Saturday, August 31, 2013

Sophie Gustafson and Amanda Blumenherst Stepping Away from LPGA

As Brent Kelley and Geoff Shackelford have been picking up on Randall Mell's reporting that Amanda Blumenherst and Sophie Gustafson are stepping away from competitive golf, it looks like it's official that the LPGA will have to do without 2 of its most respected and popular players.  At the same time, neither has been playing good golf for some time now.  Except for a pair of T5s early in 2012 and a T13 at the ShopRite, Blumenherst's performances the last year and a half have been nothing to write home about, leading to her falling to #9 in my latest ranking of the Class of 2010.  Gustafson, a 5-time winner on the LPGA, has dropped off the map the last calendar year, falling to #12 in my last ranking of 3-to-6-time winners on tour.

Looking at my last update of the LPGA's top rivalries, I wonder how long it will be before Cristie Kerr and Se Ri Pak are the only golfers from their "generation" to be competing on the LPGA.  Blumenherst is the 3rd player from her rookie class to definitively step away from competitive golf, following Whitney Wade and Jane Chin (who are now coaching).  Unfortunately, their departures are a normal fact of life on the LPGA.  Players reach their mid-20s and reassess their prospects; players reach their late 30s and reassess their priorities.  For every big-name player who makes headlines when she steps away from the spotlight (Annika, Lorena, Grace Park, Mi Hyun Kim), a handful of lesser-known players decide their golf is never going to swing the spotlight toward them.

So as we mourn Gustafson's and Blumenherst's decisions and wish them well in their future endeavors, let's extend the same courtesy to all the unsung players who have tried to make a living and make history on the links.

[Update 1 (9/2/13, 1:41 am):  Whoops, turns out Gustafson will be playing full-time on the LET next season and isn't ruling out a return to the LPGA; neither is Blumenherst, but with her husband in the majors and a baby in the works, we're talking about an extended time away from the LPGA, as well.]

Nitori Ladies Saturday: Lala Anai Leads Sun-Ju Ahn, Bo-Mee Lee, Esther Lee by 2

The story of the JLPGA in 2013 has been the rise of young Japanese players who had taken over the winner's circle for much of the season--until recent weeks, however, when Young Kim, Da Ye Na, and Sun-Ju Ahn have lead a charge by the formerly-dominant South Korean contingent.  Well, 2 rounds into the Nitori Ladies, which Ahn won last year, it's up to 25-year-old Lala Anai to hold off the defending champion, her fellow former KLPGA star Bo-Mee Lee, and JLPGA regular Esther Lee.  And waiting in the wings if the leaders falter are 20-year-old Chiba native Misuzu Narita and probably the most successful Korean golfer ever on the JLPGA, Mi-Jeong Jeon, both only 3 shots behind Anai (tied with veteran Rui Kitada).  Meanwhile, LPGA rookie Ayako Uehara headlines the group at -2, which includes ex-LPGAer Teresa Lu (who is still looking for her 1st JLPGA victory), 22-year-old Mikiko Nishi, and veteran Yuko Fukuda.

With money-list leader Rikako Morita not playing this week, #2 Natsuka Hori and #3 Miki Saiki barely making the cut, and #4 Yumiko Yoshida, #6 Sakura Yokomine, and #7 Mamiko Higa stuck in the middle of the pack, tomorrow is a great opportunity for #5 Jeon to make a move and for Bo-Mee Lee and Sun-JU Ahn to really jump-start their seasons.  Anai probably won't get the help that these former KLPGA stars gave her at the end of their moving day rounds--Lee had a walkoff double while Ahn bogeyed 2 of her last 5 holes to fall back to -4 and 2 shots off the pace--so it'll be interesting to see how the youngster handles tomorrow's pressure.  Anai got an early T4 and T6 but has not had a top 10 in her last 15 starts this season.  Last year, she was in 2nd place heading into the final round, but a 72 allowed Ahn and 3 others to pass her.  Let's see if history repeats itself or if Anai is able to keep the Japanese youth movement alive!

Safeway Classic Friday: Pornanong Phatlum Leads Suzann Pettersen, Caroline Masson, Sandra Gal

Pornanong Phatlum followed up Thursday's 64 with a bogey-free 66 yesterday at Columbia Edgewater to hold onto a slim lead on Suzann Pettersen, who pulled within a shot of her at the halfway point of the Safeway Classic on the strength of a bogey-free 63.  Pettersen's teammate from the Solheim Cup, Caroline Masson, also went low on Friday with a bogey-free 64 that brought her to -11, 1 behind countrywoman Sandra Gal, who matched Phatlum's bogey-free 66.  Amazing putting has been the theme that ties together the leaders, as Phatlum has only 48 putts in 36 holes, while Pettersen and Masson have only 52 (thanks to a 22-putt exhibition by Masson!), and even Gal has a respectable 58.

Others who went low on Friday include Hee-Won Han, whose 65 was marred only by a bogey on the par-4 17th, Na Yeon Choi, whose 66 included a walkoff bogey on the 9th, Chella Choi, whose only bogey came on the par-4 18th as she was about to make the turn, and Beatriz Recari, who got a 66 of her own despite bogeying both 9 and 18.  If Changkija and Chella Choi had been putting as well as NYC (52 putts) and Hee-Won Mom (54 putts), they'd be much higher up the leaderboard than they are now.  Changkija is "only" tied at -10 with Cristie Kerr and Lizette Salas, while Han and the Chois are at the head of a class at -8 that includes Juli Inkster, Karrie Webb, Ji-Yai Shin, Brittany Lang, and Natalie Gulbis.  Recari leads the -7ers, who include Stacy Lewis, Ai Miyazato, Morgan Pressel, Eun-Hee Ji, Mina Harigae, and Sydnee Michaels.

That leaves an intriguing trio at -9 to mention:  Lexi Thompson, who seems fired up by Lydia Ko's and Charley Hull's recent heroics; Se Ri Pak, who always seems capable of going low; and Ya Ni Tseng, who's put together 2 rounds in the 60s in a row for the 2nd week in a row (she had also done it the week before she started her 4-event missed cut streak that ended last week).

With defending champion Mika Miyazato and recent winner Hee Young Park barely making the cut at -2, In-Kyung Kim having to fight back to get to -3, and Anna Nordqvist only at -5, they'll have to go super-low on the weekend to have a hope of getting into contention.  But the leaders have shown it can be done.  Let's see what happens!

Friday, August 30, 2013

LPGA Q-School Stage 1 Friday: Laura Gonzalez Escallon Holds off Cheyenne Woods by 3 Shots

Laura Gonzalez Escallon broke 70 3 out of 4 rounds at the site of the Kraft Nabisco Championship to win medallist honors at Stage 1 of LPGA's Q-School by 3 shots over the only other golfer in the field to fire as many rounds in the 60s as she did, Cheyenne Woods.  With only 12 players going under par over 72 holes, and the cut line ending up at +11, not too many who moved on to Stage 2 are going to strike much fear in the hearts of those who got an exemption past the 1st stage, but Mia Piccio (-8), Erica Popson (-7), Julie Yang (-7), Pinrath Loomboonruang (-6), and Yueer Cindy Feng (-5) certainly established themselves, and most of the players I highlighted in my preview moved on (although some just barely).

Unfortunately, Georgette Rolle (an early WD), Izzy Lendl (+13), Hwanhee Lee (+13), Tiffany Lua (+14), Kyle Roig (+14), Kimberly Kim (+15), Jillian Fraccola (+28), and Angela Park (+34) weren't among them.  That means no Symetra Tour status, so it's either a year on the U.S. mini-tours or off to the LET's Q-School later this year in Morocco for those who are already pros (a path Woods took last year with great success this year) and probably another year as amateurs for the rest.

The next stage of LPGA's Q-School for Stage 1's survivors takes place in Florida from October 8th through 11th.  Among those on the preliminary field list are Sun-Ju Ahn, who's starred on both the KLPGA and JLPGA, Charley Hull, the darling of the Solheim Cup, Lee-Anne Pace, former Order of Merit leader on the LET, Melissa Reid, who's been searching for her game since her mother passed away but has been a force on the LET for years, ex-LPGAer Kristie Smith, and Cathryn Bristow, who's played on the ALPG, LET, and Symetra Tour, not to mention all the top players on the Symetra Tour who don't earn their 2014 LPGA cards via the money list in late September.  Getting into the top 80 at that stage will be more of a challenge--and more of an accomplishment.

Around the World of Women's Golf in 4 Easy Links

No time for individual posts on the LPGA's Safeway Classic and 3rd round of Q-School's 1st stage, the JLPGA's Nitori Ladies, or the LET's Ladies Scottish Open, so I'll just hit the highlights here today from around the world of women's professional golf.

Lexi Thompson's 65 was the low round of the morning wave (capped off by an eagle on the par-5 7th--her 16th--hole) at Columbia Edgewater, but it got eclipsed by Pornanong Phatlum's afternoon 64 (which amazingly included 2 bogeys).  Others going low included Cristie Kerr, Lizette Salas, and Sandra Gal with 66s, a host of players with 67s, including Juli Inkster, Se Ri Pak, Stacy Lewis, Ya Ni Tseng, Ai Miyazato, Michelle Wie, and Gerina Piller, even more with 68s, among them Suzanne Pettersen, Ji-Yai Shin, Amy Yang (who had to WD today), Brittany Lang, Natalie Gulbis, and Chie Arimura, and 69s by such golfers as Karrie Webb, In-Kyung Kim, Hee Young Park, Anna Nordqvist, Morgan Pressel, Caroline Masson, Jodi Ewart Shadoff, and Momoko Ueda.  Other notables didn't fare quite so well, among them Na Yeon Choi (70), Beatriz Recari (71), Angela Stanford (71), Mika Miyazato (71), Laura Davies (72), Azahara Munoz (72), Carlota Ciganda (73), and Moriya Jutanugarn (73).  As you can see, the scoring was low and the cut line would have fallen at -2 if it had been established on Thursday!

In Q-School, Mia Piccio fired a 65 to get to -10 pull within 2 shots of 2nd-round leader Laura Gonzalez Escallon.  Others in the hunt for medallist include Yueer Cindy Feng and Pinrath Loomboonruang at -7, and Cheyenne Woods, Erica Popson, Julie Yang, and Babe Liu at -6.  Notables in danger of falling or staying out of the top 100 and not advancing to Stage 2 in October include Kimberly Kim at +5, Kelly Shon at +8, Ki-Shui Liao at +9, Hwanhee Lee at +10, Tiffany Lua at +11, Izzy Lendl at +12, and Kyle Roig at +15.  The cut line, which I thought would climb to the neighborhood of +12, might only go to +9 or +10 when play is completed today.  Angela Park, Meghan Hardin, Jillian Fraccola, and Seema Sadekar will definitely fall outside it.  I'm still counting on Scooby Liu and Britney Yada to make it to the next stage, for obvious reasons.

Meanwhile, Lala Anai continues the youth movement on the JLPGA, as her 4-birdie, 1-eagle 66 left her 1 shot ahead of Ji-Min Lee, 2 shots up on Yuko Fukuda, 3-up on Bo-Mee Lee and Ikue Asama, and 4 shots out of the reach of defending champion Sun-Ju Ahn and 2-time winner this season Mamiko Higa.  Other notables include Mi-Jeong Jeon, Ji-Hee Lee, Bo-Bae Song, Teresa Lu, Kumiko Kaneda, and Megumi Kido at -1, Ayako Uehara, Na-Ri Kim, and Yumiko Yoshida at E, Sakura Yokomine and Erika Kikuchi at +1, Yukari Baba at +2, Young Kim and Jin Joo Hong at +3, Yuki Sakurai and Miho Mori at +4, Miki Saiki, Da Ye Na, and Natsuka Hori at +5, Soo-Yun Kang and Maiko Wakabayashi at +6, Shinobu Moromizato at +7, Mayu Hattori and Harukyo Nomura at +8, Yoko Ishikawa (Ryo's imoto) at +11.  Money-list leader Rikako Morita is sitting this one out after several bad outings in a row, not unlike Inbee Park, who decided very late in the week not to play in Portland.

Over in Scotland, Cassandra Kirkland leads Lee-Anne Pace, Anne-Lise Caudal, and Trish Johnson by 1 shot, with Catriona Matthew only 3 shots off the pace and Ashleigh Simon 4.

For cute pics of Jeong Jang's daughter on the putting green with JJ and Se Ri Pak at Columbia Edgewater, head on over to Seoul  I think we all need a little dose of kawaii right about now....

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Who Are Your Picks for the Safeway Classic?

Well, my 13-event streak of finishing in the top 10 in Seoul's PakPicker competition came to a screeching halt last week at the CN Canadian Women's Open, so let's see if I can start a new streak at the Safeway Classic this week!  Here's who I'm counting on to get me my 1st win of the 2013 season:

1. Miyazato Ai
2. Miyazato Mika
3. Choi Na Yeon
4. Kim In-Kyung
5. Pettersen
6. Creamer
7. Park Hee Young
8. Lewis, Stacy
9. Lang
10. Nordqvist
11. Kerr
12. Salas

Alts: Masson, Tseng, Shin Ji-Yai

Here are Tony Jesselli's picks.  Who are yours?

Laura Gonzalez Escallon Leads LPGA Q-School's 1st Stage after 36 Holes

Born in Colombia, a successful amateur in her home country of Belgium, and a recent graduate of Purdue University, Laura Gonzalez Escallon wasn't on my radar entering the 1st stage of LPGA's Q-School, but after going 68-67 to take a 5-shot lead on fellow amateur Yueer Cindy Feng and Symetra Tour rookie Erica Popson and a 6-shot lead on Cheyenne Woods and Mia Piccio, she certainly is on it right now!

Gonzalez Escallon is 1 of 19 players currently under par and 24 at par or better.  You might think that those players are guaranteed a spot in the top 100 when the last putt has dropped on Friday, but remember that most of them are playing in Stage 1 for a reason.  It's pretty common to see 5-shot differences from one round to another with players of this caliber and level of experience, although even in this group Rhea Nair's 68-82 start, Hilary Packard's 81-68 start, and Maggie Yuan's 84-72 start stand out.

The fact is, if you can break 70, you can come back from even 1 terrible or 2 bad rounds at this stage.  Frankly, I wouldn't even count out players like Angela Park at +17 or Jillian Fraccola at +16, even though they're outside the top 200 right now.  Sure, they probably need 2 straight under-par rounds to move into the top 100, but why not?  If scoring continues as it did over the 1st 2 days in its closing rounds, the players near 100th place will be somewhere around +12.  If Hsien-Wen Huang can move from T104 to T13 by going 75-68, anything can happen today and tomorrow!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Stage 1 of LPGA Q-School Begins Today!

Angela Park. Cheyenne Woods. Madison Pressel. Yueer Cindy Feng. Kelly Shon. Georgette Rolle.  These are the golfers is spotlighting as Stage 1 of Q-School begins today at the site of the Kraft Nabisco Championship.  You can follow the scoring right here!

Keep an eye out also for Tiffany Lua, Lee Lopez, Amy Anderson, Sally Watson, Demi Runas, Izzy Lendl, Julie Yang, Kyle Roig, Hwanhee Lee, Ki-Shui Liao, Benedikte Grotvedt, Casey Grice, Kimberly Kim, Carlie Yadloczky, and central NY's own Jillian Fraccola.

The top 100 will move on to Florida in early October.  Good luck, ladies!

Catching Up III

Well, I've hit the ground running as my fall semester has started, but I still have a few minutes to catch up on what's been going on in the world of women's golf now that the magnitude of Lydia Ko's dominating win at the CN Canadian Women's Open has sunk in a little.

Don't Call It a Comeback!  Sun-Ju Ahn returned to the winner's circle on the JLPGA for the 1st time in just under a year at the CAT Ladies by going 70-68-66 to beat Ritsuko Ryu by 3 shots and Yumiko Yoshida by 4.  The next closest competitors were Sakura Yokomine and Na-Ri Kim at -7.  Money list-leader Rikako Morita had another bad week, finishing just outside the top 25, but she's still earned over 90 million yen in a season when nobody else has crossed the 60 million yen mark, so she can afford a little late-summer lull.  Ahn, meanwhile, moved up to #15 on the money list and is the defending chanmpion at the next 2 events on the schedule, the Nitori Ladies this week and the Golf 5 Ladies the following week.

Mikan, Gambatte!  Mika Miyazato is the defending champion at the Safeway Classic this week in Portland.  She's coming off her 3rd-best finish of the season, a T13 at the CWO, but will need to heat up her putter further to get to double digits under par this week, which is likely what it will take to win.  This is the last tune-up before the LPGA's 5th major, the Evian Championship, and I'm rooting for Ai Miyazato, who's won in both Portland and Evian, to get her 1st LPGA major in mid-September.  Maybe the boys from Tokyo winning the Little League World Series will help inspire Mikan, Ai-sama, Chie Arimura, Momoko Ueda, and Mitsuki Katahira!

The LPGA's Million Dollar Club Doubles.  Suzann Pettersen and In-Kyung Kim were the latest LPGAers to cross the $1M mark in season winnings.  Wonder who'll be next?

The LPGA's Races Heat Up.  Inbee Park may have Player of the Year and the money-list title pretty much sewn up, but there are still some closely contested season-long races on the LPGA.  In the race for the Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average, Inbee Park, Stacy Lewis, Suzann Pettersen, and Na Yeon Choi are all hovering on either side of 70 and Paula Creamer and In-Kyung Kim are by no means out of it, either.  In the Rookie of the Year race, Caroline Masson pulled within 31 points of leader Moriya Jutanugarn, while Ayako Uehara and Chie Arimura are nearly as close.  Wonder when Uehara will return to the LPGA from the JLPGA?

Golf--I Mean, WTF?!  6 days after shooting my worst round of the year, I put together my best round of the year at my home course.  The greens were either horrifically torn up or glacially slow and every putt was bouncing and zig zagging, but I managed to make 2 birdies and end up with a 78 despite taking 35 putts.  My ball-striking was just on, with 11 greens in regulation and loads of birdie chances.  Sure, I bogeyed 5 of the 6 par 4s when I found the fairway off the tee and failed to birdie 2 par 5s on the back in which I was around the green in 2, but you try making putts when the ball spends more time in the air than on the green!  My buddy and I were saying we'd love to see a reality show where the top pros have to compete on the worst public courses....  Come to think of it, I've played my best golf in my 4 decades on the course on the slowest greens.  Maybe Inbee Park should take a lesson from me! :)

[Update 1 (9:03 am):  Just saw at Golf Babes that Ha-Neul Kim won for the 1st time in 2013 and 8th time on the KLPGA, thanks to a final-round 63!]

Sunday, August 25, 2013

CN Canadian Women's Open Sunday: Lydia Ko Defends Her Title with a 64, Singlehandedly Defeats European and U.S. Solheim Cuppers

OK, so, wow!!  Today, Lydia Ko did to Suzanne Pettersen and Caroline Hedwall, the heroines of the Solheim Cup, what she did to world #1s Ji-Yai Shin and Stacy Lewis last year in the CN Canadian Women's Open.  Ko went out in 30 to take a 3-shot lead on Pettersen and a 4-shot lead on Hedwall, added her 6th birdie in her 1st 12 holes of bogey-free golf to get to -15, then coasted home with a single bogey and a walkoff birdie as Hedwall bogeyed 2 of her 1st 4 on the back and Pettersen added a double to her 2 bogeys in her last 4 holes.

In the end, Karine Icher's 4-birdie 67 got her to -10, making her the only other player in the field to achieve double digits under par this week and sneaking her past Hedwall, who got caught at -9 by Brittany Lincicome's 69.  A 68 by Stacy Prammanasudh and a 70 by In-Kyung Kim got them to -8, 1 shot ahead of Pettersen and another Solheim Cup teammate Caroline Masson (who made a big move in the Rookie of the Year race as Chie Arimura missed the cut and Moriya Jutanugarn finished, oh, 24 shots behind Ko).

In fact, 11 of the top 16 golfers were Solheim Cuppers, but none had the reserves to keep up with the 16-year-old phenom from New Zealand.  Ko finished 12 shots ahead of fellow teen sensation Charley Hull and 13 ahead of Lexi Thompson.  She now has as many LPGA victories as So Yeon Ryu, Anna Nordqvist, Sun Young Yoo, Morgan Pressel, Michelle Wie, Meena Lee, Stacy Prammanasudh, Momoko Ueda, Katherine Hull-Kirk, Jeong Jang, Jimin Kang, Jennifer Rosales, Karen Stupples, Christina Kim, Laura Diaz, Carin Koch, and Ji Young Oh, among others.

I'm floored.  What a performance!  And she's still an amateur!!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

CN Canadian Women's Open Saturday: Caroline Hedwall and Suzann Pettersen Move Up as Inbee Park and Cristie Kerr Fall Back

It was the best of times and it was the worst of times on moving day at the CN Canadian Women's Open.

On the bright side, Solheim Cup MVP Caroline Hedwall (-10) tied the low round of the week with a 7-birdie 64 that vaulted her 1 shot ahead of teammate Suzann Pettersen (6-birdie 65) and wunderkind Lydia Ko (5-birdie 67), 2 shots ahead of In-Kyung Kim (6-birdie 65) and Brittany Lincicome (5-birdie 66), and 3 shots ahead of Gerina Piller (5-birdie 67), Paula Creamer (3-birdie 69), and Karine Icher (2-birdie 70).  Plus, a former world #1 by the name of Ya Ni Tseng fired a bogey-free 66 to move to -4 for the week, even as another former world #1, this one going by Ji-Yai Shin, eased her way to -3 on the strength of a 5-birdie 67.

Meanwhile, 2nd-round co-leaders Inbee Park and Cristie Kerr has horrible days, with Park going +4 in her 1st 13 holes and dropping back to -4 for the week after posting a 74, and Kerr finishing triple bogey-double bogey to suffer a 75 that dropped her all the way back to -3.  Laura Davies struggled through 2 doubles and 5 bogeys on her way to a 77 that took her out of contention for 1 of the 2 non-major wins she needs to earn her way into the LPGA Hall of Fame, while Rookie of the Year race leader Moriya Jutanugarn fell to the bottom of the pack with a 6-bogey 75 and Hee Young Park suddenly rocketed in the wrong direction with a 1-double, 4-bogey 76.

So even as the leaderboard is dominated by Solheim Cuppers (12 of the top 19 golfers through 54 holes), and even as 14 players lurk within 5 shots of the lead, the stage is set for a great showdown between a veteran who is looking for her 12th career LPGA victory, an up-and-coming European star who amazingly has yet to win on the LPGA. and a 16-year-old superstar who is looking to defend her CWO title.  This might be an even better finish than last year, when Ko outplayed Stacy Lewis and Ji-Yai Shin on Sunday to take her 1st career LPGA title.  Will tomorrow make it a pair for her?  Stay tuned!

Friday, August 23, 2013

CN Canadian Women's Open Friday: Inbee Park and Cristie Kerr Take Halfway Point Lead

2 of the best putters in the world lead the CN Canadian Women's Open after 36 holes, Inbee Park and Cristie Kerr.  Even though the current world #1 has found the fairway only 12 times in 2 rounds, she's taken only 51 putts on her way to a 67-65 start.  Meanwhile, the former world #1 is hitting a lot more fairways and greens than Park, but Kerr has still taken only 56 putts as she's started with a pair of 66s.

Right behind them are rival Solheim Cuppers Karine Icher and Angela Stanford at -7, while Stanford's co-leader from the 1st round, 16-year-old defending champion Lydia Ko, is 1 more shot off the pace, tied with none other than Laura Davies, who needs only 2 more regular LPGA wins to qualify for the Hall of Fame, as well as Paula Creamer, who's looking for her 1st win since she took the U.S. Women's Open what feels like an eternity ago.

But Ko isn't the only teenager in the hunt.  None other than Charley Hull and Lexi Thompson have closed the gap on her, the former with a bogey-free 66 that erases some of the pain of her back-to-back closing bogeys from the 1st round and the latter with a 6-birdie 65 that ties Ko, Stanford, Boeljon, and Park for 2nd-low round of the week and brings her to -4, 1 shot behind Hull and 2 behind Ko.

The low round of the week thus far belongs to Kathleen Ekey, who eagled the par-4 1st and never looked back, making 4 birdies and no bogeys the rest of the way to join Hull, Hee Young Park, and Stacy Prammanasudh at -5.  And what of the other Solheim Cuppers?  Most of them seem to be tied with Thompson at -4, among them Suzanne Pettersen, Catriona Matthew, and Caroline Hedwall from Team Euro and Brittany Lincicome, Jessica Korda, and Gerina Piller from Team USA.  True, Morgan Pressel, Michelle Wie, Beatriz Recari, and Giulia Sergas missed the cut, while Carlota Ciganda is +1 and Anna Nordqvist and Azahara Muno are at E, but overall the Solheim Cuppers are doing very well for themselves so far this week.  Jodi Ewart Shadoff's 66 and Brittany Lang's and Caroline Masson's 67s brought them to -3 at the halfway point.  Not bad, ladies!

How about other top Asian golfers?  Na Yeon Choi, Amy Yang, Shanshan Feng, and Momoko Ueda moved backwards, Choi to -2 after settling for a 71, Yang and Feng to E after taking a 71 and a 72, respectively, and Ueda to +1 after matching Feng's 72.  But Ji-Yai Shin and In-Kyung Kim used 66s to move to E and -3, respectively, while Mika Miyazato's 67 brought her to -3 for the week and Ai Miyazato's 68 took her to -2.  Heck, even Ya Ni Tseng fired a 68 today, just as So Yeon Ryu did to make the cut.  Joining them were Se Ri Pak, Hee-Won Han, Sun Young Yoo, and Song-Hee Kim.  Which is saying something, when Hall of Famer Karrie Webb missed the cut.

Tomorrow's pairings look pretty cool, what with Taiwan's own Tseng and Candie Kung (although Kung has had American citizenship for quite some time!) going off the 10th tee together at 9:15 am, Korean veterans Pak and Han going off the same tee 80 minutes later, 6 Solheim Cuppers in a row going off the 1st tee at 10:25 am (Pettersen, Hedwall, Lincicome) and 10:35 am (Korda Matthew, Piller), and Ko and Hull facing off at 10:55 am from the 1st tee.  The top 6 on the leaderboard round out the last 2 threesomes at 11:05 and 11:15 am.  We'll see if fatigue starts to set in on the Solheim Cuppers, whether someone from back in the pack can go low tomorrow, and who among those playing well already will keep on rolling.  If Park's and Kerr's putters heat up even more, the rest of the field had better bring their A-plus games for moving day!

[Update 1 (8/24/13, 10:05 am):  Here's bangkokbobby's take on round 2! And Ruthless Mike on Charley Hull's great attitude.]

Thursday, August 22, 2013

CN Canadian Women's Open Thursday: Lydia Ko, Angela Stanford, Christel Boeljon Lead at -5; Stacy Lewis Withdraws

Lydia Ko, the defending champion of the CN Canadian Women's Open, has been having a pretty darn great season, but she's been overshadowed by fellow teenagers Ariya Jutanugarn (until she injured her shoulder at the Wegmans LPGA Championship, requiring surgery) and Charley Hull (the darling of the Solheim Cup who's been granted permission to apply early for LPGA membership).  Well, after going -6 over her 1st 14 holes and tying Angela Stanford and Christel Boeljon at -5, Ko has put herself back in the spotlight (although their scorecards are also worth looking at, both bogey-free, but in quite different ways!).  And although the three co-leaders have a star-studded lead chase pack, they won't have to worry about world #2 Stacy Lewis, who withdrew due to illness after opening with 5 bogeys in her 1st 7 holes and closing with a +4 74.  Among those in the hunt are:
  • Paula Creamer and Cristie Kerr at 66,
  • Inbee Park, Na Yeon Choi, Karine Icher, and Jennifer Kirby at 67,
  • Laura Davies, Hee Young Park, Shanshan Feng, Caroline Hedwall, and Brittany Lincicome at 68,
  • Suzanne Pettersen, Amy Yang, Momoko Ueda, Chella Choi, Pornanong Phatlum, Carlota Ciganda, and Charley Hull at 69,
  • and Ai Miyazato, Mika Miyazato, Anna Nordqvist, Brittany Lang, Jessica Korda, Catriona Matthew, Beatriz Recari, Morgan Pressel, Eun-Hee Ji, Gerina Piller, Caroline Masson, Sun Young Yoo, Laura Diaz, and Karen Stupples at 70.
Other big names than Lewis struggled, including
  • In-Kyung Kim, Lexi Thompson, Azahara Munoz, and Jodi Ewart Shadoff at +1,
  • Se Ri Pak, Ya Ni Tseng, Haeji Kang, Hee-Won Han, Jeong Jang, Sandra Gal, Moriya Jutanugarn, and Brooke Henderson at +2,
  • Karrie Webb, So Yeon Ryu, Michelle Wie, Natalie Gulbis, and Song-Hee Kim at +3,
  • and Ji-Yai Shin and Chie Arimura at +4,
It'll be interesting to see if fatigue catches up with other Solheim Cuppers or those like Feng and Shin who played on the JLPGA in recent weeks, if those coming off a layoff can scrape off rust fairly quickly, and if Ko can keep the spotlight pointed her way!

[Update 1 (8/23/13, 12:15 am):  It's worth noting that Inbee Park only hit 5 fairways, that So Yeon Ryu went triple-double on the back, and that Ai Miyazato started with 3 bogeys in her 1st 4 holes.  Amazing they scored as well as they did!]

[Update 2 (8/24/13, 12:12 am):  Here's bangkokbobby's 1st-round overview, with loads of photos and videos!]

Who Are Your Picks for the CN Canadian Women's Open?

So whaddaya think will happen the week after the Solheim Cup at the CN Canadian Women's Open?  Will those who played solid or great match-play golf use it as a springboard to going low over 72 holes of stroke play? Will those who struggled to close out matches find their A-games this week? Will there be burnout?  Let-down?  Will those who didn't play be rusty, or more determined than ever to outdo the Solheim Cuppers?

I have no idea, but I do have some guesses for this week's PakPicker competition over at Seoul

1. Park Inbee
2. Choi Na Yeon
3. Pettersen
4. Creamer
5. Lang
6. Lewis, Stacy
7. Hedwall
8. Feng
9. Park Hee Young
10. Ryu
11. Miyazato Ai
12. Nordqvist

Alts: Korda, Ciganda, Hull

The last time this event was played at Royal Mayfair, Lorena Ochoa beat Paula Creamer by 3 shots, while Brittany Lang, Ya Ni Tseng, Suzanne Pettersen, Angela Stanford, and Morgan Pressel had good weeks, as well (for that matter, so did '13 Team USA captain Meg Mallon).  Since a range of styles of golf can bring their players well under par here, I went with some horses for the course, a lot of people who have been playing very good golf for some time now, and a few Team Euro stars from the Solheim Cup.  How about you?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Recommended Reading: Solheim Cup Reactions

Spent a little time tonight catching up on Solheim Cup writings from around the golfoblogosphere.  Here are the best of the bunch:

  • Brent Kelley sums it all up.
  • bangkokbobby salutes Team USA's effort with loads of photos and video.
  • Bill Rand ably dissects Team Euro's dismantling of Team USA.
  • Jeff Skinner documents the disappointing results from Team USA's best players (and calls the Americans out for bad sportswomanship). [cough, curmudgeon.]
  • John Strege asks what's next for U.S. women's golf now that both Asians and Europeans have pit together dominating their best players.  [I don't know--try, try again?]
  • Geoff Shackelford has a great clippings post with some spot-on observations of his own. [Wish he'd get this excited about women's golf year-round.]

Monday, August 19, 2013

Catching Up, Again

Well, since I last posted here, Team Euro spanked Team USA 18-10 to take the Solheim Cup for the 2nd time in a row and the 1st time ever on U.S. soil behind Caroline Hedwall's 5-0 record, 20-year-old Chiba native Misuzu Narita caught Esther Lee by going 65-65 over the weekend in the NEC Karuizawa 72 and beat her in a playoff for her 2nd career JLPGA victory, Christine Song won the Eagle Classic to become the 1st 2-time winner on the Symetra Tour in 2013 and leap to 2nd on the money list with only 2 events left on the schedule (in the last 2 weeks of September), and Hideki Matsuyama and Ryo Ishikawa finished 6 and 9 shots, respectively, out of the amazing playoff between Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth at the Wyndham Championship.  I actually got to watch a lot of the Solheim Cup's 1st 2 days and was impressed with so many aspects of Team Euro's play:  Hedwall's fire, Pettersen's and Matthew's leadership, Ciganda's comeback, Hull's boldness, Recari's steadiness, Icher's and Masson's putting, and better-than-expected play from just about everybody else.  Most of the matches were much closer than they looked on paper; it always seemed like the Americans had trouble sinking the pressure putts and the Europeans made the most of their opportunities.

Meanwhile, the Constructivist family spent Saturday at an awesome beach with the CT Constructivists; then, instead of driving home that day, we stayed an extra night so the cousins could spend a little more time together, left late Sunday morning, stayed for a few hours in Fort Lee, NJ, made it to Williamsport, PA, just in time to watch the Tokyo (Japan)-Taoyuan (Taiwan) game in the Little League World Series (which Japan won in a nailbiter 3-2), and got home to Hamburg after 1 am.  The girls were fascinated watching boys only a few years older than they are playing baseball at such a high level and they enjoyed cheering for Japan.

Me, I turned around and fired my worst round of the season today in the Buffalo district qualifier for the NYSGA's Mid-Amateur Championship.  I now have even more more sympathy for Stacy Lewis and others who had trouble adjusting to Colorado Golf Club's fast, undulating greens this past week, as I was befuddled all day on and around Gowanda Country Club's tiny, hard, slick, usually extremely-elevated, and often inverted-bowl-shaped greens.  I just couldn't break the habit of popping my chips and putts that I gained over a season of playing at South Shore Country Club's incredibly slow and bumpy greens this summer.  Sure, touching my clubs only at 2 driving ranges in the past week (once with my brother's 3 boys and once with imoto)--not to mention being tired from our last-gasp-of-summer child-care/vacation visit and closing whirlwind tour of 3 states--played a role, but I actually was only a little bit off with my ball-striking (I had only 4 really bad full swings; the rest were very close to the fairways and greens if not on them).  Unfortunately, I don't think any amount of playing or rest last week would have helped prepare me for Gowanda's mental challenges:   trying to anticipate how my drives would run out on its usually-tilted fairways, clubbing myself and judging what kind of approach shot to hit, dealing with the thick rough around the greens that played havoc with my pitches and chips, and reading and executing my putts.  About the only thing I did well was stick to my game plan of playing the short, tight, tree-lined course aggressively, but that aggressiveness into and around the greens turned birdie opportunities into par saves, pars into bogeys, and bogeys into doubles or worse.  What's worse, I don't think I sank a putt longer than 3 feet all day.  Long story short:  it's a good thing I don't play golf for a living!

Speaking of which, it's back to a full-time work schedule for me the rest of the week, what with my fall semester starting up next Monday and all :).  But I'm still getting psyched up for the CN Canadian Women's Open, where teenagers Lydia Ko, Charley Hull, and Brooke Henderson will be among the golfers joining the best of the LPGA in Edmonton.  It's the next-to-last event in North America before the tour heads overseas for 6 straight events; the 2013 season then ends back on this continent in the middle of November.  I'm curious to see over these last 10 events whether Stacy Lewis will be able to challenge Inbee Park for Player of the Year and the money list title, whether anyone else will be able to step it up and try to keep pace with them, what will happen in the season's 5th major, what effect the Solheim Cup will have on those who competed in it, how long Paula Creamer, Na Yeon Choi, and Ai Miyazato can go winless, and whether Moriya Jutanugarn will be able to hold off Chie Arimura, Ayako Uehara, and Caroline Masson in the race for Rookie of the Year.  I'll try to avoid going on last fall and winter's extended sabbatical from blogging, but I'm not making any promises!  We've got a busy and exciting academic year shaping up at SUNY Fredonia and I've got a lot on my plate.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Solheim Cup Saturday Morning: Foursomes Predictions

Morgan Pressel/Jessica Korda vs. Anna Nordqvist/Caroline Hedwall:  I give Team Euro the slight edge here, as Hedwall is one of the hottest and boldest players on either team, Korda is a rookie, and she and Pressel really benefitted from Ewart Shadoff's nerves yesterday.

Stacy Lewis/Paula Creamer vs. Azahara Munoz/Karine Icher:  Well, it's another gimungous (a woird I heard for the 1st time from 1 of my nephews the other day here in CT) paper advantage for Team USA, but given how this Team Euro pairing took down Kerr and Creamer yesterday morning, anything can happen!

Brittany Lincicome/Lizette Salas vs. Catriona Matthew/Caroline Masson:  I've gotta give the edge to Team Euro here, as I'm just not sure Lincicome is driving the ball straight enough this year to set Salas up, Salas didn't hit that many quality approaches yesterday when Lewis set her up, and all Matthew needed to win both her matches yesterday was a reliable partner (the kind Masson was for Hedwall yesterday afternoon).

Michelle Wie/Brittany Lang vs. Suzanne Pettersen/Beatriz Recari:  Wie and Lang are both very good ball-strikers and swinging well this week, but they're going up against the cream of Team Euro's crop, so they'll also have to putt well to win.  I'm a little surprised Captain Neumann didn't follow the strategy that worked yesterday of frontloading her huge talent and hoping for an upset from Munoz and Icher.  Looks like Captain Mallon decided on that strategy instead, while Team Euro's anchors will have to perform better than Kerr and Creamer did in that role yesterday.

So if all goes according to my predictions, Team Euro will be up 8-4 by the end of the morning.  However, since nothing's gone as I've expected, the teams will probably be all knotted up heading into the morning!

Recommended Reading: Solheim Cup Day 1 Round-Up

Golfweek breaks down Day 1 at the Solheim Cup for us, shot by shot.  Julie Williams condenses Day 1 into 5 Things.  Beth Ann Baldry calls Kerr-Wie a match made in heaven.

Golf Channel summarizes each match.  Randall Mell tells the story of the morning and the day, while Jay Coffin expands on the tale of Jessica Korda's 1st-hole nerves. GC has a host of short articles and video highlights to browse, as well.

Steve DiMeglio ably sums things up for USA Today, while Brent Kelley does the same for and Stephanie Wei weighs in on the morning and afternoon matches.

[Update 1 (5:33 am):  Here's a lucid overview from Ruthless Mike!]

[Update 2 (5:40 am):  Another good summary from Bill Rand.]

Friday, August 16, 2013

Ryo's Imoto Continues to Struggle on JLPGA

While the JLPGA's finest are going low at the NEC Karuizawa 72, Ryo Ishikawa's little sister Yoko is once again struggling to break 75, this time in her 4th appearance as an amateur there.  Just in case you were wondering....

Solheim Cup Friday Afternoon: Fourballs Observations and Possible Saturday Matches/Sunday Strategies

I got to watch a few holes in the best ball portion of the Solheim Cup, but we went out to celebrate a cousin/nephew's 7th birthday, so I missed lots of action.  When I left, Carlota Ciganda had just stuck her approach and made her short birdie putt to pull her and Suzann Pettersen even with Stacy Lewis and Lexi Thompson, who got hot late on the front, but couldn't take advantage of their birdie opportunities early on the back.  Well, Pettersen went back to carrying her partner when she made her 3rd birdie of the day on the 16th, and that proved to be the decider.  Chalk Day 1 of the Solheim Cup up to the world #3!  Stacy's Solheim slide continues; it seems she could never adjust to the speed of Colorado Golf Club's greens.

Putting was also the downfall for Angela Stanford and Gerina Piller, who could never quite pull even with Caroline Hedwall and Caroline Masson, and ended up losing 2&1 when Masson became the lone player in the foursome to par the 17th.  The American Brittanys were even more successful than the European Carolines, as Lincicome birdied 2 holes in a row as they made the turn and Lang birdied their final 2 holes to close out a 4&3 victory over Anna Nordqvist and Giulia Sergas.  And even though Michelle Wie played very solid golf, it was Cristie Kerr who carried their team to victory over Catriona Matthew and Charley Hull.  The short story there is that Kerr's putter finally heated up in the afternoon.

So at the end of day 1, Team Euro leads Team USA 5-3.  Pettersen and Hedwall have accounted for 4 of Team Euro's points, while Lewis and Stanford have been on the losing end in both their matches.  I don't see how Captain Mallon can sit Lewis, but we may not see much of Stanford tomorrow.

I think it'll be up to Creamer and Pressel to lead Team USA on the comeback trail tomorrow, what with Kerr's elbow issues and Korda's wrist issues.  I can see putting Pressel and Korda out first in Saturday foursomes, followed by Creamer and Thompson, Salas and Piller, and Lewis and Wie (I really liked the way Michelle was swinging the club around this afternoon).  If Korda's feeling up to it, sending her and Pressel out first again in the afternoon would be my choice, followed again by Creamer and Thompson, then Lewis and Lincicome, and then Kerr and Wie.  If not, I'd reunite the Brittanys and pair Lewis with Pressel, unless she played awful in the morning and Piller played great.

For Team Euro, I'd reunite their winning teams from this morning and put Masson out with Matthew in place of Ewart Shadoff.  For the afternoon, I'd keep their anchors from this afternoon but mix up the partners, keeping Recari with Pettersen to lead off, keeping the Carolines to follow them, pairing Nordqvist and Hull next, and closing out with Matthew and Ciganda.

So if the captains' decisions actually coincide with mine, we'd see:

Pressel/Korda vs. Nordqvist/Hedwall
Creamer/Thompson vs. Pettersen/Recari
Salas/Piller vs. Matthew/Masson
Lewis/Wie vs. Munoz/Icher


Pressel/Korda [or Pressel/Lewis] vs. Pettersen/Recari
Creamer/Thompson vs. Hedwall/Masson
Lewis/Lincicome [or Lang/Lincicome] vs. Nordqvist/Hull
Kerr/Wie vs. Matthew/Ciganda

The idea here is that Captain Neumann would expect Captain Mallon to put out her hottest players 1st, so she'd counter them with her toughest teams early.  I don't think she has the luxury to rest any of her 4 anchors, as the key here is to protect or even extend Team Euro's lead heading into Sunday singles matches.  If her strategy works on Saturday, she can keep front-loading her toughest talent on Sunday in an effort to get a quick knockout and retain the cup.  The key is to deny Team USA any momentum and make them fight hard for every single point.  Yes, that leaves Team Euro's B-Team vulnerable to Team USA's B-Team if their A-Team can't hold, but that's why they're the A-Team.  If the strategy doesn't work on Saturday and Team USA comes back, then I'd front-load Team Euro's more vulnerable players and put Pettersen and Matthew in the final two matches.

[Update 1 (11:26 am):  Oh, the Saturday morning pairings were just released:

Pressel/Korda vs. Nordqvist/Hedwall
Lewis/Creamer vs. Munoz/Icher
Lincicome/Salas vs. Matthew/Masson
Wie/Lang vs. Pettersen/Recari

As you can see, I got Team Euro's line-ups exactly right, just in a different order than Captain Neumann decided on.  But Captain Mallon and I disagree on whether to ride the Brittanys in the morning and who to pair Lewis with to get her going.  She's the captain and her team has been following the action much closer than me and knows the players much better than I do....]

Solheim Cup Friday Afternoon: Fourballs Predictions

Here are the fourballs (best ball) matches in the Solheim Cup.  Team USA is down to Team Euro 3-1 after the morning foursomes.

Stacy Lewis/Lexi Thompson vs. Suzann Pettersen/Carlota Ciganda:  Can Lewis bounce back from a tough morning?  Can Ciganda outplay Thompson?  This one will either be a barnburner or a blowout by Team Euro.

Angela Stanford/Gerina Piller vs. Caroline Hedwall/Caroline Masson:  This is a toss-up.  It all comes down to Piller, I think.  If she can pick Stanford up, they can overcome!

Brittany Lincicome/Brittany Lang vs. Anna Nordqvist/Giulia Sergas:  I'd say advantage Team Euro, but it all depends on which Lincicome shows up.

Cristie Kerr/Michelle Wie vs. Catriona Matthew/Charley Hull:  I'd say advantage Team Euro again.  Matthew is definitely playing better golf than Kerr and Hull than Wie.

It could be Team Euro 7, Team USA 1 at the end of the day if things go badly for the Americans in the afternoon.  By benching some of her best performers from the morning (Korda, Salas, Pressel, Creamer), Captain Mallon is asking a lot of the players she put out on the course.  It's pretty clear Captain Neumann trusts her Swedes.  Maybe we'll see more of a Spanish Armada-style attack tomorrow.

[Update 1 (3:03 pm):  Captain Mallon is asking a lot of her bombers this afternoon.  There's not a short hitter out there on the course for Team USA.  Would have loved to see the Carolines face off against the Brittanys!]

Solheim Cup Friday Morning: Foursomes Not-Quite-Live-Blogging

Stacy Lewis/Lizette Salas vs. Anna Nordqvist/Caroline Hedwall:

#1:  Both teams played conservatively on their 2nd shots on this long par 5, leaving them behind the left-side bunkers; both Lewis and Nordqvist hit sweet approaches above the front-left hole about pin-high; and both Hedwall and Salas made great birdie putts, the latter to halve the hole from a few feet closer than the former.  AS

#2:  Hedwall went pin-seeking and hit it into the back-left bunker.  Salas missed short right, also in a bunker.   Lewis had a fairly long bunker shot and slid it a few inches to the right of the hole, leaving Salas a 4-foot tester back uphill.  Hedwall played the slope beautifully, letting her bunker shot come back from the fringe down toward the flag.  Still, Nordqvist has a 6-foot downhiller to save par and put pressure on Salas.  Hedwall missed; Salas canned hers!  TEAM USA 1-UP.

[Sorry, our wi-fi went down and I lost some writing.  Then it took awhile to get it back up and I fell farther behind.]

#3/#4/#5:  Team Euro won the 3rd hole, Team USA the 4th, and Team Euro the 5th.  AS

#6:  Nordqvist left her long birdie putt dead center and just short.  Lewis's birdie try went well by the hole, putting pressure on Salas, who missed low. TEAM EURO 1-UP.

#7:  Lewis charged another long birdie putt, but this time Salas was able to make the comebacker to halve the hole.  TEAM EURO 1-UP.

#8:  Hedwall made a great 12-foot downhill-sidehill slider for birdie. TEAM EURO 2-UP.

#9:  Salas missed another approach short right after Hedwall stuck an approach 2 feet left of the pin.  Not looking good for Team USA in this match!  TEAM EURO 3-UP.

#10:  Another good approach from Team Euro, but Hedwall didn't make the birdie.  Lewis made a tester to par the hole.  Now it's up to Nordqvist to halve the hole from a couple of feet away. TEAM EURO 3-UP.

#11:  Lewis played the hill well on her approach and gave Salas a chance to win the hole.  Hedwall couldn't get a 20-foot birdie putt from behind the hole to drop.  Salas's birdie putt did a U-turn around the cup. Nordqvist has a tester for par.  She made the 4-footer. TEAM EURO 3-UP.

#12:  Salas had the dreaded long bunker shot and put it over the green.  Hedwall hit a low pitch over the green, as well.  Lewis hit a bad chip, Team USA bogeyed.  TEAM EURO 4-UP.

#13:  Bizarre Team Euro 3-putt from 6 feet.  Salas made a 2-footer to take the hole for Team USA.  TEAM EURO 3-UP.

#14:  Salas has a great 12-foot birdie chance to win the hole.  Just snuck by on the low side.  Nordqvist made a little tester to halve the hole. TEAM EURO 3-UP.

#15:  Lewis went left off the tee, giving Salas a tough stance on the edge of a bunker for her lay-up on the par-5, but she handled it fine.  Lewis pushed her approach, but still carried the trap, giving Salas a 20-footer from past the pin for birdie.  Nordqvist kept hers 10 feet short of the pin from 80 yards out.  Salas has a downhill-sidehiller that's pretty much a must-make.  She misread it, missing it on the right.  Hedwall has a chance to win the match.  But she jammed it 4 feet by well on the low side.  That's putting the pressure on Nordqvist to make a downhill-sidehiller of her own!  She did it.  Now Lewis has to make her tap-in to keep Team USA alive; she did it.  TEAM EURO 3-UP.

#16:  Team USA has to win this hole to keep the match going.  Lewis pull-hooked her fairway wood into the left bunker from a downhill stance, but Team Euro caught a bad break when Nordqvist's great approach went over the green into what looks like a bad lie.  Salas went over the green and to the right from her 80-yard long sand shot.  Lewis needs to get this pitch close--or in!  It rolled over the edge of the cup and ended up 8 feet away at least.  Looks like this one is over.  Hedwall used the backstop to get Nordqvist's birdie putt closer than Salas's par putt.  Salas made hers but Team Euro needs only 2 putts to win the match.  Nordqvist made hers, too. TEAM EURO WINS 4&2.

Captain Neumann's Vikings did just what she needed them to do.  Lewis's struggles in the Solheim Cup continue, which is even more bizarre when you consider that she went 5-0 at the Curtis Cup.

Angela Stanford/Brittany Lang vs. Suzann Pettersen/Beatriz Recari: 

#1:  Great drives from Pettersen and Stanford.  Pettersen looks really pumped!  Lang laid up about where Salas had from the fairway bunker; Recari a few yards closer to the green but still safely behind the bunkers.  Stanford hit it pin-high and about the distance Team Euro had in match 1.  Pettersen hit her approach a little heavy and barely got it onto the front of the green.  Recari had great pace on her putt but missed on the high side.  Lang hit the cup but too low.  Team Euro conceded Team USA's par putt; Team USA made Team Euro putt out.  AS

#2:  Pettersen made a long birdie putt.  TEAM EURO 1-UP.

#3/4:  Team USA won the 3rd and Team Euro the 4th. TEAM EURO 1-UP.

#5:  Pettersen had a good lag on her 45-footer.  Hole halved. TEAM EURO 1-UP.

#6:  Lang just missed a hole in 1.  AS

#7:  Team USA played the hole textbook, while Team Euro struggled.  TEAM USA 1-UP.

#8:  Stanford missed the green right with a wedge in her hands.  Pettersen, 76 yards out, stuck hers just past pin high and 5 feet right of the pin.  Team USA parred.  Recari made the birdie.  AS

#9:  Lang almost bounced her approach in the hole, it scooted by, but then came back down the hill at the back of the green back toward the pin.  Maybe 10 feet for birdie for Stanford?  Pettersen responded with a 25-foot uphill birdie putt.  Now the pressure's on Angela!  She's having a great putting year and she made another great putt to halve the hole.  AS

#10:  Pettersen left her approach a little short of the green from rough stuff right of the rough.  Stanford went over from the right side of the fairway. AS

#11:  Front-right pin on elevated-tee 2-tier long par 3.  Pettersen put it on the middle of the green.  Stanford took a risky angle and just carried the front-right trap.  Her shot ended up on the back of the front tier. AS

#12:  Lang left 50-foot eagle putt within tap-in range.  Stanford's short birdie putt spun out.  AS

#13:  Pettersen just needed to get the 15-footer close to take the hole.  She did.  TEAM EURO 1-UP.

#14:  Pettersen missed the green short on the short par 4.  Lang has a 25-foot birdie putt from past the pin to win the hole.  Just missed the double-breaker!  Pettersen has a 3-footer for par to halve the hole.  Made it.  TEAM EURO 1-UP.

#15:  Team USA missed the green short and in the bunker, but Pettersen couldn't spin back her approach and left Recari an even longer birdie putt than Salas just had.  Lang hit a great bunker shot that almost went in and ended up 6 feet away.  Recari's lag only went a couple of feet by the hole and was conceded by Team USA.  Stanford has a chance to make up for her awful wedge from the previous hole with this par save.  She canned it! TEAM EURO 1-UP.

#16:  Pettersen hit the back of the green from over 250 yards out.  Stanford went well over and Lang couldn't even get her wedge on the green.  Stanford missed low from the back fringe.  Looks like the cowgirls won't be able to match the Vikings' upset.  2 putts to win the hole and go dormie for Team Euro.  Recari has about an 18-footer on the same line as Stanford's putt.  She made the eagle!  TEAM EURO 2-UP.

#17:  Pettersen carried her 6-iron all the way to the back of the green.  Stanford responded with a fantastic low draw that ended up just inside Pettersen's ball.  Putting contest!  Recari lipped out her putt to win the match.  Lang missed hers low and Team Euro wins.  TEAM EURO WINS 2&1.

Morgan Pressel/Jessica Korda vs. Catriona Matthew/Jodi Ewart Shadoff:

#1:  Shadoff looked really nervous but hit a great drive right down the middle.  Korda's swing looked good, but she pulled it into some rougher-than-rough stuff.  Pressel hit a great recovery shot and Korda a great approach.  Team Euro bogeyed the hole.  TEAM USA 1-UP.

#2/#3:  Both holes were halved. TEAM USA 1-UP.

#4:  Pressel left a long putt from the front fringe about 3/4 of the way to the hole.  Team Euro won with a par.  AS

#5/#6:  The teams halved 5, while on 6 Korda spun out a birdie putt that looked in most of the way. AS

#7:  Team Euro in trouble, while Pressel put her approach on the front of the green.  Matthew did well to get it on the green from a fairway bunker on the left.  Putting contest.  Ewart Shadoff, who's been really shaky on the greens this match, finally made a good run at a long putt, but she left Matthew a 4-foot tester.  Matthew hasn't missed a putt today--let's see if she can keep that streak going.  Nope.  Pressel made hers.  TEAM USA 1-UP.

#8:  Korda was able to use the ridge to bring her shot back toward the pin from past and left of it.  Pressel just babied her birdie try and missed on the low side. TEAM USA 1-UP.

#9:  Didn't see how they won, but Team USA won the hole.  TEAM USA 2-UP.

#10:  Lucky halve for the Americans, according to Kay Cockerill.  I was helping the Full Metal Archivist make lunch for 6 kids.  TEAM USA 2-UP.

#11:  Team USA stuck it and Matthew couldn't make the 25-foot birdie putt.  TEAM USA 3-UP.

#12:  Morgan stubbed a chip.  Matthew got it close enough for Team USA to concede.  TEAM USA 2-UP.

#13:  Fantastic approach from Pressel, pin-high and just right of the hole.  Matthew missed the green.  Ewart Shadoff went bunker (left) to bunker (right).  When Matthew couldn't get her bunker shot to drop, Team USA won the hole.  TEAM USA 3-UP.

#14: Clutch 5-footer from Korda to halve the hole.  TEAM USA 3-UP.

#15:  Korda made another clutch halve.  TEAM USA 3-UP.

#16:  Pressel and Korda have a great chance to get Team USA tied 1-1 with Team Euro.  Let's see if they can close out the match on this par 5.  Ouch!  Team USA is in the hazard in 2.  Pressel drops and plays the next shot from about 90 yards, bouncing and rolling it to within 6 feet.  But with Team Euro with a short birdie putt just barely longer than Team USA's par effort, the odds are this match will continue.  Wait a second!  Ewart Shadoff missed badly!  Korda's par putt is now to win the match!  She made another!  TEAM USA WINS 3&2.

With that hole taking so long, it's now Team Euro 2, Team USA 1.

Cristie Kerr/Paula Creamer vs. Azahara Munoz/Karine Icher:

#1/#2:  Team Euro won the 1st with a par.  Uncharacteristically bad putting from both Creamer and Kerr.  The teams halved the par-3 2nd.  TEAM EURO 1-UP.

#3/#4/#5:  Kerr had a birdie putt to win the 3rd hole and couldn't get it.  All 3 holes were halved. TEAM EURO 1-UP.

#6: Kerr tapped the lip from about 65 feet.  Great putt, just didn't drop.  TEAM EURO 1-UP.

#7:  Creamer bounced her approach in nicely, giving Kerr another good birdie chance.  Kerr tried to walk it in, but it spun out. TEAM EURO 1-UP.

#8:  Fantastic bunker shot from Creamer to kick-in range.  Icher made a great birdie putt from 12 feet to make Creamer's heroics irrelevant. TEAM EURO 2-UP.

#9:  Munoz made a great long putt for birdie.  TEAM EURO 3-UP.

#10:  Icher made another great putt for Team Euro. TEAM EURO 4-UP.

#11:  Rare bogey for Team Euro (actually, Icher had to make a good save just for that).  Kerr made a solid 4-footer to finally get a hole for Team USA.  TEAM EURO 3-UP.

#12:  Both teams missed the green short right.  With pin in the way back, it's a pitch-and-putt competition.  Icher put her pitch just past the hole.  Creamer is on more of an upslope just short of the front right trap, but left her pitch 20 feet short of the pin.  Kerr couldn't get the putt to drop.  Munoz misread her 8-footer.  TEAM EURO 3-UP.

#13:  Paula hit an 8-iron into the left bunker.  The short-sided Cristie left her a 15-footer to save par, and she couldn't do it. TEAM EURO 4-UP.

#14:  Great wedge from Kerr to 6 inches.  Icher responded by making a 10-footer from the back fringe to halve the hole. TEAM EURO 4-UP.

#15:  Munoz spun her approach off the false front into the trap.  TEAM EURO 3-UP.

#16:  Long wait for both teams as Pressel and Korda unexpectedly closed out their match despite taking a penalty shot.  Creamer and Kerr need to win the 3 closing holes to limit the damage to a half-point for each team.  Kerr hit the back of the green in 2, while Icher spun one close with her 88-yard wedge.  It looks like Creamer needs to eagle to keep the match going.  Paula couldn't do it; Munoz can finish the match if she makes this 8-foot birdie try.  But she missed on the low side.  Cristie now needs to make the 2-foot birdie putt to keep Team USA alive in this match.  Of course she did it. TEAM EURO 2-UP.

#17: OK, on to the par 3 with the back-left pin position.  Kerr had a great line, but carried it a little far and her ball rolled over the green.  Now it's up to Munoz.  She took an easy 6 and put it on the very front of the green, actually leaving Icher a long lag to clinch the match.  Wow!  Icher started it so far right and still missed on the low side, going 10 feet by.  Team USA has a glimmer of hope.  Can Creamer put this pitch in or get it close?  No, she fluffed it.  Still, in a putting contest between Kerr and Munoz, I'd take Kerr.  Munoz made hers anyway!  TEAM EURO WINS 2&1.

Team Euro 3, Team USA 1.  Not quite what I predicted this morning!

Solheim Cup Friday Morning: Foursomes Predictions

Here are the morning matches in the Solheim Cup and my take on who should best handle the foursomes (aka alternate shot) frenzy:

Stacy Lewis/Lizette Salas vs. Anna Nordqvist/Caroline Hedwall:  I give Team USA a small advantage in this match.  It all depends on whether Lewis or Hedwall gets hotter, as both are volatile players, and whether Salas or Nordqvist can play steadier.

Angela Stanford/Brittany Lang vs. Suzann Pettersen/Beatriz Recari:  I give Team Euro a big advantage in this match.  Lang has to overperform and Recari has to underperform for Team USA to pull this one out.

Morgan Pressel/Jessica Korda vs. Catriona Matthew/Jodi Ewart Shadoff:  I give Team USA a tiny advantage in this match.  Matthew is super-tough and playing very good golf, but so is Pressel.  Korda has been playing better than Ewart Shadoff, but she has wrist issues.

Cristie Kerr/Paula Creamer vs. Azahara Munoz/Karine Icher:  I give Team USA a huge advantage in this match.  Munoz has not been playing well for awhile and I don't think Icher can carry her.  Kerr and Creamer have both been playing very well and I don't think Kerr's elbow will be a factor in this match.  Only way Team Euro can hang in this one is if Kerr and Creamer start missing putts and get down on themselves, but I don't see that happening.

So Captain Neumann decided to start by playing everyone but her own captain's picks.  [Duh, Hedwall and Ewart Shadoff were captain's picks for Team Euro!]  Captain Mallon also sat her captain's picks, as well as Lexi Thompson and Brittany Lincicome.  I might have played Lexi in place of Brittany, but I think Mallon is hoping she and Angela have enough chemistry to sneak up on Pettersen and Recari.  Given that both captains plan to play everyone today, it'll be interesting to see who the best-ball pairings are and who from the morning sits in the afternoon (my guess for Team USA is that everyone listed 2nd plus either Stanford or Kerr will sit; for Team Euro, I think the last spot is wide open after Pettersen, Matthew, and Nordqvist).

[Update 1 (8:34 am):  Here's Bill Rand on the matches and bangkokbobby with loads of video and photos.]

[Update 2 (2:23 pm):  Missed's great preview!]

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Recommended Reading: Solheim Madness II

Here's the sequel to my last Solheim Cup link-o-rama.  Be sure to check out Geoff Shackelford on Colorado Golf Club, Stina Sternberg on why Solheim flair has to go, and bangkokbobby with lots of video and photos.  And of course follow James Corrigan at The Telegraph and Steve DiMeglio at USA Today!

[Update 1 (8/16/13, 8:28 am):  Here's Ruthless Mike on the morning matches!]

Ryo's Ishikawa's Imoto Teeing It up on JLPGA This Week

The Constructivist family followed Ryo Ishikawa for a handful of holes in the rain at Oak Hill last Friday morning.  We had a ball and he played some really solid golf as he finished his round.  (We may as well have left home before 5 am as planned; it's not like we could have gotten any wetter!)

Well, I happened to notice the name Ishikawa when looking at the field list for this week's JLPGA event, the NEC Karuizawa 72 in Nagano.  And lo and behold, Yoko Ishikawa is indeed Ryo's imoto!

She's teeing it up against the likes of Ji-Yai Shin, Shanshan Feng, Harukyo Nomura, LPGA rookie Ayako Uehara, ex-LPGAers Shiho Oyama, Shinobu Moromizato, Young Kim, Soo-Yun Kang, Teresa Lu, Na-Ri Kim, and Jin Joo Hong, money-list leader Rikako Morita, defending champion Yumiko Yoshida, Women's British Open standouts Miki Saiki and Mamiko Higa, and JLPGA legends Yuri Fudoh and Sakura Yokomine, not to mention the many young guns who have been dominating competition thus far this season.

So it's going to be a good test of where the 16-year-old amateur's game is.  She's missed the cut the last 3 times she's played this event and has never broken 75 in competition here....  She did eagle the 385-yard 18th in her 1st round last year!

[Update 1 (2:16 pm): Mi-Jeong Jeon, Miki Saiki, and Shiho Oyama are among those withdrawing before the event starts.]

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Recommended Reading: Getting Psyched for the Solheim Cup

Brent Kelley and Tony Jesselli have already begun Solheim Cup blogging.  Be sure to check out their preview posts and Brent's wonderful Solheim Cup overview.

And don't miss coverage by espnW (Mechelle Voepel), Golfweek (Beth Ann Baldry), Golf Digest (Ron Sirak), USA Today (Steve DiMeglio), and Golf Channel (coverage starts Friday morning!).

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Catching Up!

Wow, I missed a lot the last few days!  Jason Dufner's Sunday clinic at Oak Hill I did get to see on CBS, but being offline I missed finding out that 25-year-old Da-Ye Na got her 1st career JLPGA victory at the Meiji Cup by beating Yuki Ichinose by 1 shot and Shanshan Feng by 2 (Ji-Yai Shin ended up 5 off the pace; Rikako Morita missed the cut but maintained a 30 million-yen lead on her nearest pursuers on the JLPGA money list), that Emma Talley took down Su-Hyun Oh, Allison Lee, and then Cindy Yueer Feng to take the U.S. Women's Amateur, and that Katy Harris held off Alejandra Llaneza and Ginger Howard to win the IOA Classic on the Symetra Tour (Mitsuki Katahira got T14; Hannah Yun MCed).

The Constructivist family is headed to Connecticut to hang out with my brother and his family for a few days.  Hoping he has Golf Channel so I can see some of the Solheim Cup....

Friday, August 9, 2013

OK, Then, Slight Change of Plans

With apologies to Ryo Ishikawa and the rest of the PGA Championship, I don't think the Full Metal Archivist, onechan, and imoto are going to enjoy following him in the light rains that look like they're following a train track from Hamburg to Pittsford.  So instead of leaving now I'm going to let the girls sleep in for another hour at least and hopefully we'll time our drive so we get rained on until we reach Rochester....

We will get to Oak Hill today, and the girls will be carrying cute pink little umbrellas when we get there.  Just a little later than originally planned!

[Update 1 (6:26 am):  OK, the new plan is to leave before 7....]

Thursday, August 8, 2013

We're--gulp--Leaving for Oak Hill at 4:45 am Friday

Put this one in the "I can't believe we're doing this" file.  Onechan and imoto just told the Full Metal Archivist and me that they want to see Ryo Ishikawa tee off at Oak Hill's 10th hole at 7:15 tomorrow morning.  The plan is to catch one of the first shuttles and follow him as long as the girls can stand it, then wait to watch some of the big names behind him, get to the 18th to see him finish, and then catch up with my parents, my brother, and the girls' cousins at lunchtime.  We'll play it by ear after that, although I really want to watch Hideki Matsuyama.  So it's an early night for us.  More when we get back home late tomorrow!

New Yorkers and Japanese Golfers Advance in U.S. Women's Amateur

One of the nice side effects of snagging PGA Championship tickets from my brother was that he got us access to the Wanamaker Club tent yesterday, where the Full Metal Archivist, onechan, imoto, and I got to watch about 15 minutes of the U.S. Women's Amateur on Golf Channel (which we still don't have at home!).  Although we didn't get to see any of 14-year-old medallist Yumi Matsubara, she advanced to the 2nd round of match play, along with countrywoman Kotone Hori and New Yorkers Annie Park, Kelly Shon, and Nicole Morales.  Matsubara faces off against Laura Diaz-Yi, Hori against '12 Girls Junior champion Minjee Lee, Shon against amateur legend Meghan Stasi, Morales against Casie Cathrea, and Park against Brittany Fan.  Good luck to all!

[Update 1 (11:52 am):  Nice to see the Mostly Harmless jinx is alive and well.  I've already seen on twitter that Matsubara, Hori, and Morales lost their matches.]

[Update 2 (12:00 pm):  Phew!  NCAA champion Annie Park won her match.  Let's see if Ivy League champion Shon can do the same!]

[Update 3 (12:10 pm):   New York power!  Shon defeated Stasi.  Excelsior!]

[Update 4 (7:26 pm):  So of course the NYers had to face off in the Round of 16.  Park prevailed over Shon, 1-up.  Here's how the entire match play competition has played out so far.  Next up is Cindy Yueer Feng and if Park can take her down she'll face the winner of the Doris Chen-Lauren Diaz-Yi match.  On the other side of the bracket, Allison Lee faces Cinderella candidate Katelyn Sepmoree, while there's a battle of the big-timers between Su-Hyun Oh and Emma Talley to get to the Final 4.]

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Back from Oak Hill

Well, the Constructivist family has returned from Oak Hill, and even though we didn't get to see any of the golfers we were hoping to this afternoon, we still made out pretty good.  We did catch glimpses of Stewart Cink on the putting green, Matteo Manassero on the 18th, and Bubba Watson on 13 found a great place to see action on 3 greens simultaneously (you'll figure it out if you look at the course map), we walked about half the holes on the course, I got smoked by my wife and both girls in the Omega tent's putting contest, we got to see the Wanamaker Trophy from a distance as it was getting a photo op on the lawn in front of the clubhouse, and, of course, we had a pro encounter at the Korean restaurant we always eat at in southern Rochester.  Last time, we were lucky enough to eat when Se Ri Pak, Ai Miyazato, Jiyai Shin, and Amy Yang were there.  This time, we came in just as Senior PGA champion Kohki Idoki was leaving!  (As opposed to when the LPGA comes into town, we almost had the restaurant to ourselves, but maybe that's because the players like to save that restaurant until after the tournament is over.  We practically rolled out of there ourselves!)

Oak Hill looked fantastic, but some 20-plus years since I played it in college golf and 10 years since I last walked the course on PGA Championship Sunday, it looked quite different than the few hazy images preserved in my memory bank.  I would say it's a lot more visually intimidating than Locust Hill; although not set up quite as tight for the PGA Championship as they set up Locust Hill for the LPGA Championship, and although the rough doesn't appear to be as high or as thick, the number of severely and sharply elevated greens, the overhanging tree branches guarding what seem like entire sides of greens, the traps and water abutting the 15th green, the canting and curving of the fairways, and the treacherous creek that runs through the course all add up to huge penalties for being just a little bit off.

So on Friday morning Ryo Ishikawa is in the 1st group off the 10th tee at 7:15 am, which presents us with a little logistical challenge:  do we get up early (like 4:15 am) to follow him, John Huh, and Danny Balin, then turn right around and follow Hideki Matsuyama, Steve Stricker, and Jason Dufner at 12:55 pm off the 1st tee?  Do we come a little later, pick Ishikawa up on the back, and wait at 18 to see the likes of Day, Westwood, Cabrera, McIlroy, Donald, Mickelson, and Poulter finish out their rounds?  Or do we just try to catch Ishikawa at the putting green before Matsuyama tees off?  A lot depends on what my brother and parents will be doing, as well as how badly the Full Metal Archivist wants to follow a Japanese golfer and how much walking onechan and imoto are up to....

4 to Go on the Symetra Tour for 2013

The Symetra Tour heads back to Florida this week for the IOA Golf Classic, the 1st of 2 tournaments this month before its final 2 events in September.  Lindy Duncan, who joined the tour after finishing out a great collegiate career at Duke, is 53rd on their money list in only 4 starts.  She'll need to outdo former LPGA regulars like Birdie Kim (36th in 9 starts), Meaghan Francella, Alena Sharp (14th in 4 starts), Christine Song (15th in 10 starts), Lisa Ferrero (56th in 7 starts), and Jessica Shepley, not to mention those in the best position to end the season in the top 10 on the money list and thereby become Category 9 LPGA members in 2014:

1. P.K. Kongkraphan ($41.5K)
2. Sue Kim
3. Cydney Clanton
4. Jaclyn Sweeney
5. Marina Alex
6. Olivia Jordan-Higgins
7. Laura Kueny
8. Melissa Eaton
9. Kim Kaufman
10. Hannah Jun ($26K)
11. Marissa Steen
12. Wei-Ling Hsu
13. Guilia Molinaro

I expect the 10th-place bar to rise to over $35K before the season is out, as it was over $37K in 2012, almost $30K in 2011, around $39K in 2010, almost $31K in 2009, and almost $34K in 2008--and thus far this year there's no dominant player like Cindy LaCrosse in '10, Mina Harigae in '09, or Vicky Hurst in '08.  In fact, only Kongkraphan has already crossed that mark this season.  With so many players in the running for those last spots, top 3s and wins are at a even more of a premium than usual.

Me, I'm rooting for Mitsuki Katahira (20th in 8 starts), Kendall Dye (22nd in 10 starts), Hannah Yun (48th in 6 starts), Stephanie Kono (39th in 10 starts), Brianna Do (45th in 10 starts), Natalie Sheary (42nd in 11 starts), Candace Schepperle (33rd in 10 starts), and Frances Bondad (62nd in 7 starts) to get it in gear as the Symetra Tour tours the South.

When you consider that Team USA Solheim Cup members Lizette Salas and Gerina Piller, former Solheim Cupper Ryann O'Toole, and the likes of M.J. Hur, Jennifer Johnson, Haeji Kang, Chella Choi, Jodi Ewart Shadoff, Pornanong Phatlum, Mo Martin, Pernilla Lindberg, Alison Walshe, Dewi Claire Schreefel, Tiffany Joh, and Jennifer Song have risen through the ranks in recent years to become established LPGA players, it's worth paying attention to the Symetra Tour's home stretch in the next 8 weeks.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Going Back to Pittsford, Pittsford, Pittsford

Yup, the Constructivist Family is going back to Pittsford--this time for the PGA Championship at Oak Hill.  My brother, who works in the golf industry, scored us some tickets for the Wednesday practice round and for Friday, which will be a big family reunion, as well.  The girls are going to get to ride another shuttle bus, I'm going to be able to compare Oak Hill and Locust Hill, the PGA Championship and the LPGA Championship, and we're all going to try to find Ryo Ishikawa and/or Hideki Matsuyama tomorrow, not to mention Tiger, Phil, Adam, Luke, Lee, Rickie, Jason....

Last time this particular major was at Oak Hill, I got to follow Shigeki Maruyama and later Tiger Woods for several holes on Sunday, walked right by Elin (who was sitting in a golf cart all by herself off the 18th fairway), and got to see Shaun Micheel's clinching approach shot leave the clubface (if not hit the green; I was too far away).

This time, I'm curious to see how onechan and imoto and the Full Metal Archivist respond to a men's tournament.  It's their 1st!