I'm Stunned, Just Stunned. First by Sakura Yokomine and Ai Miyazato's unbelievable comeback from being 6 down with 7 holes to play against Katherine Kirk and Lindsey Wright. I'm speechless. Kirk and Wright made 5 birdies in their 1st 7 holes as a team and looked unbeatable, as Yokomine missed a makeable putt on 11, failing to match the Aussies' 6th team birdie of the day. What I didn't know from the tv coverage was that right after Yokomine made her 2nd birdie of the day on the 12th, the Aussies were put on the clock. And from then on things went all Team Japan's way. I'm sure you'll see the highlights. Make a point to!
Next I'm stunned by how great Mika Miyazato and Mamiko Higa are playing this week. That halve they got against Anna Nordqvist and Caroline Hedwall yesterday is looking even better after the Vikings threw 2 eagles and 5 team birdies against Inbee Park and So Yeon Ryu, who made an eagle and 5 team birdies of their own to lose by a single hole to Team Sweden after fighting hard to extend the match to the 18th hole. So what do Mikan and Mamiko do for an encore? They get off to another quick start, this time against Hall of Famer Karrie Webb and world #1 amateur Minjee Lee, making 3 team birdies in their 1st 5 holes to race out from a 1-down deficit after 2 holes to being 2-up after 6. This time it was Higa carrying the team early on (although Mikan matched 2 of her birdies), and she didn't cool off after that, making 3 more birdies in her next 11 holes (although Mikan also matched 2 of hers late in the day, too!).
No Rest for the Weary. So what's the reward for the M & M pair from Okinawa on day 3? They get to take on Inbee Park and So Yeon Ryu! I'll bet they see it as a chance to get a hat trick in pool play.... If they can pull off yet another upset, they'll be in the running for top points-getters in pool play with their own teammates, with the Jutanugarn sisters, and with Sweden's Vikings, who square off against Webb and Lee in another epic battle.
Speaking of Epic Battles.... As intense as the Nordqvist-Hedwall defeat of Park-Ryu was, can you believe that Na Yeon Choi and In-Kyung Kim shot a 61 and Pernilla Lindberg and Mikaela Parmlid shot a 62?! NYC birdied 6 of her 1st 10 holes, but when she made her 7th of the day on the 13th hole, it only brought her and Inky back to 1-up, because the nearly-6-months-pregnant Parmlid had just gone birdie-birdie-eagle to start the back to go with her 3 birdies on the front! And then it was Inky's turn to shine, as she sunk pressure birdie putts after Parmlid had made yet another birdie on 15 and Lindberg had just missed a hole in 1 on 17. Plus she made the tough par save to halve the 18th and secure 2 points for Team Korea.
So NYC and Inky will be flying high as they enter the arena with Yokomine and Ai-sama tomorrow. And Lindberg and Parmlid have to be feeling as good about their loss as Kirk and Wright are feeling bad about their halve, so Pool B is going to be epic tomorrow all the way down. Even though Japan is leading the pool after 2 days of play, they could still end up in a playoff with the 3rd-place finisher from Pool A to make it into Sunday's singles matches if they get shut out by Team ROK and if either Australia or Sweden wins both their matches tomorrow. If they are able to only halve 1 match, there's a chance that 3 teams could tie with 7 points (again, only if someone sweeps tomorrow's Australia-Sweden matches). If they win even a single match, they'll win their pool. And if they win both, Korea would be eliminated if Australia and Sweden each win a match or halve both their matches! Do you see what I mean about Pool B being a pool of death?
So What's Pool A, Chopped Liver? Not in the slightest. Even though on Wednesday night I figured Team USA would dominate the pool and Thursday night that Team Taiwan would, what we have tomorrow is an even more volatile situation than in Pool B. With Team USA and Team Thailand sweeping their matches today, only 2 points separate the 1st- (Thailand) and last-place (Spain) teams in the pool of, shall we say, the undead. With Onnarin Sattayabanphot making as great a putt on the 18th as Ya Ni Tseng made yesterday for the win to secure the 1-up victory for her and Pornanong Phatlum, who played great team golf, and with Moriya Jutanugarn continuing to impress (she made 5 birdies in her and her sister's takedown of yesterday's heroes for Team Taiwan, Teresa Lu and Candie Kung), the #4-ranked team's confidence has to be rising as they face off against Team USA, who themselves showed a lot of grit in beating yesterday's top team in the pool in both matches.
Cristie Kerr made 3 birdies, but was overshadowed by teammate Lexi Thompson's 4 birdies and an awe-inspiring eagle on the short par-5 12th, as they defeated Beatriz Recari and Belen Mozo, 3&2. And while Paula Creamer made 3 birdies in her 1st 12 holes and partner Stacy Lewis made 4, it was stumbles on 7 and 9 by Azahara Munoz and Carlota Ciganda that helped the Americans go 3-up with 4 holes to play. Yet just as Recari and Mozo didn't go down without a late charge, Munoz birdied 15 and 17 to force the match to the final hole and keep their hopes for a halve alive. But
Sizing Up Pool A, Redux. By the time the Jutanugarns face off against Kerr and Thompson and Phatlum-Sattayabanphot against Lewis-Creamer, we'll know the results of Spain and Taiwan's showdowns. Problem is, I have no idea how those matches will go. I've been pretty much right about Spain this week and totally wrong twice about Taiwan. On paper, Munoz and Ciganda have a pretty decent advantage over Tseng and Yao, while Lu and Kung may have a small one over Recari and Mozo, but the most I'll say is that I expect both matches to be very very close. In fact, I expect a photo finish in all 4 lanes.... Team USA could finish 1st or last in this pool. The key is not to let down after clawing their way back into this event!
[Update 1 (9:14 am): Thanks to my anonymous commenter for catching my error (now fixed), and to Ruthless Mike for exploring the mysteries of match-play pay back!]
[Update 2 (9:21 am): Here's bangkokbobby, who's just a little bit excited about Thailand's play this week!]