Sunday, August 4, 2013

Ricoh Women's British Open Friday: Na Yeon Choi and Miki Saiki Go Over the Top

There were several great 2nd rounds at the Ricoh Women's British Open--Suzann Pettersen and Jee Young Lee moved into contention with morning 67s before the winds came up, and Nicole Castrale went 2 under afterwards to join them--but only 2 amazing ones.  Miki Saiki made 2 eagles in 4 holes, both par 4s, to go with 3 birdies on the front, then held it together on the back for a 66 that leapfrogged her past 1st-round co-leader Morgan Pressel (70, -8) by 1 shot.  And Na Yeon Choi had a round reminiscent of her 3rd at Blackwolf Run that led to her 1st major at the U.S. Women's Open, a 6-birdie 67 that included a bogey-free back at a time when most players were happy to only be 2 over coming home (as Stacy Lewis [72, -5], Paula Creamer [72, -4], and Inbee Park [73, -2] were) and which put her 1 shot past Saiki at -10.

When you consider how many golfers who had been playing well blew up on the back, Choi's and Saiki's rounds look even more impressive.  English amateur Georgia Hall was -6 through 27 holes but a pair of doubles and a pair of bogeys later and she needed a birdie on 18 to get back to -1 through 36.  Danielle Kang fell from -5 to -1 after posting a 40 on the back that included a double on the Road Hole.  Ryann O'Toole got to -8 with 10 to play but ended the day at -4.  Lizette Salas was -7 with 7 holes to go, but tripled 13 to fall back to -4.  Moira Dunn was -5 with 10 holes left to play and ended up making the cut on the number at +1.  Lydia Ko birdied 10 and 18 but still barely made the cut, too, after stumbling home with a 39, thanks in large part to a triple on 13, while Cristie Kerr also needed to birdie 18 to make it to the weekend after she posted a 39 coming home.  Shanshan Feng, too, just barely made the cut after shooting a birdieless 40 on the back.  Solheim Cup hopeful Gwladys Nocera made things tough on herself on the back, as well, as she needed a birdie on 18 to salvage a 40 and make the cut on the number.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg--most golfers who really blew up on the back didn't make the cut.  Ai Miyazato had a fine tournament except for the 13th hole, which she doubled on Thursday and took a 9 on on Friday, to miss the cut by 2 shots.  JLPGA star Mi-Jeong Jeon went 67-80 (birdieless 41 on the back), while co-leader after the 1st round Camilla Lennarth went 66-82 (43 on the back that included an 8 on the Road Hole).  Fellow Swede Caroline Hedwall made 2 doubles on the back to post a 40 and miss the cut by a shot.  Brittany Lang was -3 after 27 holes and done for the week after a 41 on the back. Karrie Webb had fought back to +2 with 3 to play but finished double-bogey-bogey the week after she won the Ladies European Masters.  Mina Harigae was E with 7 holes left to play and still posted a 42 on the back to miss the cut by a mile.  Laura Davies was in the same position but closed with a 40 to miss it by 2 shots.  Lexi Thompson doubled 15 and 17 on her way to a 41 on the back that even included birdies on 14 and 18, while Chella Choi also birdied 18 to salvage a 41 coming home.  Solheim Cup hopeful Giulia Sergas birdied 3 holes on a row on the front to fight back to +2 for the week, but made 3 bogeys on the back to end her last chance to impress Team Euro Captain Liselotte Neumann.

Of course, you didn't need to screw up the back to miss the cut, as Ya Ni Tseng (74, 4 MCs in a row), Amy Yang (71), and Solheim Cup hopefuls Charley Hull (72), Jodi Ewart Shadoff (73), and Jennifer Johnson (77) can attest.  Which makes rounds like fellow Solheim Cup hopeful Michelle Wie's even more interesting.  She posted a bogey-free 32 on the front and still needed to birdie 18 to end up with a 70 and fight back to E.  That left her 1 shot behind rival Gerina Piller, who birdied 4 holes in a row on the front on her way to a 32 of her own and hung in for a 37 on the back, despite bogeying 2 of her last 4 holes.  Just as the Wie-Piller duel is worth following, so, too is seeing how Sandra Gal does on the weekend.  She was -4 with 12 to play but fell to -1 by the end of the day.  She'll need to impress to be a captain's pick, even if 2 of her key rivals missed the cut.

So, yeah, news flash, St. Andrews is tough in the wind!  And the 3rd round's carnage made Friday look benign!

[Update 1 (8:08 am):  Here's Mechelle Voepel's take!]

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