Saturday, October 19, 2013

LPGA KEB-HanaBank Championship Saturday: 2 Lead Bunched Field

Anna Nordqvist and Katherine Hull-Kirk lead the LPGA KEB-HanaBank Championship at -7, but if either of these 2-time LPGA winners is going to hoist the trophy tomorrow, they're going to have to hold off a charging Suzann Pettersen, a hungry Amy Yang, and 18 other golfers within 5 shots of the lead.  

Hull-Kirk showed signs of distancing herself from the field when she opened with 3 birdies, 2 pars, 1 bogey, and 1 eagle (on the par-5 5th) in her 1st 7 holes to move to -9, but a bogey and a double to close out the front forced her to bounce back with 2 birdies (and a bogey) in her last 6 holes to tie Nordqvist, who played a much steadier 4-birdie, 2-bogey round that was highlighted by back-to-back birdies on the very holes Hull was butchering.  Meanwhile, Pettersen was moving backwards on the front with bogeys on 6 and 8, but a birdie on 7 and 4 more on the back 9 pulled her within 1 shot of the lead.  Yesterday's co-leader Yang got off to a good start with 2 early birdies, moved backwards as she started the back with 3 bogeys in her 1st 5 holes on the side, but finished strong with 2 birdies in her last 4 holes to join Pettersen at -6.  Auditioning for the part of Cinderella was fellow 1st-round co-leader Ju Young Park (who I just found out from Seoul is the Rocket's little sister!), who briefly got it to -7 when she made her 4th birdie of the day on the par-4 15th, but dropped back into a tie for 3rd when she bogeyed the par-3 17th.

The up-and-down play of those at the very top of the leaderboard opened the door for many to make up ground on them today.  Alison Walshe did it early with birdies in 5 of her 1st 7 holes, then cooled off with a pair of bogeys and a pair of birdies on the back to fire one of the low rounds of the day, a 68 that pulled her within 2 shots of the lead.  Sei Young Kim also started hot, with 5 birdies in her 1st 11 holes of bogey-free golf, and extended her bogey-free run to 17 holes (dating back to Friday's round), but fell back to -5 for the week when she bogeyed the par-4 14th to settle for a 68 of her own.  (I assume she's the same Sae Young Kim who made 2 eagles in her last 10 holes to deny So Yeon Ryu a KLPGA victory in early September.)  Hee Kyung Seo also made only 1 bogey in her 68, but hers came on the 2nd, so her 16-hole bogey-free run is alive and kicking into the final round.  Chella Choi's 68 was without a blemish, and she's actually made 6 birdies in her last 25 holes of bogey-free golf and counting, but she's still 4 shots behind the co-leaders.  Probably the most exciting 68 of the day belonged to living legend Se Ri Pak, as she poured in 5 birdies in her last 13 holes to join Choi at -4.

Plus, there are plenty of huge names with a chance to make a move tomorrow.  The KLPGA's biggest star, Ha-Neul Kim, made 6 birdies and 4 bogeys to stay within 2 shots of Nordqvist and Hull-Kirk.  Former world #1 Ji-Yai Shin bounced back from a double on the 5th with 4 birdies in her next 10 holes of bogey-free golf, and even a bogey on 16 dropped her only 3 shots out of the lead.  KLPGA Rookie of the Year race leader Hyo-Joo Kim fired a 4-birdie 70 to remain 4 shots behind the co-leaders.  And even So Yeon Ryu (72, -2), Caroline Hedwall (74, -2), Na Yeon Choi (72, -1), and Inbee Park (73, -1) aren't completely out of this thing.  Hedwall's scorecards are increasingly reminiscent of the kinds of roller-coasters Laura Davies and Sophie Gustafson were known for

Further down the leaderboard, the LPGA's 3 top rookies are within a shot of each other, as Ayako Uehara (74) fell back into a tie with Caroline Masson (72) at +1, while Moriya Jutanugarn (72) hung in there at +2.  No such luck for fellow rookie Chie Arimura, who shot what must be among the worst rounds of her professional career today, an 85 marked by 8 bogeys, 2 doubles, and a triple.  (To add insult to injury, she just missed out on playing with Grace Park and Catriona Matthew tomorrow.)  It's also been a bad week so far for Beatriz Recari (76-76), Morgan Pressel (73-77), and Paula Creamer (72-75).  Let's see if all these players can fight back tomorrow.

Speaking of which, Pettersen's late charge put her in the final Sunday pairing with Nordqvist and Hull-Kirk, while Yang is paired with both KLPGA Cinderella candidates (although maybe it's unfair to call the KLPGA money-list leader a Cinderella!).  It should be a great final round in Incheon!

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