Sunday, April 27, 2014

Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic Saturday: Can Anyone Crash the Stacy Lewis-Lydia Ko Showdown at Lake Merced?

There's a major-like feel at the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic in only its 1st playing, as Lake Merced exacted its revenge on all but a dozen golfers or so on moving day, leaving the stage virtually all alone for a Stacy Lewis-Lydia Ko Sunday showdown.  Consider the carnage:
  • Suzann Pettersen, who had been hanging so tough during her comeback from an unexpected month off from competition due to a back injury, hit only half her fairways and greens and was 0 for 4 from the sand as her 79 sent her from -2 and in the hunt to +5 and T40.
  • Mika Miyazato, who was in the mix for the 1st time in forever, hit only 6 greens and went 2 for 5 from the sand on her way to a 77 that dropped her to +2 and T22.
  • Na Yeon Choi, Morgan Pressel, Ai Miyazato, and Lizette Salas all failed to break 77 as bad weeks went worse.
  • 2-time winners Karrie Webb (+3, T30) and Anna Nordqvist (+2, T22) continued to struggle to break par--it hasn't happened this week for either one of them!  Nor has Paula Creamer in 3 tries.  Michelle Wie bucked the trend and became the only 2014 LPGA winner to do it the entire week--and as great as she's been playing this season, it was only a 71.
So for Lewis to be -10 after a bogey-free 68, for Ko to be -9 after a 5-birdie 68, for them to be several shots ahead of Jenny Shin (who fired a 6-birdie 68) and Hee Young Park (who put together a bogey-free 68) and even more shots clear of Shanshan Feng (yup, another 68, but this one had 2 eagles and 2 birdies in it!), P.K. Kongkraphan (also -4 after a 70), and Karine Icher (the only player disappointed to be at -4 after a 73 yesterday)--all that really means something.  (Heck, Geoff Shackelford even wrote a non-snarky post about women's golf on his blog!)

Today should be a real treat.  Either Lewis and Ko are going to continue playing at the level they've been playing, in which case we'll have a real shootout or battle of attrition on our hands, or one or both of them will forget how to walk on water and this will become a free-for-all.  Because those who have faltered have tended to plummet down the leaderboard at Lake Merced (cf. world #1 Inbee Park, who needed a bogey-free 34 on the back yesterday to arrest her plunge, and KLPGA 2013 Rookie of the Year Hyo Joo Kim, who has battled to be only +1 over her last 36 holes, but is stuck with Park 8 shots off the pace set by Lewis), the pressure is really on Lewis and Ko today.

Let's see how they handle it!

[Update 1 (4/27/14, 12:21 pm):  With 18-year-old Kyu Jung Baek winning on the KLPGA, 21-year-old Phoebe Yao winning on the JLPGA, and 18-year-old Yueer Cindy Feng holding a 3-shot lead with 17 holes to go on the Symetra Tour, wouldn't it be neat if Lydia Ko kept the youth movement going?  She wouldn't be the youngest winner in the last couple of weeks--that honor goes to Minami Katsu--but she'd be the 2nd-youngest!]

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