Saturday, March 29, 2014

Kia Classic Saturday: Cristie Kerr and Lizette Salas Last Leaders Standing on Strange Moving Day

There's something about the Aviara Golf Club this year at the Kia Classic:  it seems to let players soar for awhile and then sends them crashing down the leaderboard.

Dori Carter got to -12 with 2 to play yesterday and ended the day at -1; twice today she got to -11, but then she ran into trouble in the very same stretch she birdied 5 holes in a row the day before, bogeying 4 of her 1st 6 holes on the back.  Yet she finished birdie-par-par to salvage a 74 and is still right in the mix at -8.

Carter can thank Stacy Lewis for that gift.  Even as Carter was stumbling, Lewis was cruising, with a 15-hole bogey-free streak that started on Friday and got her to double digits under par with 5 holes left to play.  The question seemed to be, how low could Stacy go?  Instead, the question was, "how bad will Stacy finish?"  She bogeyed 14, 17, and 18 to drop back to -7 for the week.

Carter can also thank Lexi Thompson.  After bogeying her 1st 2 holes in a row today, Thompson responded with 3 pairs of consecutive birdies over the next 9 holes and was poised to go lower than -9 over her last 7 holes.  Instead, she failed to make a birdie the rest of the way and played those holes in +2.

Anna Nordqvist was also an enabler for the rest of the field.  After birdieing 4 holes in a row right off the bat and getting her 5th on the par-5 8th and 6th on the par-4 13th, she was -9 and rising.  So of course she played the last 5 holes in +1 and didn't make a birdie the rest of the way.

Heck, even a player you wouldn't necessarily to be hanging with the top players in the world had it going on for the 1st two-thirds of her round, but Tiffany Joh finished +4 in her last 6 holes right after getting to -8.  Another victim of Aviara Syndrome (or should it be Icarus Syndrome?).

In fact, the only players ahead of Carter are your co-leaders, Cristie Kerr and Lizette Salas.  But even they politely held the door open for the rest of the field, as Kerr was -11 with 8 holes to play and made 2 bogeys to more than offset her 1 birdie coming home and Salas was -10 with 4 to go and stayed there after bogeying the par-4 15th and birdieing the par-5 17th.  That may not sound that bad, but after a 50-hole bogey-free run to start the tournament, the 15th was Salas's 1st blemish of the week.

The perils of the leaders allowed those who avoided them to make huge moves up the leaderboard.  Ayako Uehara fired a bogey-free 67 and Shanshan Feng a 5-birdie 69 that included a 4-hole birdie train as she made the turn to join Carter and Nordqvist at -8.  Eun-Hee Ji's bogey-free 65 got her all the way to -7, right with Lewis, Thompson, and Chella Choi, who hung in there for a 70 that kept her 3 shots off the pace set by Kerr and Salas.  P.K. Kongkraphan also shot a bogey-free 65, which as sparked by a birdie-birdie-hole in 1 start.  At -6, she's tied with Karrie Webb (67), Azahara Munoz (69), Julieta Granada (70), and Ashleight Simon (70).  Even Mo Martin, who fired a bogey-free 67 to join Se Ri Pak (71), Paula Creamer (72), and Mariajo Uribe (73) at -5, isn't quite out of this thing just yet.

In fact, Webb probably feels that she's perfectly positioned for yet another huge come-from-behind victory in 2014.  If Salas can make it 4 rounds in a row in the 60s, however, that's going to be a tall order.  Basically nobody else has done it, although after terrible starts Hee Young Park has gone 68-68 and Jennifer Song has gone 69-69--not quite as impressive as Webb's 68-67--but not half bad.  Most likely, the winner tomorrow will go low early and blast past the leaders.  Unless Kerr figures out how to putt like herself again.

Let's just wait and see what happens--it should be good!


diane said...

Having spent what I would call quality time with Dori Carter, I am "pleased as punch" she's hanging in there this week. During the time we walked together she demonstrated a pretty good short game. I'm hoping her putter comes back to life tomorrow.

The Constructivist said...

Tony Jesselli pointed out there's a history of 1st-time winners here! Let's see!