Friday, September 19, 2014

Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic Friday: Paula Reto Goes Low Again, Takes 4-Shot Lead on Stacy Lewis

Paula Reto followed up yesterday's bogey-free 65 at the Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic with a 66 today that was sparked by 5 birdies in her last 7 holes.  When you look at her performance stats--averaging 275 yards off the tee, only 4 missed fairways and 4 missed greens, only 56 putts, and 15 birdies over her 1st 36 holes--you can see why so far she's left the field in the dust.  Even world #1 Stacy Lewis, who's no slouch in the birdies department with 13 already thus week, is 4 shots behind her thanks to 2 early bogeys and 2 late ones.  1st-round co-leader with Lewis, Mi Jung Hur, is E through her 1st 6 holes and still -8 overall.  Nobody else on the course right now is closer than 8 behind Reto's pace.

Looking over Reto's performance stats in this her rookie year, it's looking like improved accuracy, both off the tee and with her approaches, is the key factor.  It stands to reason that more and better looks at birdies will lead to more of them, but to improve from 2.76 birdies per round over the course of 46 previous rounds to 7.50 over these 2 means that the South African golfer is making way more of her birdie opportunities.  It's doubtful she can sustain that pace over the next 36 holes, but you never know.  Robert Trent Jones courses are set up to give you a lot of birdie opportunities if you're hitting the ball long and straight and making good clubbing selections to the correct parts of the gigantic green complexes.

For now, though, let's see who can make a move on Reto from the afternoon wave--if anyone.  There aren't that many hot starts out there right now!  More later!

[Update 1 (3:38 pm):  Looking ahead again just for a moment, Reto had the best finish of her LPGA career in her last event; with 3 rounds in the 60s, she got a top 10 in Portland.  But moving day was tough on her, as she shot a 74.  Let's see how she handles it this week!]

[Update 2 (8:48 pm):  Hur ended up getting to -10 and solo 2nd.  Nice to see Sydnee Michaels putting together a sweet 65 that included 5 birdies in her last 7 holes to move to T4 at -7 with Moriya Jutanugarn (69) and Alison Walshe (68).  But what made me even happier was Ai Miyazato's 67, which shows yet again what she's capable of when she gets her putter going!  At the same time, I felt bad for Ayako Uehara, who got it to -8 with 5 holes to play but bogeyed 3 of them.  Feeling much worse, though, for Chie Arimura, who missed the cut by a single shot and will need to play great in the Mizuno to have a chance to get into the top 100 and avoid Q-School.  On the bright side, my buddy Moira Dunn made the cut with a 7-birdie 69 to keep her hopes of getting into the top 100 alive.  Nice 69 by Tiffany Joh, too!]

[Update 3 (9:10 pm):  Here's the rundown of those closest to #100:

90. Jaye Marie Green $88.4K (71-76, MC)
91. Kelly Tan $88.1K [not in Yokohama field]
92. Alison Walshe $85.4K (69-68, T4)
93. Lindsey Wright $84.7K (75-75, MC)
94. Kristy McPherson $83.9K (75-75, MC)
95. Ashleigh Simon $78.3K (72-77, MC)
96. Yueer Cindy Feng $77.6K (70-75, T64)
97. Alena Sharp $75.3K (72-74, T70)
98. Paz Echeverria $75.0K [not in Yokohama field]
99. Jee Young Lee $74.8K (74-75, MC)
100. Joanna Klatten $72.7K (69-74, T45)
101. Alejandra Llaneza $66.1K (71-79, MC)
102. Lisa McCloskey $66.0K (71-74, T64)
103. Chie Arimura $62.8K (75-72, MC)
104. Hee-Won Han $61.1K [retired]
105. Paula Reto $58.4K (65-66, 1st)
106. Becky Morgan $57.7K (72-69, T28)
107. Paola Moreno $57.0K (73-71, T55)
108. Rebecca Lee-Bentham $51.9K (72-75, MC)
109. Jennifer Kirby $51.7K (74-76, MC)
110. Felicity Johnson $50.8K (71-78, MC)

One way of looking at this is that only 4 players have a good chance of leapfrogging those already in the top 100 this week.  But lower down the money list, Jacqui Concolino, Giulia Molinaro, Karin Sjodin, Jane Rah, Stacey Keating, Perrine Delacour, Kathleen Ekey, Cydney Clanton, Louise Friberg, Julia Boland, Heather Bowie Young, and Hanna Kang are under par at the halfway point, while Jenny Suh, Sandra Changkija, Moira Dunn, Ryann O'Toole, Brianna Do, and Reilley Rankin made the cut.  Of course, the further down the money list you are, the higher you have to finish, so the pressure's really on these 18 players this weekend.  But at least their fate is in their hands!]

[Update 4 (9:18 pm):  Hard to believe it's even possible for Lexi to shoot 44 on the front at a place she won not so long ago, but it happened and she's done for the week.  Cristie Kerr would have missed the cut thanks to missed 8-foot par save on 18, but the cut line came down to her at +2.  Julieta Granada also survived despite taking 37 putts today!]

[Update 5 (9:22 pm):  Caroline Westrup had a fine 67 to tie Ai-sama for the 3rd-best round of the day.  Reto has had the 2nd-best score each of the 1st 2 days.  She keeps that up and she wins.]

[Update 6 (9:30 pm):  Lots of my non-Japanese faves having good weeks, too:  Jane Park (-6), Mina Harigae (-3), Tiffany Joh (-2), even Jennifer Song (+1)!]

[Update 7 (9:38 pm):  And let's not count out Brittany Lincicome (-5) and Angela Stanford (68-->E)!]

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