Friday, September 7, 2012

Kingsmill Championship Friday: Ji-Yai Shin Opens Door a Crack with 68

It's always tough to follow up a super-low round with another great round, but former world #1 Ji-Yai Shin looked like she was going to do it today at the Kingsmill Championship.  After breaking the 18-hole tournament record yesterday with a bogey-free 62, she added 4 more birdies over her 1st 12 holes today, bringing her grand total to 13 birdies over her 1st 30 holes.  But when her bogey-free run ended 4 holes later and she ended up playing her last 6 holes in +1, she opened the door to the rest of the field just a crack.  And, boy, did they take advantage!

Rookie and 2-time U.S. Women's Amateur champion Danielle Kang fired a bogey-free 29 on the par-35 back 9 and extended her bogey-free run to 29 holes before bogeying the par-5 3rd.  But she bounced back by going -2 over her last 6 holes to post a 64 that brought her to -11, 1 shot behind Shin.  Current money-list leader Stacy Lewis put on one of her patented charges, as well.  After a blah-for-her opening 22 holes (4 birdies, 2 bogeys, actually near the cut line, which ended up being at -1), Lewis exploded with 5 birdies and an eagle between the 5th and 15th holes today.  Even though she suffered a walkoff bogey to post a "mere" 65, she moved to -8, only 4 shots behind Shin.  Of course, when Dewi Claire Schreefel and Lexi Thompson serve up a pair of 66s to move to -10 and -9, respectively, Paula Creamer keeps firing on all cylinders and posts a 67 to join Schreefel at -10, and Azahara Munoz backs up her opening 65 with a 68, Lewis still has many players to pass over the weekend.  But she still has a great chance to extend her lead in all the LPGA's major season-long races (money list, Player of the Year, Vare Trophy for low scoring average).

Of course, an impressive mix of LPGA newbies and vets behind Lewis are itching to make up ground on her, instead.  A resurgent Maria Hjorth (69, -8) and Candie Kung (67, -7) are leading the way, while Chella Choi (68, -7) continues to roll and Ai Miyazato (68, -7) continues to lurk as she tries to put together a great ballstriking day and a great putting day in the same round.  And there are plenty of people in the prime of their careers, from Angela Stanford to Natalie Gulbis to Mika Miyazato hanging around at -6.  But just look at how many rookies and youngsters have either joined Kang and Schreefel in making big moves thus far this week or played pretty close to that well:  Jodi Ewart (68-67), Jennifer Johnson (66-69), Jennifer Song (66-69), Victoria Tanco (70-66), Gerina Piller (67-69), Belen Mozo (71-66), Angela Oh (69-68), Thidapa Suwannapura (71-67), Mariajo Uribe (70-68), Pornanong Phatlum (69-69), Amelia Lewis (67-71), Pernilla Lindberg (71-68), Ilhee Lee (68-71), Mo Martin (70-69), Hannah Yun (72-68), Lizette Salas (70-70), Alison Walshe (70-70), Numa Gulyanamitta (70-70), Mi Hyang Lee (72-69), Jacqui Concolino (72-69), and Jane Rah (70-71).  Here's hoping they keep it rolling all week!  Some of them are fighting for a ticket into the Asian swing (top 50 on the money list), some for a berth on the U.S. Women's Open (top 70 on the season-ending money list), and some for a "Get Out of Q-School Free" card (top 100).  But this is a big weekend for all of them.

Which makes the missed cut by 2-time Kingsmill champion Cristie Kerr all the more mystifying.  I mean, Michelle Wie, Morgan Pressel, Ryann O'Toole, Tiffany Joh, and Amanda Blumenherst have been playing badly enough for some time now that it's no longer a surprise when they miss a cut.  Brittany Lincicome, Vicky Hurst, and Sydnee Michaels are all bombers, so it's not that surprising that when they're a little off they can make some big numbers and end up on the wrong side of the cut line (although actually Hurst and Michaels were bunting it around by their standards, at least on the holes they were being measured).  And although they've been playing pretty well lately, it's not a huge surprise that Momoko Ueda, Jee Young Lee, Mina Harigae, and Moira Dunn would suffer a few hiccups on the River Course and play below their expectations.  But the determined, focused, driven Kerr?  To not even come close?  To hit 75% of her greens in regulation but make only 3 birdies in 36 holes?  That is just inexplicable.  Only bright side for her, I guess, is that she gets to the Women's British Open early....

My darn DVR failed to tape the 2nd round, but it'll be neat to see how Kang and Schreefel handle playing with Shin in the final group off the front.  I guess we'll find out tomorrow what kind of fire Lydia Ko lit under which golfers!

[Update 1 (11:55 pm):  Check out for a great tribute to Leta Lindley, who planned to retire after this week and missed the cut, as well as for details on Schreefel's 2-stroke penalty early today (but late in her 1st round) and other goodies.  Should have known Inbee Park was #1 on the money list, but needed a reminder from them.  Since she's playing in Japan, she won't be #1 after this week....]

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