Thursday, June 21, 2012

Ai Miyazato, Stacy Lewis, and Na Yeon Choi Need to Pour It on Tomorrow Morning

Ai Miyazato (+2 through 12), Stacy Lewis (+1 through 12), and Na Yeon Choi (+1 through 13) got off to slow starts today during the 1st round of the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic.  So in a sense, play was suspended just in time for them.  They have a great chance to hit the reset button tomorrow morning.

For Ai-sama, the main culprit was her putter; she never seemed to get the speed of the greens down.  Although she made her usual share of amazing par saves, she also missed a tap-in for par on the 15th hole, missed a 4-footer for birdie on the 2nd, and failed to make a long comebacker on the 3rd to notch her 2nd bogey of the day against no birdies.   Even though she was driving the ball pretty well (great length by her standards, while the occasional pull hook didn't get her into too much trouble), she didn't take advantage of the birdie-able 10th, 11th, 12th, or 18th.

For Lewis, even though she made fantastic birdie putts on 13 and 14, 2 of the longest par 4s on the course, she bogeyed the easy 10th, pulled her drive into deep rough on 16, had to punch out to about 120, and couldn't sink the 8-footer she left herself for par, and, to make matters worse, stubbed her 2nd shot on 18 from a terrible lie right into the creek a mere 15 yards in front of her (she did well to save a bogey there).

For Choi, who played with Anna Nordqvist (-5 through 13) and Morgan Pressel (-1) in the group ahead of Miyazato, Lewis, and Kirby Dreher, her ball-striking was clearly off, as she missed 5 of her 1st 11 fairways and 7 of her 1st 14 greens.  I hardly got to see her group, as the links-style layout of Grey Silo tends to isolate you on the hole you're on and you don't get to see too much of what's going on right ahead or behind you, but when I did see them on the 2nd, her body language was not good.

Here's the deal, though. The 5th and 6th are both short par 5s.  I saw Ryann O'Toole go over the 5th green on her 2nd shot and Hannah Yun hit it in 2, so even if the wind isn't as helping tomorrow as it was today and the rains end up softening the fairways a lot, these holes will remain quite birdie-able.  The approach on the short par-4 8th should also be a little easier to a softer green.  And if the wind stays down for them, watch out!  And guess what?  Right after finishing their 1st rounds, these players get to turn right around and play the front again.  They could go from over par to well under par in that 14-to-15-hole stretch.

And they'd better!  The same is true for Nordqvist, who could rival leader Sandra Changkija's 63 tomorrow morning and put some pressure on the rookie (who has to wait till 3:55 to tee it up tomorrow) with a hot start to her 2nd round.  Right now there are 64 players at par or better and 23 players in the 60s or on track to be in them (and that's not even counting those at E or -1 with several more holes to play tomorrow morning before their 1st rounds are complete).  Bottom line is:  a bad 9 or 12 opening holes won't kill you this week, but failing to take advantage of the front twice in perfect scoring conditions will.  I'm looking forward to seeing Ai-sama and Stacy turn it on tomorrow morning!

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