Thursday, November 21, 2013

CME Titleholders Thursday: Sandra Gal Starts her Day with 6 Straight Birdies, Ends It at 64, 1 Shot Up on Rebecca Lee-Bentham

Sandra Gal had done very little of note in the 1st half of 2013, but she did come into the CME Titleholders riding an 8-event top-30 streak during which she notched her 2 best finishes of the season (T6s at the Safeway and Sime Darby).  So it's hard to say how much of a surprise her 6-hole birdie train to start her round on the back really is.  With 3 birdies in her last 4 holes, as well, she finished with her lowest round of the year--indeed, her best since 9/11/11--a 64 that left her 1 shot ahead of Rebecca Lee-Bentham, 2 shots ahead of Lexi Thompson, Shanshan Feng, and Anna Nordqvist, and 3 shots ahead of Sandra Changkija.  Which is pretty darn surprising for a variety of reasons--Lee-Bentham? Changkija? where are the LPGA's Big 3? what about Lydia Ko's professional debut?--but maybe shouldn't have been that unexpected, as Gal's been rolling a lot of 66s in late summer and fall.

So what about the biggest stories coming into the LPGA's final event? 
  • 2013 Player of the Year Inbee Park's victory lap got off to a fine start, as she made 4 birdies in her last 8 holes to post a 68 and soundly beat playing partners and Vare Trophy rivals Stacy Lewis (who struggled all day but birdied 3 of her last 4 holes to get to -1) and Suzann Pettersen (who began her day with a double on the par-5 1st but ended it at E).
  • In the Rookie of the Year race, Ayako Uehara, who needs to win this week to have a chance of passing Caroline Masson and Moriya Jutanugarn, opened with a 5-birdie 69, which puts her 8-up on Masson, who had a disastrous day, and 1-up on Jutanugarn, who would need to finish 2nd or 3rd in the event of an Uehara win to be ROY.
  • Lydia Ko struggled with nerves early on (she was +3 after a double on 3 and a bogey on 7), but righted the ship and finished with 4 birdies in her last 11 holes of bogey-free golf.  Imagine what she would have shot if she had had a good putting day!  As it is, she's tied with the likes of Lewis, defending champion Na Yeon Choi, hottest LPGAer without a win Chella Choi, and a bunch of Americans, from newbies Lizette Salas, Gerina Piller, and Jennifer Johnson to veterans like Morgan Pressel and the soon-to-retire Stacy Prammanasudh.  (Ko'll be 1st off the 10th with Lewis and Chella Choi tomorrow!)
As for me, I was pleased to see Ai Miyazato break 70 today thanks to a bogey-free 33 on the back (she'll be playing in the group after Uehara, Japanese fans in Florida!), but I hope she remembers how to go really low again before this week is out (I did pick her to win on a whim this week!).  I'd love to see Jane Park keep rolling in putts like she did today (6 birdies with only 25 of 'em for a fine 68).  And see Chie Arimura end her tough season on a positive note (she was -2 through her 1st 5 holes but finished at +1) and Mika Miyazato end it with some rounds in the 60s (she suffered a walkoff bogey to settle for a 70 today).  You know, fun in the sun for my favorite players in the field....

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