Friday, July 19, 2013

Marathon Classic Thursday: Alison Walshe Takes 1-Shot Lead on Paula Creamer, Lexi Thompson, and Jessica Shepley

I finished my ranking of the career performances to date of the LPGA's rookie class of 2010 in the middle of the 1st round of the Marathon Classic, after Alison Walshe had fired the low round of the morning wave, an 8-birdie 65, so I'm not claiming any predictive talent when I labelled her the class's top "quantum leap candidate."  After all, the most I had been able to say about Jessica Shepley, the '09er who preceded her with a 6-birdie 66 that morning, in my ranking from the day before, was "At #159 on the priority status list, she's going to need some help getting into more events this season"!  And you certainly don't need to have any predictive talent to expect Paula Creamer to play well this week, what with her history at this tournament, or to have expected that Lexi Thompson would start scoring as well as she's been playing of late (although if you had been as specific as, "She'd bogey her 1st 2 holes in a row and bounce back with 7 birdies the rest of the round," I'd have been impressed, to say the least).  Nor would you have needed any predictive talent to have expected world #1 Inbee Park to be right in the mix (although given how well she's been playing, you might have expected more from her than a bogey-free 67) or defending champion So Yeon Ryu to put up a good fight this week (although again a bogey-free 68 may have been a little bit of a letdown, given how high our expectations have been raised by the scoring last week in Waterloo).

Where I do give myself a little bit of credit for noticing the obvious is how I put Chella Choi and Haeji Kang as the '09ers' top quantum leap candidates (although we'll have to see if my call for Choi, "Now's the time to break through!," will bear out or whether my prediction about Kang, "Can she build on last week's T6 finish?  I'm thinking she can and will," will come true).  Kang fired a 67 that was marred only by a walkoff bogey, while Choi made 4 birdies in her last 11 holes to post a 68.  So even though all my picks didn't do so great yesterday, I'm a pretty satisfied little PakPicker heading into today's round.

But enough about me.  What about the race for the last spots on the U.S. Solheim Cup team?  Gerina Piller--of whom I said yesterday morning, "She's another one who plays very well in bursts, [and] it's looking like she's on another good run (she just opened the Marathon Classic with a 67)."--who's 52 points behind Brittany Lang in the race for the last automatic points pick and behind Lizette Salas, Morgan Pressel, and Jennifer Johnson in the Rolex Rankings-based race for those 2 automatic picks, made a strong case for herself as a captain's pick if she can't chase down those ahead of her in the last 2 events before the team is selected.  With Lang and Pressel only 1 shot behind her, and Salas only 3 back, it's going to be a tension-filled 54 holes for those golfers.  Johnson (73) and Michelle Wie (74) can only hope they have 54 holes to contend with, as job #1 for both of them is 1st making the cut, which could stay at +1 or even move up to E or better if players score at Highland Meadows the way we're accustomed to seeing today.  If either of them misses the cut, that might end up making the difference between them in the race for the last captain's pick.  Johnson starts at 8:10 off #10 (with Kang and last week's winner Hee Young Park) and Wie at 8:30 off #1 (with Stacy Lewis and So Yeon Ryu), so we'll have plenty of drama right off the bat.

I'll try to get some early blogging on today's round in before we head out for a Buffalo Bisons game (and sleepover at the stadium) in the late afternoon.  You'll know how the afternoon wave ended up before I do!

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