Friday, February 21, 2014

Honda LPGA Thailand Friday: Anna Nordqvist Maintains Lead as Most of Field Falters

On a day when the Pattaya Old Course was showing its teeth, Azahara Munoz and Julieta Granada made big moves up the leaderboard of the Honda LPGA Thailand thanks to fine 68s, but it wasn't enough to catch 1st-round leader Anna Nordqvist, who shot a 72 and stayed at -6.  Heading into the weekend, Nordqvist has a 1-shot lead on Munoz, Granada, and Sandra Gal, a 2-shot lead on Stacy Lewis and Michelle Wie, and a 3-shot lead on Karrie Webb, So Yeon Ryu, Angela Stanford, and Jennifer Johnson.  World #1 Inbee Park and #2 Suzann Pettersen are part of a large group at -2 that includes Lydia Ko, Lexi Thompson, and Caroline Hedwall.

But if the tournament's 1st 36 holes have shown us anything, it's that no lead is safe.  It's hard to recall a span on the LPGA with more eagles and more double bogeys.  This early in the season, we're seeing a heck of a lot more bogey trains than birdie trains.  And it's happening to really good golfers who have been playing really good golf lately.  Remember how Jessica Korda won the season-opener in the Bahamas?  Well, she went +5 during a 4-hole stretch on the back (her front) and ended up with a 77 that dropped her to +7/T56.  And she isn't alone there.  Remember how hot Amy Yang was at the end of 2013?  She's tied with Korda after firing a birdieless 77.  Paula Creamer?  Also a 77.  And that's after starting her day birdie-birdie to get to -2.  4 bogeys and 2 doubles later and she's +5 for the week.  Hee Young Park was -3 with 8 holes left to play, then went bogey-par-bogey-double-double-bogey; at least a birdie on 17 brought The Rocket back to +3 for the week.  Lydia Ko was -4 and bogey-free but finished bogey-bogey-par to settle for a 70.  So Yeon Ryu got off to the exact same great start and was challenging Nordqvist for the lead on the back 9, but doubled 14 and bogeyed 15 and 16 to fall back to -3.  Heck, Nordqvist herself bogeyed 2 of her last 3 holes to open the door to the field.

That's just a sampling of today's carnage, but it should be enough to help us understand just how good the 69s today by Stacy Lewis, Brittany Lang, and Mariajo Uribe really were.  And appreciate the 70s from Sandra Gal, Karrie Webb, Lydia Ko, Jenny Shin (she birdied her last 4 holes in a row to do it!), Thidapa Suwannapura, Ai Miyazato, and Karine Icher.  (Although isn't it odd how many of them needed eagles to get there?)  When it doesn't take long to name the only other players to get under par today--Inbee Park, Catriona Matthew, Mamiko Higa, Moriya Jutanugarn, and Meena Lee--you know it was a tough day out there!

So let's see what happens over the next 36 holes....

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