Friday, October 31, 2008

Hana Bank/KOLON Championship Friday: Trick or Treat

They're off at the Hana Bank/KOLON Championship and it's looking like the move from tropical Hainan Island to brisk Incheon is already taking its toll on the LPGA's finest. 2007 Rookie of the Year Angela Park has opened with a birdie-less 40 on the back. 2006 ROY Seon Hwa Lee is +3 through 7 and struggling to get off a 3-hole bogey train. And 2008 ROY contender Na Yeon Choi (whom I picked to win this thing!) just got off a similar train but is also +3 through 7. Paula Creamer, Suzann Pettersen, and Morgan Pressel are all over par early in their rounds, as well. But LPGA rookie and LET standout Amy Yang is making a bid to avoid Q-School with 5 birdies in her 1st 11 holes and stands alone at -5 through 13. Katherine Hull is also playing bogey-free golf, at -3 through her 1st 7 holes. More soon!

[Update 1 (12:45 am): Now In-Kyung Kim birdied the par-5 9th to open with a 34. Hull finished the front with a 33. Contrast that with 39s for Lee and Choi... (Yes, the leaderboard updates quite erratically.) BTW, the KLPGA stars aren't exempt from big numbers, either: Ji-Yai Shin, Hee Kyung Seo, and Hye Jung Choi are all off to +2 starts.]

[Update 2 (1:07 am): Yikes, Pettersen opened with a birdie-less 40 on the front! By contrast, Ji-Yai Shin birdied her last 3 holes on the front to battle back to a 36. And Hee Kyung Seo has started a little 2-hole birdie train to begin the back and join the 29 golfers at par or better thus far. Junior Mint Allison Fouch has a chance to close her round with a 4-hole birdie train as she plays the 18th....]

[Update 3 (1:21 am): I follow the KLPGA a little more closely than the average bear, but I have to admit to not having heard of the leader in the clubhouse, Chae Young Yoon, whose birdie on the 9th gave her a 69 and put her only 1 shot behind Amy Yang, who just bogeyed the par-5 14th to give new hope to In-Kyung Kim (who's started a little birdie train of her own on the 12th and 13th). Katherine Hull was chugging right along until she bogeyed the par-4 11th and got caught by Hee Kyung Seo, now on a 4-hole birdie train--they're only 2 behind Yang.]

[Update 4 (1:28 am): Don't look now, but Helen Alfredsson is making a little run of her own with consecutive birdies on the 12th and 13th to fight back to E. That's where Fouch ended up when her birdie train came to an end on the 18th. A late double bogey by Sun Ju Ahn on the par-4 7th derailed her round and lead to an opening 74. But she's in very good company at +2 thus far--too many big names to list, so I'll just name 1, Brittany Lang, whose lone birdie on the par-4 15th got her there.]

[Update 5 (1:51 am): Ouch! Poor Ha-Neul Kim, who followed up a bogey on the par-3 3rd with a triple on the par-4 7th, but salvaged a 73 with a walk-off birdie on the 9th. Nice little charge by Karen Stupples, though; she's got a 2-hole birdie train going with 2 holes to go on that same side and at -3 is only 1 behind Yang.]

[Update 6 (2:10 am): Aaargh! Yang got back to -5 with a birdie on the par-5 16th, but gave it right back on the very next hole with her 2nd bogey of the day and then dropped into a tie for the lead with Yoon when she also bogeyed the par-4 18th. She had a real chance to put some distance between herself and the field, but still will be one of the few players to break 70 today. Kim will need to keep playing well to stay on a sub-70 pace. Stupples couldn't sustain it, as a walk-off bogey on the 9th dropped her to -2. Christina Kim needed her 3rd birdie in a row on the 18th to break 70, but couldn't get it. The KLPGA's Ji-Na Lim fired a bogey-free 70 to match Kim's achievement. So Yang should still be proud of her round. But Katherine Hull just birdied the 13th and 14th to get to -4; if she can play the last 3 holes solidly, she'll have stolen Yang's thunder!]

[Update 7 (2:24 am): Nothing illustrates the changing of the guard among the top Korean players this season like recent events in this round. Mi Hyun Kim, who's coming back very slowly from off-season knee surgery and planning a humongous wedding, battled to -1 through 11 but then proceeded to get on a 3-hole bogey train to join new mom Hee-Won Han at +2. Meanwhile, Hall of Famer Se Ri Pak and close-but-no-cigar-wrist-wrapped Jeong Jang are battling to stay at E and -1, respectively. But Hee Kyung Seo continues to impress at -2 and Ji-Yai Shin is now -1, while Inbee Park and Song-Hee Kim are fighting to join Hee Young Park at E. Na Yeon Choi has fought back to +1 and Seon Hwa Lee to +2, along with Super Sophs Eun-Hee Ji and Ji Young Oh. They all have a few holes to go, so it's too soon to tell where they'll end up today. But one thing's for sure: the days when you could bank on top 10s from the Big 4 are starting to seem like the old days, indeed.]

[Update 8 (2:39 am): Got a little late correction on Teresa Lu's scorecard--she had been in for a long long time at 72, but it was actually a 71. Even with a double bogey on her very 1st hole, she bounced back with 2 birdies on the front and 2 in her last 3 holes. Minea Blomqvist joined her with 2 straight closing birdies on the front, which brings the Junior Mint total now at T11 to 3. And look who's making a bid to join or pass them: Alfredsson birdied the 16th and 17th and Pak the 15th to climb to -1. Meanwhile, Jang birdied the 7th and 8th to climb to T4 at -2. With In-Kyung Kim falling back there with a bogey on the 17th, and Hee-Won Han fighting back to +1 so far, maybe I was too hasty with my "changing of the guard" comments above!]

[Update 9 (2:43 am): Tough 77 for Angela Park, mitigated only by her lone birdie on the 9th, her final hole. Shanshan Feng's birdie-less 76 has to be even more disappointing--it's her 1st really bad round in a long time (and the only one besides her 77 in the 3rd round of the Longs Drugs since mid-August). Things aren't looking much better for Suzann Pettersen or Paula Creamer right now. Golf is cruel.]

[Update 10 (2:50 am): Eun-Hee Ji made a couple of birdies down the stretch on the front (her back) to salvage a 73, while Song-Hee Kim bogeyed the 9th to end up there. With Katherine Hull now -5 through 17, that's a lot of ground to make up in 36 holes. In-Kyung Kim fell back to a 70 in the end and Hee Kyung Seo to a 71, while Inbee Park and Helen Alfredsson joined Seo within striking distance of the leader.]

[Update 11 (2:55 am): Ji-Yai Shin got it to -2 through 14, but bogeyed the 15th to fall back to -1. If she and Se Ri Pak can make a move over their last 3 holes, this could be an even more interesting tournament. Mi Hun Kim sure made it interesting on the front: she only had 1 par on the side (on the 1st hole!), but birdied her last 2 to pull back to E for the tournament!]

[Update 12 (2:59 am): Well, Seon Hwa Lee joined Jee Young Lee at 74--disappointing starts, to be sure, but not as bad as they could have been, at least. That's 3 Junior Mints at 74. Contrast that with Hull's opening 66--which included 4 birdies in her last 6 holes--and you'll see why it's so hard to stay at the top on the LPGA.]

[Update 13 (3:03 am): Add Hee-Won Han to the list of those finishing at +1 (T30 so far).]

[Update 14 (3:27 am): Hold the phone! Yang didn't bogey 18, after all. So she's only 2 behind Hull heading into Saturday's round. It's Shin's turn to try to become the 4th player to break 70 today--all she needs is a birdie on the tough 18th that has eluded just about everyone else, Candie Kung included, stuck at -2. Surprise, surprise: it eluded her, too. Nice 71s for Pak and Lindley and good fight-back by Pressel for her 72. Creamer salvaged a 75, while Pettersen blew up to a 77. Wow.]

[Update 15 (10:32 am): Speaking of wow, Hound Dog reports that Eun-Hee Ji and Joo Mi Kim were disqualified and Angela Park and Ji Young Oh assessed 2-stroke penalties for accepting a ride between the 18th green and 1st tee when making the turn. See his post for the explanation and pithy overview!]

[Update 16 (11/1/08, 4:50 pm): Here are's notes and interviews.]

Hisako Higuchi IDC Otsuka Ladies Friday: Anything Goes

The big names are all over the place in the 1st round of the Hisako Higuchi IDC Otsuka Ladies JLPGA event this week. Consider the threesome of Mi-Jeong Jeon, Erina Hara, and Yuko Mitsuka, who have just completed the 15th hole. Mitsuka has made 5 birdies and 3 bogeys, Hara birdied the 2nd and has parred every other hole, while Jeon followed up a birdie on the third with a double bogey and 2 bogeys in the next 6 holes. That kind of volatility is showing up even within the same player's round. Keiko Sasaki made 6 birdies and had a bogey-free round, but only because she triple bogeyed the par-4 10th hole; still, she's the leader in the clubhouse at 69. Sakura Yokomine opened with a birdie, but followed up a quadruple bogey on the par-4 5th hole with a bogey on the 6th before rattling off 4 birdies between the 8th and 12th to claw her way back to E through 14. The upshot is that scoring conditions are challenging and anything can happen out on the course today. More soon!

[Update 1 (12:54 am): With her birdie on the par-3 15th, Yokomine is back below par for the 1st time since she was standing on the 5th tee. She joins a large group of players at T9 for now, even with Yui Kawahara and 1 behind Yayoi Arasaki, both of whom notched eagles on the back 9. There are a lot of big names showing similar fight on the back and making their way back from the depths. More on them next.]

[Update 2 (1:01 am): Maiko Wakabayashi came back from a double bogey on the par-4 6th to post a 72. Miho Koga is back to E after birdies on the 14th and 17th. Hiromi Mogi has done with same, thanks to birdies on the 11th and 16th, which matches Tamie Durdin's comeback from from double bogey and bogey at the turn. Ayako Uehara's birdie on the 14th has her E now with 2 holes to go.]

[Update 3 (1:14 am): Make that 3 birdies in her last 5 holes for Miho Koga--that's one gritty 71! Yuko Mitsuka and Erina Hara birdied the 18th, as well, the former to join Sasaki as co-leaders in the clubhouse, and the latter to secure a bogey-free 70. Playing partner Mi-Jeong Jeon, meanwhile, birdied the last 2 holes to salvage a 73 (T33 for now). And Mayu Hattori also birdied the 18th for her 70.]

[Update 4 (1:51 am): OK, the 1st round is complete in Japan and here are the top 10 and notables:

T1/-3 Mitsuka, Sasaki (69)
T3/-2 Hara, Hattori, Arasaki, Orie Fujino, Itsumi Okada, Yun-Joo Jeong (70)
T9/-1 Yokomine, Koga, Shinobu Moromizato, Yun-Jye Wei, Rui Kitada, Kawahara, Kurumi Dohi, Michie Ohba, Ji-Yeon Han, Na-Ri Lee, Nana Akahori (71)

T20/E Uehara, Mogi, Arimura, Nakata, Wakabayashi, Ji-Woo Lee, Durdin, Yuki Ichinose (72)
T36/+1 Jeon, Esther Lee, Nikki Campbell (73)
T46/+2 Hiroko Yamaguchi, Saiki Fujita (74)

T70/+4 Yukari Baba, Midori Yoneyama (76)
T82/+5 Akane Iijima (77)
T87/+6 Ritsuko Ryu (78)

With some huge names sitting this one out--from visiting LPGA stars Ai Miyazato and Momoko Ueda to future Class of '09ers Shiho Oyama and Miki Saiki, from money-list leaders Ji-Hee Lee and Akiko Fukushima to multiple winners Yuri Fudoh and Hyun-Ju Shin--the time is now for Mitsuka, Hara, Yokomine, Koga, Moromizato, Uehara, and Jeon to step up over the weekend. Who will do it? Stay tuned!]

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Hana Bank/KOLON Championship Preview/Pairings/Predictions

As Hound Dog's preview and the Seoul discussion thread suggest, we should expect the KLPGA players in the field at the 7th playing of the Hana Bank/KOLON Championship to more than hold their own. True, Golf Observer's historical results reflect the depth and strength of the LPGA, and on an ocean course with a lot of water and sand near the fairways and greens anything can happen, but I'm staking my chances on winning this season's Pakpicker on the KLPGA's young guns.

1. Choi Na Yeon
2. Shin Ji-Yai
3. Pettersen
4. Lee Seon Hwa
5. Creamer
6. Ahn Sun Ju
7. Ji Eun-Hee
8. Feng
9. Yang Amy
10. Kim Ha-Neul
11. Seo Hee Kyung
12. Ryu So Yeon

Alts: Lang, Jang, Stupples

The pairings are quite interesting. For one thing, Amy Yang shows up in them--off #1 at 9:33 am--but not in the field list! [Correction: Go-Kimmie-Go at Seoul points out that Amy's Korean name is Hee Young.] More important, they're going off 2 tees, unlike in China, which equalizes the scoring chances a bit more for everyone, but because the pairings get recomposed for the next round based on 1st-round scores, they introduce a little bit of potential unfairness in terms of early and late starts. Because great players are fairly randomly scattered around the course tomorrow, I'll list the top 7 pairings off each tee by my sense of the strength/momentum of the players in them.

1st Tee

Start Time: 10:50 AM
Paula Creamer
Morgan Pressel
Ji-Yai Shin

Start Time: 10:28 AM
Katherine Hull
Seon Hwa Lee
Na Yeon Choi

Start Time: 10:39 AM
Nicole Castrale
Se Ri Pak
Suzann Pettersen

Start Time: 10:17 AM
Inbee Park
Hee Kyung Seo
Helen Alfredsson

Start Time: 10:06 AM
Louise Friberg
Meena Lee
In-Kyung Kim

Start Time: 9:11 AM
Hye Yong Choi
Brittany Lang
Jin Joo Kim

Start Time: 9:44 AM
Jane Park
Sun Young Yoo
Janice Moodie

10th Tee

Start Time: 9:33 AM
Karen Stupples
Jee Young Lee
Hee Young Park

Start Time: 9:55 AM
Eun-Hee Ji
Jeong Jang
Joo Mi Kim

Start Time: 9:11 AM
So Yeon Ryu
Kristy McPherson
Ha-Neul Kim

Start Time: 10:17 AM
Song-Hee Kim
Catriona Matthew
Mi Hyun Kim

Start Time: 10:06 AM
Ji Young Oh
Angela Park
Carin Koch

Start Time: 10:28 AM
Young Kim
Hee-Won Han
Jin Joo Hong

Start Time: 10:39 AM
Sophie Gustafson
Candie Kung
Leta Lindley

But don't be surprised to see Teresa Lu and Sun Ju Ahn (1st off the 1st and 10th, respectively) post some early low scores, Shanshan Feng and Anna Rawson (off #1 at 9:55) get off to good starts, and Junior Mints Allison Fouch and H.J. Choi (2nd off the 1st and 10th, respectively) to exceed expectations.

[Update 1 (8:32 pm): Here are the pre-tournament interviews.]

[Update 2 (8:34 pm): Here's The Florida Masochist's preview.]

[Update 3 (8:45 pm): Ron Sirak raises some good questions about the location--and direction--of the LPGA But he seems to ignore the possibility that talented but unseasoned young American golfers may benefit from playing on the LET, JLPGA, or KLPGA. There are more ways to the LPGA than the Futures Tour.]

[Update 4 (8:58 pm): Rico Williams hits the nail on the head when it comes to the asymmetry of Asian appreciation of LPGA stars but U.S. media's lack of interest in either the LPGA or the Asian Swing. Thanks for the link to his post, Golf Girl!]

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Best of the Young Guns: Top Junior Mints, October 2008 Edition

Now that Morgan Pressel has become the 2nd repeat winner among the LPGA's Junior Mints, will we start seeing more victories from this rookie class that's in serious danger of being overshadowed by the Super Sophs and Class of '08?

Simply the Best

1. Seon Hwa Lee: Slumping by her standards of late, but still one of the steadiest players on tour, with the talent to go low more often than most. The clear #1.
2. Morgan Pressel: Putting some serious swing changes in place this season, so her results have been wildly inconsistent of late, but you can't argue with her 2nd win. The clear #2.
3. Jee Young Lee: Still getting lots of top 20s, but not having the breakout year many expected of her. Playing a much more limited schedule than usual, as well. Injury issues? That's the only thing I can think of to account for the fact that Julieta Granada is still ahead of her on the career money list and Pressel is threatening to pass her.

The Contenders

4. Ai Miyazato: She got 2 top 10s--including a runner-up--when she played in the last two JLPGA majors, but her recent performances on the LPGA (missed and barely-made cuts) have not been inspiring. She's on the wrong side of the bubble when it comes to making the ADT Championship--she's probably about $70K shy right now--with only the Mizuno Championship and, if she can move into the top 36 on the money list after it, Lorena's Invitational, in which to earn it. If she can't do it, it'll be the first time in her career she hasn't played in it.
5. Brittany Lang: Coming on strong with 3 straight top 10s. She now has more top 20s than Ai-chan and is closing fast in other stats. If her putting ever matched her GIR rate, she'd be a pretty dangerous player.

Quantum Leap Candidates

6. Sun Young Yoo: Her fine play continues as intermittently as ever; next step is to get used to being in or near contention and nail down more top 10s and top 20s. I wouldn't be surprised if she got her 1st win before Ai-chan or Brittany--"surprise" wins been the model for the Super Sophs, so why not the Junior Mints, as well?
7. Teresa Lu: Not playing all that well lately, but still outplaying those below her in this ranking this season and in her career.
8. H.J. Choi: Not playing all that much on the LPGA lately, her weak performance in China shows her rust.
9. Julieta Granada: Still slumping, but I wouldn't put anyone ahead of her right now. She finished #100 on the money list on the dot, but has higher priority status because of her 2006 ADT victory.
10. Meaghan Francella: Ditto on just about everything, except her victory came in early 2007 in Mexico.
11. Allison Fouch: Getting more consistent, she has put up a number of good finishes lately. She's on a pace to pass a lot of people, but let's wait and see how she handles her 2nd full season on tour in 2009 before we get too excited.
12. Kyeong Bae: Since her top 10 at the State Farm, she's missed a passel of cuts. Injury?
13. Minea Blomqvist: She hasn't done anything special on the LPGA in a while, even after she won on the LET.
14. Linda Wessberg: Her 1st full season on the LPGA has been a disappointing one, but she still earned Category 1 status for next season. Needs to start hitting more greens to become a top 50 player here.

On the Bottom Looking Up

15. Sarah Jane Kenyon: Played pretty well on the LPGA after securing her 2009 card through a top-5 finish on the Futures Tour money list this season. Let's see how she handles a full season on tour.
16. Katie Futcher: Her stats remain better than her results this season. Hasn't been able to break through like Kristy McPherson of the Super Sophs has. Maybe next year?
17. Karin Sjodin: Major slump alert: hasn't finished better than T25 this season and has missed many more cuts than she's made. I assume she'll be going to Q-School to improve her priority status for 2009--if she had flipped with Granada, both would be in a majority of events next season. At #101, though, she'll need a good week at Q-School to avoid a split LPGA-LET schedule in '09.
18. Kim Hall: I don't know how she does it, but this Stanford grad keeps on keeping her card, thanks to yet another great late-season finish, this one a bronze at the Bell Micro.
19. Danielle Downey: She made a great charge to get into the top 100 of the money list, mostly on the strength of a T4 at the Bell Micro. A Hall understudy?

On the Outside Looking In

20. Virada Nirapathpongporn: It's back to Q-School for this Junior Mint everyone's rooting for.
21. Na Ri Kim: Ditto.
22. Nina Reis: Probably will be playing the LET full-time in '09.
23. Louise Stahle: Ditto.
24. Veronica Zorzi: Ditto.
25. Ashley Johnston: Hasn't used her medical exemption for 2008--will she have it for 2009?


For your reference--and mine--here are the stats on which I'm basing the October ranking.

2008 LPGA Money List (rank), scoring average (rank), birdies per round average (rank [in total birdies]), greens in regulation rate (rank): I focus on four key indicators of how well someone is playing this season--how much money they've made, how they've scored, how many birdies they've averaged per round, and how many greens they've hit in regulation on average per round, plus how they rank in each category. (I figure I can figure out how well they're hitting their irons and putting by comparing the last three figures, so I won't include putts per green in regulation here.) Some of the figures Hound Dog thinks are most important I'm looking at in the career stats (below), where I think they belong. These stats are all about the present and future.

1. Seon Hwa Lee, $1.14M (#6), 71.40 (#15), 3.12 (#14), 67.8% (#16)
2. Morgan Pressel, $687.6K (#21), 71.86 (#36), 3.20 (#36), 65.3% (#50)
3. Sun Young Yoo, $619.4K (#23), 71.63 (#22), 3.52 (#5), 66.7% (#25)
4. Jee Young Lee, $604.9K (#27), 71.44 (#17), 3.60 (#11), 66.4% (#34)
5. Brittany Lang, $510.3K (#32), 71.93 (#38), 3.04 (#27), 68.1% (#8)
6. Teresa Lu, $486.5K (#34), 72.31 (#51), 2.78 (#41), 63.9% (#68)
7. Ai Miyazato, $406.6K (#41), 72.18 (#48), 2.82 (#59), 62.1% (#97)
8. Minea Blomqvist, $395.9K (#45), 72.44 (#58), 3.25 (#46), 59.7% (#134)
9. Alison Fouch, $336.3K (#51), 73.07 (#93), 3.04 (#52), 62.6% (#86)
10. H.J. Choi, $245.1K (#58), 72.61 (#68), 2.79 (#49), 60.9% (#115)
11. Kim Hall, $168.7K (#68), 73.22 (#101), 2.46 (#99), 64.0% (#64)
12. Katie Futcher, $166.5K (#69), 71.69 (#30), 3.33 (#48), 65.7% (#44)
13. Linda Wessberg, $165.1K (#71), 73.23 (#103), 3.10 (#52), 59.8% (#131)
14. Kyeong Bae, $158.5K (#75), 73.04 (#89), 3.10 (#55), 60.7% (#118)
15. Meaghan Francella, $117.7K (#88), 73.75 (#131), 2.40 (#95), 65.2% (#52)
16. Danielle Downey, $117.3K (#89), 73.15 (#99), 2.83 (#112), 65.0% (#56)
17. Julieta Granada, $101.1K (#100), 73.31 (#107), 2.40 (#92), 58.3% (#144)
18. Karin Sjodin, $98.8K (#101), 73.43 (#113), 2.91 (#78), 62.3% (#95)
19. Sarah Jane Kenyon, $97.1K (#102), 72.61 (#67), 3.29 (#131), 67.6% (#17)
20. Na Ri Kim, $43.2K (#139), 73.03 (#88), 2.86 (#152), 66.3% (#35)
21. Virada Nirapathpongporn, $40.9K (#140), 74.06 (#138), 2.65 (#129), 61.1% (#112)
22. Nina Reis, $33.9K (#148), 75.18 (#?), 2.53 (#?), 53.9% (#?)
23. Louise Stahle, $23.0K (#154), 74.90 (#?), ?, ?

Career LPGA Money List (rank), # of LPGA events entered/majors/wins/top 3s/top 10s/top 20s/cuts made (made cut rate): About the only thing these stats are useful for is comparing people who entered the LPGA in the same year (although if you count generations by 3 years, it can be interesting). Between inflation, changing purses, and length/timing of careers, it's very hard to compare and contrast winnings across generations of LPGA greats. Fortunately the Junior Mints haven't been at this all too long, so the career money list is a decent stat for comparing them, even if it's a bit unfair to people who have not been exempt every year or who have chosen to focus more on other tours. What would really be great is if we had a world money list in inflation-adjusted dollars, with inflation- and exchange-adjusted other cash denominations added in (or just totalled up separately to avoid comparing dollars and yen), which included all each golfer earned as a professional on any tour. But even the guys don't have that, so that'll have to remain a dream for now. In any case, I include these other ways of seeing how the Junior Mints finished relative to their competition in the tournaments they entered because they reveal a lot about how well someone is able to compete at every level, from just making cuts to grinding out top 20s and top 10s to contending for wins. So here's how they stand:

1. Seon Hwa Lee, $3.16M (#52), 85/0/4/9/22/44/80 (.941)
2. Julieta Granada, $2.15M (#82), 83/0/1/5/10/21/56 (.675)
3. Jee Young Lee, $2.15M (#83), 74/0/0/5/20/41/69 (.932)
4. Morgan Pressel, $2.13M (#84), 72/1/2/6/22/37/62 (.861)
5. Ai Miyazato, $1.73M (#101), 68/0/0/4/17/26/55 (.809)
6. Brittany Lang, $1.40M (#121), 81/0/0/3/15/30/58 (.716)
7. Sun Young Yoo, $.98M (#173), 78/0/0/1/7/19/58 (.744)
8. Kyeong Bae, $.75M (#210), 77/0/0/2/7/12/53 (.688)
9. Teresa Lu, $.74M (#214), 67/0/0/1/5/15/48 (.716)
10. Meaghan Francella $.63M (#232), 54/0/1/1/4/9/30 (.556)
11. Minea Blomqvist, $.56M (#242), 57/0/0/1/3/8/35 (.614)
12. H.J. Choi, $.55M (#244), 53/0/0/0/6/11/36 (.679)
13. Karin Sjodin, $.42M (#277), 64/0/0/0/3/9/37 (.578)
14. Katie Futcher, $.37M (#291), 63/0/0/0/3/5/41 (.651)
15. Alison Fouch, $.34M (#300), 23/0/0/1/2/5/15 (.652)
16. Kim Hall, $.33M (#307), 55/0/0/1/3/4/23 (.418)
17. Linda Wessberg, $.33M (#308), 37/0/0/0/4/6/24 (.649)
18. Virada Nirapathpongporn, $.23M (#361), 56/0/0/0/1/4/27 (.482)
19. Nina Reis, $.23M (#363), 52/0/0/0/3/4/28 (.538)
20. Danielle Downey, $.13M (#424), 32/0/0/0/1/2/10 (.313)
21. Sarah Jane Kenyon $.10M (#449), 13/0/0/0/1/3/7 (.538)
22. Na Ri Kim, $.09M (#457), 34/0/0/0/0/2/14 (.412)
23. Veronica Zorzi, $.09M (#470), 16/0/0/0/0/1/13 (.813)
24. Louise Stahle, $.05M (#522), 23/0/0/0/0/1/10 (.435)
25. Ashley Johnston, $.05M (#535), 13/0/0/0/0/0/6 (.462)

Other Career Measures: Rolex Ranking (as of 10/27/08) and rank, Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index (as of 7/27/08) and rank, International and Non-Member LPGA Wins (as of the end of the 2007 season): This is a way of seeing how those Junior Mints who sometimes or regularly or often compete on other tours stack up over the course of their careers to date (the RR includes results over the past 104 weeks on the LPGA, JLPGA, KLPGA, LET, and Futures Tour; the GSPI includes results over the past 52 weeks on all these tours except the KLPGA).

1. Seon Hwa Lee, 4.83 (#10), 70.56 (#16), 3
2. Morgan Pressel, 4.47 (#15), 71.28 (#42), 0
3. Jee Young Lee, 4.13 (#19), 70.78 (#24), 2
4. Ai Miyazato, 2.79 (#38), 71.60 (#51), 14
5. Brittany Lang, 2.18 (#49), 71.14 (#34), 0
6. Teresa Lu, 1.90 (#59), 71.19 (#35), 0
7. Minea Blomqvist, 1.79 (#63), 71.80 (#65), 5
8. Sun Young Yoo, 1.78 (#65), 71.40 (#43), 0
9. Meaghan Francella, 1.34 (#83), 73.69 (#177), 0
10. H.J. Choi, 1.30 (#86), 72.33 (#85), 1
11. Allison Fouch, 1.26 (#88), 72.73 (#103), 0
12. Linda Wessberg, 1.19 (#91), 72.97 (#118), 6
13. Julieta Granada, 1.10 (#100), 73.42 (#152), 0
14. Kim Hall, .85 (#123), 73.54 (#162), 0
15. Kyeong Bae, .78 (#129), 73.35 (#148), 3
16. Katie Futcher, .73 (#139), 71.89 (#67), 0
17. Karin Sjodin, .67 (#153), 73.37 (#150), 1
18. Louise Stahle, .55 (#172), 72.73 (#106), 0
19. Danielle Downey, .53 (#185), 73.69 (#176), 0
20. Sarah Jane Kenyon, .42 (#219), 73.21 (#134), 0
21. Nina Reis, .31 (#253), 73.86 (#187), 5
22. Veronica Zorzi, .30 (#258), 74.55 (#246), 2
23. Na Ri Kim, .28 (#267), 73.57 (#165), 0
24. Virada Nirapathpongporn, .28 (#269), 74.32 (#231), 0
25. Ashley Johnston, .05 (#490), n.r. [not in database], 0

So there you have it. I'll be checking back in on these rankings on the following schedule:

February: Junior Mints
March: Super Sophs
April: both
May: Junior Mints
June: Super Sophs
July: Junior Mints
August: Super Sophs
September: both
November: Super Sophs (post-ADT)
December: all the Young Guns, including the '08 rookies (post-Q School)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Questions for the LPGA's Home Stretch

A few not-so-idle questions as the LPGA enters its home stretch.

With Lorena Ochoa sitting out the Asian Swing, Paula Creamer is the 1st but won't be the only player to get within $1M of her on the money list before the ADT Championship. (Assuming Lorena doesn't win her invitational in mid-November, Ya Ni Tseng and Annika Sorenstam should, too.) So does any one of these players--or others who could end up pulling ahead of her on the money list with a win in the ADT--have a legitimate shot at wresting Player of the Year honors from her? (Yes, I know she has almost double the points of her nearest challengers....)

Ya Ni Tseng has a 301-point lead on Na Yeon Choi in the Rookie of the Year race. But what if Choi wins twice and Tseng continues to find that 2nd win elusive? Who should be ROY? Would your answer change if Tseng stayed #2 in the Rolex Rankings and Choi only moved up, say, to #12 after her wins?

Helen Alfredsson is now only a couple of hundred thousand dollars and 1 win behind Annika Sorenstam. Who has a better case for Comeback Player of the Year?

Who is the best player without a win on the LPGA? Angela Park? Na Yeon Choi? Song-Hee Kim? Jane Park? Shanshan Feng? Hee Young Park? Ai Miyazato? Brittany Lang? Sun Young Yoo?

How many millionaires will the LPGA produce this season? 11? 15?

How much of a fight will the top KLPGA and JLPGA players put up against the LPGA's finest over the next two weeks?

Consider this an open-ish thread!

[Update 1 (10/28/08, 1:11 pm:) Here's one possible hint of an answer to my last question: Annika kicked Paula's, Ai-chan's, and Momo-chan's butts in the skins game they just played in Japan.]

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Who Wants to Read a 9,000-Word Treatise Online?

Methinks Andrew Sullivan is laying a clever trap for Michael Berube in the November 2008 issue of The Atlantic:

The blog remained a superficial medium, of course. By superficial, I mean simply that blogging rewards brevity and immediacy. No one wants to read a 9,000-word treatise online. On the Web, one-sentence links are as legitimate as thousand-word diatribes--in fact, they are often valued more. (109)

A little later in his essay, Sullivan uses the word treatise in contrasting Aristotle unfavorably to Plato, Aquinas to Pascal--and he would have if he could have when comparing classical music to jazz at the end. But that last example of his actually goes in the opposite direction, an acknowledgment that treatises have their purposes and their places. Just not on blogs.

So here's a Mostly Harmless challenge for 2009: who can prove Sullivan wrong?

Grand China Air Sunday: Can Helen Alfredsson Do It?

It's not that 1st-round leader Laura Diaz (35) or 2nd-round leader Karen Stupples (36) played the front 9 all that badly in the final round of the Grand China Air LPGA event on Hainan Island today. It's just that Helen Alfredsson opened with a 31 to get to -10 and then kept her momentum going on the back with birdies on the 10th and 14th while Stupples bogeyed the 11th and 12th and birdied the 13th to fall to -9 and Diaz birdied the 11th and 12th and parred the 13th to climb to -11. Ya Ni Tseng, meanwhile, birdied the 13th and parred the 14th and 15th to join Stupples and Christina Kim, whose birdies came on the 10th, 11th, and 14th, in a tie for 3rd. So it's a 5-player race to the finish as Alfredsson plays the par-5 17th that's given up its share of birdies but also inflicted a good number of double bogeys on the field.

More soon!

[Update 1 (3:00 am): Ouch! Diaz just entered the stretch of holes that she played -3 on Friday and +4 on Saturday by bogeying the par-4 14th. And Kim's bogey on the par-4 15th gives her 2 in her last 3 holes, the last things she needs, particularly when Alfredsson birdied the 17th to get to -13. Tseng made her 3rd straight par to remain stalled at -9 with 2 holes left to play. She's going to have to take some risks to be a factor now.]

[Update 2 (3:08 am): Kim is toast after her double on the par-3 16th drops her to -6, only 1 shot ahead of leader in the clubhouse Shanshan Feng (68).]

[Update 3 (3:30 am): Yeesh, go to the JLPGA scoreboard to see if it's finally unfrozen and you sure miss a lot! Kim's travails continued as she bogeyed the 17th. And even though Alfredsson joined her with a bogey on the par-4 18th, she still holds onto her 3-shot lead, as Diaz bogeyed the 15th and parred the 16th while Tseng parred the 17th. Young Kim birdied 2 of her last 3 holes for a 71 that snuck her past Feng and into her 1st top 5 finish since the Stanford International. Despite bogeying 3 of her last 4 holes, Junior Mint Allison Fouch notched a solo 8th, 1 stroke ahead of a host of golfers who either played their way (Pettersen 68, Lang 71, Wright 71, Castrale 72) or stumbled their way (Oh 74, Seon Hwa Lee 74) into a top 10. Unless, that is, both Candie Kung (+3 today) and Na Yeon Choi (+2) can birdie the 18th to join Fouch at -4. That lone bogey down the stretch for Hong-Mei Yang could well be the only thing keeping her out of the top 10; still, her closing 68 gives her the best finish (-2, T17 with Annika Sorenstam) among the non-LPGAers in the field.]

[Update 4 (3:33 am): Well, Tseng parred out for a 68 and a -9 finish, which could be good enough for yet another runner-up in her rookie season if Laura Diaz can't mount a last charge over her last 2 holes. And by parring the final hole, Tseng's rival Na Yeon Choi assured herself yet another top 10.]

[Update 5 (3:42 am): Ugh, uncharacteristically bad play by the young guns down the stretch today. Seon Hwa Lee finished with 3 straight bogeys, Na Yeon Choi didn't make a birdie after the 3rd hole and closed with a 38, and Ji Young Oh responded to her 2-birdies-in-her-1st-3-holes start with 4 bogeys and no birdies over her final 15 holes. Louise Friberg dropped out of the top 10 entirely--and almost out of the top 20--with her birdie-less +5 round with 1 hole to play. But I guarantee they don't feel as bad as Laura Diaz, who just made her 3rd bogey in the stretch that killed her round yesterday, or Karen Stupples, who had it to -12 through the 4th today, but has since dropped 4 strokes to par and is tied with Diaz at -8 as they limp onto the 18th hole.]

[Update 6 (3:48 am): Speaking of ugh and ouch, Christina Kim bogeyed the 18th as well to give Allison Fouch quite a gift--a mutual T7. Candie Kung hung on for a 75 that allowed her--barely--to stay in the top 10. Congratulations to Helen Alfredsson for her 2nd win in 2008! All that's left is for Diaz, Stupples, and Friberg to get off the course.]

[Update 7 (4:02 am): Nice Beth Baldry piece on Vicky Hurst and Mindy Kim. But, Beth, Mindy is going to be overshadowed by many more players than Michelle Wie, Stacy Lewis, and Hurst, if all goes as expected at Q-School--namely, Sun-Ju Ahn, Shiho Oyama, Miki Saiki, Martina Eberl, Melissa Reid, Alison Walshe, Anna Nordqvist, Mika Miyazato, Dewi Claire Schreefel, Tania Elosegui, and Beatriz Recari will all have more buzz than Mindy in the Class of 2009. Speaking of buzzkills, Stupples bogeyed 18 for a 75 that dropped her to a solo 4th behind Diaz, who managed to par it. Friberg's score is yet to appear--ominous.]

[Update 8 (4:04 am): Sorry, Louise, the JLPGA scoreboard just updated--and guess who won? LPGA-bound Shiho Oyama got her 1st win of 2008!]

[Update 9 (9:56 am): Here's Hound Dog and The Florida Masochist!]

[Update 10 (12:23 pm): Whoops, linked to Hound Dog's epilogue before his final-round recap!]

[Update 11 (3:26 pm): The interviews on are wonderful!]

Masters Golf Club Sunday: Can Shiho Oyama Do It?

Ah-Reum Hwang is having the round of her career today in the JLPGA's Masters Golf Club event. Despite going double bogey-bogey as she made the turn, she has once again caught Shiho Oyama at -5, thanks to birdies on the 11th, 13th, and 14th holes that return her to the pace she set when she birdied 4 of her 1st 8 holes. Oyama, meanwhile, has been the model of steadiness--surprising for someone whose 2nd-round score was 10 strokes worse than her 1st--getting to -5 with a birdie on the par-5 1st hole and reeling off 13 straight pars to pull ahead of 2nd-round leader Ji-Hee Lee, the victim of 5 bogeys in her 1st 10 holes who has recently righted her ship with birdies on the 12th and 14th to join Eun-A Lim (68) and Miki Saiki (-2 through 15) at -3.

If Hwang can pull off the win, it would be huge for the 21-year-old, who's won twice on the JLPGA's Step-Up Tour but who hasn't finished better than T15 in the big leagues in 2008. Oyama, meanwhile, is looking for her 11th career JLPGA victory. The 2006 money list leader, who won 5 times that season to break Yuri Fudoh's stranglehold on the JLPGA, could use a confidence boost heading into the LPGA's Q-School, as could Saiki, who is also winless in 2008.

More soon!

[Update 1 (3:20 am): Lots of could-have-beens for those fighting for top 10s. Nikki Campbell bogeyed the 16th and 17th to drop back to a 71 and -1 for the tournament. Ji-Woo Lee also got it to -3 before a bogey on the 16th dropped her 3 shots off the pace with 2 to play, much like Yuki Sakurai and Mi-Jeong Jeon, whose bogeys came on the 9th and 14th, respectively. They, at least, have 3 holes left to get themselves into the mix. Sakura Yokomine has 4 left, but she's only -1 after going birdie-less with 2 bogeys in the mix for added frustration. Meanwhile, a nice charge by Yuri Fudoh--a bogey-free 34 on the back that earned her a 69--could yet net her a top 10, as Maiko Wakabayashi, Shinobu Moromizato, and Rui Kitada are struggling on the back and Bo-Bae Song has only recently righted her ship with a birdie on the par-5 12th that got her back to this big group T11 at E for the tournament. Momoko Ueda's 71 will not be good enough to get her a top 10, but unless Paula Creamer can birdie at least 1 of her last 2 holes, it'll tie her with the LPGA's #2 player at +1 (T16 thus far).]

[Update 2 (4:26 am): Oyama did it! After Hwang bogeyed 16 and 17, Oyama birdied 16 and 18 for what turned out to be a comfortable 4-shot victory.

Here are the final results for the top 10 and notables:

1st/-7 Shiho Oyama (65-75-69)
T2/-3 Eun-A Lim (74-71-68), Ah-Reum Hwang (72-71-70)
T4/-2 Yuki Sakurai (72-71-71), Sakura Yokomine (70-71-73), Ji-Hee Lee (70-69-75)
T7/-1 Ji-Woo Lee (74-70-71), Nikki Campbell (70-74-71), Miki Saiki (71-72-72), Mi-Jeong Jeon (70-72-73)

Huge finish for Sakurai, despite the bogey on 17 that kept it from being even better--wonder if this means she'll be joining her under-22 cohort on the JLPGA next season. Ji-Hee Lee, by the way, got it to -4 with 2 holes to go, but bogeyed out to join her and Yokomine in 4th.

T11/E Yuri Fudoh (73-74-69), Maiko Wakabayashi (73-71-72), Bo-Bae Song (70-73-73)
T14/+1 Momoko Ueda (76-70-71), Paula Creamer (73-71-73), Shinobu Moromizato (73-71-73), Rui Kitada (70-71-76)
18th/+2 Akiko Fukushima (72-72-74)
T19/+3 Mayu Hattori (76-72-71), Esther Lee (77-69-73), Tamie Durdin (74-71-74)
T22/+4 Yuko Mitsuka (75-72-73), Mie Nakata (74-73-73), Midori Yoneyama (72-73-75)
T26/+5 Yuki Ichinose (75-75-71), Miho Koga (75-73-73)
T30/+6 Kumiko Kaneda (75-70-77)
T36/+7 Hiromi Mogi (76-71-76)
T42/+8 Kaori Higo (73-74-77)
T49/+9 Hiroko Yamaguchi (72-77-76)
T54/+11 Yun-Jye Wei (73-75-79)
57th/+12 Ritsuko Ryu (71-79-78)

Too bad for Kaneda--maybe it's time for her to turn pro and spend a few years on the JLPGA.]

[Update 3 (4:44 am): Here's the new money list:

1. Ji-Hee Lee ¥112.00M
2. Akiko Fukushima ¥87.70M
3. Miho Koga ¥82.03M
4. Sakura Yokomine ¥80.54M
5. Mi-Jeong Jeon ¥77.34M
6. Yuri Fudoh ¥75.37M
7. Shiho Oyama ¥70.31M
8. Hyun-Ju Shin ¥64.20M
9. Yuko Mitsuka ¥64.12M
10. Erina Hara ¥60.82M
11. Eun-A Lim ¥59.40M
12. Ayako Uehara ¥58.92M
13. Shinobu Moromizato ¥53.40M
14. Bo-Bae Song ¥51.55M
15. Hiromi Mogi ¥49.37M
16. Akane Iijima ¥48.52M
17. Esther Lee ¥45.73M
18. Momoko Ueda ¥45.58M
19. Miki Saiki ¥43.72M
20. Maiko Wakabayashi ¥42.87M
21. Hiroko Yamaguchi ¥41.35M
22. Ji-Woo Lee ¥41.06M
23. Chie Arimura ¥40.90M
24. Yukari Baba ¥40.76M
25. Midori Yoneyama ¥34.34M
26. Rui Kitada ¥32.97M
27. Saiki Fujita ¥29.27M
28. Mayu Hattori ¥29.09M
29. Nikki Campbell ¥25.52M
30. Mie Nakata ¥24.75M

Ji-Yai Shin is now #32, Na Zhang #39, and Ai Miyazato #45.]

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Grand China Air Saturday: Karen Stupples Leapfrogs Diaz

Hound Dog and have the 2nd round of the Grand China Air LPGA event this week covered; just as on the JLPGA, the 1st-round leader stalled and a hot player passed her. This time it was Karen Stupples who overcame 3 bogeys and 2 rain delays on her way to her 2nd straight 67. When Laura Diaz bogeyed 4 of her last 5 holes, Stupples got herself a 2-shot lead heading into the final round.

But with 14 players within 5 shots of the lead--including Ya Ni Tseng, who tied Stupples for the low round of the day despite making her 2nd double bogey of the tournament today--the lead moms will need their A-games tomorrow to stay ahead of a tough chase pack. Only 3 players--Stupples, Louise Friberg, and Candie Kung--have broken 70 twice on a course that Suzann Pettersen thought would give up a lot of low scores. True, 16 players broke 70 today, but I was disappointed that Seon Hwa Lee (73), Jane Park (70), Song-Hee Kim (71), Shanshan Feng (73), Mi Hyun Kim (70), Hee-Won Han (71), Eun-Hee Ji (71), In-Kyung Kim (75), Stacy Prammanasudh (73), and Morgan Pressel (73) were not among them. Hopefully conditions will be kinder tomorrow and allow for a nice closing shoot-out!

Masters Golf Club Saturday: Ji-Hee Lee Leapfrogs Oyama

After a bogey-free opening round in the Masters Golf Club JLPGA event this week, Shiho Oyama stumbled to a birdie-less 75 today, which opened the door for the tour's leading money-winner in 2008, Ji-Hee Lee, to make up 6 shots on her despite a walk-off bogey that dropped Lee back to -5 for the tournament. But with 15 golfers within 5 shots of the leader--including such big names as Paula Creamer, Akiko Fukushima, and Shinobu Moromizato (E), Bo-Bae Song and Miki Saiki (-1), Mi-Jeong Jeon (-2), and Sakura Yokomine (-3)--tomorrow's round is shaping up to be a classic free-for-all.

1st/-5 Lee (70-69)
2nd/-4 Oyama (65-75)
T3/-3 Yokomine (70-71), Rui Kitada (70-71)
5th/-2 Jeon (70-72)
T6/-1 Yuki Sakurai (72-71), Ah-Reum Hwang (72-71), Saiki (71-72), Song (70-73)
T10/E Ji-Woo Lee (74-70), Creamer (73-71), Moromizato (73-71), Maiko Wakabayashi (73-71), Yuko Saitoh (73-71), Fukushima (72-72), Nikki Campbell (70-74)

Yokomine would be tied for the lead were it not for her back-to-back walk-off bogeys; Song's closing 39 dropped her from 1 back to 4 back; Sakurai's closing 38 dropped her from 2 back to 4 back.

Some nice comebacks there among the players fighting for top 20s:

T17/+1 Kumiko Kaneda (75-70), Eun-A Lim (74-71), Tamie Durdin (74-71), Midori Yoneyama (72-73)
T22/+2 Esther Lee (77-69), Momoko Ueda (76-70)
T25/+3 Hiromi Mogi (76-71), Yuko Mitsuka (75-72), Mie Nakata (74-73), Yuri Fudoh (73-74), Kaori Higo (73-74)
T35/+4 Mayu Hattori (76-72), Miho Koga (75-73), Yun-Jye Wei (73-75)
T41/+5 Hiroko Yamaguchi (72-77)
T49/+6 Yuki Ichinose (75-75), Ritsuko Ryu (71-79)

But Durdin's round could have been a lot better, as she closed with 3 straight bogeys and 4 in her last 5 holes. And Ueda went 33-37 for a disappointing 70.

Wow, a lot of good players missed the cut:

T58/+7 Erina Hara (77-74), Saiki Fujita (76-75)
T69/+8 Yukari Baba (80-72), Ayako Uehara (77-75)
T84/+10 Akane Iijima (77-77)
T95/+12 Chie Arimura (79-77), Riko Higashio (79-77)

Hara and Fujita both shot birdie-less 39s on the back, while Baba's comeback was stalled by bogeys on the 10th and 18th holes.

So it comes down to this: Ji-Hee Lee has a golden opportunity to extend her lead on the JLPGA money list with her 3rd win of the season. But Shiho Oyama and Sakura Yokomine have a great chance to notch their 1st wins in 2008. And if this trio falters, any number of players could leapfrog past them....

Friday, October 24, 2008

Brother, Can You Spare 15 Minutes?

To help out some NYU researchers by filling out their survey? And post the link (with comments closed) on your blog? Please don't do anything to bias the survey results...thanks!

Masters Golf Club Friday: Shiho Oyama Makes 7 Birdies, Takes 5-Shot Lead

Shiho Oyama shot a bogey-free 65 in the Masters Golf Club event today to open up a 5-shot lead on some of the JLPGA's top players, including Ji-Hee Lee, Sakura Yokomine, and Mi-Jeong Jeon. With other big names struggling--Paula Creamer fell 1 shot behind Akiko Fukushima with an opening 73, but tied Yuri Fudoh and Shinobu Moromizato and beat Miho Koga (75), Yuko Mitsuka (75), Momoko Ueda (76), Erina Hara (77), and Ayako Uehara (77)--this is a huge opportunity for the winless Oyama to build up even more momentum prior to LPGA Q-School in December.

Here are the top 10 and notables from the 1st round:

1st/-7 Oyama (65)
T2/-2 Lee, Yokomine, Jeon, Bo-Bae Song, Rui Kitada, Nikki Campbell (70)
T8/-1 Miki Saiki, Ritsuko Ryu, Chieko Amanuma (71)

Jeon opened with a bogey-free 32, but closed with a birdie-less 38; Saiki was -3 through her 1st 8 holes and +2 the rest of the way; Ryu got a hole in 1 on the 156-yard par-3 14th but still only shot a 34 on the back; everyone else had kind of "blah" rounds.

T11/E Fukushima, Midori Yoneyama, Hiroko Yamaguchi, Yuki Sakurai (72)
T22/+1 Creamer, Fudoh, Moromizato, Maiko Wakabayashi, Yun-Jye Wei, Kaori Higo (73)
T30/+2 Eun-A Lim, Ji-Woo Lee, Mie Nakata, Tamie Durdin (74)
T45/+3 Koga, Mitsuka, Yuki Ichinose, Kumiko Kaneda (75)

Creamer and Fudoh each had 3 birdies but made 4 bogeys; Durdin was +4 through 10 holes but came back with 2 birdies in her last 6; amateur Kaneda opened with a birdie-less 39, then offset her 3 birdies on the back with 3 bogeys, including back-to-back ones to close out her round; the rest had seriously "blah" rounds.

But at least they're 1 great round away from contending on Sunday. Too many well-known players will need one just to make the cut:

T53/+4 Ueda, Hiromi Mogi, Saiki Fujita, Mayu Hattori (76)
T67/+5 Hara, Uehara, Akane Iijima, Esther Lee (77)
T87/+9 Chie Arimura, Riko Higashio (79)
T98/+8 Yukari Baba (80)

Ueda and Hattori opened with birdie-less 40s, while Fujita closed with one; Hara had more double bogeys (1) than birdies (0); Lee finished bogey-double. A lot of ugly golf from some very good players.

So heading into the weekend, the JLPGA's Q-School-bound players are in good shape, while everyone else will need to do something special to put pressure on Oyama.

Grand China Air Friday: Laura Diaz Makes 10 Birdies, Takes 3-Shot Lead

Laura Diaz got off to a good start in the Grand China Air LPGA event on Hainan Island today, making 4 birdies and a bogey for an opening 33, but she had an even better finish. With only 3 pars on the back, she shot a bogey-free 30, capped off by back-to-back birdies, to get to -9. Suzann Pettersen, meanwhile, who predicted lots of low scores this week, also got off to a good start with birdies on 2 of her 1st 3 holes, but only sits at E with 1 hole left to play. But that's good enough for T24 right now, as scoring hasn't been quite as low as she expected. Sure, her playing partner Seon Hwa Lee has made 3 birdies and no bogeys each side thus far in her round, fellow Junior Mint H.J. Choi and Karen Stupples shot bogey-free 67s, and Ji Young Oh and Candie Kung posted 68s (the latter with a double bogey on the back and the former with 2 bogeys on the front), but so far only the Ladies Asian Tour's Tao-Li Yang has broken 70.

Sure, In-Kyung Kim and Christina Kim headline the 7 players who shot 70s thus far, while Jeong Jang and Juli Inkster are the biggest names among the 5 who have posted -1, but about half the field finished over par. More on them next!

[Update 1 (4:06 am): Well, first I should report that in the time it took to write my JLPGA story (Q-School bound Shiho Oyama shot a 65 to take a 5-shot lead into the weekend), Seon Hwa Lee failed to match Diaz's closing birdies, so sits 3 back at -6. And Shanshan Feng bogeyed the 18th to fail to break 70. So unless Shi Hyun Ahn can birdie the 18th, only 8 players broke 70 today.]

[Update 2 (4:10 am): So who struggled today? Only the likes of Hee-Won Han, Brittany Lang, Katherine Hull, and Jane Park at +1 (T33), Cristie Kerr, Se Ri Pak, Mi Hyun Kim, Eun-Hee Ji, Laura Davies, and Pat Hurst at +2 (T38), Morgan Pressel and Angela Park at +3 (T47), and Inbee Park and Sun Young Yoo at +5 (77).]

[Update 3 (4:14 am): That leaves Annika Sorenstam, Ya Ni Tseng, Suzann Pettersen, Song-Hee Kim, Hee Young Park, and Hong-Mei Yang, among others, holding the fort at E (T24). Na Yeon Choi joined the big group at -1 (T18), while Ahn joined the even larger group at -2 (T9). Not very impressive scoring. Time for a quick check to see where the big numbers were coming.]

[Update 4 (4:40 am): Wow, Jimin Kang made 5 birdies in a row on the front but a double-bogey on the par-5 17th dropped her back to -2. Both Kims at -2 shot bogey-free 33s on the back. Among those who finished under par, the 2nd, 8th-10th, and 18th were the most troublesome holes. When you look at the course map, you can see why: the 2nd is a longish par 4 with bunkers that can grab an errant tee or approach shot; the 8th is a long par 3 with a pair of bunkers guarding the front; the long par-4 9th puts a lot of pressure on your driver, with bunkers on the right and water on the left, as well as on your approach shot, with the water continuing all the way up to the green; the long par-4 10th has truble on the left off the tee that seems fairly easy to avoid, but lots of bunkers around the green; and the 18th is a long par 4 with a creek running through it, much like the 17th, which caused a good number of doubles among those lower down the leaderboard. (I'm surprised scoring was so comparatively good on the 5th and 16th, a pair of long par 3s with a water carries, as well as the par-5 3rd and par-4 6th, each of which have water running down the entire hole.)

The pattern continued among those right around par; Ya Ni Tseng bounced back with 4 birdies in her last 6 holes after doubling the 9th, for instance. Se Ri Pak also doubled the 9th, but parred every other hole. Katherine Hull, in turn, bogeyed the 1st and then made 17 pars in a row.

Wonder what happened to Sun Young Yoo...she shot a 42 on the back! Maybe trying to make Inbee Park and Carin Koch feel good? They got their 42s on the front!]

[Update 5 (4:50 am): Just noticed that Annika, Ya Ni Tseng, Shanshan Feng, and Hong-Mei Yang got added to the pre-tournament interviews. Don't expect to see notes and interviews up that quickly for the 1st round.]

[Update 6 (10:21 am): Here's Hound Dog and]

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Women's World Cup of Golf Moving

Not from South Africa, its home for the past 3 years, but to the end of the 2009 schedule, according to Grant Winter, who seems to be cribbing from the event's own press release.

Grand China Air Pairings

As a rule, I hate guaranteed money events. To me, it's not a real tournament unless there's a cut. But I'm willing to make an exception over the next 3 weeks during the LPGA's Asian Swing. Take a look at the 1st-round pairings for the Grand China Air kickoff event and you'll see why. Here are some of my favorite threesomes:

Start Time: 8:57 AM
Helen Alfredsson
Inbee Park
Mi Hyun Kim

Start Time: 9:08 AM
Hong Mei Yang
Sophie Gustafson
Carin Koch

Start Time: 9:52 AM
Hee Young Park
Xiaolong Zhong
Brittany Lang

Start Time: 10:03 AM
Jane Park
Teresa Lu
Karen Stupples

Start Time: 10:19 AM
Juli Inkster
Laura Diaz
Leta Lindley

Start Time: 10:30 AM
Jeong Jang
Katherine Hull
Stacy Prammanasudh

Start Time: 10:41 AM
Morgan Pressel
Tao-Li Yang
Se Ri Pak

Start Time: 10:52 AM
Seon Hwa Lee
Suzann Pettersen
Ya Ni Tseng

Start Time: 11:03 AM
Annika Sorenstam
Shanshan Feng
Cristie Kerr

In addition, perhaps the 2 biggest surprise winners in 2008, Louise Friberg and Ji Young Oh, are paired together at 8:24 am, while Eun-Hee Ji and In-Kyung Kim, another pair of 1st-time winners this season, go off 2 groups behind them at 8:46 am. Junior Mint Allison Fouch gets to play with Christina Kim at 9:19 am, while Song-Hee Kim (7:40 am) and Na Yeon Choi (11:14 am) have the dubious honor of going off in the 1st and next-to-last pairings.

As we saw at the Samsung, the no-cut format can be cruel to slumping players. I hope in the coming years the tournament organizers decide to imitate the Evian Masters in making their entrance criteria somewhat less exclusive in exchange for the drama of a cut. On the other hand, given the fledgling status of professional golf in China, even a modest cut of, say, 90 to 70 would most likely result in the local Chinese talent only getting to play 36 holes. So until more Chinese golfers make it to the LPGA, JLPGA, KLPGA, and LET and show they can keep their cards, I wouldn't expect to see a cut here.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Grand China Air Preview/Predictions

The field at the Grand China Air LPGA event is missing some very big names, to be sure: Lorena Ochoa, Paula Creamer, Angela Stanford, Karrie Webb, Jee Young Lee, Maria Hjorth, Ai Miyazato, Momoko Ueda, and Natalie Gulbis (who actually could have gone because so many from the top 51 on the money list bowed out). Ochoa is skipping the Asian Swing entirely, Gulbis is hanging with The Donald or something, while Creamer and Ueda are joining Ji-Yai Shin as visitors on the JLPGA this week (although Eric at Seoul puts Shin in the KLPGA's final major). By the way, next week Creamer and Gulbis will hook up with the LPGA in the Korea Championship; the majority of the field hasn't yet been announced. The following week Miyazato and Ueda will be rejoining the tour in the Mizuno Championship. Asia is definitely going to be hopping the next few weeks!

So when you look at who will be playing on Hainan Island this week, you can't help but be struck at how some of the hottest players on the LPGA right now--Cristie Kerr, Ya Ni Tseng, In-Kyung Kim, Song-Hee Kim, Katherine Hull, Suzann Pettersen, Shanshan Feng, Sun Young Yoo, Morgan Pressel, and Laura Diaz--will be facing off. From the numbers and pictures I've seen, the course looks long and flat, with a good number of creeks and ponds and the occasional palm tree. As it's near the coast, it probably gets pretty windy. Hound Dog has found out more. Very high risk/reward on a good number of holes, especially the par 3s and some of the par 5s.

So who are my Pakpicker picks this week?

1. Kim Song-Hee
2. Hull
3. Kerr
4. Pettersen
5. Tseng
6. Lang
7. Choi Na Yeon
8. Feng
9. Yoo
10. Lee Seon Hwa
11. Kim In-Kyung
12. Pressel

Alts: Diaz, Sorenstam, Han

As Morgan Pressel's unexpected win last week shows, though, there's no predicting who's going to get hot on the weekend and beat out the players you'd expect to do the best in a given event. The fact that the next few events are only 54 holes adds even mre spice to the mix. Frankly, the way this season has been going for me, I'll be happy if I don't get shut out.

[Update 1 (1:18 pm): In pre-tournament interviews, Pressel confirms that the course can get windy and Pettersen licks her lips at the soft greens and considers the thin lines that separate good, great, and fantastic seasons.]

[Update 2 (4:18 pm): Annika has photos!]

[Update 3 (4:22 pm): And here's a link that takes you to Louise Friberg's photos. In her most recent diary entry, she suggests the course can be had:

I just got done with the practice round and it is the type of course that what you see is what you get. The fairways are wide and I think the scores this week could be very low. The tough part will be the grain on the greens. They are extremely grainy and that must be taken quite a bit into account around the greens.

Wonder if the fairways are that wide b/c the winds get so strong? We'll see!]

[Update 4 (10/23/08, 2:18 am): Ah, the field for the Korea Championship has been announced now. Too bad Tseng, Ueda, and Miyazato are skipping it!]

[Update 5 (2:24 am): Ji-Yai Shin is not listed in the pairings for the JLPGA event this week, but Paula Creamer is playing with Yuri Fudoh and Miho Koga! Amateur Kumiko Kaneda is also in the field, by the way.]

[Update 6 (2:30 am): Golf Channel gives the event about a minute....]

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

LPGA Break Points, 2000-2008

Between the end of the LPGA's regular season this past weekend and their new eligibility criteria for next season, I've been curious whether we can quantify an increase in competition on tour and look ahead to what the 2009 rookies will need to shoot for. Drawing on the history of total annual purses and the official money lists this decade, here are some stats to consider.

2000 ($38.5M, 41 events)
1. Karrie Webb $1.88M
2. Annika Sorenstam $1.40M
5. Lorie Kane $929.2K
10. Michele Redman $585.7K
20. Charlotta Sorenstam $421.7K
30. Wendy Doolan $295.3K
50. Maria Hjorth $181.9K (.472% of the total purse)
80. Karen Weiss $105.7K (.275%)
100. Helen Dobson $78.1K
125. Suzanne Strudwick $53.0K

2001 ($43.5M, 40 events)
1. Annika Sorenstam $2.11M
2. Se Ri Pak $1.62M
5. Maria Hjorth $848.2K
10. Catriona Matthew $728.0K
20. Kelly Robbins $483.7K
30. Betsy King $358.8K
50. Kate Golden $223.9K (.515% of the total purse)
80. Kristal Parker $109.7K (.252%)
100. Terry-Jo Myers $64.4K
125. Johanna Head $36.2K

2002 ($38.9M, 35 events)
1. Annika Sorenstam $2.86M
2. Se Ri Pak $1.72M
5. Karrie Webb $1.01M
10. Rosie Jones $722.4K
20. Meg Mallon $463.7K
30. Jennifer Rosales $342.9K
50. Jackie Gallagher-Smith $187.2K (.481% of the total purse)
80. Becky Morgan $102.3K (.263%)
100. Jenny Lidback $61.6K
125. Mitzi Edge $37.3K

2003 ($40.5M, 34 events)
1. Annika Sorenstam $2.03M
2. Se Ri Pak $1.61M
5. Juli Inkster $1.03M
10. Rosie Jones $808.8K
20. Mi Hyun Kim $511.2K
30. Heather Bowie $398.7K
50. Donna Andrews $211.2K (.521% of the total purse)
80. Deb Richard $86.8K (.214%)
100. Terry-Jo Myers $64.5K
125. Mardi Lunn $36.2K

2004 ($42.9M, 33 events)
1. Annika Sorenstam $2.54M
2. Grace Park $1.53M
5. Cristie Kerr $1.19M
10. Jennifer Rosales $693.6K
20. Carin Koch $568.4K
30. Beth Daniel $419.6K
50. Jill McGill $238.2K (.555% of the total purse)
80. Silvia Cavalleri $123.7K (.288%)
100. Beth Bauer $78.6K
125. Danielle Ammaccapane $42.6K

2005 ($45.1M, 33 events)
1. Annika Sorenstam $2.59M
2. Paula Creamer $1.53M
5. Jeong Jang $1.13M
10. Catriona Matthew $776.9K
20. Rosie Jones $615.5K
30. Karine Icher $452.0K
50. Joo Mi Kim $246.3K (.546% of the total purse)
80. Dawn Coe-Jones $102.4K (.227%)
100. Lee Ann Walker-Cooper $64.8K
125. Shani Waugh $37.9K

2006 ($51.9M, 35 events)
1. Lorena Ochoa $2.59M
2. Karrie Webb $2.09K
5. Cristie Kerr $1.58M
10. Pat Hurst $1.13M
20. Jee Young Lee $575.1K
30. Karine Icher $392.8K
50. Nancy Scranton $274.3K (.529% of the total purse)
80. Soo Young Moon $116.5K (.224%)
100. Yu Ping Ling $74.6K
125. Meredith Duncan $42.8K

2007 ($54.8M, 35 events)
1. Lorena Ochoa $4.36M
2. Suzann Pettersen $1.80M
5. Seon Hwa Lee $1.10M
10. Jee Young Lee $966.3K
20. Sarah Lee $713.1K
30. Sophie Gustafson $469.7K
50. Mhairi McKay $265.1K (.484% of the total purse)
80. Young Jo $117.1K (.214%)
100. Johanna Head $74.2K
125. Na Ri Kim $44.0K

2008 ($60.3M, 29 of 34 events played thus far)
1. Lorena Ochoa $2.74M
2. Paula Creamer $1.76M
5. Helen Alfredsson $1.13M
10. Na Yeon Choi $1.02M
20. In-Kyung Kim $680.1K
30. Sophie Gustafson $545.9K
50. Jin Joo Hong $306.5K
80. Wendy Doolan $137.5K (.228% of the total purse)
100. Julieta Granada $101.1K
125. Young-A Yang $68.8K

While Wendy Doolan has made significantly more than her predecessors, her percentage of the total purse remains fairly low compared to the peak years early in the decade. This suggests that the top 50 players are eating up more of the pie and that less is left over for the rest of the membership. It's too soon to tell for this season, as everyone in it has more opportunites to make significantly more money on the Asian Swing, in Lorena's invitational, and perhaps even in the ADT Championship, but Jin Joo Hong is not only the 1st player to break the $300K barrier, but also is on pace to consume close to the peak portions of the LPGA pie for a player at #50 on the money list this decade (.508% already).

I'll update the 2008 figures at the end of the season to get a better sense of how the top 30, 20, 10, and 5 breakpoints have changed over the course of the decade. Anything that jumps out at you about these numbers?

Monday, October 20, 2008

More on the Relative Strength of the JLPGA and KLPGA

So, Ji-Yai Shin beat a star-studded field in the Hite Cup, as Eric reported over at Seoul

1st/-13 Ji-Yai Shin (68-67-68) [#1 KLPGA money list, 6 wins on tour in '08]
2nd/-11 Soo Yun Kang (71-66-68) [#77 LPGA money list]
3rd/-9 Sun Ju Ahn (67-69-71) [#6 KLPGA money list, Mission Hills medalist]
T4/-6 He Yong Choi (70-69-71) [#5 KLPGA money list; ROY #2 right now]
T8/-3 Soo Young Moon (70-70-73) [ex-LPGA player], Song-Hee Kim (69-71-73) [#11 LPGA money list]

T11/-2 H.J. Choi (71-73-70) [#58 LPGA money list], Mi-Jeong Jeon (73-68-73) [#5 JLPGA money list]
T14/-1 Ha Neul Kim (76-72-67) [#3 KLPGA money list], Ji-Hee Lee (72-72-71) [#1 JLPGA money list]
T17/E Se Ri Pak (71-73-72) [#49 LPGA money list], So Yeon Ryu (72-68-76) [#4 KLPGA money list, ROY #1 so far]
T25/+2 Hee Kyung Seo (75-72-71) [#2 KLPGA money list, 4 wins on tour this season], Hee Young Park (69-78-71) [#36 LPGA money list; LPGA ROY #3 right now]
T37/+4 Joo Mi Kim (76-74-70) [#176 LPGA money list], Ran Hong (72-75-73) [#7 KLPGA money list]
T57/+8 Inbee Park (73-74-77) [#6 LPGA money list]

With LPGA journeywomen Kang and Moon finishing in the top 10, Super Soph Kim finishing just in it and Junior Mint Choi just out of it, living legend Pak barely making the top 20, and U.S. Women's Open champion Park finishing out of the top 50, it suggests what a hair's breadth of talent, judgment, focus, momentum, and health separates the best of the Korean women's golfers any given week.

Ji-Hee Lee and Mi-Jeong Jeon, 2 of the hottest players on the JLPGA, were unable to crack the top 10 on the KLPGA last week. To be fair to them, they tied or beat the #2 and #3 players on the KLPGA in their 1st try on that tour this season, so they most likely would be top 5 material were they to play on the KLPGA full-time. Almost three times as many JLPGA players as KLPGA players have scoring averages of 72 or better in 2008, so the fact that Lee and Jeon have won only twice each on the JLPGA this season compared to 4 and 3 wins for Hee Kyung Seo and Ha Neul Kim on the KLPGA shouldn't be counted against them. Nothing that I've seen recently makes me doubt my earlier claim that the top 10-15 players on the JLPGA would do just fine on the LPGA, while the same could be said of about half that number from the KLPGA.

Still, with Miki Saiki missing the cut and Shiho Oyama getting a 6th place finish at the Fujitsu Ladies but remaining stuck in 16th place on their money list, it's clear the KLPGA has the advantage right now in future LPGA stars Shin and Ahn. As Ai Miyazato (T40 this week at Kapalua) and Momoko Ueda (T25) have barely passed the $400K mark and sit at the 39th and 40th positions on the LPGA money list, it seems fairly unlikely that Oyama or Saiki will be top 30 players in 2009 (assuming they breeze through Q-School in the 1st place). Ueda has 2 wins in 8 tries on the JLPGA this season and remains well ahead of Saiki and just behind Oyama on the JLPGA money list, while Miyazato has 2 top 10s (and 1 runner-up) in 2 starts (both majors) and is just outside the top 40. By comparison, if Shin's winnings from her non-member win on the JLPGA were counted toward her total for this season's money list, she'd be right behind Saiki--in only 4 events played on that tour! I would be shocked if Shin wasn't at least as good as Miyazato and Ueda in 2009 on the LPGA--and disappointed if she didn't maintain or improve her top 10 standing in the Rolex Rankings, where she's currently #7.

At the same time, the fact that Oyama and Saiki could hang with a hot Ahn at Mission Hills despite having lackluster seasns on the JLPGA suggests that there are many JLPGA players who could make a real bid for the kind of top 50 status that I expect from Ahn in her rookie season. Assuming older players who have tried a limited LPGA schedule before like Yuri Fudoh and Akiko Fukushima are not looking to try it again--and that Jeon and Lee have committed to staying in Asia--that leaves Miho Koga, Sakura Yokomine, Hyun-Ju Shin, Yuko Mitsuka, Erina Hara, Ayako Uehara, and Bo-Bae Song as the most likely candidates to follow Oyama and Saiki in following Ai-chan and Momo-chan to the States in the coming years. I'll definitely be rooting for one of them to win the Mizuno Classic in November!

Kapalua Classic Sunday: Pressel Chases Down Pettersen

Congratulations to Morgan Pressel for her comeback victory over Suzann Pettersen in the final round of the 1st playing of the tournament she hosts, the Kapalua Classic. Pettersen made 4 birdies in her last 5 holes on the front to charge out to a big lead, but Pressel made 2 birdies in the last 3 holes of each side to first pull within 2 strokes of Pettersen and then overtake her. Huge win for the struggling Junior Mint!

Busy day today, so I'll let and Jaymes Song take it from here for now.

[Update 1 (10:10 am): Here's Hound Dog and Bill Jempty on Morgan's win.]

[Update 2 (1:07 pm): Here's Hound Dog's reflections on the tournament.]

[Update 3 (1:12 pm): And here's Brent Kelley with a Morgan Pressel photo gallery.]

[Update 4 (1:16 pm): And here's Ryan Ballengee's reaction.]

[Update 5 (11:08 pm): Here's Hound Dog's final Quest for the Card post.]

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Fujitsu Ladies Sunday: Fudoh Takes a Run at Mitsuka

Man, if Yuri Fudoh hadn't had that 1 double bogey in Saturday's round, it would have taken her only 13 holes to have made up Yuko Mitsuka's 5-shot lead on her after the second round of the Fujitsu Ladies JLPGA event this weekend. As it is, despite Mitsuka breaking her bogey-free streak at 37 holes and that 2-shot swing when she bogeyed and Fudoh birdied the par-3 13th, Mitsuka still has a 2-shot lead on the JLPGA's own living legend, because she actually had a 7-shot lead heading into the final round. Fudoh, by the way, is playing in the next-to-last pairing, so Mitsuka will at least know what she has to do to notch her 2nd win of the season.

In addition to the race for 1st, there's a neat race for 3rd going on, as well, between 2 players very high on the JLPGA money list. Miho Koga jumped out to a 32 on the front but lost her momentum with 5 straight pars on the back. Still, she has a 1-shot lead on Akiko Fukushima, who gave back her back-to-back birdies with back-to-back bogeys on the front and remains at E on her day, -8 for the tournament, after completing the 13th hole 2 groups behind Koga.

More coming when the JLPGA leaderboard unfreezes!

[Update 1 (8:42 am): Fudoh did it--in a playoff! Unbelievable! More soon....]

[Update 2 (9:04 am): Simply amazing! Fudoh birdied the 374-yard par-4 15th and parred her way in for a 66 that brought her to -13. Mitsuka held onto a 1-shot lead until she made her 3rd bogey of the day on a par 3--this time, the 186-yard 17th hole--and failed to birdie the 18th.]

[Update 3 (9:06 am): Wow! Then it took 5 holes to win the playoff! More later!]

[Update 4 (11:31 am): So here are the final results:

1st/-13 Fudoh (69-68-66) [won in 5-hole playoff]
2nd/-13 Mitsuka (66-64-73)
3rd/-10 Keiko Sasaki (70-70-66)
4th/-9 Miho Koga (69-70-68)
T5/-7 Shinobu Moromizato (70-71-68), Mayu Hattori (70-67-72)
6th/-6 Shiho Oyama (70-69-71)
T8/-5 Saiki Fujita (68-72-71), Akane Iijima (69-70-72), Akiko Fukushima (63-73-75)

Nice job by Sasaki to grab 3rd place from Koga! It was a 32 on the back that did it when Koga parred out after her opening 32. Also a good sign for Oyama that she shot 3 rounds under par. But a painful final-hole triple bogey for Fukushima....

T11/-4 Hiromi Mogi (72-69-71), Nikki Campbell (69-72-71), Kaori Higo (70-70-72)
T15/-3 Erina Hara (68-75-70), Tamie Durdin (70-68-75)
T18/-2 Esther Lee (71-74-69), Sakura Yokomine (67-73-74), Eun-A Lim (71-69-74)
T23/-1 Asako Fujimoto (69-73-73)
T33/+1 Hiroko Yamaguchi (69-74-74)
51st/+9 Ritsuko Ryu (70-75-79)

Nice final-round move by Esther Lee on a day that many bigger names found quite difficult. And congrats to amateur Fujimoto for staying under par for the tournament, despite those 4 bogeys in her final 7 holes.]

[Update 5 (11:41 am): Here's the new money list:

1. Ji-Hee Lee ¥105.85M
2. Akiko Fukushima ¥86.29M
3. Miho Koga ¥81.07M
4. Sakura Yokomine ¥74.39M
5. Mi-Jeong Jeon ¥73.96M
6. Yuri Fudoh ¥73.23M
7. Hyun-Ju Shin ¥64.20M
8. Yuko Mitsuka ¥63.05M
9. Erina Hara ¥60.82M
10. Ayako Uehara ¥58.92M
11. Shinobu Moromizato ¥51.69M
12. Eun-A Lim ¥49.69M
13. Bo-Bae Song ¥49.41M
14. Hiromi Mogi ¥48.65M
15. Akane Iijima ¥48.52M
16. Shiho Oyama ¥48.17M
17. Esther Lee ¥44.54M
18. Momoko Ueda ¥43.87M
19. Chie Arimura ¥40.90M
20. Hiroko Yamaguchi ¥40.86M
21. Yukari Baba ¥40.76M
22. Maiko Wakabayashi ¥40.73M
23. Miki Saiki ¥40.34M
24. Ji-Woo Lee ¥37.68M
25. Midori Yoneyama ¥33.27M
26. Rui Kitada ¥31.26M
27. Saiki Fujita ¥29.27M
28. Mayu Hattori ¥27.90M
29. Ji-Yai Shin ¥24.18M
30. Mie Nakata ¥23.68M

With her 4th win of the season, Yuri Fudoh puts herself right back into the race for the money-list lead! This is going to be a very interesting home stretch on the JLPGA!]

Move Over, Joe the Plumber!

Bobbio at Average Golfer considers the tax implications for Joe PGA-Tour-Winner of an Obama victory. Who said there'll be no Joe this weekend?

Kapalua Classic Saturday: The Junior Mints Strike Back

The LPGA's Super Sophs have done the impossible thus far this season: outshone 1 of the best rookie classes in LPGA history, the Junior Mints. Inbee Park has matched Morgan Pressel's major, and while Eun-Hee Ji, Ji Young Oh, and In-Kyung Kim haven't yet matched Seon Hwa Lee's pair of wins this season (much less her generation-leading 4 career victories), they not only have beaten Jee Young Lee, Ai Miyazato, and Brittany Lang to the LPGA winner's circle (to be fair, Lee does have a non-member win), but also have outplayed Junior Mint winners Julieta Granada and Meaghan Francella by a country mile. And the Super Sophs are beating the Junior Mints 7-3 when it comes to placing their players on the top 30 of the money list thus far this season. If I were to redo my latest Young Guns ranking as of last week, the Super Sophs would have 4 of the top 7 slots in it. With Angela Park, Song-Hee Kim, Jane Park, and Kristy McPherson knocking on the door this season for their 1st career wins, often repeatedly, I would have to admit that the Class of '07's elite talent pool goes deeper than the '06ers'--even in the face of the great seasons of Sun Young Yoo and Teresa Lu.

Let's not call the 3rd round of the Kapalua Classic a comeback just yet, but it's got to give the Junior Mints hope that they have 6 of the 24 players with a legitimate shot to become the 1st champion of this inaugural event, including 4 within 1 shot of the lead. Morgan Pressel's 67, which included 2 birdies and a rare eagle for the short hitter after she had made back-to-back bogeys at the turn, leapfrogged her all the way into a tie for 1st at -5 with classmate Jee Young Lee and 2nd-round co-leader Brittany Lang. 1 shot back is Sun Young Yoo, while Seon Hwa Lee is only 3 behind, despite making 3 bogeys on the back, and Linda Wessberg is still within reach at -1. Sure, these Junior Mints will have to beat the likes of Carin Koch (68, -5, T1), Suzann Pettersen (72, -4, T5), Cristie Kerr (70, -3, T9), Laura Davies (67, -2, T12), Helen Alfredsson (72, -1, T17), and Lorena Ochoa (73, E, T21)--and these are just the biggest names who could win this thing later today. But with no Super Sophs in sight, things are looking up for their class.

In fact, if Ai Miyazato can build on her strong finish that pulled her back to +3 and into a tie for 37th with Ya Ni Tseng, Juli Inkster, Stacy Lewis, and Moira Dunn, the Junior Mints might be able to place 9 players ahead the best of the Super Sophs this week (Eun-Hee Jee and Ji Young Oh are T25 at +1 with Momoko Ueda and Jane Park is T31 at +2 with Annika Sorenstam), as Sarah Jane Kenyon and Allison Fouch are +1 and +2, respectively. Heck, if Karin Sjodin, Katie Futcher, and Virada Nirapathpongporn (all at +4) can pull it off, it'll be an even dozen. How cool would that be for the Junior Mints?

So while I would love to see Ai-chan and Moira go super-low tomorrow and Momo-chan and Seon Hwa post some good numbers early, I'm most interested in seeing how the Junior Mints in the final pairing--Morgan Pressel and Jee Young Lee--handle the conditions and the pressure. Sure, Ai-chan is going 1st off the 10th with Stacy Lewis, so she'll benefit from hopefully quieter morning winds and being able to set the pace of play (for the back, at least), and Moira gets to play with Juli Inkster, but Morgan and Jee Young have had such equal accomplishments over such short careers with such contrasting styles of play that the 1st final round in this event will be quite a treat.

[Update 1 (2:02 am): Here's's notes and interviews.]

[Update 2 (3:33 am): Is it just me, or is Jaymes Song making a run lately at becoming the AP's regular LPGA guy?]

[Update 3 (3:43 am): Now Golf Channel is practicing anti-blonde bias! Their highlight reel focuses on Pressel and Pettersen (Morgan's missed 2-footer on 18 would have been a nice complement to Pettersen's histrionics, btw), but ignores Carin Koch and Brittany Lang. Of course Jee Young Lee is going to need to win to get any face time on Golf Central, but isn't it odd that they couldn't add another 30 seconds to their 2 minutes and change to cover, like, the co-freaking-leaders?! Never mind mention that 16 are within 3 of the lead and 24 within 5 heading into the final round!]

[Update 4 (10/20/08, 6:32 am): Here's Hound Dog!]

Fujitsu Ladies Saturday: Mitsuka Shoots 64, Leads Fukushima by 6

It was a classic anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better day in the 2nd round of the Fujitsu Ladies event on the JLPGA. While 1st-round leader Akiko Fukushima struggled to a 73 that included 2 birdies in her last 3 holes on a bogey-free front and 3 consecutive bogeys on a birdie-less back, Yuko Mitsuka caught fire, making 6 birdies and an eagle in her 2nd straight bogey-free round, this one a 64 that brought her from 3 shots down to 6 shots up on Fukushima. As nobody else in the field could catch even the former leader, this tournament is officially Mitsuka's to lose. Yuri Fudoh would be her main challenger were it not for the 1 blemish on her scorecard being a double bogey, by the way.

1st/-14 Mitsuka (66-64)
2nd/-8 Fukushima (63-73)
T3/-7 Mayu Hattori (70-67), Fudoh (69-68)
5th/-6 Tamie Durdin (70-68)
T6/-5 Shiho Oyama (70-69), Miho Koga (69-70), Akane Iijima (69-70), Ah-Reum Hwang (69-70), Mikiyo Nishizuka (67-72)

T11/-4 Eun-A Lim (71-69), Kaori Higo (70-70), Saiki Fujita (68-72), Sakura Yokomine (67-73)
T16/-3 Hiromi Mogi (72-69), Shinobu Moromizato (70-71), Nikki Campbell (69-72)
T20/-2 Asako Fujimoto (69-73)
T27/-1 Hiroko Yamaguchi (69-74), Erina Hara (68-75)
T44/+1 Esther Lee (71-74), Ritsuko Ryu (70-75)

In light of how low the top 10 players have been able to go this week, it's a bit shocking how many big names missed the cut:

T52/+2 Mie Nakata (73-73), Rui Yokomine (72-74), Miki Saiki (70-76)
T63/+3 Ji-Woo Lee (73-74)
T67/+4 Yun-Jye Wei (76-72), Rui Kitada (74-74), Yuki Ichinose (73-75)
T73/+6 Chie Arimura (74-76)
T83/+8 Maiko Wakabayashi (76-76)
T86/+10 Midori Yoneyama (77-77)

Will Mitsuka bury the field like she did when she got her 1st win of the season, or will someone put some pressure on her in the final round? Stay tuned!

Kapalua Classic Friday: Look Who's Tied for 11th!!

Well, the 2nd round of the Kapalua Classic is history, but I couldn't let it pass without commemorating Moira Dunn's 69 that brought her into a tie for 11th place with the likes of Lorena Ochoa, Cristie Kerr, and Helen Alfredsson. Her 1st sub-70 round since the Women's British Open and 3rd-best round of the day couldn't have come at a better time: with it, she's practically guaranteed that she'll finish in the top 80 on the official money list and be a full-time player in 2009. Way to go, Moira!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me!

The Full Metal Alchemist's birthday gift to me was the fan-subbed live-action version of the hit anime Nodame Cantabile. (Think Bad News Bears meets classical music. It's one of those funny-but-moving J-dramas I've already written about here.)

Just for you all, here are some opening and closing songs from the anime:

And here's the anime-style ending song from the special episode that takes place after the series we watched ends.

For the series itself, though, I recommend episodes only get chopped down into 2- or 3-clip sequences.

Oh, and by the way, it's inspired a dance for all the kids out there:

Friday, October 17, 2008

Fujitsu Ladies Friday: Fukushima Shoots 63, Leads Mitsuka by 3

Unlike on the LPGA, scoring was low in the 1st round of the Fujitsu Ladies event on the JLPGA. Akiko Fukushima lead the way with 5 birdies on each side for a blistering 63, followed by Yuko Mitsuka's bogey-free 66 and Sakura Yokomine's bogey-free 67. Even with money-list leader Ji-Hee Lee and #1-ranked Mi-Jeong Jeon playing in Korea in the KLPGA's Hite Cup (Lee shot a 72 and Jeon a 73 to trail Sun Ju Ahn's 67 and Ji-Yai Shin's 68), Hyun-Ju Shin almost definitely injured, and Ayako Uehara, Bo-Bae Song, and Yukari Baba taking the week off, this will not be a walk in the park for Fukushima. Erina Hara bogeyed the par-3 17th hole to shoot a 68, Yuri Fudoh and Miho Koga shot solid 69s, and LPGA-bound Shiho Oyama and Miki Saiki are lurking at -2, along with Shinobu Moromizato.

Here are the top 10 and notables:

1st/-9 Fukushima (63)
2nd/-6 Mitsuka (66)
T3/-5 Yokomine, Mikiyo Nishizuka (67)
T5/-4 Hara, Saiki Fujita, Junko Omote (68)
T8/-3 Fudoh, Koga, Akane Iijima, Hiroko Yamaguchi, Nikki Campbell, Asako Fujimoto, and 3 others (69)

Fujimoto, by the way, is coming off a T14 at the Women's World Amateur event that Sweden just won; she tied Mika Miyazato and helped lead Japan to a 5th-place finish behind Spain, the U.S., and Canada.

T17/-2 Oyama, Saiki, Moromizato, Kaori Higo, Mayu Hattori, Ritsuko Ryu, Tamie Durdin (70)
T28/-1 Eun-A Lim, Esther Lee (71)
T35/E Hiromi Mogi, Rui Yokomine (72)
T49/+1 Mie Nakata, Ji-Woo Lee, Yuki Ichinose (73)

Nice to see the LET's Yokomine playing respectably. Lots of JLPGA young guns in this strata will be looking to at least catch Fujimoto tomorrow.

T64/+2 Chie Arimura, Rui Kitada (74)
T76/+4 Maiko Wakabayashi, Yun-Jye Wei (76)
T82/+5 Midori Yoneyama (77)

Looks like a post-win letdown for Wakabayashi. We'll see how much fight is left in this group looking to make the cut...and how much ground Akiko Fukushima can make up on Ji-Hee Lee on the JLPGA money list this week!