Friday, February 24, 2012

HSBC Women's Champions Thursday and Friday: Unsung Trio Leads at -8

Angela Stanford, Katie Futcher, and Jenny Shin took the halfway-point-lead at the HSBC Women's Champions at -8, opening up a 3-shot margin on 2010 champion Ai Miyazato, 2010 money-list leader Na Yeon Choi, and recent winner Hee Young Park at Tanah Merah's Garden Course. 

With Ji-Yai Shin, In-Kyung Kim, Ji-Hee Lee, Azahara Munoz, Sun Young Yoo, and Shanshan Feng only 4 back, So-Yeon Ryu 5 behind the leaders, Suzann Pettersen, Mika Miyazato, Inbee Park, and Brittany Lang 6 off the pace, and Ya Ni Tseng, Cristie Kerr, Amy Yang, Anna Nordqvist, and Momoko Ueda lurking 7 shots back, this is still anyone's ball game, but there's a good chance the run of wins by world #1-caliber golfers at this event might end in 2012.  Shin, after all, is off to a sizzling start in 2012, coming off 2-straight top 10s, and doesn't sound at all surprised by her great play thus far this week.  Futcher, who was overlooked for the 2011 Solheim Cup team in favor of flashier youngsters, is showing that she's no flash in the pan, adding a little sizzle to her game this season.  And Stanford is the most accomplished of the leaders with 4 LPGA victories to her name and loads of experience in contention.

So far Shin and Futcher are the only players in the field of 62 (after Song-Hee Kim's withdrawal) to break 70 both rounds.  Contrast that with Michelle Wie, who's struggled to break 80, Mina Harigae, who hasn't broken 75, and Hee Kyung Seo, who's struggled to break 75, and you can see what kind of pressure the Garden Course can put on even the most promising players.  Christel Boeljon, Jimin Kang, and Amanda Blumenherst came into this week playing very good golf in 2012, and they're 1 for 6 so far when it comes to going under par (Kang's Thursday 71 is the best of the bunch).  So there's a lot that can happen over the last 36 holes.  Remember, Ji-Yai Shin won in 2009 by going 66-66 over the weekend to pass (among others) none other than Stanford....

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