small acorn from which a giant oak tree grows.

Prize money of just US$720,000 might not seem much, but the event is the closest thing to a fully-fledged global tournament in the nation that will provide the stage for golf's re-entry into the Olympics in 2016. As America's leading female golfer Cristie Kerr put it when she committed to making her first trip into South America, the Olympics is "the biggest single opportunity that women's golf has ever had."

Kerr really didn't need to add "women's"; golf itself has never had such a great opportunity, but to make the most of it the sport has to realise what the opportunity is and how its own strengths and weaknesses may impact on its ability to capitalise.

"I would have thought [the Olympics was] about 'how would you feel about four days in Brazil?' It has nothing to do with four days in Brazil, and it has everything to do with four years pre-Brazil!" LPGA Commissioner Mike Whan says, capturing the Olympic opportunity in a nutshell.

Perhaps because, unlike almost any other sport, the players effectively 'own' most of the biggest events around the world, the focus has initially been on what the Olympic tournament itself might be like and what impact that might have.

Europe's top-ranked woman golfer Suzann Pettersen was part of golf's final presentation to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Copenhagen when her sport won the vote to get back into the Olympic movement in October 2009. She's maintained her commitment to the cause by joining Kerr as one of the highest-ranked players ever to tee it up at Rio's Itanhanga Golf Club.

Her exclamation that "we're on a mission!"--translated rather pleasingly into Portuguese as "temos uma missao!"--summed things up quite nicely, but naturally enough, her prime focus is on her part of the business; putting on a show in 2016.

"I think it's important to get everybody on board: all the players need to be on board. I think you have 90 per cent-–the majority-–with you. You need the last 10 per cent going in the right direction, so we'll get the best golfers competing in 2016. I think the concept is there. What else can you ask for?" enquires Pettersen, or Tutta, as she's affectionately known in Norway.

"Competing in the Olympics, you have the sportsmanship, the values, the ethics; there's nothing better in sport. For me it's a dream come true. I grew up in Norway and it's always been the biggest thing for me, to take part and compete will be fantastic."

Next Stop Rio

From the viewpoint of a player who will be at or near her peak in five years' time, Pettersen is correct: getting the golf tournament right at Rio 2016 is essential. Like their fellow newcomers Rugby Sevens, the sport is back in the Olympics for two games, but has only one chance to prove its worth to the Olympic movement before the IOC convenes to decide whether or not to retain either sport or to vote them "off the island."

One chance is hard enough to take; harder still when you're asked to do it in a nation and a region that is not a stronghold for either sport.

The current status of tournament golf in Brazil is a far cry from the '70s or '80s when Gary Player, Ray Floyd, Jerry Pate and Hale Irwin had their names etched on the Aberto do Brasil or Brazil Open trophy. It's not even quite up to the level of 2000, when the celebrations of Pedro Alvaras Cabral's "discovery" of the country in 1500 led the European Tour to include the Brazil Rio de Janeiro 500 Years Open and Brazil Sao Paolo 500 Years Open in successive weeks on their schedule. (Trivia fans might like to note that Padraig Harrington finished runner-up to England's Roger Chapman in the former–-at the same Itanhanga Golf Club–-and won the latter ahead of America's Gerry Norquist, who would become a fixture and eventually a senior vice-president on the Asian Tour. Completists would need to note that the Sao Paulo event survived a further year and to memorise Darren Fichardt).

The Aberto do Brasil, now also sponsored by the world's local bank, remains the country's most prestigious men's tournament, with the 57th edition in December 2010 won by Paraguay's Marco Ruiz.

Additionally, Brazil hasn't featured as a venue for the Tour de las Americas in recent years and their players appear only slightly more frequently in the regional tour's tournaments.

That there is a shortage of opportunities for Brazil's professionals can be inferred from the fact that their names appear sporadically scattered around the world, although in most cases it owes as much to nomadic childhoods or a shared connection with countries with a stronger golf tradition.

In terms of tournament wins, in the professional era Brazil's greatest triumph might be Jaime Gonzalez winning the European Tour’s 1984 St Mellion Timeshare TPC in Cornwall, but Jaime’'s father Mario–-winner of the 1947 Spanish Open as an amateur and a two-time Argentine Open champion–-is the one frequently described as Brazil's golfing "great." Most other notable Brazilian players have those mixed roots.

Angela Park, who has Korean parents but holds dual US and Brazilian citizenship after moving to the States at the age of eight, won the LPGA Rookie of the Year award in 2007, but faded dramatically after her second season. Adilson da Silva, Brazilian-born but raised in South Africa, has had a successful career on the Sunshine Tour, winning seven times there. Likewise Maria Priscila Iida, a Brazilian-Japanese and a dominant amateur, winning both Rio and Sao Paolo city and state titles repeatedly, appeared briefly on the LPGA's Futures Tour in 2004 and more recently on the Japan LPGA and even the Ladies Asian Golf Tour.

Alexandra Rocha had bounced between the European and Asian Tours before becoming the first Brazilian to earn playing rights on the PGA Tour this year, but he hasn't yet come close to matching the attention-grabbing performances that could do for Brazilian golf what Jhonattan Vegas's 2011 Bob Hope Classic win has accomplished for the sport in Venezuela.

Building on the Foundations

Even though the numbers of regular golfers in Brazil have grown from 6,000 in 2000 to 25,000 currently, that number seems to have stabilised in the past five years. The number of courses has increased nearly 25% in those 10 years up to 110, but more encouragingly another 30 are under construction and there is a sea-change to more accessibility. Previously members-only clubs are said to be opening their doors to visitors and there is an increase in the proportion of "semi-public" and daily-fee paying courses.

Still, one could argue, with some justification, that the greatest exposure the sport has enjoyed in recent times was when the national football team chose to base themselves at a golf resort during the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. So, golf, and perhaps especially women's golf, needs to make the most of the toehold they have.

"Exactly right! We'd like to, from an early stage, showcase golf to that market," Whan declares.

"At the same time we'd like to showcase that golf course, that city, that environment to the golfing population before we get there in 2016. One of the things we'd like to do, if we can figure out a way of turning the Brazil event into an official event, is not only show the golf tournament but show what else is going on. If [they] build a new course for the Olympics, [let's] show the building of the venue, because we want to engage our fans into 2016, too."

One senses that the world's local bank would like the same thing, but as HSBC Group Head of Sponsorship Giles Morgan points out, they will have to do the due diligence of ensuring that such an expansion would give a return on such an investment in the world's biggest little event.

"It's hugely important. We talk about championing golf worldwide and, if you look at all of our investments worldwide, the one continent where we haven't been overexposed to in golf is South America and South America hasn't been overexposed to golf," says Morgan.

"This year is important to us with the HSBC Brazil Cup because we need to get a gauge of what the market is; what is the opportunity? It is fantastic for us to be hosting a professional golf tournament in the city hosting the Olympics where golf is first going to return. As a starter for 10, it's a great place to start, but this year is when we really look at what the opportunity is for golf, in the same way that four years ago we went into Singapore with the HSBC Women's Champions to see what the opportunity was for women's golf, and in the same way we did for China with the HSBC Champions in 2005. In those cases it's mushroomed. I don't think Brazil is going to be quite the same. There's a fanaticism for golf in Asia and I don't think it's an exact parallel."

But, and this a big but, Morgan is the first to point out that laying some foundations in Rio and producing a successful Olympic tournament, while essential, is about prolonging the Olympic opportunity. The opportunity itself is something completely different!

"The point of the Olympics for sports like tennis, football and golf-–already hugely established sports in their own right that have their own world cups, top events or majors-–is that it can broaden the base appeal to more countries. It's very exciting and I hope both sports realise that's what the opportunity is; it's about development.

"That's the opportunity for golf; now you'll get funding from governments in all sorts of new countries saying 'we've seen how Korea, for instance, can play golf. We can play golf, we can invest in that and we can medal.' That's what's exciting for both the sport of golf and rugby. They mustn't look at their heartland, they must look beyond the heartland," insists Morgan, who as well as managing the bank's golf sponsorship portfolio also made them the first umbrella sponsors of rugb'’s global Sevens tournaments: the HSBC World Sevens Series.

This is a point that may not have sunk in to the golf world completely. Certainly Mike Whan is brave enough to admit it was lost to him when golf successfully presented its case to the IOC two years ago.

"I wasn't around for the vote and 'should we go pros [playing in the Olympics]?' I don't think I would have voted for it back then. I would have been naïve, back in the voting days. I would have said 'c'mon we're already worldwide and we already showcase the best players in the world’; I would have missed the extra excitement. I believe the Olympics is going to have a fundamental impact on the growth of the game. What I've seen as [LPGA] commissioner over the past year is what golf in the Olympics really means," Whan confesses.

"The level of interest and support, and the excitement, is happening in individual countries–-countries where it happens around Olympic sports, but doesn't happen around non-Olympic sports. I was at the China Golf Association back in October and to see the training facilities that they're building and the commitment to finding young athletes to become Olympic athletes from a golf perspective and what it's meaning for women's golf throughout Asia and throughout the world... I would have missed all that. It'll impact Canada and the US and Europe, too; everyone's going to want to keep up, that's what happens in great sports, whether it's swimming, track or golf. It's going to give a different plateau."

As Morgan says, the impact is felt most immediately where an established sport will notice it least. Pettersen, for instance, says she's noticed an immediate difference back in Norway.

"Once golf was taken in there's obviously a lot of money involved and the distribution down from it. The [golf] federation can now start to build a team and do the stuff they want to do for the young players to have them ready for 2016," she says.

"Money is one thing, but also wherever you go in the world you'll find a golf course and you'll find people playing golf; so I think it's good exposure for golf."

Investment x Interest = Growth

The combination of increased investment and added interest has the potential, as Whan quickly points out, to create a snowballing effect.

"After each Games, you get some profit sharing back into your sport and when we go to the Olympics and are able to reinvest monies in the different countries that participate, it becomes a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy where the Olympics made it important, and participating in the Olympics enables you to continue to fuel the growth," says the LPGA commissioner.

However, to maximise the opportunity, golf does need to fully realise and fully adapt to the fact that its historical structure might work against it in making the most of the Olympic opportunity.

The rules, heritage and traditions of golf have been jointly governed by the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews (until 2004 when The R&A was created to take over the role of “engaging in and supporting activities... for the benefit of the game”) and the United States Golf Association (USGA).

Why is this an issue? Well, for instance, the new Executive Director of the USGA, Mike Davis, was recently quoted as saying "one of the things that has never been in the USGA's mission is growing the game. We have never directly attempted to grow the game." Meanwhile the global remit, in big picture terms, has until very recently been in the hands of one single member's golf club. True, the R&A in its new guise distributes GBP5 million annually from the profits from the Open Championship, but half is spent in the UK and Ireland.

The structure of the professional game could also be regarded as a weakness when it comes to making the most of the Olympics. The tours are, generally speaking, rival businesses run for their "shareholders," the players. The International Federation of PGA Tours only formed in 1996 when the European Tour, Japan Golf Tour Organization, PGA TOUR, PGA Tour of Australasia and Sunshine Tour finally got around the same table.

It was only with the push to join the Olympic movement that it truly opened its doors to become fully inclusive, admitting women's golf for the first time as the Canadian Tour and the Tour de las Americas were elevated from associate member status, and full membership was offered to the China Golf Association, Korea Professional Golf Tour, Professional Golf Tour of India, LPGA, Ladies European Tour, Australian Ladies Professional Golf Tour, Japan LPGA, Korean LPGA, and the Ladies Asian Golf Tour.

"Now you have to set up an Olympic structure; governing bodies for each of the countries that are going to develop and find the talent. Just creating governing bodies for golf, that's one simple step but the Olympics takes you down that path. Then the governing bodies start coming together to ask 'how are we going to develop programmes that not only grow the game but also develop superstars?'" says Whan, correctly identifying the process as a positive for the sport.

95% of Jackpot Is National

The reason that all of this matters is that the Olympics and the money that comes directly from being in the Olympics is not the big opportunity. The money that will be injected into the sport for playing their part in Rio 2016 will be small change compared to the investment that is really out there to be capitalised on.

Badminton, when it was fighting to retain its Olympic status prior to the 2004 games, did an audit of its member associations. While the TV money from the Athens Olympics would bring in around US$6 million over the next four years, the investment from National Olympic Committees and Governments was worth US$110 million over the same period.

In other words, 95% of the benefit from being in the Olympics comes from funding at local and national levels!

While Rugby Sevens may appear to have the bigger challenge in making a successful first impression in Rio–-in TV terms it seems unlikely to beat golf–-it is certainly better equipped to take advantage of Olympic status. It has one governing body, The International Rugby Board (founded in 1886), that sits over regional and national rugby unions in a far more conventional structure. It's in the middle of its second long-term strategic plan (The Mission: Growing the Global Rugby Family), central to which is maximising the benefits of Olympic participation.

None of this is intended as criticism of golf, but the IRB's structure gives it a global overview and development role that golf is going to have to work hard to catch up with.

Put simply, at IRB's Dublin headquarters, Mark Egan, their Head of Development, can reel off a head-spinning array of numbers and details of where and how Sevens Rugby is growing exponentially all over the world even before the Olympic coffers are fully opened. More importantly he heads a department whose role it is to make sure those chances are taken advantage of. Does golf have someone who could match him? Probably not.

The Good News

Fortunately, as long as golf puts on the right kind of show in 2016, and survives the vote and stays in the Olympics, there will be plenty of time to catch up.

"The good news is that on this one we're completely linked on objective. All of us agree that we want to put on the best world showcase of the sport as we can AND make sure that that showcase turns into future growth. Like anything, it starts if you're on the same page to begin with and the good news is we're on the same page," Whan declares.

So, while designers like Jack Nicklaus and Annika Sorenstam, Robert Trent Jones Jr., Greg Norman and Lorena Ochoa, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, and Nick Faldo are jostling for position to design the course that will host the historic return of golf to the Olympics, the HSBC Brazil Cup, regardless of how small it may be now, is the one cornerstone on which the golf world can build the foundation for it to be a success.

"I can tell you, if you're looking for a corporate sponsor today, you'd look long and hard to find one better than HSBC. Not only are they a sophisticated, multicultural business-–they really understand global events like nobody understands global events-–they also have a passion for the game. It's really important for them to not only bring a global event but also understand and respect the local culture. They really do embrace what's going on locally and make sure we show that market a global experience, but we probably learned more about making sure we understood what was happening in a local market from sponsors like them," Whan says, before casting his mind forward to what the medal presentation might be like in five years time.

"I remember Michael Jordan said one time that he didn't expect standing up there with a gold medal to hit him the way it did. For some of our players, too, you might go down to Brazil to play four rounds of golf and you might stand on the podium and realise that it was bigger than a round of golf," he says.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

U.S. Women's Open Sectional Qualifying: 23 May 2011

OK, results are in for U.S. Women's Open sectional qualifying on May 16th, May 17th, May 22nd, and now May 23rd! Well, at least some of them from yesterday have already been posted online (but not yet by the USGA [Update OK, now they're up!]):

Deerwood (FL). Qualifiers: Mi Hyun Kim (134), Aree Song (139), Silvia Cavalleri (142), Lindy Duncan [a] (142), Christine Wolf [a] (142), Nicole Hage (143), Paola Moreno (143). Alternates: Paige Mackenzie (143--lost in playoff with Hage and Moreno), Mitsuki Katahira [a] (144). Notables Who Did Not Qualify: Michelle Shin.

Fiddler's Elbow (NJ). Qualifiers: Hee Kyung Seo (141), Belen Mozo (143), Jin Young Pak (143). Alternates: Jennifer Song (145), Grace Park (146--beat Mindy Kim in playoff). Notables Who Did Not Qualify: Mindy Kim, Jenny Shin, Nicole Castrale, Ilhee Lee, Stephanie Louden, Allison Hanna, Nannette Hill, Sarah Brown.

Lake Merced (CA). Qualifiers: Ryann O'Toole (149), Mina Harigae (150), Sofie Andersson (151), Shinobu Moromizato (151). Alternates: Joanne Lee [a] (151--lost in playoff), Jane Rah (152). Notables Who Did Not Qualify: Mhairi McKay, Dorothy Delasin, Jennie Lee, Lisa Ferrero, Kristina Wong.

Medina (MN): Amy Anderson [a] (141), Kelly Shon [a] (142). Alternates: Kirby Dreher (147), Kim Kaufman [a] (148). Notables Who Did Not Qualify: none.

Royal Oaks (WA). Qualifiers: Jessi Gebhardt (152), Christina Proteau [a] (152), Sue Kim (154--beat Taylor Kim and Kendall Prince in a playoff). Alternates: Taylor Kim [a] (154), Kendall Prince [a] (154). Notables Who Did Not Qualify: Adrienne White, Kendall Dye.

Westmoreland (IL). Qualifiers: Junthima Gulyanamitta [a] (147), Brittany Johnston (147), Ashley Prange (147), Karin Sjodin (147). Alternates: Emma Talley [a] (148), Amy Meier [a] (148). Notables Who Did Not Qualify: Nicole Jeray, Katie Kempter, Gerina Piller, Libby Smith, Alison Whitaker, Leah Wigger, Laura Bavaird, Ashli Bunch, Maude-Aimee Leblanc.

Woodmont (MD). Qualifiers: Leta Lindley (144), Julieta Granada (145), Cindy LaCrosse (145), Young-A Yang (145), Chella Choi (146), Saehee Son (146), Danah Bordner (148), Joanna Coe [a] (149). Alternates: Moira Dunn (151), Kimberly Williams (152). Notables Who Did Not Qualify: Louise Friberg, Kris Tamulis.

[Update 1 (12:53 am): On twitter, Lexi Thompson congratulated Nicole Hage and Cindy LaCrosse for qualifying. Wonder where?]

[Update 2 (12:59 am): Just added Julieta Granada to the MD qualifier list--found out on twitter, of course!]

[Update 3 (1:02 am): Here's Hage's tweet. She shot 143.]

[Update 4 (1:10 am): Just linked to Louise Friberg's blog post that she didn't make it in Maryland.]

[Update 5 (8:22 am): More details from the Rockville, MD, qualifier coming in slowly! I see now that Joanna Coe made it!]

[Update 6 (2:18 pm): OK, the USGA page is updated. Mine should match it now!]

[Update 7 (7:59 pm): Brent Kelley has a great overview of all the qualifiers and alternates to date, with links to full field results when possible.]

[Update 8 (5/25/11, 7:50 am): Some fantastic on-course reports from Fiddler's Elbow by Seoul Sisters regulars PhilK_NJ and IceCat!]

Monday, May 23, 2011

U.S. Women's Open Sectional Qualifying: 22 May 2011

The results from Hawaii's sectional qualifying for the U.S. Women's Open are in and 12-year-old amateur Mariel Galdiano is in with a 152 total for 36 holes, while amateurs Alice Kim and Kelli Oride finished 1 and 2 shots behind her, respectively, to become alternates. There were a bunch of qualifiers today and I'll pass along results once I've found them!

Sybase Match Play Championship Sunday: Pettersen Outputts Kerr!

By now, you've most likely read responses to Suzann Pettersen's exciting 1-up victory over Cristie Kerr in the Sybase Match Play Championship by Hound Dog and Tony Jesselli, not to mention the notes and interviews from LPGA.com, so I'll just add a few observations of my own.

Battle of the Bridesmaids: Suzann Pettersen is of course the best-known bridesmaid on the LPGA, but every single semi-finalist has let more than a few wins slip through her fingers. How many majors should Cristie Kerr have by now? And isn't it Kerr who has denied Angela Stanford several wins? Na Yeon Choi has 18 top 3s in 82 starts as an LPGA member, but only 4 wins.

Big-Time Turnarounds: For Kerr, it was her new irons and newly-in-play-in 2011 putter; for Pettersen, it was her new approach to putting and the mental game. For both, these changes resulted in quantum leaps. I had picked both to fall in the 3rd round--Pettersen to Stacy Lewis and Kerr to Amy Yang--going with the hot young hands over the struggling stars. But Yang exited early and Lewis couldn't get the job done. It just goes to show you can't keep world-class players down for long. Hear that, Ai-sama and Ji-Yai?

Picking My Faves: You may have noticed that I had an all-Asian final 4 and that Stacy Lewis was my only non-Asian in the quarterfinals. Part of that was based on how I thought the players would match up against each other--between the Lexus Cup and the Pinx/Kyoraku Cups, Asian players have much more experience in match play (or head-to-head stroke play in the latter) than they are often given credit for--but I have to admit that I did my picks as a fan last week. So it's no surprise that picking pretty much what I wanted to see happen netted me only 54 points in Golfweek's sweepstakes. Oh well!

Pettersen Set the Pace as Winner at Sybase

I have not posted for awhile as I have spent the last 6 days at Hamilton Farms Country Club, home of the Sybase Match Play Championship. I walked over 100 holes following Paula Creamer for four rounds and then parts of other matches, including the exciting finale. My feet are so sore that it is going to take them until the ShopRite Classic 2 weeks from now to recover so I can start my walking all over again. By now you have probably read the very interesting recaps from Hound Dog and Waggle Room so I will not repeat the highlights.

It rained on and off for most of the 6 days at Gladstone, New Jersey but there were never any delays and it never put a damper on the girls' spirits. All of the girls were so gracious, even after losing matches, and very fan friendly.

I will remember Belen Mozo, the rookie here on a sponsor's exemption being the star of the show outside the ropes for her big smile and always mixing with the fans, and inside the ropes for walking with Val Skinner of the Golf Channel, adding commentary to the exciting final match. She will be qualifying for the U.S. open today, lets all keep our fingers crossed that she does well. I will remember Paula Creamer signing autographs in a steady downpour after her practice round on Wednesday. After her heartbreaking fourth-round loss, she signed more autographs until everyone was gone. I will remember Amy Hung giving out free almonds for hours at the Blue Diamond booth the day after elimination. I will remember a lot of things, mostly the fact that I was lucky enough to attend such an exciting event.

I congratulate Suzann Pettersen, who beat some very strong competition while fighting a bad cold to come out victorious.

It is never a good idea to fire up your opponent whether it is the World Series, the Super Bowl or the upcoming Solheim Cup. Suzann may have done just that.
Her comment after winning (later repeated as a tweet), saying "it's Europe 1 United states 0, I can't wait for Solheim," is going to be remembered and probably posted on lockers during this years event. Just maybe Suzann should have thought about her losing 4 of 5 matches the last time the Solheim Cup was played before making that comment.

The three players added to the Titleholders championship are Sophie Gustufson, Ai Miyazato and Julieta Granada. With the inclusion of Miyazato, the highest ranked player still not in is Inbee Park.

Rolex moves of the week:

Suzanne Petterson moves from #3 to #2. Other players moving up a spot in the top 15 are Sun-Ju Ahn (9 to 8) and Paula Creamer (12 to 11).

Hard-to-believe stat of the week:

Suzanne Pettersen is the only player to finish in the top 20 in every tournament this year.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Chukyo TV Bridgestone Ladies Open Sunday: Harukyo Nomura Cruises to 1st JLPGA Victory

Harukyo Nomura fired a bogey-free 68 in the final round of the Chukyo TV Bridgestone Ladies Open to secure her 1st career JLPGA victory in her 1st start on tour as a professional.

Nomura started the day with a 2-shot lead over playing partner Sun-Ju Ahn and a lot of question marks--would she be able to handle the pressure? would she be able to build on her Futures Tour win this April? who would make a run at her? Almost immediately, Ahn answered the last one when she cut Nomura's lead to 1 with a birdie on the 158-yard par-3 2nd hole. But when Nomura birdied the 528-yard par-5 6th and Ahn took a quad on it, the building pressure completely dissipated. Nomura proceeded to put even more distance between herself and the field as she followed that birdie up with 3 more, on 8, 11, and 13. Although Sakura Yokomine made 4 birdies between the 5th and 10th holes, she remained 6 down until she birdied the 18th. Even though Kaori Aoyama birdied 4 of her last 5 holes, she still ended up 3 shots off the pace. And despite getting to -8 on the last 9, Ji-Woo Lee finished with 2 bogeys in her last 5 holes to drop into a tie for 7th with Ahn (who came back with a birdie-eagle-par finish) and Momoko Ueda (who really seems to have found her game again!). So in the end, nobody else in the field made up any ground on Nomura, who was the only player to break 70 all 3 rounds.

Here's how Nomura's 1st JLPGA win looked:

1st/-13 Harukyo Nomura (66-69-68)
2nd/-10 Kaori Aoyama (69-70-67)
3rd/-8 Sakura Yokomine (70-71-67)
T4/-7 Yukari Baba (73-67-69), Rui Kitada (71-68-70), Megumi Kido (73-66-70),
T7/-6 Ji-Woo Lee (70-71-69), Momoko Ueda (70-70-70), Sun-Ju Ahn (69-68-73)
T10/-5 Chie Arimura (70-71-70), Mi-Jeong Jeon (71-69-71)

T12/-4 Miki Saiki (72-71-69), Saiki Fujita (71-72-69), Mayu Hattori (71-72-69), Yuri Fudoh (69-74-69), Akane Iijima (70-72-70), Rikako Morita (71-69-72), Hiromi Mogi (70-70-72), Ritsuko Ryu (67-71-74)
T21/-3 Tamie Durdin (67-73-73), Ayako Uehara (72-67-74), Bo-Bae Song (70-69-74)
T26/-2 Mie Nakata (72-71-71), Erika Kikuchi (69-74-71), Kumiko Kaneda (73-69-72), Na-Ri Lee (73-69-72), Nikki Campbell (70-70-74)
T33/-1 Ji-Hee Lee (73-69-73), Shiho Oyama (71-68-76)
T37/E Esther Lee (72-71-73)
T39/+1 Young Kim (72-72-73), Julie Lu (72-70-75), Akiko Fukushima (69-72-76)
43rd/+2 Na-Ri Kim (72-72-74)
T44/+3 Miki Sakai (73-72-74), Rui Yokomine (69-76-74), Soo-Yun Kang (70-72-77)
T48/+4 Teresa Lu (74-71-75)
50th/+5 Onnarin Sattayabanphot (73-72-76)

Nomura's non-member win takes more than 12 million yen out of the year-long race for the JLPGA money-list title. Here how it stands now:

1. Miki Saiki ¥38.01M
2. Sun-Ju Ahn ¥32.42M
3. Yuri Fudoh ¥29.88M
4. Inbee Park ¥20.52M
5. Kumiko Kaneda ¥19.05M
6. Rui Kitada ¥16.94M
7. Sakura Yokomine ¥16.49M
8. Ji-Hee Lee ¥15.63M
9. Momoko Ueda ¥13.77M
10. Yukari Baba ¥13.71M
11. Teresa Lu ¥11.79M
12. Ji-Woo Lee ¥11.06M
13. Chie Arimura ¥10.99M
14. Hiromi Mogi ¥10.97M
15. Ji-Yai Shin ¥10.67M
16. Saiki Fujita ¥10.01M
17. Mi-Jeong Jeon ¥9.54M
18. Mayu Hattori ¥8.98M
19. Bo-Bae Song ¥8.94M
20. Kaori Aoyama ¥8.18M
21. Bo-Mee Lee ¥7.49M
22. Yumiko Yoshida ¥7.09M
23. Ritsuko Ryu ¥7.08M
24. Rikako Morita ¥7.01M
25. Young Kim ¥6.76M
26. Megumi Kido ¥6.50M
27. Shinobu Moromizato ¥6.46M
28. Mie Nakata ¥6.42M
29. Akiko Fukushima ¥6.09M
30. Shiho Oyama ¥5.78M
31. Asako Fujimoto ¥5.48M
32. Ji-Na Lim ¥4.79M
33. Hyun-Ju Shin ¥4.78M
34. Akane Iijima ¥4.72M
35. Na-Ri Kim ¥4.65M
36. Na-Ri Lee ¥4.20M
37. Soo-Yun Kang ¥4.18M
38. Lala Anai ¥3.95M
39. Yuki Ichinose ¥3.81M
40. Ayako Uehara ¥3.77M

Next up is the Yonex Ladies. Here's the field list. At a glance, it looks like only Soo-Yun Kang will be staying in Japan this coming week. Let's see if Mi-Jeong Jeon can defend her title!

Sybase Match Play Championship Saturday: It's Down to Kerr v. Stanford, Choi v. Pettersen

Since Hound Dog has given the detailed overview of the 3rd round and quarterfinals of the Sybase Match Play Championship, Ryan Ballengee has given the Cliffs Notes version, and LPGA.com has their own extensive notes and interviews on both rounds, I'm just going to note that Na Yeon Choi was the only player I was rooting to make the Final 4 who avoided falling prey to the Mostly Harmless jinx.

I was super-excited about Ai Miyazato's comeback against Cristie Kerr to kick off the back 9, but that missed 5-footer on 12 that would have brought her from 3-down to all square was a killer. Still, I really think Ai-sama found something this week, both technically and mentally. I think playing match play forced her to focus on 1 shot at a time and did wonders for her ball-striking. As her short missed putts against Kerr on both the front and back show, her putting's still not quite there, but those 6 birdies she dropped on Inbee Park lead me to believe she's on her way out of her mini-slump. Plus, she qualified for the Titleholders this week!

As for onechan's favorite golfer, Paula Creamer, she just couldn't withstand a birdie barrage at the end of the round from Angela Stanford. Meanwhile, I never expected Ya Ni Yseng to putt down the stretch Saturday like Karen Stupples did against Na Yeon Choi on Friday. But since they've already started playing the semifinals and the girls are clamoring for me to arrange a play date for them, it's time to bring this pitiful post to close.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Chukyo TV Bridgestone Ladies Open Saturday: Harukyo Nomura Leads Sun-Ju Ahn by 2

Harukyo Nomura is the 1st young Japanese golfer to succeed at following the Mika Miyazato path to professionalization: starting her pro career in the United States rather than in Japan, Nomura has already won on the Futures Tour and gotten an LPGA start. Now she has a chance to win on the JLPGA on a sponsor exemption, just like Mikan has. Sure, a wire-to-wire win at the Chukyo TV Bridgestone Ladies Open this week wouldn't be as impressive as Miyazato's wire-to-wire win at the Japan Women's Open last year, but I don't think Nomura would turn down a chance to beat Sun-Ju Ahn, whom she leads by 2 shots heading into the final round, not to mention everyone else in the field, only 16 of whom are within 5 shots of her -9 total through 36 holes, among them the likes of Shiho Oyama, Momoko Ueda, and Mi-Jeong Jeon, along with a number of other seasoned and young JLPGA stars.

So who exactly does Nomura need to stay ahead of tomorrow for her 1st career JLPGA victory?

1st/-9 Harukyo Nomura (66-69)
2nd/-7 Sun-Ju Ahn (69-68)
3rd/-6 Ritsuko Ryu (67-71)
T4/-5 Megumi Kido (73-66), Ayako Uehara (72-67), Shiho Oyama (71-68), Rui Kitada (71-68), Satsuki Oshiro (71-68), Bo-Bae Song (70-69), Kaori Aoyama (69-70)

T11/-4 Yukari Baba (73-67), Mi-Jeong Jeon (71-69), Rikako Morita (71-69), Momoko Ueda (70-70), Nikki Campbell (70-70), Hiromi Mogi (70-70), Tamie Durdin (67-73)
T18/-3 Sakura Yokomine (70-71), Chie Arimura (70-71), Ji-Woo Lee (70-71), Akiko Fukushima (69-72)
T23/-2 Ji-Hee Lee (73-69), Kumiko Kaneda (73-69), Na-Ri Lee (73-69), Julie Lu (72-70), Soo-Yun Kang (70-72), Akane Iijima (70-72)
T32/-1 Miki Saiki (72-71), Mie Nakata (72-71), Esther Lee (72-71), Saiki Fujita (71-72), Mayu Hattori (71-72), Yuri Fudoh (69-74), Erika Kikuchi (69-74)
T43/E Young Kim (72-72), Na-Ri Kim (72-72)
T46/+1 Teresa Lu (74-71), Onnarin Sattayabanphot (73-72), Miki Sakai (73-72), Rui Yokomine (69-76)

MC: Lala Anai (74-72), Tao-Li Yang (72-74), Maiko Wakabayashi (71-75), Ah-Reum Hwang (75-72), Li-Ying Ye (75-72), Eun-Bi Jang (70-77), Asako Fujimoto (74-74), Kaori Ohe (73-75), Hiroko Ayada (71-77), Jae-Hee Bae (74-75), Yuki Ichinose (73-76), Erina Hara (79-78)
WD: Yuko Mitsuka (72-WD)

Kido's bogey-free 66, Ryu's bogey-free 71, and Oshiro's 5-birdie 68 give them good chances to upstage Nomura, while the always-dangerous Song birdied 4 of her last 6 holes to move into position for her 4th career JLPGA victory. So it's not like the JLPGA's youngsters won't have a say in the final results tomorrow. But when you see that 1 of their best, Morita, finished bogey-bogey-birdie to fall 5 shots off the pace and that Kaneda needed a bogey-free 33 on the back just to pull within 6, Nomura's 1st 2 rounds as a pro on the JLPGA are even more impressive. Let's see if she can close the deal tomorrow!

[Update 1 (6:09 am): Interesting that Korean cutie Jang missed the cut this week on the JLPGA, while JLPGA member Bo-Mee Lee has a chance to win tomorrow on the KLPGA!]

Friday, May 20, 2011

Sybase Match Play Championship Friday: Who's the Biggest Surprise in the Sweet 16?

It's really hard for me to decide who the biggest surprise of the Sybase Match Play Championship is thus far. With only 9 of my projected sweet 16 actually still playing on the weekend, there are certainly a lot of surprises (at least to me) to pick from. Don't get me wrong, I'm certainly pleased that more than half of my picks made it to the 3rd round--I correctly predicted the upcoming Inbee Park-Ai Miyazato and Suzann Pettersen-Stacy Lewis matches, and at least got Ya Ni Tseng, Na Yeon Choi, Cristie Kerr, Paula Creamer, and Angela Stanford right--but what about the picks I got wrong?

Going by my most recent Best of the LPGA ranking, some of those who surprised me shouldn't have been. Michelle Wie was #5 as of the end of April, Sophie Gustafson was #27, and Julieta Granada was #31. But what about #41 Kyeong Bae, #47 Meena Lee, #57 Brittany Lang, and #69 Alena Sharp? Let's consider who they beat to get into the sweet 16.

Bae beat #17 Amy Yang and #35 Hee Kyung Seo, both of whom were playing well coming into their matches with her. Hound Dog picked Yang to win it all and I picked her to lose to Ai Miyazato in the quarterfinals, which shows how high our expectations were for her. Meanwhile, Seo is everyone's #1 or #2 in this year's Rookie of the Year race and came off a shellacking of a struggling Jee Young Lee.

Lee beat #6 Ji-Yai Shin and non-ranked (i.e., outside my top 81) Mi Hyun Kim, but Shin is still trying to groove swing changes and Kim hasn't been an elite golfer for years (and it showed in her way-over-par play today).

Lang dominated #56 Christina Kim and beat #2 In-Kyung Kim handily. What makes those wins even more impressive are the facts that (a) Lang has been slumping terribly for quite some time, (b) Christina loves match play and usually plays great golf in Solheim Cup years, and (c) Inky may well be the hottest golfer on the LPGA and was -3 in 17 holes of bogey-free golf today and still lost 2 & 1!

Sharp beat #16 Mika Miyazato and defending champion and #18 Sun Young Yoo, but Miyazato was jet-lagged and Yoo was coming off an emotional 21-hole victory over Grace Park.

So I've gotta say that Lang is the player who's been the biggest surprise so far this week to me. But I have to give an honorable mention to Granada, who knocked off 2 of her classmates from the Class of 2006 with much more impressive career records than her. Morgan Pressel is #7 in my system and while Seon Hwa Lee has slipped to #39, she's still one of the best match play competitors in the game (which is why even though she's been slumping for more than a year I picked her for my final 4). With Granada going up against world (and Mostly Harmless) #1 Ya Ni Tseng and Lang against MH #8 Creamer, a win for either would be a huge deal. For that matter, wins by Bae, Sharp, or Lee would go a long way toward settling this question, as well, for they play Cristie Kerr, Na Yeon Choi, and Angela Stanford, respectively. So let's say Lang for now--and revisit the question tomorrow!