Yes, Juli Inkster's return to the LPGA from elbow surgery was nothing like what she hoped for today in Rogers at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship, but many other players had much more satisfying comebacks.
Ai Miyazato and Ryann O'Toole bounced back from disappointing missed cuts in Waterloo last week with very solid opening 68s at Pinnacle Country Club, putting them 3 shots behind leader Veronica Felibert and 2 shots behind Shanshan Feng. Like Yuki Sakurai, a top-notch Japanese amateur who's had a very tough transition to professional golf but who Monday-qualified this week and opened with a 69, both players started out with an early bogey but came back with bogey-free golf the rest of the way. Azahara Munoz, who's missed her last 2 cuts after being one of the hottest golfers on tour in the spring, bounced back from a couple of early bogeys to go -3 over her last 10 holes of bogey-free golf and match Sakurai's 69. Sun Young Yoo, who was +2 after 4 holes, went -3 and bogey-free over her last 14 holes to post a 70.
Other players had even bigger comebacks today. Paula Creamer bogeyed 4 holes in a row very early in her round today, but went bogey-free and -4 over her next 10 holes and followed up a bad bogey on 17 with a walkoff birdie to fight back to E. Tiffany Joh bounced back from 3 early bogeys on the back (her front) with a 3-birdie, no-bogey run over her next 6 holes and also ended up at E. Angela Oh showed a lot of grit in 100-degree heat, too, as she erased her early birdies with 3 bogeys in her 1st 10 holes, but still ended up with a 6-birdie 69. Na Yeon Choi bounced back with 2 birdies in her last 4 holes after making 3 bogeys in a 4-hole stretch earlier on the back 9. Brittany Lincicome also made 3 bogeys midway through her round, but bounced back to E with 2 birdies in her last 3 holes. And Sandra Changkija birdied 4 of her last 8 holes to grind out a tough 72 today.
Karine Icher (67), Mi Jung Hur (67), and Laura Diaz (69) continued their much-improved play of late after tough starts to the season. Meredith Duncan, who's struggling to keep her card, birdied 2 of her last 3 holes to secure an even-par 71.
Players like Inkster needing comebacks tomorrow after tough starts include 2-time defending champion Ya Ni Tseng (who actually salvaged a 73 with 2 birdies in her last 4 holes today), last week's playoff rivals Brittany Lang and Hee Kyung Seo (whose 73s matched Cristie Kerr's, Se Ri Pak's, Kristy McPherson's, and Lizette Salas's), Mina Harigae and Ayaka Kaneko (75s), In-Kyung Kim, Natalie Gulbis, Jeong Jang, and Jennifer Song (76), and Morgan Pressel and Hannah Yun (79). Let's hope they can turn it around on Saturday!