For just a little while during moving day at the HSBC Women's Champions, it looked like Karrie Webb and Angela Stanford were opening the door to a charging Azahara Munoz (who made 2 birdies and an eagle on her way to a bogey-free 32 on the front that brought her to -7), Paula Creamer (who opened with a bogey-free 33 to join Munoz), and Teresa Lu (whose opening 2-birdie 35 also pulled her to -7).
Webb opened with 9 straight pars to stay at -9, while Stanford offset birdies on 1 and 7 with bogeys on 3 and 6 to remain at -7. Even Suzann Pettersen, whose bogey-free 33 got her to -6, Na Yeon Choi, whose eagle on the par-5 7th got her to -5, and Caroline Hedwall, who birdied 7 and 8 to join Choi at -5, must have been feeling like the tournament was becoming a free-for-all. Webb's bogey on the par-4 10th to drop her to -8 must have smelled like blood on the water to her hungry lead chase pack. Munoz tied her for the lead when she birdied the par-5 12th and Pettersen pulled within 1 when she birdied the par-4 13th.
But that's when the veterans turned it on, each birdieing the same 3 of the last 5 holes they played, even as most everyone else stumbled home down the stretch. When the dust had settled, Webb had salvaged a 70 that brought her to -11, Stanford had broken 70 for the 3rd straight round and was only 1 back, Munoz had bogeyed 13 and birdied 14 to stay at -8 on the strength of a great 67, Lu had recovered from another bogey on the 12th to birdie 2 of her last 5 holes and join Munoz 3 shots behind Webb, Creamer had offset her 3 birdies on the back with 3 bogeys to stay at -7, and Morgan Pressel had charged past everyone else with a 3-birdie 34 on the back that brought her to -6, even as Pettersen fell to -5 and Choi and Hedwall to -4.
There were other good rounds from lower down the leaderboard--Brittany Lang's 5-birdie 68 brought her to -1, Sandra Gal's 5-birdie 68 helped her fight back to +3, and Chella Choi's and Michelle Wie's 4-birdie 69s got them to -3, while Mika Miyazato's and Pornanong Phatlum's 69s got them to +1, Ilhee Lee's to +2, and Jennifer Johnson's to +6--but given the way Webb and Stanford have been playing over the last 54 holes, and how many other golfers are ahead of them, it's likely to be too little, too late, even if they play even better tomorrow. I'll bet Stacy Lewis, whose top-10 streak is looking less and less likely to continue after a 73 today dropped her to +4, is wishing she hadn't moved further backwards today. Same goes, no doubt, for Ai Miyazato (79), Danielle Kang (79), Moriya Jutanugarn (78), Ya Ni Tseng (74), and Shanshan Feng (74). Just got to hang on to fight another day, I suppose!
So let's see if Webb and Stanford can continue to separate themselves from the field tomorrow or whether they'll open the door for real!