Monday, August 13, 2012

Jamie Farr Toledo Classic Sunday: Move Over, Rory! So Yeon Ryu Smokes Field with Final-Round 62

So Yeon Ryu took control of the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic (otherwise known as the Se Ri Pak Shootout) as she made the turn with 6 consecutive birdies and cruised to a 9-under-par 62 that moved her to -20 for the week and secured her her 2nd career LPGA victory and 1st as a member of the tour.  Only Paula Creamer with a 60 and Eunjung Yi with a 61 have ever won with a lower score in this event. [Correction:  HappyFan over at Seoul reminds me that Se Ri Pak won in 1998 with a 61.  He also points out that in all 3 of Ryu's best LPGA finishes, she was paired with Hee Kyung Seo!]

How good was Ryu today?  Well, Angela Stanford opened and closed the tournament with 66s and ended up 7 back in distant 2nd.  Inbee Park shot 4 rounds in the 60s, including a Friday 65, and barely tied Chella Choi 8 behind Ryu.  In-Kyung Kim, Mika Miyazato, and Ji-Yai Shin were stuck in neutral after being at or within 1 shot of the lead after 54 holes and ended up barely making the top 10, getting tied or passed by Jennie Lee's solid 67.  Hee Kyung Seo did even worse and got caught at T9 by Beatriz Recari.  Stacy Lewis closed with a fine 66, but had to settle for T11.  (Blame the 17th and 18th, both par 5s, for her finish--she only made 3 birdies in 8 tries on those holes, against 3 bogeys and a double!)  Defending champion Na Yeon Choi was never a factor, as she finished T21 with Amy Yang, Sydnee Michaels, and Mo Martin, 1 shot behind 1st-round leader Pernilla Lindberg, among others.

Ryu has had several close calls since winning the 2011 U.S. Women's Open in dramatic fashion against fellow KLPGA superstar Hee Kyung Seo, so this 2nd LPGA win must be particularly satisfying to her.  Jee Young Lee, who finished T31 this week in one of her best tournaments in a long while, knows how hard it is to follow up on a non-member win--she's in her 7th season on tour and still hasn't lived up to expectations.  Now the question is, just how good can Ryu make her rookie season?  She's 8th on the money list with nearly 3/4 of a million dollars to her name, has almost lapped #2 Lexi Thompson in the Rookie of the Year Race, has leaped to 7th in the Player of the Year race (well behind leader Stacy Lewis), and is 6th in the race for the Vare Trophy (averaging .27 strokes per round more than Lewis, who just passed Ai Miyazato).  Only Lewis is averaging more birdies per round than Ryu (4.11 to 4.07), only Inbee Park and Lewis are more efficient than she is after hitting a green in regulation, and she's among the best on tour in top-10 percentage and rounds under par rate, as well.  With Ya Ni Tseng's slump deepening thanks to yet another uncharacteristic missed cut, with Lewis playing a bit like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of late, with Ai Miyazato missing her 2nd cut of the year, with Shanshan Feng and Inbee Park dealing with the rigors of trying to be in the elite of both the LPGA and JLPGA in 2012, and with Azahara Munoz also missing the cut this week, perhaps there's an opening for Ryu to make up some ground on those ahead of her in the weeks and months to come.

Well, Ryu's next order of business is to take on the well-rested defending champion of the Safeway Classic, Suzann Pettersen, not to mention the rest of the packed field for a 54-hole sprint in Oregon next week.  Let's see if this win opens the floodgates for her!

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