Thursday, October 31, 2013

The LPGA and KLPGA Are Off, But the JLPGA and LET Are On

You can follow the live scoring for the Hisako Higuchi Morinaga Weider Ladies here and for the China Suzhou Taihu Open here.  Shanshan Feng, Ji-Yai Shin, Mika Miyazato, and Momoko Ueda are teeing it up with the JLPGA's finest in the former, and the latter features the likes of Laura Davies, Lee-Anne Pace, Gwladys Nocera, Carlota Ciganda, Charley Hull, Lindsey Wright, Ashleigh Simon, Tania Elosegui, Maria Hernandez, Cindy LaCrosse, Hannah Jun, Christine Song, and Numa Gulyanamitta.  It'll be interesting to see how Ciganda and Hull do, especially given Hull's decision to stay on the LET in 2014 rather than go for the LPGA (as she had permission to do).

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Shanshan Feng, Ji-Yai Shin, Mika Miyazato, Momoko Ueda Join JLPGA's Finest in Chiba

The pairings for the 1st round of the Hisako Higuchi Morinaga Weider Ladies have been released and the visitors from the LPGA have some tough competition ahead of them.  Ji-Yai Shin and Momoko Ueda play with JLPGA living legend Yuri Fudoh, Mika Miyazato plays with perennial powerhouses Sakura Yokomine and Mi-Jeong Jeon, while Shanshan Feng has the comparatively easier task of playing with young guns Natsuka Hori and Asako Fujimoto.

Other interesting pairings include the trio of money-list leader Rikako Morita, last year's money-list runner-up Bo-Mee Lee, and young gun Megumi Kido, former money-list leader Sun-Ju Ahn with tough veterans Miki Saiki and Yukari Baba, and up-and-comers Erika Kikuchi/Yuki Ichinose/Erina Hara, Mamiko Higa/Misuzu Narita/Yumiko Yoshida, and Ritsuko Ryu/Mayu Hattori/Rui Kitada.

Mi-Jeong Jeon is defending champion and a 3-time winner of this tournament honoring Asia's 1st female winner of an LPGA major, but she's not the only big name on the list of past champions.  Ai Miyazato, Akiko Fukushima, Chie Arimura, Miho Koga, Rikako Morita, and Mayu Hattori have all won in Chiba in the past decade, while Annika Sorenstam won in 1997.

Can't wait to see who the 2013 winner will be!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Will the U.S. Women's Open Jinx Cost Inbee Park Player of the Year?

That the U.S. Women's Open jinx exists--and that it's many orders of magnitude worse than the Mostly Harmless jinx--is beyond question.  Just ask Hilary Lunke or Birdie Kim.  Even better, ask Eun-Hee Ji and Paula Creamer.  Ji won in 2009 for her 2nd LPGA career victory--and is still waiting for #3.  Creamer won it the very next year at Oakmont very soon after returning to action after surgery--and hasn't won since on the LPGA.  Even So Yeon Ryu and Na Yeon Choi, USWO winners in the next 2 years, went through little dry spells before returning to the winner's circle (although Choi's was probably the shortest on record!).  Heck, even Annika took 10 years to win her third USWO after winning it twice in a row in the mid-'90s.

Inbee Park understands the USWO jinx very well, having fallen victim to it very early in her LPGA career.  She made the USWO her 1st LPGA victory in 2008, went through a drought that lasted until the Evian in 2012, and most recently won it again for her 9th career win on the LPGA, her 3rd major and 3rd win in a row, and her 6th in 2013.  And she's been stuck on those numbers ever since.  It's not just that she's been a little bit off.  Nor has she been uniformly terrible.  She's been all over the place.  But her only good finishes since then have been a top 10 on the KLPGA, a top 3 in China, and a runner-up finish last Sunday again on the KLPGA.  In other words, only 1 of her 3 good finishes since winning the 2013 USWO have netted her any serious points in the LPGA's Player of the Year race.  That's a 1 for 8 top-10 rate since the USWO win, as opposed to an 8 for 13 rate up to it in 2013 (12.5% vs. 61.5%).  In short, those 4 top 10s that Inbee didn't get since the USWO could have virtually locked up the POY race for her (depending on how high she would have finished).

But that's in the past.  The issue now is how to break the USWO jinx.  Given that NYC beat the jinx by winning the CME Titleholders in the same year she won the USWO, my advice for Inbee is to shadow her for a couple of weeks and really pick her brain.  Either that, or hang out with Eun-Hee Ji and Paula Creamer a lot and hope her jinx is swallowed up by theirs.  The good news is, Inbee has overcome the jinx before, so maybe she's developed a resistance to it.  All I know is, she doesn't have 4 years to get out from under it.  More like less than 4 weeks!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Rolex Rankings Update: Ko Falls to #5 as She Finds Out She Can Join LPGA; Pettersen Closing on Park

Lydia Ko dropped to #5 in the Rolex Rankings the week we found out her bid to join the LPGA has been accepted and she'll be joining the Class of 2014.  Meanwhile Suzann Pettersen's win on the LPGA coupled with Inbee Park's runner-up on the KLPGA yesterday resulted in Pettersen closing the gap on Park from .89 down last week to only .59 this week.  Can't wait to see where Ko and Pettersen stand at the end of the 2013 season and at the start of the 2014 season!

Congratulations to Brittany Lang, Caroline Hedwall, and Ilhee Lee!

Brittany Lang didn't have a fantastic week in Taiwan (let's just say she made the top 50 and leave it at that), but she did well enough to cross the $4M mark in career winnings today.  That makes her the 3rd Class of 2006er to break that barrier in her career on the LPGA, behind Seon Hwa Lee and Ai Miyazato.  By my count, it came in her 201st start as an LPGA member.  And it puts her at #29 in my ranking of the best to join the LPGA since 2005.

Caroline Hedwall had a much better week (she finished 3rd!) and as a result she just crossed the $1M mark in LPGA career winnings in her 45th start as an LPGA member.  She's the 2nd player in the Class of 2011 to achieve that feat, after Hee Kyung Seo.  And she's now #26 in my ranking of the best to join the LPGA since 2005.

Ilhee Lee crossed the $1M mark last week in Korea, but I forgot to mention it at the time.  It came in her 70th start as an LPGA member.  She's the 3rd player in the Class of 2010 to make it to a million, after Azahara Munoz and Beatriz Recari.  After the Sunrise, she's #36 in my career ranking of the 2005ers and up (Munoz and Recari are precisely tied at 22nd!).

Mika Miyazato and Michelle Wie are racing for the $3M mark, Beatriz Recari is getting close to the $2M mark (after joining the million dollar club for 2013 today), and Lizette Salas and Jessica Korda are racing for the $1M mark.  With all of them except Miyazato sitting out the Mizuno Classic in a couple of weeks, it's looking pretty likely that the next player I'll be congratulating is Mikan!  (And maybe Stacy Lewis, who's sneaking up on the $6M mark....)

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship: With All the Pressure on Her Shoulders, She Makes It Look Easy

Suzann Pettersen won today for the 4th time in 2013 and the 14th time in her LPGA career on the strength of a 5-birdie 69 that gave her a 5-shot margin of victory over a resurgent Azahara Munoz in the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship.

Only 2 other players managed to get and stay under par for the week, Caroline Hedwall and Eun-Hee Ji, and only 3 other players ended the week where they started it (Se Ri Pak, Mina Harigae, and Irene Cho), so even though Pettersen did 10 shots worse this year than when she won last year, this title defense is probably the more impressive victory, given what was at stake for her today.  With Inbee Park unable to close the 2-shot gap on Sung Hyun Lee in the KLPGA's last major of the season and having to settle for a silver medal, it'll be interesting to see whether Pettersen has taken the world #1 spot on the Rolex Rankings from her this week.  Be that as it may, we know that Pettersen broke the $2M barrier on the LPGA money list and is now within $100K of Park there--and now only 38 points behind her in the Player of the Year race and about .05 strokes behind Stacy Lewis in scoring average.  Those last 2 races are even more important because they each carry with them a Hall of Fame point for their winner.  The pressure's really on for the last 2 events of the LPGA season.  Let's see how Stacy Lewis responds next week when she's the only representative of the LPGA's Big 3 in the Mizuno Classic.

Sakura Yokomine won today on the JLPGA, Lee-Anne Pace won on the LET in China, Sandra Gal took the bronze on the KLPGA, Beatriz Recari became the 6th player to join the LPGA's $1M club, and Moriya Jutanugarn cut Caroline Masson's lead in the Rookie of the Year race to 26 points, but all eyes are definitely on Suzann Pettersen.  Congratulations!

[Update 1 (3:45 pm):  bangkokbobby points out that Munoz made a race of it over the 1st 12 holes, but in the end Suzann was too much for her!]

Nobuta Group Masters GC Ladies Sunday: Sakura Yokomine Wins for 3rd Time in 2013, 21st in JLPGA Career

Sakura Yokomine (71, -12) became the 2nd player on the JLPGA to break the 100 million yen barrier in season winnings when she held off Sun-Ju Ahn (69, -9), Momoko Ueda (69, -8), and Shanshan Feng (70, -8)  to take the Nobuta Group Masters GC Ladies for the 2nd time in her career.  When her initial 5-shot lead on Ahn (courtesy of a moving-day 63) did shrink to 3 shots early on the front and midway through the back, Yokomine responded with back-to-back birdies on both sides, icing her 3rd victory of 2013 and the 21st of her career.

Yokomine is now within striking distance of money-list leader Rikako Morita for the 1st time all season as Morita opened with a 40 today and dropped out the top 20 only 36 holes after she held the lead in this event.  Morita got passed by fellow young guns Misuzu Narita (67, -6), Maiko Wakabayashi (68, -4), and Harukyo Nomura (67, -3), while big names Shiho Oyama (71, -6), Bo-Mee Lee (70, -5), Ayako Uehara (71, -3), and Ji-Hee Lee (71, -2) also moved into the the top 20.  Just like on the LPGA and KLPGA, the JLPGA now has a really tight race for end-of-season honors.

1. Rikako Morita ¥104.66M
2. Sakura Yokomine ¥100.87M
3. Miki Saiki ¥79.74M
4. Yumiko Yoshida ¥71.87M
5. Sun-Ju Ahn ¥71.83M
6. Natsuka Hori ¥64.27M
7. Mamiko Higa ¥64.06M
8. Teresa Lu ¥60.89M
9. Mi-Jeong Jeon ¥59.90M
10. Bo-Mee Lee ¥57.74M
11. Na-Ri Lee ¥57.11M
12. Ritsuko Ryu ¥50.90M
13. Yuki Ichinose ¥44.87M
14. Misuzu Narita ¥44.45M
15. Erika Kikuchi ¥44.22M
16. Onnarin Sattayabanphot ¥43.92M
17. Da-Ye Na ¥42.05M
18. Yukari Baba ¥41.27M
19. Soo-Yun Kang ¥40.94M
20. Junko Omote ¥39.91M
21. Esther Lee ¥38.45M
22. Kumiko Kaneda ¥37.55M
23. Asako Fujimoto ¥37.52M
24. Hiromi Mogi ¥36.88M
25. Shiho Oyama ¥35.70M
26. Miki Sakai ¥33.44M
27. Harukyo Nomura ¥33.40M
28. Mayu Hattori ¥33.27M
29. Ji-Hee Lee ¥32.22M
30. Yuri Fudoh ¥31.45M
31. Na-Ri Kim ¥31.04M
32. Rui Kitada ¥30.10M
33. Maiko Wakabayashi ¥29.73M
34. Erina Hara ¥28.80M
35. Kaori Ohe ¥26.29M
36. Megumi Kido ¥24.93M
37. Lala Anai ¥23.81M
38. Young Kim ¥23.50M
39. Kaori Nakamura ¥22.36M
40. Akane Iijima ¥21.60M
41. Eun-Bi Jang ¥20.67M
42. Ah-Reum Hwang ¥20.58M
43. Yuko Fukuda ¥19.30M
44. Phoebe Yao ¥19.15M
45. Shanshan Feng ¥18.16M
46. Kaori Aoyama ¥18.01M
47. Yuki Sakurai ¥17.68M
48. Yun-Jye Wei ¥17.11M
49. Ayako Uehara ¥16.69M
50. Saiki Fujita ¥16.47M

The top 50 keep their cards for 2014, so it's worth noting that Momoko Ueda is at #55, Yuko Mitsuka at #60, Ji-Yai Shin (who missed the cut this week) is at #62, Bo-Bae Song at #66, Li-Ying Ye at #68, Shinobu Moromizato at #70, Hyun-Ju Shin at #71, Ai Miyazato at #78, and Chie Arimura at #122.  

Next up for the JLPGA is the Hisako Higuchi Morinaga Weider Ladies, named after one of the top players in the history of the JLPGA and the 1st Asian woman to win an LPGA major, which Mi-Jeong Jeon won for the 3rd time in her career last season.  Along with the JLPGA's finest playing next week (except for Sun-Ju Ahn), Shanshan Feng and Momoko Ueda will continue their quests for cards and Mika Miyazato will be competing on tour for the 1st time since winning the Japan Women's Open.  Should be another interesting week!  Let's see how Morita responds to Yokomine's challenge!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Inbee Park Pulls within 2 of Lead at KLPGA's Last Major

Even as Suzann Pettersen lost her aura of invincibility on moving day in Taiwan (but closed the door she opened in her 1st 5 holes by the end of her round), Inbee Park got her butt in gear over on the KLPGA and used a 3rd-round 66 to move within 2 shots of leader Sung Hyun Lee in the tour's last major of 2013.  With KLPGA money-list leader Sei Young Kim and Hee Young Park's little sister Ju Young only 3 back, the top 2 candidates for KLPGA Rookie of the Year (Hyo Joo Kim and In Gee Chun) 4 behind, Soo Jin Yang 5 back, and Sandra Gal 7 off the pace, there are a lot of good players who could walk away with the win tomorrow.  But if the world #1 is the one, that's going to make the last 2 events on the LPGA very very interesting!

Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship Saturday: Open Door, Close Door?

The pressure of shooting for world #1 seemed to get to Suzann Pettersen as she made 3 bogeys in her 1st 5 holes on moving day at the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship, but by the end of the day, she had fought back to -6 for the week and opened up a 4-shot lead on Azahara Munoz, Sun Young Yoo, and Carlota Ciganda and a 6-shot lead on Beatriz Recari and Caroline Hedwall.

With Se Ri Pak, Jenny Shin, and Eun-Hee Ji matching Munoz's 69 and pulling within 7 shots of the lead, there's an outside chance that they and Na Yeon Choi and Irene Cho at +1 can put some more pressure on Pettersen.  On a day when 12 of the 14 players in the top 15 made up ground on her today (only Hee Kyung Seo fell further behind, and then only by a shot), it was a hopeful moving day for them.  But if Pettersen gets off on the right foot tomorrow, the pressure's back squarely on her lead chase pack.  Let's see what happens!

Nobuta Group Masters GC Ladies Saturday: Sakura Yokomine Drops 63 on Field

Sakura Yokomine made 5 birdies in her 1st 10 holes and 4 in her last 5 to post a bogey-free 63, move to -11, and open up a commanding lead on a star-studded field after 36 holes of the Nobuta Group Masters GC Ladies.  The 2009 JLPGA money-list leader has been overshadowed in recent seasons by the South Korean renaissance led by Sun-Ju Ahn and Mi-Jeong Jeon, and for most of this season has been well behind Rikako Morita and the other Japanese young guns on tour who are having breakout years, but today she could do no wrong.

With a 5-shot lead on Ahn, Shanshan Feng, and Phoebe Yao, a 6-shot lead on Momoko Ueda and Shiho Oyama, and a 7-shot lead on Morita and Miki Sakai, Yokomine is not only poised to win for the 3rd time in 2013, but is also ready to make a big statement heading into the tour's home stretch.  What makes her 1st 2 rounds even more impressive is that Jeon (#9 on the money list) and Ji-Yai Shin missed the cut, as did #3 Miki Saiki, #5 Natsuka Hori, #6 Mamiko Higa, #12 Ritsuko Ryu, #14 Erika Kikuchi, and recent 2-time winner and #10 Na-Ri Lee.  Moreover, Yokomine's 8-up on #11 Bo-Mee Lee, 9-up on LPGA Rookie of the Year candidate Ayako Uehara, 11-up on #4 Yumiko Yoshida, and 12-up on #8 Teresa Lu.  Her 63 is the lowest score on the JLPGA since Junko Omote matched it in the 1st round of the Samantha Thavasa Ladies back in July and only the 3rd sub-65 round since (Esther Lee and Yuki Ichinose put together 64s).

It's always tough to back up a great round, but if Yokomine can do it tomorrow, she'll have made the end of 2013 a heck of a lot more interesting on the JLPGA!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Elsewhere in Asia, on the KLPGA and LET...

It's the last major of the year for the KLPGA and their top players are showing the visiting LPGAers a little something.  Sul Ah Yoon has gone 71-66 to take a 2-shot lead on Sung Hyun Lee, with money-list leader Sei Young Park only 3 off the pace.  Hee Young Park's little sister, Ju Yeon Park bounced back from an opening 75 with a 67 today and is 5 back, while Rookie of the Year race leader Hyo Joo Kim is 6 behind.  With Amy Yang missing the cut, the only LPGAers left in the field are Sandra Gal (+1) and Ji-Yai Shin (+2).  They'll need to go low on the weekend to get into contention.

Meanwhile, on the LET, Nikki Campbell fired a 63 in China to take a 1-shot lead on Ye Na Chung, a 4-shot lead on Lee-Anne Pace, Charley Hull, and 2 other golfers, and a 5-shot lead on Laura Davies, Beth Allen, and 6 other players.

I don't know if any of these golfers would be outplaying Suzann Pettersen in Taiwan or how they would stack up against the star-studded JLPGA leaderboard, but it's pretty neat when so much good golf is being played on the same continent!

Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship Friday: An Aura of Invincibility

This is starting to look like Suzann Pettersen's week.  With a 3-shot lead in her pocket after the 1st round of the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship, all she did today was make a hole in 1 on the 2nd hole and follow it up with a birdie on the par-5 9th before ending her 15-hole bogey-free run on the 14th and bouncing back with a walkoff birdie for her 2nd-straight round in the 60s at the Sunrise Golf & Country Club.  At -7, she has a 5-shot lead on Sun Young Yoo (who shot a fine 5-birdie 69 of her own), Carlota Ciganda (who shot a 70 despite doubling the par-5 13th), and Katherine Hull-Kirk (whose 4-birdie 70 kept her in the fray as if last week's Sunday meltdown from the final pairing had never happened).  With Beatriz Recari the only other player under par through 36 holes and Caroline Hedwall, Chella Choi, Hee Kyung Seo, and Alison Walshe the only players in the field at even par, one more good round from Pettersen will probably ice this tournament.

I mean, when Ya Ni Tseng, who's won here, opens 76-78, or Na Yeon Choi, who's contended, goes 74-72, or Lexi Thompson, who's won recently in convincing fashion, starts 74-74, or Mika Miyazato, who's won a major in Japan recently, posts 75-75, you know the course is playing tough for just about everyone in the field.  So it's very very unlikely that anyone is going to make a weekend charge from way back.  That means Pettersen really just needs to beat the 16 golfers who are "only" single digits behind her over the weekend.  It's true that only 4 of them did worse today than yesterday, but so far only Yoo has managed to even tie her in the same round.  Someone has to figure out how to beat Pettersen by 5-9 shots over the next 36 holes.  That's a tall order, the way she's hitting fairways and greens.

2013 is starting to remind me of Pettersen's 5-win season in 2007, when she notched 3 of them after October 1st to zoom into 2nd on the money list behind a truly dominant Lorena Ochoa.  By then, Ochoa had sewn up Player of the Year, but this time around, with Stacy Lewis dominant in the early part of the season and Inbee Park in the middle, it's going to be very interesting to see if Pettersen's fall charge can make this year's races close.  I still think it would be a travesty if Pettersen were to actually win POY, but it would add some drama if the LPGA's final events featured head-to-head-to-head battles between the LPGA's Big 3 of 2013.  (It's not happening at Mizuno, where both Park and Pettersen are taking the week off, but wouldn't it be cool if Lewis were to successfully defend her title there?)

Maybe it's too soon for me to be wondering about this, as a lot can happen in 36 holes.  But one thing I've often wondered about on the LPGA is the effect on the other players when 1 of their peers starts to project an aura of invincibility.  Sometimes it seems like they start playing for 2nd.  Well, unless a few more players not named Pettersen break 70 tomorrow, that's what they will be playing for!

[Update 1 (9:05 am):  Check out bangkokbobby's take on Pettersen's play and all the photos he's found!]

[Update 2 (9:33 pm):  Nice piece by Randall Mell on the LPGA's Big 3!]

Nobuta Group Masters GC Ladies Friday Round Cancelled Due to Storms

With the 2nd round of the Nobuta Group Masters GC Ladies cancelled due to storms, play will resume tomorrow morning with Rikako Morita still in the lead.

[Update 1 (9:30 am):  Fortunately, the 2 typhoons that seemed to be on a collision course to hit mainland Japan at the same time didn't!  But the slower-moving one that decided to hug the coast line may still impact play on the weekend.]

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship Thursday: Can Anyone Spoil the Spoiler's 1st-Round Move?

With Ji-Yai Shin, Shanshan Feng, Momoko Ueda, and Ayako Uehara playing in the Japan on the JLPGA  and Inbee Park, Amy Yang, and Sandra Gal playing in Korea on the KLPGA this week, the top players in the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship have a great opportunity to make some waves of their own on what's still the toughest women's tour on the planet.

And the player with the biggest opportunity and the most pressure on her shoulders to try to catch Park in the LPGA's Player of the Year race, on the LPGA money list, and in the Rolex Rankings made the most of it all today, as Suzann Pettersen fired a 6-birdie 68 to take a 3-shot lead on Caroline Hedwall, Karine Icher, Alison Walshe, and Irene Cho and a 4-shot lead on a host of golfers that included the superstars (Paula Creamer), the rising stars (Beatriz Recari), the up-and-comers (Chella Choi, Carlota Ciganda), the up-and-downers (Eun-Hee Ji, Mariajo Uribe, Belen Mozo), and the unknowns (Supamas Sangchan).

If Pettersen can go low at least once in the next 2 days, she's going to put a lot of pressure not only on her lead chase pack but also on the players who dug themselves holes of varying sizes today.  Azahara Munoz at +1, Na Yeon Choi, Ai Miyazato, Lexi Thompson, Michelle Wie, Hee Young Park, and Hee Kyung Seo at +2, Juli Inkster and Catriona Matthew at +3, Se Ri Pak, Ya Ni Tseng, and Moriya Jutanugarn at +4, and Anna Nordqvist and Brittany Lang at +5 will need to get their games in gear to have a chance of spoiling Pettersen's bid to play the spoiler to Park.  Meanwhile, there's some pressure on Caroline Masson (+6) to keep Jutanugarn in her sights and protect her 69-point lead in the Rookie of the Year race, although Jutanugarn needs to be contending, not fighting to make cuts, if she wants to put any real pressure on the LET's former Rookie of the Year.

So let's see how they various races play out tomorrow and into the weekend!

Nobuta Group Masters GC Ladies Thursday: Rikako Morita Leads Stellar Field

JLPGA money-list leader Rikako Morita fired a 5-birdie 68 in the 1st round of the Nobuta Group Masters GC Ladies to take a slim lead on Sun-Ju Ahn, Momoko Ueda, Ji-Hee Lee, Da-Ye Na, and Phoebe Yao at -3 and Shanshan Feng, Sakura Yokomine, Shiho Oyama, Ayako Uehara, and others at -2.

Most of the leaders poured it on as their rounds went on.  Morita was -4 and bogey-free over her final 12 holes, while Lee was -5 and bogey-free over her last 10, with 4 of those birdies coming in her final 6 holes.  Ueda, meanwhile, birdied 3 of her last 6 holes, and Na, Yao, and Uehara joined Morita, Ahn, and Lee in playing the back without a bogey.

Others didn't fare quite so well, but are definitely in the hunt.  Yukari Baba, Bo-Bae Song, and Erina Hara are the biggest names at -1, while Yuri Fudoh, Na-Ri Lee, Yuko Mitsuka, Yumiko Yoshida, Misuzu Narita, Megumi Kido, Esther Lee, and Asako Fujimoto were among the 39 golfers to shoot par or better today in Hyogo.

Which means that some really big names will have one eye on the leaders and one eye on the cut line tomorrow.  Ji-Yai Shin, Miki Saiki, Bo-Mee Lee, Teresa Lu, Mamiko Higa, Erika Kikuchi, Ritsuko Ryu, Kumiko Kaneda, and Maiko Wakabayashi are at +1, while Soo-Yun Kang, Young Kim, Harukyo Nomura, and Akane Iijima are among those who find themselves just on the wrong side of the projected cut line.  Mi-Jeong Jeon, Mayu Hattori, and Shinobu Moromizato at +3, Hyun-Ju Shin at +4, So-Hee Kim at +5, and Natsuka Hori at +6 have even more players to leapfrog to be playing on the weekend.

Let's see what happens tomorrow!

Here's Hoping Lydia Ko's Going Pro Video Goes Viral

When I read that Lydia Ko confirmed her decision to go pro via twitter and youtube, I didn't rush out and check out the video.  From all her public appearances, she struck me as serious, reserved, mature, and slightly geeky in a more awkward than secretly cool way, so I didn't greet the news of her youtube foray with the same excitement that a new Tiffany Joh production inspires.

But eventually I found the time to watch the video.  And now I'm recommending you do the same.  Because Ko's genuinely funny in it.  Because it gives a clearer sense of her personality than any of her other public appearances.  Because the video itself is cleverly conceived and executed.  Just because.

Now that the HuffPo has plagiarized linked to Beth Ann Baldry's Golfweek article, and the AP and the networks and major cable channels have picked up the story, the odds of the video going viral have increased.  Let's see if all 50 of my regular readers--a mere fraction of Stephanie Wei's, I'm sure--can help improve the odds even further!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Who Are Your Picks for the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship?

Tony Jesselli's preview of the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship is out and he predicts that Suzann Pettersen will defend her title against the 3rd-weakest field of the year.  I hate to disagree with him, but I'm going with some players who have been struggling this year to turn things around this week!

1. Miyazato Ai
2. Pettersen
3. Nordqvist
4. Tseng Ya Ni
5. Choi Na Yeon
6. Miyazato Mika
7. Wie
8. Thompson
9. Recari
10. Seo
11. Choi Chella
12. Creamer

Alts: Park Hee Young; Munoz; Hedwall

So who are you thinking will do well this week?

[Update 1 (8:54 am):  bangkokbobby has a great preview with lots of photos and videos, too!]

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Best on the LPGA: 1-Time Winners, October 2013

With Amy Yang finally breaking through for her 1st LPGA victory, it's about time I updated this ranking of who among the LPGA's 1-time winners I expect to move on the soonest.  Since my last ranking last August, this group has lost Beatriz Recari (previously #9 here), Shanshan Feng (#2), and Lexi Thompson (#6) due to wins and Leta Lindley and Heather Bowie Young due to retirement.

Most Likely to Win (Again) in 2013

1. Amy Yang: I'm still in shock that she would ever have considered quitting professional golf, as she revealed after she won the LPGA KEB-HanaBank Championship yesterday.  She was already ranked in the top 25 of the top players to join the tour between 2005 and 2013 and with her win she's now #18.  Technically, she's right behind Mika Miyazato, but even though Mikan recently won the Japan Women's Open, she hasn't had a very good LPGA season, so I'm bringing in Amy at #1 on this list.

2. Mika Miyazato: She started 2013 with a frosty putter and even though it's been slowly heating up over the course of the season, she hasn't really done much besides snag a couple of top 5s in the middle of the year--not counting her gutsy JWO win, that is.  Still, given how strong her career record has been, you have to think she's bound to start playing really well really soon.

The Contenders

3. Jessica Korda: She's had a really good 2013, turning herself into a player you're no longer surprised to see high on the leaderboard.  But she's finding out how hard it can be to win on the LPGA.

4. Azahara Munoz: She's another player who made a quantum leap recently and has found out how hard it is to meet the raised expectations that come with that status.

5. Hee Kyung Seo: She won as a non-member at the 2010 Kia Classic, easily won the 2011 Rookie of the Year race despite her failure to secure her 1st LPGA major at the U.S. Women's Open (where she lost in a playoff to So Yeon Ryu), and came this close to graduating from this list when Yang beat her with a 15-foot birdie putt on the 1st playoff hole yesterday, but she now has 4 playoff losses on the LPGA and only 10 other top 10s in almost 3 full seasons, so the chances are coming few and far between and she hasn't been able to close the deal as an LPGA member.  She's got the talent to do it.  It's only a question of when.

6. Sandra Gal: She's now finished in the top 25 in 5 consecutive LPGA starts.  I'd say not making the European Solheim Cup team has woken her up!

7. Brittany Lang: She's another player who started 2013 on the wrong side of the bed and has been waking up in the 2nd half of the season.

Quantum Leap Candidates

8. Natalie Gulbis: Recurring back problems since her 2007 Evian Masters playoff victory over Jeong Jang have dropped her back where she was in her 1st 3 seasons on the LPGA--a player who makes her share of cuts but has trouble cracking the top 10. In fact, 24 of her top 10s and all 7 of her top 3s came between 2005 and 2007, when she was a regular on the top 20 of the money list.  She had 3 top 10s in 2012 but has only had 1 so far in 2013.  She says she's healthy, so I'm keeping her tops among the quantum leap candidates....

9. Jee Young Lee: It looks to me like the once-elite '06er got hurt in fall 2010 but whatever the reason she's been in free fall until this season, which hasn't been very good by her usual standards but at least includes a top-5 finish for the 1st time in a long time and inclusion on the fall Asian swing.

10. Mi Jung Hur: Her struggles since getting her 1st LPGA win as a rookie in 2009 are by no means over.  The best that can be said for her is that at #87 on the money list, she's going to keep her card for 2014.

11. Nicole Castrale: She had shoulder surgery in 2010 and hip surgery in September 2013, but expects to be back in February 2014 for the kickoff of the new LPGA season.  Despite her injury issues and limited schedule this season, she's #53 on the money list, so don't count her out when she returns to action!

12. Jennifer Johnson: She's had 2 top 10s and 4 top 20s since her surprise win in Mobile this season, but she's also missed a bunch of cuts and raised hackles among the tour's movers and shakers when she went to twitter to question the decision to leave her off the U.S. Solheim Cup team.  I like that kind of guts and self-confidence, myself.  Let's see if she can back that up with her clubs in the run-up to the next Solheim Cup team selection.

13. Julieta Granada: She's back to being a regular on the LPGA after spending a lot of time on the LET in recent years, but has gone cold since notching back-to-back top 10s in the middle of the season.

On the Bottom, Looking Up

14. Meaghan Francella: She shocked the golf world with a win over Annika Sorenstam on the 4th playoff hole at the 2007 MasterCard Classic, but Annika's announcement a little later that season that she had been suffering significant back and neck injuries for some time put a little asterisk by that victory.  And her performance ever since hasn't been all that impressive (perhaps due to injury issues of her own).  But things went from mediocre to worse in 2013, where she played in 14 events and won less than $10K.  If she can't do well in Q-School in December, she'll have to decide whether to retire or try to come back on the Symetra Tour.

15. Moira Dunn: Her 2004 win at the Giant Eagle Classic was the high point of an LPGA career that dates back to 1995, but her best season was probably in 2001.  My junior golf buddy's been struggling to keep her card each year since the 2006 season, and once again in 2012 and 2013 she has failed to add to her 23 career LPGA top 10s. But this season she's #90 on the money list and assured of keeping her 2014 card, so never count her out!

16. Silvia Cavalleri: She's only had 10 top 10s in an career that started back in 1999 and in that span has only cracked the top 50 on the money list once--in 2007, when she won the Corona Championship.  This year, she's #137 on the money list, so it'll be interesting to see if she tees it up in LPGA or LET Q-School, or perhaps calls it a career..

On the Outside, Looking In

17. Shi Hyun Ahn: Like Jee Young Lee, her only LPGA win comes with an asterisk, as she got it as a KLPGA member in 2003, but since then she's played roughly 20 events on the LPGA each year, garnering 27 top 10s in the process, with only 3 of them coming since the end of the 2007 season. Until 2011, that is, when she fell off a cliff. It may have been injuries, but probably it was love. The golfer known as "Cinderella" got married to Argentine-Korean star Mario in November 2011. What that means for her golf career remains to be seen, but she didn't tee it up on the LPGA in 2012 or 2013.

18. Soo-Yun Kang: Her win at the Safeway Classic in 2005 was part of the best season of her career, where she got 6 top 10s and ended up #14 on the money list. But it was also the last season her stroke average dipped under 72. Of her 17 career top 10s since she started on the LPGA in 2001, only 2 have come after 2005. Now she's playing full-time on the JLPGA, where she just got her 1st win in her 3rd full season on tour.

19. Young Kim: She joined the JLPGA in 2010 and ended up ranked 14th on tour in my system; the next 2 seasons, she's finished in the mid-30s on the season-ending money lists and currently sits at #38.

20. Jin Joo Hong: After playing 3 seasons on the KLPGA, she won the jointly-sponsored event with the LPGA and switched tours for the next 3 seasons, ending 2009 ranked #10 among the '06ers. Since then, she's decided to focus on the KLPGA.

21. Joo Mi Kim: She came to the LPGA in 2005 with 3 KLPGA victories under her belt and made a lot of cuts in her rookie season, then followed it up with a playoff win at the SBS Open (over Lorena Ochoa and Soo Young Moon) and 4 top 10s in all the next season, where she ended up 27th on the money list. She stayed in the top 50 for the 3rd-straight season the following year, but saw her starts go down and her scoring average go up over the next 3 seasons. Since the fall of 2010, she's been focusing her efforts on the KLPGA.

22. Eunjung Yi: Her playoff victory over Morgan Pressel at the Farr in 2009 remains her only LPGA top 10 since her LPGA career began in 2008. She won Hound Dog's fluke victory of the year award that year, a dubious distinction. She's barely played on the LPGA in 2012 and 2013 due to injuries, but hasn't made a cut in either season.

23. Birdie Kim: For awhile, it seemed like she had been coming back from the U.S. Women's Open jinx after her stunning 2005 win from the sand over then-amateurs Morgan Pressel and Brittany Lang, not to mention the serious injuries she sustained in a car accident years ago.  But her 2012 Symetra Tour and Q-School performance earned her only 2 LPGA starts in 2013, both missed cuts, and she ended up #41 on the 2013 Symetra Tour money list and didn't tee it up in Stage II of LPGA Q-School.  I'm assuming that's because she's exempt into Stage III in December....

Sunday, October 20, 2013

LPGA KEB-HanaBank Championship Sunday: 1st-Time Winner, Long Overdue

Amy Yang and Hee Kyung Seo both made eagles on par 4s on the back 9 of the LPGA KEB-HanaBank Championship, but it was their walkoff birdies that broke the logjam at -8 and sent them back to the 18th tee for what turned out to be a one-hole playoff when Yang birdied it for the 3rd time this week to secure her 1st LPGA victory.

Their heroics made others' heroics moot.  Michelle Wie had posted a bogey-free 66 that featured 4 birdies in her last 6 holes to become the early leader in the clubhouse at -8.  Seo was the next player to finish, and her birdies on 15 and 18 relegated Wie to 2nd place.  It was then Amy Yang's and KLPGA money-list leader Sei Young Kim's turn to finish.  Kim had her own bogey-free round going and had birdied 3 holes in a row late on the back to tie Seo and take a 1-shot lead on Yang, but a walkoff bogey left her tied with Wie as Yang joined Seo at -9.  Playing in the final group, Suzann Pettersen birdied 2 of her last 4 holes, but it was too little too late, thanks to earlier bogeys on 7 and 10.

But at least they played better than others who came into the final round with a great chance to win.  Pettersen's playing partner Anna Nordqvist made an early double but fought back to -7 with 5 holes to play.  But she finished par-double-par-bogey-par to fade to T8 with Se Ri Pak (71), Ji-Yai Shin (72), and Jane Park (70).  Hee Young Park's little sister Ju Young Park had a tough time in the penultimate group with Yang and Kim; she fell back early with 2 bogeys in her 1st 6 holes and tripled the par-5 13th to drop to T12.  KLPGA superstar Ha-Neul Kim birdied 2 and 3 to get to -7, but 2 bogeys and only 1 birdie over her final 15 holes left her in solo 6th, 1 shot ahead of Brittany Lincicome, who finished with a fine bogey-free 69 to take solo 7th.  Meanwhile, Katherine Hull-Kirk fell from T1 to T32 with a birdieless 80.

With world #1 Inbee Park finishing 9 shots out of the lead, Pettersen continued to make up ground on her in the Rolex Rankings, the Player of the Year race, and on the money list, but she really needed a win to seriously scare Park, who maintains a 68-point lead over Pettersen for POY.  In the Rookie of the Year race, Ayako Uehara beat leader Caroline Masson and #2 Moriya Jutanugarn by a shot, but remains well behind Masson with only a few tournaments left on the LPGA schedule and pressure to keep her JLPGA card, where she's hanging on to a spot in the top 50 on their money list by her fingernails.  At least she qualified for the CME Titleholders today.

But it's Amy Yang who can feel the most satisfaction today.  She revealed in her post-round interview that she's often thought of quitting the game and has cried a lot in private with her parents during the course of what from the outside seems like an incredibly successful LPGA career.  Now she can get on with the rest of it secure in the confidence that she can win on the toughest tour on the planet.  Congratulations, Amy!

[Update 1 (9:19 am):  Here's the Golf Babes career overview for Yang!]

Fujitsu Ladies Sunday: Na-Ri Lee Declared Winner When Rain Washes Out Final Round

A win is a win is a win,  With rain washing out the final round of the Fujitsu Ladies, Na-Ri Lee's 5-birdies-in-6-holes run on moving day turned out to be what gave her just that by 1 shot over Ayaka Watanabe.  It's Lee's 2nd victory in the last several weeks and brings her JLPGA victory total to a 2, as well.

Here's how the money list now looks:

1. Rikako Morita ¥103.67M
2. Sakura Yokomine ¥81.97M
3. Miki Saiki ¥79.74M
4. Yumiko Yoshida ¥70.97M
5. Natsuka Hori ¥64.27M
6. Mamiko Higa ¥64.06M
7. Sun-Ju Ahn ¥62.59M
8. Teresa Lu ¥60.20M
9. Mi-Jeong Jeon ¥59.90M
10. Na-Ri Lee ¥57.11M
11. Bo-Mee Lee ¥54.32M
12. Ritsuko Ryu ¥50.90M
13. Yuki Ichinose ¥44.87M
14. Erika Kikuchi ¥44.22M
15. Onnarin Sattayabanphot ¥43.22M
16. Da-Ye Na ¥40.80M
17. Soo-Yun Kang ¥40.25M
18. Yukari Baba ¥40.02M
19. Misuzu Narita ¥39.72M
20. Junko Omote ¥39.45M
21. Kumiko Kaneda ¥37.55M
22. Esther Lee ¥37.46M
23. Hiromi Mogi ¥36.88M
24. Asako Fujimoto ¥36.62M
25. Mayu Hattori ¥32.85M
26. Miki Sakai ¥32.46M
27. Harukyo Nomura ¥31.68M
28. Shiho Oyama ¥30.98M
29. Ji-Hee Lee ¥30.97M
30. Yuri Fudoh ¥30.76M
31. Na-Ri Kim ¥30.58M
32. Rui Kitada ¥29.29M
33. Erina Hara ¥27.82M
34. Maiko Wakabayashi ¥27.49M
35. Kaori Ohe ¥26.29M
36. Megumi Kido ¥24.35M
37. Lala Anai ¥23.01M
38. Young Kim ¥22.59M
39. Kaori Nakamura ¥22.36M
40. Akane Iijima ¥21.60M
41. Eun-Bi Jang ¥19.86M
42. Ah-Reum Hwang ¥18.86M
43. Yuko Fukuda ¥18.03M
44. Kaori Aoyama ¥18.01M
45. Yuki Sakurai ¥17.68M
46. Yun-Jye Wei ¥17.11M
47. Phoebe Yao ¥16.91M
48. Saiki Fujita ¥16.47M
49. Ayako Uehara ¥14.96M
50. Ji-Woo Lee ¥14.89M

The top 50 keep their cards for 2014, so it's worth noting that Shanshan Feng is at #56, Ji-Yai Shin at #58, Bo-Bae Song at #61, Yuko Mitsuka at #63, Li-Ying Ye at #65, Shinobu Moromizato at #67, Hyun-Ju Shin at #69, Momoko Ueda at #76, Ai Miyazato at #77, and Chie Arimura at #120.  

Next up for the JLPGA is the Nobuta Group Masters GC Ladies, which So-Hee Kim won last year.  The tournament has a new sponsor but no field list, from what I can find online.  It's funny, because past champions include Ai Miyazato, Paula Creamer, Ji-Yai Shin, Sakura Yokomine (twice), and Miho Koga (twice), so it attracts great fields and offers the maximum allowed prize money on tour (14 million yen).  You'd think that big a tournament would have everything lined up already....

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Detroit 2, Constructivist Family 2

I've gotta admit I can't tell a quad from a triple unless Skate America, NBC Sports, or every freakin' skate blogger/tweeter on the planet points it out to me (just search #SA2013), but I can tell you a little bit about what the Constructivist family's Detroit road trip has been like so far.

Like how we avoided another traffic jam on the 75 and got to the men's practice session just about on time by freelancing it through some pretty scary neighborhoods on the way to the Joe Louis Arena (score 1 for Team Constructivist).  Or how we again enjoyed the Detroit People Mover and had another great dinner, but this one gave The Full Metal Archivist stomach trouble (score 1 for Detroit).  Or how cool it was to watch Adam Rippon and Jason Brown rock their short programs, then get smoked by Tatsuki Machida (whose name has been pronounced seemingly every way but right by the rink announcers), but how disappointing it was when our fave Daisuke Takahashi couldn't bring his jumping to the level of his artistry on the ice right after Machida's brilliant performance (score another for Detroit).  Or how much the girls enjoyed dancing around after the practice skates, riding the People Mover, and getting make-up done and pictures taken at the fake Puffs kiss and cry area between the men's skate and the dance competition (score 1 more for the Constructivist family).

Instead, though, let me focus on how amazing Meryl Davis and Charlie White are.  So many couples skated so awesomely.  The Reeds got a season best and still ended up in 6th, while the Shibutanis did the same and looked to be in great position at 61.26 and 1st of 6 teams.  Until the Italians beat them by 8 points, that is.  Facing the same kind of pressure that Takahashi did, Davis and White made it look effortless, elegant, charming, sophisticated, romantic, and athletic.  Like Takahashi, they have a level of artistry and body control and musical interpretation that is truly their own.  Unlike Takahashi, their biggest rivals (Moir/Virtue) weren't competing against them.  But sometimes it's as tough being the favorite--especially in front of a home crowd--as it is being the most popular skater in the world who's fighting for a spot in his 3rd Olympics against 5 other world-class Japanese skaters.

I'll close with some video and some notes, first on Machida:

I was repeatedly impressed by how much air this guy gets.  I wonder if he can dunk...


Loved his reaction at the end! Maybe he can take a page from Adam Scott's book and get a big win today!


Man, he practices hard. He was the only one going full-bore in the morning practice session. Hey, he's young, he can handle it.  (Me, I'm officially in my mid-40s and walking like someone in his mid-80s.  I'm beginning to think my back won't be better by the time we leave Detroit.)


I hope onechan and imoto learn from these siblings how to appreciate each other and work together!  Have I mentioned that imoto's discovered moodiness and loves to needle onechan into overreacting and getting in trouble?  Seriously, I don't usually like brother-sister pairs on ice, but these two picked some great music and skated their hearts out!

In closing, Jason Brown has it all:  flexibility, jumping ability, artistry, personality.  Don't be surprised if he wins this thing.

Fujitsu Ladies Saturday: Na-Ri Lee's Closing 31 Leapfrogs Her to Lead

With Fujitsu Ladies 1st-round co-leaders Yukari Baba (74) and Mihoko Iseri (76) plunging down the leaderboard, the door was open to many players, and the one who kicked it down the hardest was the same one who denied Ai Miyazato a JLPGA victory a few weeks ago.  Na-Ri Lee made 5 birdies in her 1st 6 holes on the back today to post a bogey-free 67 that lifted her to -6 through 36 holes and gave her a 1-shot lead on 20-year-old Ayaka Watanabe, who birdied 4 of her last 10 holes as part of her own 14-hole-and-counting bogey-free run.  Amateur Megumi Takahashi and 22-year-old Miki Sakai also made big moves on the back, as they posted bogey-free 32s to join Esther Lee and Teresa Lu 2 shots behind Lee.

With Sun-Ju Ahn (70) and Harukyo Nomura (69) only 3 back, this should be a close one tomorrow, particularly when you look at all the huge swings over the 1st 36 holes:

  • Asako Fujimoto (68-78)
  • Mihoko Iseri (67-76)
  • Yumiko Yoshida (68-77)
  • Phoebe Yao (78-69)
  • Mina Nakayama (69-78)
  • Yukari Baba (67-74)
  • Ritsuko Ryu (68-75)
  • Lala Anai (76-69)
  • Kaori Yamamoto (69-76)
  • Risa Ogasu (77-70)
  • Hyun-Ju Shin (78-71, MC)
Speaking of missed cuts, Yuri Fudoh, Sakura Yokomine, and Bo-Mee Lee just missed missing the cut today.  At +4 and T50, they're playing for pride tomorrow.  But with Rikako Morita +2 and T32, a good final round can help Yokomine make up more ground on the money-list leader.

Whatever happens lower down the leaderboard, it'll be interesting to see if the JLPGA's Japanese young guns can start winning again or whether Na-Ri Lee can pick up her 2nd career victory on tour less than a month after her 1st.

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!

Friday, October 18, 2013

LPGA KEB-HanaBank Championship Friday: 4 Lead at -5

Anna Nordqvist and Amy Yang are the biggest names among the co-leaders of the LPGA KEB-HanaBank Championship, but their 6-birdie 67s were matched today by Katherine Hull-Kirk and the KLPGA's Ju Young Park and Caroline Hedwall finished only 1 behind them despite taking a double on the par-4 6th.

Even worse for Nordqvist, looking for her 1st LPGA victory since her rookie season in 2009, and Yang, still searching for her 1st career LPGA win, is that Suzann Pettersen, Ji-Yai Shin, and Ha-Neul Kim are only 2 back (along with Michelle Wie, Carlota Ciganda, Brittany Lang, and Jenny Shin, they were the only other players to break 70 today), Inbee Park and So Yeon Ryu are only 3 off the pace (despite a double and 3 bogeys by Ryu!), and a host of tough golfers are right in it at -1, including last week's winner Lexi Thompson, 2-time champion here Na Yeon Choi, KLPGA Rookie of the Year race leader Hyo Joo Kim, Jessica Korda, Jodi Ewart Shadoff, Hee Kyung Seo, and LPGA Rookie of the Year contender Ayako Uehara.

And it's not like Paula Creamer, Azahara Munoz, Karine Icher, and Haeji Kang (E), Se Ri Pak, Cristie Kerr, Morgan Pressel, Chella Choi, Soo Jin Yang, Lizette Salas, and Caroline Masson (+1), or Ha Na Jang (who's won the last 2 KLPGA events in a row), Moriya Jutanugarn, or Candie Kung (+2) are totally out of this thing just yet.  It is only a 54-hole event, however, so they'll really need to get it in gear tomorrow, as will Ya Ni Tseng (+3), Beatriz Recari, In-Kyung Kim, and Chie Arimura (+4), and Catriona Matthew and KLPGA ROY contender In Gee Chun (+5).

Even though my hotel gets Golf Channel, I won't be able to watch any of today's play unless they re-air it late night. Would have loved to see the reactions to Yang's 5-hole birdie train and other such LPGA fireworks!

Fujitsu Ladies Friday: Yukari Baba and Mihoko Iseri Take Lead in Wake of Killer Typhoon

Frankly, I'm amazed the JLPGA was able to start the Fujitsu Ladies on time, given how close to the path of Typhoon Wipha the Tokyu 700 Club is located in Chiba Prefecture, southeast of the Full Metal Archivist's home city.  But start the tournament they did, even with two dozen people dead and a few dozen more still missing.  In the wake of this tragedy, Yukari Baba and Mihoko Iseri took the lead with 7-birdie 67s, but they were followed closely by Ritsuko Ryu, Yumiko Yoshida, and Asako Fujimoto at -4, Mina Nakayama and Kaori Yamamoto at -3, and Teresa Lu, Eun-Bi Jang, and Ayaka Watanabe at -2.

Some of the biggest names on tour have their work cut out for them, as Mi-Jeong Jeon, Sun-Ju Ahn, Mamiko Higa, Na-Ri Lee, Megumi Kido, and Na-Ri Kim are 4 back, Rikako Morita, Erika Kikuchi, and Harukyo Nomura are 5 behind, and Yuri Fudoh, Mayu Hattori, and Erina Hara are 6 off the pace.  Meanwhile, Ji-Hee Lee, Yuki Ichinose, and Kumiko Kaneda (74), defending champion Misuzu Narita and Yuko Mitsuka (75), Sakura Yokomine, Bo-Mee Lee, Shinobu Moromizato, Young Kim, Maiko Wakabayashi, Lala Anai, and Yuki Sakurai (76), and Natsuka Hori and Hyun-Ju Shin (78) will be playing tomorrow with one or both eyes on the cut line.  At least they're playing; last week's winner Soo-Yun Kang and Bo-Bae Song were not able to start

I'm assuming the JLPGA has been planning to honor the victims of Japan's 26th typhoon of the season in some way this week.  I'll let you all know when I find out what it is.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Detroit 1, Constructivist Family 1

The Constructivist Family loves Detroit!

Sure, Detroit scored first against us when construction and a pair of accidents that slowed traffic to a crawl on the way to our hotel just north of the city added about a half hour to our road trip, but we did get to the Joe Louis Arena in time to catch the tail end of Daisuke Takahashi, Takahiko Kozuka, and Tatsuke Machida's practice session and then got to see the rest of the men (we were most excited about Jason Brown, Adam Rippon, and Max Aaron) and all the ice dancers (most notably, from our perspective, Davis and White, the Reeds, and the Shibutanis).  We got our pick of awesome seats and imoto and I got to explore almost every nook and cranny of the arena.  Plus, following her around actually helped loosen up my back!

Afterwards, we explored downtown via the Detroit People Mover, a cute little monorail that took us straight to a restaurant named after one of my favorite bands (not Tool, not Radiohead, think New Orleans-style food...).  I'm not naming them directly because although we loved the place and had a great meal, imoto got a burger with some mold on the bun.  This is where we scored against Detroit because the manager made imoto's meal and ice cream sundaes for the girls all free.  So you can see why we're looking forward to exploring more of downtown tomorrow.  There's a gap between the last of the practices tomorrow and the start of the competition at 7 pm, and the weather for my birthday looks like it'll be much better than today.  Maybe we'll do the River Walk, maybe we'll find another restaurant to check out.

We'll get our first look at the ladies and the pairs tomorrow afternoon and we'll see more of the men and dancers before them.  I'm curious to see whether and how their practices are different from today's, what with the start of the competition for them coming in the evening....

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Golf Gods, They Are Jealous Gods

I'm telling you, it seems like every time The Constructivist Family is about to take one of our patented road trips/pilgrimages to the site of a major international skating competition lately, my body betrays me.  This past spring, an awful stomach bug had me doubled over in pain and dazed for most of the World Figure Skating Championships.  And now this morning, I tweaked my back at the gym so bad that I had to shamble/shuffle/limp/grimace my way through the last day of work before the start of our fall break, which The Full Metal Archivist, onechan, imoto and I will be enjoying in scenic Detroit while we occupy Skate America.

All I can say is, thank you very much, golf gods.  It's not enough that you torment me on the course and deploy the Mostly Harmless jinx against my favorite golfers--no, now you also have to go and punish me for following Daisuke Takahashi and Mao Asada and the rest of the skaters there for a few days!  I get it:  the way the Skate America schedule works out, I'll probably be able to watch only the final round of this week's LPGA/KLPGA tournament, and probably only part of it at that--and that's only if the hotel we switch to on Sunday has Golf Channel.  So I guess I deserve this lower back pain and stiffness by some sick, twisted logic--you know, the kind you golf gods specialize in.

But hear this, o ye golf gods:  we splurged for all-access tickets and, by gum, we shall use them!  We're cutting through Canada early tomorrow morning and plan to be in the Joe Louis Arena by noon!  It's not like I've broken my back like American skater Max Aaron did a few years ago....

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Who Are Your Picks for the LPGA KEB-HanaBank Championship?

The Constructivist Family is heading out to Detroit in a couple of days for Skate America, so I'm hoping the hotel we stay at has Golf Channel and, if so, I'll be in the hotel at times that allow me to catch at least some of the LPGA KEB-HanaBank Championship.  I'm really hoping that a KLPGA young gun can beat the LPGA's regulars and earn a 2014 card to the top tour in the world of women's golf.  In fact, I'm going to go out on a limb in this week's PakPicker competition at Seoul and predict that one of them will actually do so.

1. Jang Ha Na
2. Pettersen
3. Thompson
4. Choi Na Yeon
5. Kim Hyo Joo
6. Nordqvist
7. Ryu
8. Park Inbee
9. Creamer
10. Hedwall
11. Recari
12. Shin Ji-Yai

Alts: Gal; Yang, Amy; Tseng

Tony Jesselli has already posted his picks in his tournament preview.  So who are yours?

Monday, October 14, 2013

Lexi Thompson and Shanshan Feng Shooting Up LPGA Career Rankings

It's fitting that on Columbus Day a sizeable percentage of the planet is discovering 2 new galaxy-class stars in the universe of women's professional golf.

Lexi Thompson, who soundly thrashed the best female golfers on the planet yesterday in Kuala Lumpur for her 1st victory as an LPGA member and 2nd on tour in the last 3 seasons, has risen into the top 10 in my ranking of the players who began their LPGA careers from 2005 to 2013.  Having raised her winning percentage to 4.55%, Thompson finds her way into the winner's circle at a faster rate than all but 6 other golfers in that group--Ji-Yai Shin, Ya Ni Tseng, Stacy Lewis, Inbee Park, Ai Miyazato, and Na Yeon Choi--while only 2 others (Paula Creamer and Na Yeon Choi) win at a rate of 4% or better.  That's pretty good company!

Shanshan Feng, after beating Stacy Lewis with a walkoff eagle in the 1st-ever LPGA event in mainland China a couple of Sundays ago, finished 2nd to Thompson yesterday.  As a result, she smashed through the $3M mark in career winnings and leaped into the #13 spot in my rankings, one spot ahead of Morgan Pressel and one behind Anna Nordqvist.

I explain my ranking system in my "Best of the Tseng Dynasty" post, but in a nutshell each major is worth 100 points, each win is worth 40 points, each percentage point in winning rate is worth 32 points, each in top-3 rate is worth 16, each in top-10 rate is worth 8, each in top-20 rate is worth 4, and each in finish rate (no MC, DQ, or WD) is worth 1, while each $100 of winnings per start and finish is worth 1 point, as well.

Here's the top 50--compare it to where they stood about 2 months ago!

Simply the Best
1. Ya Ni Tseng (3960)

The Contenders
2. Ji-Yai Shin (3402)
3. Na Yeon Choi (2859)
4. Paula Creamer (2731)
5. Inbee Park (2729)
6. Stacy Lewis (2681)
7. So Yeon Ryu (2510)

The Next Best
8. Ai Miyazato (2244)
9. In-Kyung Kim (1776)
10. Lexi Thompson (1671)

Quantum Leap Candidates
11. Brittany Lincicome (1497)
12. Anna Nordqvist (1452)
13. Shanshan Feng (1404)
14. Morgan Pressel (1367)
15. Michelle Wie (1331)
16. Mika Miyazato (1248)
17. Song-Hee Kim (1226)
18. Seon Hwa Lee (1224)
19. Hee Young Park (1206)
20. Hee Kyung Seo (1193)
21. Beatriz Recari (1179)
22. Azahara Munoz (1130)
23. Amy Yang (1102)
24. Sun Young Yoo (1044)
25. Eun-Hee Ji (1036)
26. Jee Young Lee (1017)

The Best of the Rest
27. Lizette Salas (985)
28. Brittany Lang (948)
29. Caroline Hedwall (907)
30. Jessica Korda (896)
31. Meena Lee (857)
32. Carlota Ciganda (799)
33. Momoko Ueda (765)
34. Julieta Granada (760)
35. Chella Choi (735)
36. Ilhee Lee (730)
37. Sandra Gal (718)
38. Caroline Masson (696)
39. Jennifer Johnson (679)
40. Jodi Ewart Shadoff (672)
T41. Chie Arimura, Jenny Shin (650)
43. Gerina Piller (624)
44. Ayako Uehara (615)
45. Ji Young Oh (614)
46. Kristy McPherson (607)
47. Mi Jung Hur (584)
48. Haeji Kang (545)
49. Pornanong Phatlum (527)
50. Vicky Hurst (525)

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia Sunday: Lexi Thompson Wins!

Lexi Thompson fired her 4th-straight round in the 60s to win the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia by 4 shots over last week's winner Shanshan Feng.  After a slow start that included her 1st bogey in 34 holes and no birdies on the front, Thompson stood at -16 on the 10th tee, with a 2-shot lead on Ilhee Lee and a 3-shot lead on Feng (Suzann Pettersen had doubled the same hole Thompson bogeyed and also failed to make a birdie on the front).

But 3 holes and 3 birdies later and Thompson's lead was insurmountable.  She actually got it to -20 for the week with a birdie on the par-5 16th, at which point she was 6-up on Feng and 7-up on Lee.  In the end, Pettersen caught Lee at -12 with a 4-birdie burst on the back, while Amy Yang fired a 66 to become the 5th and final player to get to double digits under par.  Tying Yang for low round of the day were Sandra Gal (-8, T6 with Stacy Lewis, Beatriz Recari, Chella Choi, Karine Icher, and Alison Walshe) and Na Yeon Choi (for whom it was her 3rd-straight round in the 60s after opening with a disastrous 76).  Speaking of disasters, Ya Ni Tseng (81), Cristie Kerr (80), Caroline Masson (77), and Brittany Lang (76) will have to forget this Sunday as quickly as possible.

But for Lexi Thompson, this will be a week to remember.  She beat fellow teen sensations Charley Hull and Mamiko Higa by 23 and 18 shots, respectively.  Much more important, she beat the 3 hottest players on the planet by 4, 7, and 11 shots.  Finally her putting was on par with her ball-striking--she never took more than 30 putts in any single round, and only took 30 once, today.  On a short course that I thought favored precision players, Thompson beat Paula Creamer by 13 shots, In-Kyung Kim by 14, Ji-Yai Shin by 17, Ai Miyazato by 19, and Mika Miyazato by 20.

All I can say is WOW!  This is the kind of win that can kick-start a truly great run of golf.  Let's see if Lexi can keep it going next week in Korea against KLPGA young guns like Hyo Joo Kim, Ha Na Jang, and In Gee Chun, not to mention stars like Ha Neul Kim and Soo Jin Yang.  And don't look now, but Grace Park will be taking a final curtain call, too!

[Update 1 (12:35 pm):  Here's Brent Kelley and Golf Babes on Lexi's victory.  You think it's a coincidence that it comes the same week Lydia Ko petitioned the LPGA to waive its age minimum for membership?]