Saturday, November 21, 2009

LPGA Tour Championship Friday: Houston, We Have a Problem!

LPGA official Doug Brecht said they got some "bonus golf" in on the Houstonian today when it appeared heavy rains would wash away the entire 2nd round of the LPGA Tour Championship. True, half the field didn't even get to tee it off and nobody in the morning pairings actually finished her round. So they're going to need the course to drain well, more rain to hold off, a lot of fast play from the remaining golfers in the field (Candie Kung, Seon Hwa Lee, and Silvia Cavalleri joined Michelle Wie in withdrawing), and a little luck to finish all 72 holes by Sunday afternoon now. But Brecht practically guaranteed that all 72 holes would be played, even if it takes a Monday finish:

Because this is our Tour Championship, it affects Player of the Year, it affects a lot of--all the major awards. If affects players going--who has to go to Q-School and who doesn't have to go to Q-School. It affects players on our priority list and where they fall on that priority list.

There's a ton of things riding on this tournament. Because of that and the importance of it, we are committed to playing 72 holes.

That's music to my ears! I can't tell you how many times over the last few years that the LPGA has annoyed me by cutting 72-hole tournaments back to 54 holes in response to bad weather. If they're not going to take themselves seriously, why should anyone else? This is definitely a step in the right direction.

Speaking of which, it seems that the players who could draw on a wealth of experience took the most steps in the right direction despite the challenging conditions yesterday. Wendy Ward and Helen Alfredsson were -3 on their rounds and for the tournament with 6 and 7 holes left to play on the back, respectively. Juli Inkster joined them at -3 overall after a bogey on the 1st hole brought her back to -1 on her round. They're all 1 shot behind Sophie Gustafson, who birdied 3 of her 1st 6 holes today and played her next 5 holes in +1. If she can finish strong and pass 1st-round leader Lorena Ochoa at -6, she'll be the leader in the clubhouse for quite some time. Meanwhile, Cristie Kerr and Suzanne Pettersen shot 35s on the back to move to -1 overall and are poised to turn up the heat on Ji-Yai Shin, Na Yeon Choi, Ya Ni Tseng, and Ochoa.

But it wasn't only the vets who played well yesterday. Haeji Kang has held steady at -3 overall as she started hot on her 1st 7 holes (playing them in -2) on the back and cooled off over her next 7 (playing them in +2). Jane Park shot a 33 on the front to join Kerr, Pettersen, Karen Stupples, and Mikaela Parmlid at -1 overall. Julieta Granada (-3 today with 3 left to play on the front), Jee Young Lee (-2 today with 6 to go on the front), and Ai Miyazato (35 on the back) lead the players charging to E overall. Amy Yang matched Park's 33 on the front and M.J. Hur is -3 with 6 holes left to play on the front as both players fight to improve on their +1 standing thus far. And if Paula Creamer can turn it around from Thursday and birdie every hole she bogeyed on the back the 1st time around, she'll birdie the par-5 18th and join them at +1 with a 33 this time around.

The 1st cut line will fall at the top 70 and ties. Fighting to be on the right side of it are Marisa Baena (-3 today through 16, but +4 overall, T85 right now with Catriona Matthew and Jennifer Rosales, among others) and Minea Blomqvist (-2 today with 5 to go on the front, T74 at +3 with Eunjung Yi and Shanshan Feng, among others). Unfortunately, Brittany Lang has fallen back to +4 overall and only has 8 holes left on the front to make up enough ground to make it possible to get into the top 30 through 54 holes, while Moira Dunn is at +6 with 5 to play on the front and will need a sharp turnaround just to keep playing on the weekend. With Taylor Leon, Heather Bowie Young, and Irene Cho off to solid starts, and others within $20K of her on the money list looking to play all 4 rounds this week, Moira needs to play great tomorrow morning to give herself a chance to control her destiny when it comes to staying in the top 80 on the money list.

Play is expected to start at 7 am and the plan is to start the 3rd round around 2 pm. Let's hope we've seen the last of the weather-related problems at the Houstonian this year!

[Update 1 (5:27 am): We've been in Kitchener following Daisuke Takahashi at Skate Canada since Thursday afternoon, so I haven't been able to read around the last couple of days. But I have to say I've been impressed by Jeff Skinner's LPGA blogging of late. Sure, he's been inspired by Michelle Wie, like all the LPGA irregulars, but check out his nice piece on Stacy Lewis. Michelle Wie has also gotten Stephanie Wei's attention. It's Lorena Ochoa who's brought Jamie RS back to the keyboard. And Bill Jempty saved a few zingers for Steve Elling. Good stuff--check it out! And if you think scoring conditions are tough in Houston, try the KLPGA's season-ending event!]

[Update 2 (7:41 am): Not a good sign--players tweeting about rain on the way to the course this am!]

[Update 3 (8:52 am): Just realized that Ai-sama's birdieless 37 on the back yesterday broke her 21-round streak of shooting par or better. Time to start a new one today! And break that pesky 6-event streak of failing to break 70. The Vare Trophy is still within reach! Gambatte!]

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