Sunday, August 31, 2014

Portland Classic Saturday: Suzann Pettersen, Carlota Ciganda, and Mi Jung Hur Pass In-Kyung Kim

Portland Classic 1st- and 2nd-round leader In-Kyung Kim was -13 after 7 holes on moving day, but all she did the rest of the way was move backwards, as she didn't make a birdie the rest of the way and made 3 bogeys in her last 8 holes.  Although she drove the ball great, Inky missed more greens on Saturday than on any previous day and took 33 putts (as opposed to 26 and 27 the 1st 2 days).  As a result, she got passed by a trio of golfers, caught by a couple more, and opened the door to 26 golfers within 5 shots of the lead at -11 held by Suzann Pettersen, Carlota Ciganda, and Mi Jung Hur.

Pettersen rose to the top of the leaderboard on the strength of her 2nd-straight 67.  This one was sparked by an eagle on the par-5 5th; after bogeying the 6th, she bounced back with 4 birdies over her last 12 holes of bogey-free golf, including 2 in a row on 16 and 17.  Her ball-striking hasn't been as great as we've become accustomed to from her, as she's never hit double digits in fairways and until yesterday was missing many more greens and ending up in many more traps than usual, but she's been scrambling wonderfully (5 of 7 in sand saves, never more than 29 putts in a round) and has been sinking loads of birdie putts.  16 birdies (plus that 1 eagle) and counting will be hard to beat if she can keep the pedal to the metal and minimize her mistakes today.

Ciganda had a chance to take the lead by herself into the final round, but her walkoff bogey dropped her back to -11.  Her driving accuracy and greens in regulation went way down yesterday, but she continued to putt and scramble well, making 4 birdies in the middle of the round to more than offset the bogeys that practically bookended it.  She's 4 for 5 in sand saves this week and has never taken more than 30 putts in a round.  If she can keep bombing it out there and add to her total of 16 birdies this week, her 1st LPGA victory is right around the corner.

Hur beat Pettersen and Michele Redman in a playoff here in 2009 for her only LPGA victory to date, so she has great memories of Portland to build on.  She had birdied 3 holes in a row to move to -12 at precisely the point Inky has gotten to -13, but couldn't birdie the par-5 10th, broke her 37-hole bogey-free run on the par-5 12th, bounced back with a birdie on the par-3 13th, but succumbed to the par-4 15th with her last bogey of the day.  Overall, she's made 15 birdies thanks to a super-hot putter; she took 25 and 24 putts the last 2 rounds.  But unless she can straighten out her driver today, it's going to be hard to keep pace with everyone else at or near the top of the leaderboard.  8 fairways and 8 greens in regulation on moving day will not cut it during the final round.

Catching Inky at -10 were last week's CP Women's Open winner So Yeon Ryu and rookie Xi Yu Lin.  Ryu got off on the wrong foot yesterday, bogeying the 3rd and 4th holes, but bounced back with 3 birdies in a row and all pars the rest of the way except for her last birdie of the day on the 15th.  Although she's not quite as hot as she was last week, Ryu is certainly playing well enough to get her 2nd victory in a row today.  Lin bookended her 4 birdies between the 3rd and 11th holes with bogeys on 1 and 15.  She's hit 1 fewer fairway, 1 fewer green, and made 1 fewer birdie each day from her 1st to 2nd to 3rd rounds, but she's also taken 1 fewer putt.  If she can continue the latter pattern while improving her ballstriking, Lin could well become the 3rd rookie to win on the LPGA this year, after Lydia Ko and Mirim Lee.

But the 5 players double digits under par also have 21 players right behind them who could drop a 65 or better on the field and put pressure on them as leaders in the clubhouse.  Moving day didn't give up as many super-low rounds as the previous 2, but there were plenty of golfers who gave a taste of what might happen later today.  Joining Portland's -7 Club yesterday was Hee Young Park, who rocketed up the leaderboard with 8 birdies and no bogeys over her last 14 holes to move within 5 of the tri-leaders.  A bogey on the par-4 4th was the only thing that kept Mariajo Uribe from matching The Rocket's mark, but her 66 pulled the Colombian 2 shots behind Pettersen, Ciganda, and Hur.  Eun-Hee Ji (-9), Ilhee Lee (-6), and Brianna Do (-6) all kept pace with Pettersen's 67, while Lizette Salas (-7) and Marina Alex (-5) put together the only 68s of the day.

So while all the LPGA's Royals except Anna Nordqvist moved up the leaderboard--Pettersen (T1), Ryu (T4), Chella Choi (T12, -8), Na Yeon Choi (T14, -7), Shanshan Feng (T17, -6) all have good chances of winning--they are still wildly outnumbered by the Rebel Alliance.  I'd love to see Mina Harigae (-8) and Tiffany Joh (-6) have a great Sunday.  Harigae salvaged a 72 yesterday by going -2 and bogey-free over her last 7 holes, while T-Joh did the same with a bogey-free 34 on the back.  I'll also be rooting for Ai Miyazato (-4 over her last 14 holes after starting par-bogey-bogey-double) and Mika Miyazato (4 birdies between #5 and #12 after bogeying the par-3 2nd).  They're the only players not named Suzann Pettersen to win here in the last 4 years.  Unfortunately, they won't be paired together, but Hur and Pettersen will get to reprise their 2009 showdown today!

No comments: