Sunday, August 19, 2012

Safeway Classic Friday and Saturday: Is This Mika Miyazato's Week to Break Through?

Mika Miyazato has been knocking on the door of her 1st career LPGA victory all summer, but to break through it she's going to need a great final round today in the Safeway Classic.  She holds a 2-shot lead on last week's winner So Yeon Ryu, a 3-shot lead on Evian Masters champion Inbee Park and 14-time LPGA winner Cristie Kerr, and a 4-shot lead on a resurgent world #1 Ya Ni Tseng, 9-time LPGA winner Paula Creamer, and rookie Sydnee Michaels.  Given that defending champion Suzann Pettersen came back from 9 down on Na Yeon Choi last year, it's impossible to count out the likes of Amy Yang and Hee-Won Han (5 back), Michelle Wie, Momoko Ueda, and Alison Walshe (6 back), Choi, In-Kyung Kim, Brittany Lang, and a host of others 7 off the pace, Karine Icher, Guilia Sergas, and Lizette Salas 8 behind, and, yes, Pettersen, again 9 down with 18 to go.

Mikan's played fantastic golf since enduring a late-spring mini-slump, which she has attributed more to mental issues and self-imposed pressures than to anything to do with her swing or her game.  And once she got her head on straight in early June, she finished T3 at the ShopRite, T2 at the Wegmans LPGA Championship, T2 at the Walmart, T7 at the U.S. Women's Open, T16 at the Evian Masters, and T7 at the Farr.  With just about every aspect of her game clicking this season--she leads the LPGA in driving accuracy, is 8th in greens in regulation, and 10th in putts per green in regulation--the only thing that's been holding her back is an inability to make as many birdies as those who have finished ahead of her (her 3.35 birdies per round rate is much lower than the leaders in that category).  Well, this week, she's hitting the fairway over 92% of the time, hitting the green almost 92% of the time, and averaging 6 birdies per round.  Translation:  she's missed 3 greens and 2 fairways and made only 1 bogey all week, so is riding a 30-hole-and-counting bogey-free run heading into today's round.

Let's see how she handles playing with 2-time winner Ryu in the final group.  Scoring has not been fantastic thus far today, with Paige Mackenzie and Stacy Prammanasudh leading the way, at -4 and -3 thus far in their rounds, and -1 the next-best score by a host of golfers, including Ai Miyazato and Stacy Lewis.  Wonder if we'll see a real shoot-'em-up or a war of attrition?  The way players were finishing out 17 and 18 yesterday, we could see some real disasters and huge swings at the very end of this 54-hole tournament!

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