Saturday, November 14, 2009

Lorena Ochoa Invitational Saturday: Shin Makes Like Tiger--and Not in a Good Way

Just as Tiger Woods gave up a lead on moving day down under this week, Ji-Yai Shin did the same today in the Lorena Ochoa Invitational. Even though her birdie barrage of the 1st 36 holes had slowed to a trickle over her 1st 10 holes today, she was still -12 for the tournament, ahead of playing partners Paula Creamer by 1 and Michelle Wie by 2. Sure, by that point In-Kyung Kim was well on her way toward posting her round-of-the-day 65 and Sun Young Yoo her 67, but to someone playing as well as Shin this week, they must have seemed liked distant echoes, not at all threatening. And nobody else was making much of a move while Shin struggled to find her birdie gear. Even a rare bogey on the par-4 12th must have seemed like just a blip at that point to the leader. She still held a share of the lead with Creamer and when Wie offset her previous hole's birdie on it, Shin must have felt some relief to have maintained a 1-shot lead on her.

Little did Shin know when she hit the 13th tee that she wouldn't make a single birdie the rest of the way, but would instead bogey 16 and 17, opening the door to everyone in the field. In-Kyung Kim would suddenly find herself within 3 shots of the former leader, Yoo within 5. And all of a sudden, it seemed like everyone was making late charges. Ya Ni Tseng closed with 3 late birdies and only a bogey on the tough par-3 17th kept her from finishing the day within 1 of Shin. A similar result on the penultimate hole dropped 1st-round leader Song-Hee Kim back into a tie with Shin--and Creamer, who would bogey 3 of her last 4 holes herself (the lone non-bogey, fortunately for her, was a birdie). But the co-leaders at the end of the day ended up being Wie, who offset her birdie on the par-3 13th with a bogey on the par-4 15th, and Cristie Kerr, who eagled the par-4 16th for a bogey-free 67 of her own that pushed her 1 ahead of Shin.

So whereas it was looking like a potential runaway win for Shin at the halfway point, at the three-quarters mark, things look quite different. If she's had an Achilles heel this season, it's been her unexpected tendency for those who have been following her short but brilliant career to let 1 round get a little out of hand and force her to play catch-up. Well, it showed up this week at the worst possible time. There are now 11 golfers within 5 shots of the lead. All of a sudden, it's looking like pretty equal odds that we could have a career 1st-time winner (Wie, SH Kim, Lang, McPherson), a seasonal 1st-time winner (Creamer, Pressel), or a repeat winner (Shin, Kerr, Tseng, IK Kim, Pettersen) at the '09 LOI when all is said and done.

In the money-list race, Ai Miyazato (70) is back within 6 of Shin, Lorena Ochoa (72) within 5, Suzann Pettersen (72) within 4, and of course Kerr is ahead of her by 1. I'm too nervous for Ai-sama to keep calculating scoring averages after every round, but that race is wide open again.

What I'm trying to get at is that this is exciting, people! Let's go see who else is getting this!

[Update 1 (9:30 pm): Let's start with the players in's notes and interviews. And for good measure let's take a look at the pairings for those with everything from 1/10th of a hope of winning to more than half:

Start Time: 10:56 AM
Brittany Lincicome
Ai Miyazato
Anna Nordqvist

Start Time: 11:07 AM
Catriona Matthew
M.J. Hur
Lorena Ochoa

Start Time: 11:18 AM
Brittany Lang
Suzann Pettersen
Sun Young Yoo

Start Time: 11:29 AM
In-Kyung Kim
Kristy McPherson
Morgan Pressel

Start Time: 11:40 AM
Paula Creamer
Ji-Yai Shin
Ya Ni Tseng

Start Time: 11:51 AM
Cristie Kerr
Michelle Wie
Song-Hee Kim

Sorry, the AP story left me, "blah" this time around. Don't know why. Guess it's too soon to expect other reactions just yet.]

[Update 2 (9:56 pm): Why is it whenever I watch Golf Channel highlights on the web, I get an uncontrollable urge to root for Ji-Yai Shin or Song-Hee Kim or Ya Ni Tseng or In-Kyung Kim or--you guessed it--anyone but an American? Don't get me wrong: I really really like Paula Creamer (just not quite as much as onechan or imoto), I really like Morgan Pressel (just not quite as much as my Syracuse relatives), I like Michelle Wie and wish her all the best, and I even respect Cristie Kerr. But come on, GC people, the golfy Olympics aren't till 2016. OK, yeah, to give you credit, you didn't reach down the leaderboard and try to put pressure on Pressel (or McPherson or Lang or Lincicome) to break that darn ol' losing streak. But if I want to hear someone crying me a river, I'll page Steve Elling. Could you talk for a second about what a 1st-time win would mean to Song-Hee Kim? Or a come-from-behind win to Tseng? If this is what I can expect from y'all in 2010, I don't see any reason to pay for digital cable!]

[Update 3 (11/15/09, 12:20 pm): Thanks for the linkage, Golf Girl! And good luck to your girl, Cristie Kerr, today. But did you catch that idiot at Waggle Room waxing all ultra-super-patriotic? Ryan's really letting the riffraff in over there these days!]


LPGA Fan said...

I'm with you "big guy". And not directly to you point but very much related, why all the GC conversation that Americans can't claim the top spots in the LPGA. Is that Ladies Professional Golf America? The conversation doesn't point to any other country but Korea. How come? I can imagine Michelle Wie winning and someone will spout off, "well she's really Korean". Sad, very sad that folks can't just enjoy the sport and competition.

The Constructivist said...

Sorry to reveal in comments that I was the idiot who wrote that at WR! It was a parody, but I'm waiting to see if anyone besides Ryan's regulars gets it!