Friday, April 30, 2010

Battle of the Network (LPGA) Stars(' Commercials).... :(

Can't ad agencies come up with anything better than Michelle Wie using her driver as a texting device and Ai Miyazato turning into a remote control? Let's hope their duel at Tres Marias this weekend is more compelling than this dreck:

The way Wie sprays her driver, it's amazing her messages reached their targets, eh?

No comment.

Hey, but at least I can hope that onechan will get more into Ai-sama when she finds out she's into pink and likes cherry tomatos!

[Update 1 (11:03 pm): Although Hound Dog puts Ai-sama 1 shot worse than she actually did and fails to mention that both she and Wie came back to the field late in their rounds, his account is the best out there not authored by (BTW, nice hole-in-1 by Brittany Lincicome to enter the mix, too, but I can't see her keeping pace over the next 36 holes.)]

[Update 2 (11:20 pm): Check out the last 5 groups going out tomorrow:

Start Time: 11:19 AM
Song-Hee Kim
In-Kyung Kim
Irene Cho

Start Time: 11:30 AM
Karen Stupples
Lorena Ochoa
Maria Hjorth

Start Time: 11:41 AM
Stacy Lewis
Jeong Jang
Sarah Jane Smith

Start Time: 11:52 AM
Na Yeon Choi
Jee Young Lee
Kristy McPherson

Start Time: 12:03 PM
Michelle Wie
Brittany Lincicome
Ai Miyazato

I think you'll see most of the really low scores come earlier in the day. I'd love to see Morgan Pressel and Juli Inkster (8:14 am) and Mika Miyazato and Jane Park (9:19 am) push each other. Also looking for good rounds from those with LET connections like Amy Yang, Suzann Pettersen, and Anna Nordqvist....]

[Update 3 (11:27 pm): Bill Jempty has a funny response to Wie's lead, news about the LPGA doing its exhibition in Brazil for the 2nd straight year (this time in May), plus he takes the opportunity to rub my nose in Lincicome's fine play this week! What's not to love!]

[Update 4 (11:35 pm): Pretty funny how the only American reporter at Tres Marias, Beth Ann Baldry, teased "overly-dedicated LPGA fans" for following the live scoring, which got things wrong (as usual when the LPGA is out of the country). Normally I would have been one of those fans, but work is killing me like you wouldn't believe!]

CyberAgent Ladies Friday: Arimura Lone Golfer Under 70, Leads Shin by 3

News of Ai Miyazato's 63 to open the Tres Marias Championship would have greeted those playing the 1st round of the CyberAgent Ladies around the time they arrived at the Tsurumai Country Club. If world #2 Ji-Yai Shin heard about it, she may have been a little bit rattled, as she made 3 bogeys and no birdies over her 1st 10 holes, but she quickly righted the ship with 3 birdies in her last 6 holes and 8 bogey-free holes in all to close out her round. Her even-par 72 didn't hurt her that much, in any case, as only 1 player in the field was able to break 70. Chie Arimura, who was part of a trio of golfers racing for Player of the Year last season and who now finds herself 3rd on the money list behind 2 rookies, Inbee Park (who didn't start the event) and Sun-Ju Ahn (who stumbled to a 74), in this year's list, made 4 birdies in her 1st 12 holes and never repeated her 2nd-hole bogey on the way to her 69. Hot on her heels are Mi-Jeong Jeon (70), Momoko Ueda (71), and Miho Koga (71).

A look at the top 10 and notables' results suggests that scoring conditions were quite difficult today:

1st/-3 Chie Arimura (69)
T2/-2 Mi-Jeong Jeon, Nozomi Inoue (70)
T4/-1 Momoko Ueda, Miho Koga, Tamie Durdin, Na-Ri Kim, Ah-Reum Hwang, Yeo-Jin Kang (71)
T10/E Ji-Yai Shin, Miki Saiki, Asako Fujimoto, Hiromi Mogi, Akane Iijima, Junko Omote, Orie Fujino, Saori Ikushima (72)

T18/+1 Ayako Uehara, Mie Nakata (73)
T26/+2 Sun-Ju Ahn, Young Kim, Bo-Bae Song, Rikako Morita (74)
T33/+3 Sakura Yokomine, Shinobu Moromizato, Ji-Hee Lee, Akiko Fukushima, Nikki Campbell (75)
T48/+4 Seon Hwa Lee, Yuko Mitsuka, Hyun-Ju Shin, Yukari Baba, Rui Kitada, Kaori Aoyama, Maiko Wakabayashi, Sakurako Mori, Ji-Woo Lee, Esther Lee, Kumiko Kaneda, Na-Ri Lee (76)
T64/+5 Eun-A Lim, Mayu Hattori, Yuki Sakurai, Ritsuko Ryu (77)
T81/+6 Riko Higashio (78)
T93/+8 Erina Hara, Yuki Ichinose (80)
DNS: So-Hee Kim, Yun-Jye Wei

Let's see who steps it up on the weekend!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Tres Marias Championship Thursday: Ai, Ai, Ai-Ai! Miyazato Opens with 63!!

When I picked Ai Miyazato to win the Tres Marias Championship, I was really just hoping she'd remember how to make more than 1 birdie per round again. After winning the 1st 2 LPGA events of the new season, she sandwiched trouble on the longer courses on the West Coast swing between indifferent results on the JLPGA. Well, after making 4 birdies in a row after parring the 1st hole today, she never looked back, making 3 more pairs of consecutive birdies toward the middle and end of her round. Good thing she did, because if Azahara Munoz hadn't made a bogey a side, she would have matched Ai-sama's 63. Munoz barely stayed ahead of 3 other leading lights in the LPGA's New Blood generation, Michelle Wie (66), Mariajo Uribe (67), and Amanda Blumenherst (68). With so many up-and-coming stars of the LPGA shooting the lights out, Miyazato's playing partner Lorena Ochoa's own 66 was in danger of being overshadowed. After starting on the par-5 10th hole with an eagle, she followed it up with 4 more birdies on the back but offset 2 of them with an early and late bogey. She closed out the front with a bogey-free 33 to tie Wie in 3rd place.

Even though 16 players broke 70, 46 went under par, and 55 shot par or better, it wasn't all fun and games out there. Angela Stanford WDed after shooting an 85, 12 other players failed to break 80 (including Hall of Famer Se Ri Pak), Mi Hyun Kim and Stacy Prammanasudh shot 79s, Brittany Lang and Vicky Hurst shot 77s, Juli Inkster, Morgan Pressel, and Hee Young Park shot 76s, and Amy Yang opened with a 75. They all will be fighting just to make the cut tomorrow.

Just as those who started badly have a lot of ground to make up, so do those who started slowly. Suzann Pettersen finds herself 10 shots behind Ai-sama after 18 holes, Song-Hee Kim and Anna Nordqvist are 7 back, and Na Yeon Choi and In-Kyung Kim are 6 off the pace. Surprisingly, Karen Stupples, who like Pak was playing Tres Marias for the 1st time today, finds herself within 3 shots of the lead. Let's see how she holds up on the mountainous course over the next 54 holes. Ditto for Sherri Steinhauer, who opened with a fine 70.

[Update 1 (9:55 pm): Check it out--a good AP game story on the LPGA!]

[Update 2 (10:05 pm): Nice job by Beth Ann Baldry, too!]

[Update 3 (4/30/10, 7:00 am): Don't know where ESPN Deportes got the idea that Ai-sama's been a pro for only "cuatro anos," but otherwise a good story on "La jugadora oriental" and her 1st round!]

[Update 4 (7:04 am): Here's's notes and interviews page.]

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Tres Marias Championship Preview, Predictions, Pairings

Finally, the Tres Marias Championship is here! In a year with so few tournaments on the LPGA, every single one matters, but of course this one matters more because it could well end up being Lorena Ochoa's last event as an LPGA regular. Like Hound Dog, I'm astounded that there will be no U.S. television coverage. I'll be busting out my unused-since-college Spanish to surf ESPN Deportes to see what video they choose to post. I love the Mojo 6 and all, but CBS had better be doing regular updates on the action in Morelia over the weekend!

Back when this was the Corona Championship and the then-newly-crowned #1 golfer in the world of women's golf failed to win it for the only time in the last 4 years, I made a double in-joke that proved remarkably prescient on two levels (sure, the details were all wrong, but I got the big picture right, you have to admit), so this tournament will always mean something extra to me. Last year's preview gives you a pretty good sense of the results from the year before and the vibe of the tournament: go low early and often. With lots of hills and water, lots can happen, but the winner's probably going to have to average around 68 per round (it's a par-73 course). Keeping in mind that Ai Miyazato's 1st LPGA win came on the hilly Evian Masters track, her solid history at Tres Marias, the pressure on Lorena, and the fact that the hottest female player (Inbee Park) is competing in Japan this week, here's the 12 players I think will separate themselves out from this strong field:

1. Miyazato Ai
2. Pettersen
3. Ochoa
4. Kim Song-Hee
5. Choi Na Yeon
6. Nordqvist
7. Pressel
8. McPherson
9. Kim In-Kyung
10. Wie
11. Yoo
12. Lang

Alts: Prammanasudh, Ward, Hull

With Ji-Yai Shin also playing in Japan this week, Cristie Kerr, Ya Ni Tseng, and Karrie Webb inexplicably sitting this one out, and Jeong Jang, Mi Hyun Kim, Grace Park, and Angela Park still in comeback mode, this is a great opportunity for Miyazato, Pettersen, and Nordqvist to put in a claim on being the next #1. The tournament organizers clearly have a sense of history, as they're pairing Lorena with Ai-sama in the top prime-time quadrant going off the 10th tee in the late morning:

Start Time: 8:36 AM
Jeong Jang
Leta Lindley
Soo-Yun Kang

Start Time: 8:47 AM
Michele Redman
Sun Young Yoo
Liselotte Neumann

Start Time: 8:58 AM
Anna Nordqvist
Sandra Gal
Michelle Wie

Start Time: 9:09 AM
Giulia Sergas
Pat Hurst
Meaghan Francella

Start Time: 9:20 AM
Lorena Ochoa
Ai Miyazato
Natalie Gulbis

Next-best quadrant is going opposite them off the front:

Start Time: 8:36 AM
Christina Kim
Katherine Hull
Grace Park

Start Time: 8:47 AM
Angela Park
In-Kyung Kim
Kristy McPherson

Start Time: 8:58 AM
Hee-Won Han
Juli Inkster
Helen Alfredsson

Start Time: 9:09 AM
Amy Yang
Stacy Prammanasudh
Mi Hyun Kim

Start Time: 9:20 AM
Sherri Steinhauer
Hee Young Park
M.J. Hur

Glad to see Steinhauer back--hope her hips can take the hills! Next-best quadrant goes off the 10th in the early afternoon:

Start Time: 12:10 PM
Laura Diaz
Wendy Ward
Jimin Kang

Start Time: 12:21 PM
Angela Stanford
Lorie Kane
Suzann Pettersen

Start Time: 12:32 PM
Brittany Lincicome
Karine Icher
Na Yeon Choi

Start Time: 12:43 PM
Vicky Hurst
Nicole Castrale
Anna Grzebien

Start Time: 12:54 PM
Becky Morgan
Brandie Burton
Meena Lee

And finally there are a lot of dark horses in the front-side early-afternoon quadrant:

Start Time: 12:10 PM
Kyeong Bae
Morgan Pressel
Eunjung Yi

Start Time: 12:21 PM
Stacy Lewis
Ji Young Oh
Janice Moodie

Start Time: 12:32 PM
Brittany Lang
Mika Miyazato
Louise Friberg

Start Time: 12:43 PM
Se Ri Pak
Candie Kung
Maria Hjorth

Start Time: 12:54 PM
Jane Park
Jee Young Lee
Song-Hee Kim

I'm very curious to see how Moira Dunn (#1, 1:05 pm), Mina Harigae (#1, 1:16 pm), and Pernilla Lindberg (#1, 7:41 am) do this week, along with Lorena's young successors from the Spanish-speaking world, particularly Azahara Munoz (#10, 8:03 am), Mariajo Uribe (#1, 8:03 am), Maria Hernandez (#1, 7:30 am), Tania Elosegui (#10, 1:16 pm), and Beatriz Recari (playing with Moira). Amazingly, both Se Ri Pak and Karen Stupples (playing with Elosegui) are in this event for the 1st time. Erica Blasberg and Diana D'Alessio Monday-qualified with scores of 73 and 74, respectively, so my guess is the course is playing pretty tough.

We'll see if that poses obstacles to Ai-sama's quest to get back in birdie mode and put an end to her mini-slump. Gambare!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Recommended Reading: Looking Back on Lorena's Career, Looking Ahead to the LPGA's Future

I'm still too sad to write any more about Lorena's retirement, but wanted to pass along what I think have been the best looks back at Lorena'a career.

  • Lisa Mickey's memories of Lorena's amateur and Futures Tour years (and check out reactions from current Futures Tour players);
  • Hound Dog's video compilation of Lorena's most memorable shots from 2008;
  • Brian Hewitt's look ahead to Lorena's future (if the link doesn't work subscribe to Global Golf Post).
In addition, Hound Dog's preview of and hot 20 list for the Tres Marias Championship are out. But what I really want to call your attention to is Happy Fan's satirical suggestion that apartheid is the only way to save the LPGA. Now that's a must-read! [Update 1 (4/28/10, 5:10 am): Nice career comparison between Lorena and Tiger at age 28 by Ryan Ballengee.]

Monday, April 26, 2010

Peace Now! - First Mix

The Next #1?

It's not surprising that the SI Guys focus on Ji-Yai Shin, Suzann Pettersen, Ya Ni Tseng, and Michelle Wie as potential #1s on the LPGA after Lorena Ochoa retires. I've seen Cristie Kerr and Paula Creamer mentioned, as well. But I'd suggest it's going to come down to Ji-Yai Shin against a name nobody else seems to be mentioning: Ai Miyazato.

Yes, Ai-sama has gone through a tough stretch recently, finding it hard to make birdies in the run-up to and aftermath of the Kraft Nabisco Championship. Yes, Shin is 21 spots ahead of her on the JLPGA money list and only 4 spots behind her on the LPGA money list. And even if Ai-sama retakes the top spot this week in Mexico and a few people pass Ji-Yai on the LPGA list, she'll fall much further behind Ji-Yai on the JLPGA one. But what really matters is the Rolex Rankings, where Ai-sama has dropped over a half-point behind Ji-Yai from being in a virtual dead heat with her most of last month. And it's there that both Ai-sama and Ji-Yai have a huge advantage over their top competitors on the LPGA this season.

Both are clearly among the top players on the JLPGA. Their odds of winning on the JLPGA are much higher than on the LPGA. And the strength of JLPGA fields, with 8 of the top 25, 15 of the top 50, and 36 of the top 100 playing there at least fairly regularly, means that good finishes (top 10s) and great finishes (top 5s) can help their world ranking in a meaningful way, even if they don't rack up multiple wins there in 2010. With the top players so closely bunched (Lorena at 9.11 is just over a point and a half ahead of Cristie Kerr at 7.50), and with just about any of the top 30 LPGA regulars capable of taking the top spot in the next few years, being able to augment your LPGA results with good or great play on other tours could end up being the deciding factor.

With Ji-Yai having played the last couple of weeks on the JLPGA but skipping the Salonpas Cup and Ai-sama having rested up for a trip back to Japan for it--and both players committed to the Bell Micro and the Sybase Match Play Championship in May--they'll have taken slightly different paths to the same goal: playing their best in the prime LPGA schedule in June and July. Can't wait to see how they do!

[Update 1 (5:21 pm): Thanks to Jay Busbee for the linkage!]

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Fujisankei Ladies Classic Sunday: Hattori Hangs on for 2nd Career Win

Mayu Hattori made the Fujisankei Ladies Classic her 2nd career win on the JLPGA today, but in the end she needed a little help from Inbee Park, Nikki Campbell, and Bo-Bae Song.

Park, going off an hour and a half before the final threesome, started the day at even par, but, after an eagle at the short par-5 5th and birdies at the short par-3 9th, short par-4 10th, and short par-3 11th, she stood at -5 for the tournament. At that point, she was only 3 behind Hattori, who parred her 1st 4 holes. But then Park birdied the long par-4 13th and short par-5 16th to get to -7. By that time, Campbell had birdied 3 of her 1st 7 holes to get to -8, 1 shot behind Hattori, who like Park and Campbell birdied the 5th. 1st-round leader and 2nd-round co-leader Bo-Bae Song, meanwhile, had bounced back from a bogey-triple start with 3 straight birdies, but a bogey on the 7th dropped her back to -6 overall.

Then disaster struck all of Hattori's rivals. Campbell made back-to-back bogeys to close out the front and drop back to -6. Park doubled the 17th and parred the 18th to settle for a 67. Song bogeyed the 9th to join Park at -5, just as Hattori birdied it to get to double digits under par for the 1st time in the tournament. When Song doubled the 11th and Campbell bogeyed the 13th, it seemed like Hattori had the tournament well in hand. But then she matched Campbell's bogey on 13 and met Song's earlier double with one of her own on the long par-4 16th. All of a sudden Hattori was only -7 with 2 to play, only 1 shot up on Asako Fujimoto and 2-up on Park and Campbell. Long story short, after Fujimoto bogeyed the 18th and Campbell and Hattori matched pars on the last 2 holes, Hattori made her 2nd top 10 of 2010 her 2nd career JLPGA victory.

Here's how the top 10 and notables ended up:

1st/-7 Mayu Hattori (68-68-73)
T2/-5 Inbee Park (69-75-67), Asako Fujimoto (70-70-71), Nikki Campbell (70-69-72)
T5/-4 Ji-Yai Shin (71-72-69), Mi-Jeong Jeon (71-72-69), Hiromi Mogi (70-70-72)
T8/-3 Ayako Uehara (73-69-71), Bo-Bae Song (67-69-77)
10th/-2 Yuko Mitsuka (70-70-74)

11th/-1 Sakura Yokomine (71-72-72)
T12/E Yuri Fudoh (72-75-69), Miki Saiki (76-71-69), Esther Lee (71-75-70), Rui Kitada (71-74-71), Akane Iijima (72-70-74), Shinobu Moromizato (71-71-74), Chie Arimura (69-73-74)
T20/+1 Miho Koga (74-73-70), Yukari Baba (72-75-70)
T24/+2 Na-Ri Kim (70-72-76)
T29/+4 Rikako Morita (75-73-72), Tamie Durdin (75-71-74), Young Kim (75-69-76), Yuki Ichinose (72-72-76)
T35/+5 Seon Hwa Lee (77-71-73), Mie Nakata (76-71-74), Li-Ying Ye (74-72-75)
T40/+6 Ritsuko Ryu (74-74-74), Maiko Wakabayashi (76-71-75), Kaori Aoyama (75-70-77)
T45/+7 So-Hee Kim (75-71-77)
55th/+10 Jae-Hee Bae (72-76-78)

Even though Park couldn't get her 2nd-straight win on the JLPGA, she extended her lead on the money list on the idle Sun Ju Ahn:

1. Inbee Park ¥35.06M
2. Sun Ju Ahn ¥25.45M
3. Chie Arimura ¥21.82M
4. Rui Kitada ¥20.54M
5. Miho Koga ¥18.01M
6. Yun-Jye Wei ¥17.22M
7. Mayu Hattori ¥16.52M
8. Asako Fujimoto ¥13.19M
9. Ji-Yai Shin ¥13.16M
10. Kaori Aoyama ¥11.16M
11. Chieko Amanuma ¥10.88M
12. Bo-Bae Song ¥10.43M
13. Sakura Yokomine ¥9.93M
14. Mie Nakata ¥9.85M
15. Nikki Campbell ¥9.58M
16. Hiromi Mogi ¥9.22M
17. Shinobu Moromizato ¥9.01M
18. Yuko Mitsuka ¥8.39M
19. Ah-Reum Hwang ¥8.09M
20. Young Kim ¥8.08M
21. Yukari Baba ¥8.07M
22. Yuri Fudoh ¥7.94M
23. Ji-Hee Lee ¥7.78M
24. Hiroko Ayada ¥7.52M
25. Mi-Jeong Jeon ¥7.05M
26. Ayako Uehara ¥6.86M
27. Hiromi Takesue ¥6.55M
28. Momoko Ueda ¥5.84M
29. Akane Iijima ¥5.69M
30. Ai Miyazato ¥5.40M

Looks like Ji-Yai Shin, Inbee Park, Momoko Ueda, Seon Hwa Lee, and Young Kim are the only LPGAers skipping Lorena's last tournament, the Tres Marias Championship, and playing the CyberAgent Ladies event on the JLPGA next week. Two Three great events coming right up (with the KLPGA swinging back into action, as well)!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Fujisankei Ladies Classic Saturday: Song-Hattori Showdown Tomorrow?

Mayu Hattori picked up where she left off at the Fujisankei Ladies Classic, making 3 birdies in her 1st 5 holes today after a late eagle yesterday and joining 1st-round leader Bo-Bae Song at -8 by the end of the day. For her part, Song, too, started fast, matching Hatori's 33 on the front, but stalled out on the back. Nikki Campbell, by contrast, caught on fire and ended up with a 33 on the back despite bogeying her final two holes to fall 3 behind the co-leaders. With both Chie Arimura and Inbee Park falling off the pace in a big way, and Shinobu Moromizato, Sakura Tokomine, and Ji-Yai Shin seemingly too far back to seriously threaten the leaders, tomorrow could well turn out to be a shootout between Song and Hattori.

Here's how the top 10 and notables look as they head into the final round:

T1/-8 Mayu Hattori (68-68), Bo-Bae Song (67-69)
3rd/-5 Nikki Campbell (70-69)
T4/-4 Midori Yoneyama (71-69), Yuko Mitsuka (70-70), Hiromi Mogi (70-70), Asako Fujimoto (70-70)
T8/-2 Ayako Uehara (73-69), Yun-Joo Jeong (72-70), Akane Iijima (72-70), Shinobu Moromizato (71-71), Na-Ri Kim (70-72), Chie Arimura (69-73)

T14/-1 Ji-Yai Shin (71-72), Sakura Yokomine (71-72), Mi-Jeong Jeon (71-72)
T19/E Young Kim (75-69), Yuki Ichinose (72-72), Inbee Park (69-75)
T26/+1 Kaori Aoyama (75-70), Rui Kitada (71-74)
T31/+2 Tamie Durdin (75-71), So-Hee Kim (75-71)), Li-Ying Ye (74-72), Esther Lee (71-75)
T38/+3 Mie Nakata (76-71), Miki Saiki (76-71), Maiko Wakabayashi (76-71), Miho Koga (74-73), Yuri Fudoh (72-75), Yukari Baba (72-75)
T46/+4 Seon Hwa Lee (77-71), Rikako Morita (75-73), Ritsuko Ryu (74-74), Jae-Hee Bae (72-76)

MC: Mika Miyazato, Na-Ri Lee, Erina Hara
WD: Ah-Reum Hwang

It'll be interesting to see how the final round plays out. Hattori's gotten off to a very slow start this season and hasn't been putting well at all, while Song has been among the best putters on tour in 2010. This is the 1st time either have gone low all season, however, so the chances of someone making a run at them or of them coming back to the field are pretty decent.

At the bottom of the cut-line survivors, Miki Saiki rebounded from a double earlier on the back with an eagle on the same short par 5 that Hattori eagled yesterday to fight back to +3 overall and extend her made-cut streak this season to 7 events. Nice to see Seon Hwa Lee making the cut, but disappointing that a late bogey dropped Mika Miyazato on the wrong side of the cut line. With Tamie Durdin and Young Kim merely hanging in there this week thus far, it goes to show tha LPGA membership is no guarantee of JLPGA success. Here's hoping Na-Ri Kim makes a run at the top of the leaderboard tomorrow!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Fujisankei Ladies Classic Friday: Bo-Bae Song Takes the Lead

I'm at New Paltz for the spring University Faculty Senate Plenary so you'll have to check out the 1st-round results from the Fujisankei Ladies Classic yourself. Bo-Bae Song opened with a bogey-free 67, which put her 1 shot ahead of Mayu Hattori, who eagled the short par-5 16th. A walkoff bogey marred an otherwise bogey-free round by Chie Arimura, who had to settle for a 69 after making birdies on 3 of her 1st 5 holes. Inbee Park is also 2 back after making 6 birdies and 3 bogeys.

Other notables within striking distance include Yuko Mitsuka (70), Ji-Yai Shin, Sakura Yokomine, Shinobu Moromizato, and Mi-Jeong Jeon (71), and Yuri Fudoh (72). Not so fortunate were Mika Miyazato and Miho Koga (74), Seon Hwa Lee (77), and Erina Hara (83). Hara made a triple and 2 quads (the 2nd after making 3 birdies on the back!); with the likelihood of missing her 6th cut in 7 starts, she's gone from one of the JLPGA's finest to among those with the worst starts to 2010. I'm still waiting for Lee to play like she's capable of. Maybe tomorrow!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Sakaki Rides a Dolphin in the New Savanna

Hey kids! I've set up a new blog, just around the corner. It's called New Savanna. And it's got photos and writing AND, a longish piece about a dolphin ride that I couldn't post at That Other Place. It's got about 10 seconds or so in Azumanga Daioh, one of the cutest anime series ever (for tweeners, I suppose).

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Mark My Words, Lorena Will Be Back

I'm still floored by the news of Lorena Ochoa's intended retirement from professional golf. Although I plan to reserve judgment until we all hear directly from her this Friday, I do have one original thought to share. I'm absolutely confident Lorena will be back. Going against the grain of most of what I've been reading, it seems to me that she's dealing more with burnout than anything else.

To me, the most relevant comparisons here are Se Ri Pak and Grace Park rather than Annika Sorenstam or Juli Inkster. Yes, family and (step-)motherhood are crucial factors for Lorena, unlike Se Ri and Grace, but to me they sound more like contributing than causal ones. Remember what the pressure of shouldering an entire nation's ever-increasing expectations week in and week out did to Se Ri? What if she had taken a long vacation or two instead of suffering through her lost seasons? If Lorena feels that her game and motivation are slipping away in the face of other commitments, then she's making the right call to step away from competitive golf for as long as she needs to.

Mark my words, she'll be back, better than ever.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Lorena Ochoa Superwoman

Golf World's Ron Sirak writes-

An indication of Ochoa's inconsistent play last year was the fact she was tenth on the money list, yet still won Player of the Year by a single point over Jiyai Shin.
That would be truly incredible in light of how Ochoa didn't win a major championship last year. The only problem- It isn't true.

Lorena Ochoa finished 4th on the 2009 LPGA money list. She is 10th on this year's money list.

Ron Sirak did a similar blunder with Juli Inkster last year. I can cite over a half dozen other cases in Sirak's writing. Getting simple golf stats or facts straight is too much for this golf writer on a regular basis.

I liked the column other than that. As for Ochoa, she was a class act. I liked her, she was humble where as Annika Sorenstam came off as arrogant on more than one occasion. Sorenstam was sometimes hypocritical and never liked being challenged, and was rather unsubtle when in those occurrences. Ochoa was more of a superstar than Sorenstam, when everything is weighed. IMHO.

Recommended Reading: Say It Ain't So, Lorena!

Quick links to the reactions to Lorena's (hopefully temporary) retirement from professional golf (in reverse chronological order):

Stephanie Wei
Ryan Ballengee
Geoff Shackelford
Brent Kelley
Hound Dog

[Update 1 (4/21/10, 1:27 am): Golf Observer has the press linkage. I'm still floored by this.]

Anyone Heard Anything About Shiho Oyama Lately?

The last I heard anything about Shiho Oyama, she shut down her 2009 season due to injuries. Anyone know how she's doing?

Monday, April 19, 2010

A Tale of Two Playoffs

Can anyone tell me why you can't go on the internet without finding out about Brian Davis's calling the penalty on himself that gave Jim Furyk his playoff victory on the PGA, while I still can't find anything in English on how Inbee Park won her playoff on the JLPGA and broke her U.S. Women's Open-jinx-induced victory drought?

[Update 1 (4/20/10, 5:58 am): Stephanie Wei's post on Davis's decision made me realize how to get more attention to the LPGA. It's up to Michelle Wie to call a penalty on herself, preferably when she's in contention. Come on, Michelle! Take one for the team!]

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Nishijin Ladies Classic Sunday: Ueda Collapses, Shin Stalls, Park Wins in Playoff over Amanuma

What an unlikely finish to the Nishijin Ladies Classic this week on the JLPGA! Hometown girl Momoko Ueda had been cruising in the 1st and 2nd rounds, opening up a 2-shot lead on Ji-Yai Shin and Yuri Fudoh in the process. But her 2 top challengers today turned out to be LPGA young gun Inbee Park and JLPGA veteran Chieko Amanuma, who both turned it on over the final few holes, just as Ueda was falling apart. In the end, Park finally got that win she was so due for--in a playoff against Amanuma. But how everyone got there is a story in itself.

Even though Ueda got off to a slow start Sunday, with a bogey on her 2nd hole and no birdies on the front side, she still held a 1-shot lead on Shin and a 2-shot lead on Fudoh through 45 holes, thanks to an indifferent start by the former and 3 straight bogeys by the latter right after she had briefly taken the lead with a birdie on the 5th. Meanwhile, Inbee Park, who started the day 4 back at -4, was actually +1 through her 1st 8 holes, thanks to 3 bogeys between the 4th and 8th holes that offset her pair of birdies in her 1st 5 holes. But consecutive birdies on the 9th and 10th, a medium-length par 5 and a long par 4, brought her from 4 to 1 behind (when Ueda bogeyed the 10th).

Still, as Ueda played the 14th hole, she continued to have the tournament in hand. At -6, she held a 1-shot lead on Park and a 2-shot lead on Shin and Chieko Amanuma, who had hung around all day at -4. Fudoh had fallen further off the pace with a bogey on the long par 4 12th, a hole which had also stopped a run by Chie Arimura (she had been 3-under on her day and 4-under for the tournament until a bogey there heralded a +1 finish over her final 8 holes). And nobody else was within shouting distance.

First to strike was Amanuma. She birdied the 311-yard par-4 15th to get back to -5 for the tournament for the 1st time since she had birdied the par-3 3rd. Playing in the group behind Amanuma and Park, Ueda failed to match Shin's birdie the 15th. So Ueda and Shin stood at -6, and Amanuma and Park at -5. Amanuma and Park continued to apply pressure to the leaders on the 171-yard par-4 16th hole, as they both birdied it to create a 4-way tie at the top. Then Amanuma birdied her 3rd hole in a row, the 380-yard par-4 17th, to take the lead by herself. When Shin parred it and Ueda bogeyed it, they fell 1 and 2 shots behind, respectively. When Amanuma couldn't make it 4 in a row on the 470-yard par-5 18th, Park caught her at -7 with a birdie of her own. Once again, Shin parred and Ueda bogeyed.

Playoff time between Park and Amanuma! Could Park break the U.S. Women's Open jinx that had seen her lose her game for almost a year after her 2008 win and then repeatedly be denied entry into the winner's circle in the last half season on both the KLPGA and JLPGA? Could Amanuma get her 1st win since 2006 and take the first step toward matching her 2001, when she won 5 times and ended up 3rd on the JLPGA money list? Well, I'm waiting for a better report than from Kyodo News, which only tells that Park won the playoff, not how she did it.

While I'm waiting for more details to emerge, I'll pass along the final results for the top 10 and notables:

1st/-7 Inbee Park (69-71-69) [won in playoff]
2nd/-7 Chieko Amanuma (68-72)
3rd/-6 Ji-Yai Shin (68-70-72)
T4/-4 Asako Fujimoto (69-71-72), Momoko Ueda (67-69-76)
T6/-3 Rui Kitada (72-73-68), Chie Arimura (71-72-70), Hiromi Mogi (73-70-70), Yuri Fudoh (70-68-75)
T10/-2 Yukari Baba (72-73-69), Hyun-Ju Shin (70-74-70), Mayu Hattori (70-73-71)

13th/-1 Mie Nakata (69-74-72)
T14/E Tamie Durdin (74-70-72), Mika Miyazato (73-70-73), Sakura Yokomine (69-74-73), Saiki Fujita (69-73-74)
T19/+1 Ji-Hee Lee (73-74-70), Bo-Bae Song (75-71-71), Yuki Ichinose (74-69-74)
T22/+2 Sun-Ju Ahn (70-77-71), Yuko Mitsuka (74-72-72)
T25/+3 Seon Hwa Lee (69-76-74), Young Kim (72-72-75), Miki Saiki (72-72-75)
T32/+4 Ritsuko Ryu (75-72-73), Na-Ri Lee (71-73-76)
T35/+5 Esther Lee (74-72-75), So-Hee Kim (71-75-75)
T42/+7 Akiko Fukushima (75-73-75)
45th/+8 Mi-Jeong Jeon (75-71-78)
T46/+9 Li-Ying Ye (75-73-77)
53rd/+12 Eun-A Lim (74-74-80)

So a playoff loss last week and a playoff win this one, coupled with Sun Ju Ahn's 1st indifferent finish as a JLPGA member, bring Inbee Park to the top of the JLPGA money list.

1. Inbee Park ¥29.25M
2. Sun Ju Ahn ¥25.45M
3. Chie Arimura ¥20.72M
4. Rui Kitada ¥19.44M
5. Miho Koga ¥17.28M
6. Yun-Jye Wei ¥17.22M
7. Chieko Amanuma ¥10.88M
8. Kaori Aoyama ¥10.34M
9. Ji-Yai Shin ¥9.83M
10. Mie Nakata ¥9.37M
11. Sakura Yokomine ¥8.47M
12. Bo-Bae Song ¥8.23M
13. Ah-Reum Hwang ¥8.09M
14. Shinobu Moromizato ¥7.91M
15. Ji-Hee Lee ¥7.78M
16. Young Kim ¥7.50M
17. Asako Fujimoto ¥7.17M
18. Yukari Baba ¥7.35M
19. Hiroko Ayada ¥7.17M
20. Yuri Fudoh ¥6.84M
21. Yuko Mitsuka ¥6.79M
22. Hiromi Takesue ¥6.14M
23. Hiromi Mogi ¥5.88M
24. Momoko Ueda ¥5.84M
25. Ai Miyazato ¥5.40M
26. Eun-A Lim ¥4.85M
27. Junko Omote ¥4.75M
28. Ayako Uehara ¥4.66M
29. Akane Iijima ¥4.59M
30. Kaori Nakamura ¥4.20M

Fujimoto won't turn 20 until late May. It'll be interesting to see if she can maintain her position on the leaderboard over the course of the season. Same for veterans Kitada, Amanuma, and Nakata, who are off to better starts than most of the JLPGA's biggest names like Yokomine, Moromizato, Fudoh, Mitsuka, and Uehara. Off to terrible starts are Mi-Jeong, Ji-Hee Lee, Akiko Fukushima, and Erina Hara. But there's a long way to go!

Next week, all the usual suspects except Ai Miyazato and Momoko Ueda will be playing in the Fujisankei Ladies Classic. Mika Miyazato will be playing on the JLPGA, as well, but unlike Ji-Yai Shin, who will also be playing her 2nd week in a row on the tour, she's planning to fly to Mexico to join her namesake at the LPGA's Tres Marias Championship. It's looking like Ueda and Shin won't be joining them there, although I can't find a field list for the Cyber-Agent event on the JLPGA just yet. Ai-sama and Momo-chan are on the field list for the JLPGA's 1st major the following week, the Salonpas Cup. Interesting how players with dual membership put together their schedules, isn't it?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Nishijin Ladies Classic Saturday: Ueda 2-up on Shin and Fudoh

1st-round leader Momoko Ueda continued her fine play in her home town of Kumamoto today, posting her 2nd straight sub-70 round to climb to -8 in the Nishijin Ladies Classic, 2 shots up on Ji-Yai Shin and Yuri Fudoh heading into the final round. Shin would be tied for the lead but for her 2nd double bogey of the tournament, this time on the 171-yard par-3 16th.

Here's how the top 10 and notables stand after 36 holes:

1st/-8 Momoko Ueda (67-69)
T2/-6 Yuri Fudoh (70-68), Ji-Yai Shin (68-70)
T4/-4 Inbee Park (69-71), Asako Fujimoto (69-71), Chieko Amanuma (68-72)
7th/-2 Saiki Fujita (69-73)
T8/-1 Yuki Ichinose (74-69), Mika Miyazato (73-70), Hiromi Mogi (73-70), Chie Arimura (71-72), Mayu Hattori (70-73), Sakura Yokomine (69-74), Mie Nakata (69-74)

T15/E Tamie Durdin (74-70), Young Kim (72-72), Miki Saiki (72-72), Na-Ri Lee (71-73), Hyun-Ju Shin (70-74)
T25/+1 Rui Kitada (72-73), Yukari Baba (72-73), Seon Hwa Lee (69-76)
T29/+2 Mi-Jeong Jeon (75-71), Bo-Bae Song (75-71), Yuko Mitsuka (74-72), Esther Lee (74-72), So-Hee Kim (71-75)
T38/+3 Ritsuko Ryu (75-72), Ji-Hee Lee (73-74), Sun-Ju Ahn (70-77)
T47/+4 Akiko Fukushima (75-73), Li-Ying Ye (75-73), Eun-A Lim (74-74)

MC: Maiko Wakabayashi (76-73), Miho Koga (75-74), Teresa Lu (73-76), Yuki Sakurai (73-76), Jae-Hee Bae (72-77), Na-Ri Kim (79-71), Rikako Morita (78-72), Ji-Woo Lee (78-73), Erina Hara (77-76), Akane Iijima (76-79)

Amazing that Ahn might have her 1st bad tournament as a JLPGA member. Disappointing that Seon Hwa Lee can't put 2 good rounds in a row together. Happy that Mika Miyazato has put herself into the top 10 (although she's got to be disappointed by her back 9 after making an eagle and 2 birdies for a 32 on the front). But rooting for Momo-chan tomorrow!

[Update 1 (10:14 am): Hard to not root for Ji-Yai--check out her speech at the Golf Writers Association of America award dinner (after getting 2009 Female Player of the Year)!]

Friday, April 16, 2010

Nishijin Ladies Classic Friday: Ueda Tops Star-Studded Leaderboard

An eagle on the par-4 15th propelled hometown favorite Momoko Ueda into the 1st-round lead at the Nishijin Ladies Classic today in Kumamoto, Japan. But lurking right behind her are some of the best players in the world. Ji-Yai Shin doubled the 2nd hole but closed with a 31 to pull within 1 of Ueda. Seon Hwa Lee bogeyed her 1st hole but played her next 17 holes of bogey-free golf at 4-under to get within 2 of the lead, where she was joined by Inbee Park and Sakura Yokomine, who birdied 4 and 5 of their last 11 holes, respectively. Yuri Fudoh continued the trend of strong finishes with 3 birdies in her last 10 holes to remain 3 off the pace, while Sun-Ju Ahn birdied two of her last 3 holes to join her; only Hyun-Ju Shin bucked the trend by starting with birdies on 3 of her 1st 4 holes and falling off the pace with a 37 on the back, the worst score among the top 24 players in the field on that side. Meanwhile, Chie Arimura roared back from a bad start with 3 straight birdies to close out her round and stay within 4 of Ueda.

Here's how the top 10 and notables stand as they head into the weekend:

1st/-5 Momoko Ueda (67)
T2/-4 Ji-Yai Shin, Chieko Amanuma (68)
T4/-3 Sakura Yokomine, Inbee Park, Seon Hwa Lee, Mie Nakata, Saiki Fujita, Midori Yoneyama, Asako Fujimoto (69)

T11/-2 Yuri Fudoh, Sun-Ju Ahn, Hyun-Ju Shin, Mayu Hattori (70)
T16/-1 Chie Arimura, So-Hee Kim, Na-Ri Lee (71)
T23/E Young Kim, Rui Kitada, Yukari Baba, Miki Saiki, Jae-Hee Bae (72)
T36/+1 Teresa Lu, Mika Miyazato, Ji-Hee Lee, Hiromi Mogi, Yuki Sakurai (73)
T49/+2 Yuko Mitsuka, Eun-A Lim, Tamie Durdin, Esther Lee, Yuki Ichinose (74)
T66/+3 Akiko Fukushima, Miho Koga, Mi-Jeong Jeon, Bo-Bae Song, Ritsuko Ryu, Li-Ying Ye (75)
T82/+4 Akane Iijima, Maiko Wakabayashi (76)
T91/+5 Erina Hara (77)
T98/+6 Ji-Woo Lee, Rikako Morita (78)
T104/+7 Na-Ri Kim (79)

Some big-name players will have to have good moving days just to make the cut. Among those in the middle, I'm most curious to see how Mika Miyazato does this week. So far, she's started her pro career exclusively on the LPGA, eschewing dual LPGA-JLPGA membership, but I wonder if she's rethinking that decision, given the gaps in the LPGA's schedule this year.

[Update 1 (3:41 am): Gotta admit, Beth Ann Baldry's Mojo 6 day 1 round-up makes me want to watch the event when it's televised on CBS on May 1st and 2nd.]

[Update 2 (3:45 am): Nice 1st win for Bo Bae Kim on the KLPGA. Final-round 67 and a pair of birdies in the 2-hole playoff is not too shabby.]

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Recommended Reading: Go, JJ!

Check out Happy Fan's take on the 1st round of this week's KLPGA event--Jeong Jang is in the hunt! I'd so love for her to return to the winner's circle!!

Oh yeah, and check out Hound Dog's preview of The Mojo 6 and call for more 156-player mid-summer fields on the LPGA!

[Update 1 (4/15/10, 12:54 pm): Oh, mannn! JJ's 2nd-round 73 dropped her to -1 (T11), 5 shots off the lead, 4 behind Hee Kyung Seo, and 1 behind Sun Young Yoo. Looking for a big comeback tomorrow!]

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Recommended Reading: Why You Should Be Following the Futures Tour

Check out this week's press release from the Futures Tour: along with the game story on Kristie Smith's walkoff eagle, which gave her a 2-shot victory over Gerina Mendoza, who also eagled the 18th, on Masters Sunday, you can find out how Camila Mori survived the massive Chilean earthquake and tsunami, how Michelle Jarman is balancing life on the tour and in an accounting firm, how Cathryn Bristow is heading from Daytona to Jakarta for charity, how the top 10 on tour stack up, and more.

Unfortunately, the rest of the FT's April and May is just about as sparse as the LPGA's and LET's schedule. It's too bad that the 3 tours most American golfers choose to focus on have so many dead weeks at roughly the same times!

But at least we have the Mojo 6 this week (not to mention the JLPGA and KLPGA).... Following the players on twitter is a different kind of recommended reading--wondering if Angela Stanford will ever make it to Jamaica! And if the web site will publicize the results of the 6-hole matches, or if we'll have to wait till the start of May for CBS to air the tournament to find out what happens....

Monday, April 12, 2010

How to Take Advantage of Membership on the LPGA and Another Tour

Looking at the latest edition of the Rolex Rankings, it strikes me that there are even more benefits to what I've been calling dual membership--active status on both the LPGA and another major women's professional golf tour--than I'd previously thought.

#3 Ji-Yai Shin, #4 Suzann Pettersen, and #5 Ai Miyazato--all between .71 and 1.29 points of catching Lorena Ochoa--are just the tip of the iceberg. In addition to Anna Nordqvist at #7, In-Kyung Kim at #13, Catriona Matthew at #17, Inbee Park at #19, Sophie Gustafson at #21, Maria Hjorth at #26, and Momoko Ueda at #27 make it 10 of the top 30 who hold dual memberships--twice as many who hold a single membership off the LPGA. Last week's JLPGA winner Chie Arimura moved up only 2 spots to #16 (1 behind Sakura Yokomine, the highest-ranked player without LPGA membership, 2 ahead of Hee Kyung Seo, the highest-ranked KLPGA-only member, 4 ahead of Shinobu Moromizato, and 8 ahead of the JLPGA's Mi-Jeong Jeon). It's fairly easy to translate fantastic play on a non-LPGA tour into a rapid rise up the Rolex Rankings--just witness the JLPGA's leading money winner Sun Ju Ahn's ascent from #69 at the start of the year to #33 right now (ahead of all other JLPGAers), or Bo Mi Lee's rise to #49 from #87 in the same span--but you have to be in contention quite often to break into the top 30 and winning quite a bit to break into the top 20.

Sure, dual membership hasn't been great for Seon Hwa Lee (she's dropped from #32 to #41) or Young Kim (she's only moved up from #92 to #80), but neither has lit it up on the JLPGA quite yet. And there are certainly any number of LETers who haven't made a successful transition to the LPGA as their primary tour. But if you want to be the best, you've got to beat the best, so it's still in the interest of top 10 players on any other tour to also seek LPGA membership in the coming years.

What I'm wondering is whether the reverse will hold true: will we see young Asian players like Ya Ni Tseng or Na Yeon Choi try for JLPGA membership down the road? Will Michelle Wie start a trend of young Asian-Americans giving the JLPGA a try? Will any other Americans look west toward the JLPGA rather than east toward the LET? So far it seems mostly Europeans to seek out and prosper from dual LPGA-LET memberships, but will we see more mid-level American LPGAers trying to augment their income on another tour as they fight to stay in the top 80 on the LPGA? It's too soon to track the fortunes of all the LPGA's dual members, mostly because the LET's schedule isn't all that different than the LPGA's, but I'll check in on developments periodically over the course of the season.

For now, with Ji-Yai Shin playing the next 3 weeks on the JLPGA, it'll be interesting to see how often she can contend and win--and what effect it'll have on her world ranking.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Studio Alice Ladies Open Sunday: Arimura Beats Park in Playoff

Inbee Park has been playing as well as anyone on the planet since the end of last season, but she just can't buy a win. Today, as I suggested would happen, she was in a tense shootout with 1 of the JLPGA's finest, Chie Arimura, and lost in a playoff. Park had jumped out to an early lead with birdies on her 1st 2 holes, but when Arimura birdied the short par-4 4th and she bogeyed the long par-5 5th, she had lost it. Then Park fell 1 back when Arimura birdied the long par-4 8th, where she remained until she birdied the long par-4 17th. When they both parred the 18th, it was playoff time.

Several players had decent chances to join them in the playoff, but couldn't keep their momentum going. Bo-Bae Song was -3 after her 3rd birdie of the day, on the par-5 10th, but she bogeyed the 166-yard par-3 15th. A walkoff bogey added insult to injury, allowing Ai Miyazato, who made 4 birdies on the day and 3 on the back, to catch her in T4, along with the JLPGA's leading money-winner, Sun-Ju Ahn, who birdied 4 of her 1st 5 holes to leap to -2 but could only manage a pair of bogeys and a pair of birdies at crunch time. They ended up 1 behind the only other player to get into the title mix, the surprising 23-year-old Monday qualifier Kaori Nakamura, who was -4 and playing bogey-free golf with 4 holes to play but bogeyed the 166-yard par-3 15th and ended up 2 stroke out of the playoff.

So how did the playoff go? Here are the key elements from the Kyodo News story:

On the first extra hole--the 405-yard, par-4 18th--the 22-year-old Arimura sank her winning putt from three feet after Park missed the green with her second shot and ended up with a bogey.

"This is the first time I've won a close contest. I'm glad I holed my final putt under intense pressure. I feel a sense of growth as a player," said Arimura, who won five times and finished third on the money list in 2009.

"Last year, Sakura [Yokomine] won this tournament in a playoff and went on to claim the money title. So I hope to repeat that scenario," she said.

Here's how the top 10 and notables ended up:

1st/-5 Chie Arimura (72-69-70) [won in playoff]
2nd/-5 Inbee Park (68-73-70)
3rd/-2 Kaori Nakamura (74-69-71)
T4/-1 Sun-Ju Ahn (73-74-68), Ai Miyazato (73-72-70), Bo-Bae Song (73-70-72)
7th/+1 Eun-A Lim (72-71-74)
T8/+2 Young Kim (73-75-70), Junko Omote (76-72-70), Ji-Woo Lee (73-73-72)

T11/+3 Rikako Morita (82-70-67)
T13/+4 Mie Nakata (76-74-70), Ayako Uehara (75-73-72), Yukari Baba (74-74-72), Li-Ying Ye (73-72-75)
T18/+5 Momoko Ueda (79-71-71), Nikki Campbell (76-74-71), Akiko Fukushima (73-74-74), Miho Koga (75-71-75)
T24/+6 Na-Ri Kim (75-74-73), Akane Iijima (76-71-75), Maiko Wakabayashi (75-72-75), Esther Lee (72-74-76)
T28/+7 Saiki Fujita (77-75-71), Hyun-Ju Shin (77-73-73), Hiromi Mogi (75-75-73), Seon Hwa Lee (77-72-74)
T34/+8 Miki Saiki (77-75-72)
T36/+9 Ah-Reum Hwang (79-72-74), So-Hee Kim (78-72-75), Yun-Jye Wei (74-76-75), Shinobu Moromizato (76-72-77)
T43/+11 Yuki Sakurai (78-74-75), Jae-Hee Bae (78-73-76)
T48/+13 Ritsuko Ryu (75-77-77)
50th/+18 Yuko Saitoh (76-75-83)

Fantastic comeback by Morita shows why she's the best of the JLPGA's new blood right now (at least among Japanese players!). Her T11 was just enough to squeak her into the top 30 on the money list:

1. Sun Ju Ahn ¥24.82M
2. Chie Arimura ¥18.44M
3. Miho Koga ¥17.28M
4. Yun-Jye Wei ¥17.22M
5. Rui Kitada ¥17.17M
6. Inbee Park ¥16.65M
7. Kaori Aoyama ¥10.34M
8. Mie Nakata ¥8.20M
9. Ah-Reum Hwang ¥8.09M
10. Shinobu Moromizato ¥7.91M
11. Bo-Bae Song ¥7.54M
12. Sakura Yokomine ¥7.52M
13. Hiroko Ayada ¥7.17M
14. Ji-Hee Lee ¥7.09M
15. Young Kim ¥6.93M
16. Yuko Mitsuka ¥6.16M
17. Hiromi Takesue ¥6.14M
18. Yukari Baba ¥6.03M
19. Ai Miyazato ¥5.40M
20. Ji-Yai Shin ¥4.93M
21. Chieko Amanuma ¥4.72M
22. Ayako Uehara ¥4.66M
23. Akane Iijima ¥4.59M
24. Eun-A Lim ¥4.59M
25. Yuri Fudoh ¥4.56M
26. Kaori Nakamura ¥4.20M
27. Ji-Woo Lee ¥3.85M
28. Junko Omote ¥3.80M
29. Nikki Campbell ¥3.76M
30. Rikako Morita ¥3.75M

Ji-Yai Shin returns to the JLPGA next week, but it looks like Ai Miyazato will be taking the week off. Momoko Ueda, who's barely within the top 50 on the money list at just under 2 million yen to her name, will look to start playing well in Japan for the 1st time this season, as will Seon Hwa Lee, who just made her 1st cut as a JLPGA member this week. We'll see if Inbee Park can finally break through for her 1st win since the '08 U.S. Women's Open....

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Forgotten Masters collapses

The Masters has seen its share of heart ache. When final round collapses are discussed, Greg Norman in 1996 is usually at the top of the list. He led by 6 going into the final round, shot a final round 78 and lost to Nick Faldo by 5 shots.

Other collapses that get brought up but not nearly as much as Norman are Ed Sneed who led by 5 going into Sunday and by 3 with three holes to go. Three closing bogeys dropped him into a tie with Tom Watson and Fuzzy Zoeller. Zoeller won with a birdie on the 2nd hole of sudden death.

Scott Hoch of the infamous missed two and a half footer on the first hole of sudden death in 1989. Nick Faldo won it on the 2nd hole of sudden death with a birdie

In 1961 Arnold Palmer came to 18 with a one-shot lead, made a double bogey on the hole and finished in a tie for 2nd with Charlie Coe one shot behind Gary Player. It was Player's first Masters triumph.

Roberto DeVicenzo's incorrect scorecard in 1968 is mentioned more often than anyone but Norman in 96 and maybe Sneed's collapse.

But here are the lost Green Jacket winners you may have forgotten

Tom Watson 1991- He came to 18 tied for the lead, made double bogey to finish 3rd two shots behind Ian Woosman
Tom Watson 1978- He came to 18 tied for the lead, made bogey, and finished tied for 2nd one shot behind Gary Player
Greg Norman 1986- Made bogey on 18 to finish tied for 2nd one shot behind Jack Nicklaus
Severiano Ballesteros 1986- Led for most of Sunday, came to the par 5 15th tied for the lead at 7 under and hit his 2nd shot in the lake. Finished well back.
Curtis Strange 1985- Opened with an 80, got the lead the back nine on Sunday, hit balls in the water on both 13 and 15 and finished 2nd two shots behind Bernhard Langer.
Johnny Miller 1971- Came to 15 on Sunday with a 2-shot lead, finished two over par, and finished 2 shots behind Charles Coody.
Charles Coody 1969- Was one up with three holes to go, finished bogey-bogey-bogey to finish 5th two shots behind George Archer.
Peter Oosterhuis 1973- Opened the final round with a 3-shot lead, shot a final round 74 and finished 3rd two behind Tommy Aaron.
Gay Brewer 1966- He three-putted 18 for a bogey which resulted in a 3-way playoff. Jack Nicklaus won it the next day.

The most unheralded lost green jacket of them all.

Mike Reid 1989- The player nicknamed Radar. A short hitter who was never very good with the short stick, opened the final round one shot out of the lead. Reid pulled into a tie for the lead on 8 and by the time he teed off 14, had a one-shot lead.

Reid 3-putted 14, hit it in the water on 15 and took a double, and made bogey on 16. Radar's chance to take the mantle of 'most unlikely Masters champion ever' failed. Herman Keiser, the 1946 champion, still holds it.

Studio Alice Ladies Open Saturday: Chie Arimura Steps Up

Chie Arimura shot the round of the day at the Studio Alice Ladies Open today, a 69 that brought her into a tie with 1st-round leader Inbee Park. With a a 2-shot lead on Bo-Bae Song, a 4-shot lead on Ai Miyazato, a 5-shot lead on Miho Koga, and the rest of the big names on the JLPGA struggling mightily in what must be very tough conditions, Arimura and Park have a chance tomorrow to put some serious distance between them and the lead chase pack and turn the final round into a shootout.

Here are the 36-hole results for the top 10 and notables:

T1/-3 Chie Arimura (72-69), Inbee Park (68-73)
T3/-1 Kaori Nakamura (74-69), Bo-Bae Song (73-70), Eun-A Lim (72-71)
T6/+1 Ai Miyazato (73-72), Li-Ying Ye (73-72)
T8/+2 Asako Fujimoto (77-69), Miho Koga (75-71), Ji-Woo Lee (73-73), Esther Lee (72-74)

T12/+3 Akane Iijima (76-71), Maiko Wakabayashi (75-72), Sun-Ju Ahn (73-74), Akiko Fukushima (73-74)
T16/+4 Shinobu Moromizato (76-72), Ayako Uehara (75-73), Yukari Baba (74-74), Young Kim (73-75)
T22/+5 Seon Hwa Lee (77-72), Na-Ri Kim (75-74)
T27/+6 Momoko Ueda (79-71), So-Hee Kim (78-72), Hyun-Ju Shin (77-73), Mie Nakata (76-74), Nikki Campbell (76-74), Hiromi Mogi (75-75), Yun-Jye Wei (74-76)
T35/+7 Ah-Reum Hwang (79-72), Jae-Hee Bae (78-73), Yuko Saitoh (76-75)
T42/+8 Rikako Morita (82-70), Yuki Sakurai (78-74), Miki Saiki (77-75), Saiki Fujita (77-75), Ritsuko Ryu (75-77)

MC: Kaori Aoyama (80-73), Teresa Lu (79-74), Tamie Durdin (79-74), Rui Kitada (78-75), Ji-Hee Lee (80-74), Na-Ri Lee (78-78), Erina Hara (80-77), Yuki Ichinose (78-80), Maya Hattori (82-76)
WD: Sakura Yokomine (78-WD)

Friday, April 9, 2010

Studio Alice Ladies Open Friday: How Good a 2010 Is Inbee Park Going to Have?

The LPGA's Inbee Park has jumped out to an early lead in the JLPGA's Studio Alice Ladies Open. After shooting a blistering bogey-free 32 on the front, she holds a 2-shot lead on Chie Arimura, who's coming off a top 10 at the Kraft Nabisco Championship last week, Esther Lee, who's engineering a comeback as impressive in its own way as Park's recovery from the U.S. Women Open's jinx, and the JLPGA's #2 career money-winner Akiko Fukushima, who's also making a comeback from some seriously bad play of late. KLPGA star and leading money-winner on the JLPGA this season Sun-Ju Ahn sits 3 back as she enters the back 9, while the JLPGA's Bo-Bae Song and LPGA's Young Kim are in the group 4 back thus far.

Some of the biggest names in Japan are off to tougher starts, though. Ai Miyazato, Sakura Yokomine, and last week's winner Miho Koga are all +2 as they enter the back, while Shinobu Moromizato is +3 through 10, Momoko Ueda opened with a birdieless 41, and Ji-Hee Lee is +5 through 11. Chalk it up to jet lag for most of them, I suppose, just like for Seon Hwa Lee, who opened with a 77 and has yet to break 75 on the JLPGA this season.

I'll be back with the complete results later this morning.

[Update 1 (8:46 pm): Ah, the best-laid plans.... Suffice to say that Park stayed at -4, Ai-sama climbed back to +1, and most everyone else struggled in a big way down the stretch. As round 2 is underway, I'll give everyone's results in tomorrow's post!]

[Update 2 (8:51 pm): While you wait, check out Happy Fan's take on Bo Mi Lee's victory this week on the KLPGA.]

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Recommended Reading: Happy Fan on This Week's KLPGA Event

Over at the Seoul Sisters blog, Happy Fan is keeping us updated on the 1st and 2nd rounds of the Kim Young Joo Golf Ladies Open, the 2nd KLPGA event of the 2010 season, where Bo Mi Lee (-2) has given herself a chance to move into the tour's elite. With Hee Kyung Seo taking the week off, So Yeon Ryu struggling at +2, Sun Ju Ahn on the JLPGA, He Yong Choi struggling with her game, and Ha Neul Kim withdrawn from the event, Lee has a great chance to get her 2nd win in the last calendar year.

Yeah, even most Korean fans will probably not find this as exciting as Y.E. Yang and K.J. Choi being at the top of the leaderboard after the 1st round of the Masters, but you know this matters a lot to the players themselves. And since KLPGA success translates into LPGA success at a much higher rate than success on any other tour, LPGA fans should consider getting familiar with Bo Mi Lee.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Golf World sticks it to the LPGA Tour......again

Who is on the cover of the magazine this week? Is it Yani Tseng, the golfer who won her 3rd career tournament and 2nd Major Championship overall?

No, it's Anthony Kim for winning a Masters warmup.

What a joke this magazine is. The biggest on course story of the week doesn't merit a cover photo. It isn't the first time GW has done this either. In 2006 they featured Phil Mickelson for winning at Atlanta by 12 shots instead of Kraft Nabisco winner Karrie Webb who didn't just make a comeback after nearly two years of no victories, but holed out on 18 for eagle to force a playoff.

Before 2006, GW used to put the Players Champion on the cover over the winner of Kraft Nabisco. Pseudo majors are more important than real major championships in their eyes.

Lets not forget their disgraceful 2009 LPGA preview which came to some of their subscriber's mailboxes after the first tournament of the year was already completed. A golf architecture issue was more important than the LPGA to them also.

GW is a joke of a golf publication. The next thing I expect from one of their authors(Ron Sirak maybe?) is an article about how poorly placed the Kraft Nabisco is and that it doesn't get enough attention. What's a case of Chutzpah in comparison to their regular displays of journalistic stupidity?

Woods Watch: Cheyenne Takes 1st NCAA Title

There's been no sophomore jinx for Cheyenne Woods this season at Wake Forest. Not only did she get her 1st NCAA win this past week, she's been named Golfweek/Golf World Player of the Week. She continues to lead her team in scoring average this season and has moved into the top 25 in Golfweek's women's collegiate individual rankings and the top 35 in Golfstat's ranking system.

I'm as surprised as The Squire over at Golf Babes, to tell you the truth. Sure, I knew she had been having a good fall, had been impressed by how she handled her sponsor exemption into last year's Wegmans, and had noted back in July 2008 that:

In a golfing world packed with talented teenage girls, she's no prodigy. So it's no shock that she's not getting sponsors' exemptions into LPGA events, as [Mika] Miyazato and [Kumiko] Kaneda have been getting on the JLPGA for years. But she has shown the capacity to improve at every level at which she's competed. So the fact that she's so far behind her top peers right now should be no cause for concern. People and golfers develop at different rates and Woods has indicated she's in this for the long haul.

So it's not the fact of her improvement that's surprised me--it's the rate at which she's improved that's impressed me so much. She's still quite a ways away from the top 25s that Jennifer Song and Alexis Thompson got at the Kraft Nabisco Championship last week. But give her a couple more years to improve at the college level and we'll see what kind of game she brings to the Futures Tour and LPGA Q-School in 2012!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Tseng Now #2 in Rolex Rankings, .53 points behind Ochoa

Ya Ni Tseng is now as close as anyone's been to Lorena Ochoa in the Rolex Rankings since Lorena replaced Annika Sorenstam as the world #1 almost 3 years ago. Here's how the top 6 stand:

1. Lorena Ochoa 9.34
2. Ya Ni Tseng 8.81
3. Ji-Yai Shin 8.63
4. Suzann Pettersen 8.46
5. Ai Miyazato 8.12
6. Cristie Kerr 7.54

Over at the Golfweek/Sagaran Performance Index, which tracks the past calendar year's results and doesn't privilege wins and majors as much as the Rolex Rankings, it's been clear for a while that Ochoa's lead chase pack has caught her. Here are the top 12:

1. Suzann Pettersen 69.07
2. Ji-Yai Shin 69.08
3. Cristie Kerr 69.11
4. Na Yeon Choi 69.25
5. Lorena Ochoa 69.30
6. Ai Miyazato 69.30
7. Paula Creamer 69.31
8. Michelle Wie 69.50
9. Ya Ni Tseng 69.53
10. Song-Hee Kim 69.55
11. Sakura Yokomine 69.93
12. Anna Nordqvist 69.93

Once Hound Dog updates his March 2010 Top 70, I'll be able to update my own Best of the LPGA ranking from the end of 2009.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Best on the LPGA: 3- to 6-Time Winners, April 2010

In my preseason version of this post, I opened by noting that

I have a feeling those on this list are going to get a lot more company early in 2010--and none too soon, in my book. There's no quicker way to become a household name than to join the ranks of those who are already household names (or were in their day)....

My point here is this: as the best players in the Young Guns and New Blood generations identify themselves by entering the winner's circle more often, it'll be easier for the casual fan to see that they're something special.... But I have a strong feeling we're going to see more double-digit victory totals from the top players in the classes of 2005 through 2009 than any other half-decade in LPGA history. It seems from this list that too many players from earlier half-decades have hit the wall.

Well, my old #1 was already the 1st to graduate from both my 1-time and 2-time winners lists. So it makes sense that my new #1 would be the first to join her on this list. We're far enough into the 2010 season that it's time to reshuffle the rest of the list, based as usual on who's most likely to win next.

Most Likely to Win in 2010

1. Ya Ni Tseng (3/2): It took her what felt like forever to get her 2nd LPGA win, but she didn't have to wait that long for LPGA win #3 (or major #2). Given that she was riding a 5-event top-10 run into 2010 and is averaging 1 win and $1.55M in winnings per season over the course of her short career--not to mention her convincing defeat of Karrie Webb and Laura Davies down under earlier this season--her being #1 on the money list at this point in the season is no surprise at all.
2. Ji-Yai Shin (6/1): 3 of her wins, including her only major thus far, the Women's British Open, came before she was even an LPGA member, and after the end of her rookie year, she maintained her 3 wins per season rate. I'm wondering what she's capable of when she actually gets comfortable on tour. She's set her sights squarely on LPGA Player of the Year in 2010 and has told the Korean media she plans to play less on the JLPGA. Which means we can expect a minimum of 4 LPGA wins from her in the coming season. Looks like the off-season work that Tim Maitland reported on at the start of the season is paying off already. Now that she's recovered from her intense training, look for her to start winning.
3. Suzann Pettersen (6/1): Just as she had to wait a long time for her 1st win, she had to wait a long time for her 6th. But she convinced me during that drought that she's truly one of the tour's elite players. While I don't see another 5-win season on her horizon, I wouldn't be surprised if she won a couple of tournaments in 2010. Too bad she ran into an Ai-sama buzz saw in Thailand and a Ya Ni chain saw at Mission Hills, but she's playing well enough to win any time she tees it up, as long as she stays healthy.
4. Ai Miyazato (3/0): I've said it before and I'll say it again: she gave herself 13 chances to win on the LPGA and JLPGA in 2009, but could close the deal only at the Evian Masters (her 1st, obviously) and Sankyo Ladies (her 15th). So last season's #4-ranked LPGA player and #6-ranked JLPGA player is my frontrunner for LPGA Player of the Year in 2010. Yup, I'm expecting multiple wins from her on the LPGA this season. But after starting the season 2 for 2, her last 2 LPGA starts have been deeply disappointing. Here's hoping she gets her groove back on the JLPGA the rest of this month and builds momentum for the tour's 1st major, the Salonpas Cup, in the 1st week of May.
5. Angela Stanford (4/0): Like Pettersen, her wins have come largely in bunches. She won twice at the end of 2008, when it seemed like she was putting herself in contention every week, then won the opening event of 2009. And even though she's endured a little bit of a drought since then--due in no small part to taking time away from golf to support her mom during her cancer treatments--she improved all her key stats from 2008 to 2009. I wouldn't at all be surprised to see her to become the top American on tour in 2010. She'll have to outdo Cristie Kerr to get there, it's looking like!
6. Seon Hwa Lee (4/0): Although 2009 was a down year for her in wins and winnings, her key performance stats were right around her career norms, which had been good enough to make her a top 5 threat in her 1st 3 seasons on the LPGA. The 2006 Rookie of the Year is still averaging 1 win per season, so watch out for her in 2010. Accustomed to playing 30 events a year, she'll stay sharp when the LPGA's schedule goes dark, thanks to her dual membership on the LPGA and JLPGA. I expect her to win more often there than here, but you never know. Despite her weak finish at the KNC, she's already put together 3 solid LPGA events in 2010 and has shown flashes of brilliance over here, so I'm looking for her to do well in Japan this month.

The Contenders

7. Sophie Gustafson (5/0): Even though she remains a mercurial player, she's made the top 30 on the LPGA money list 5 straight seasons and in 2009 topped the LET money list. In 4 of them, her scoring average was below 72 and last year's was the lowest in that period. She definitely has the talent to win any week she tees it up, so even though her inconsistency is her Achilles' heel, she's a blast to watch when she's in contention. Plus, she's shown her commitment to 2010 by committing to play the LET's ANZ Ladies Masters for the 1st time in 6 years. Too bad she started her season so badly on both tours, but her T10 out of the blue at the KNC shows what kind of talent she has.
8. Maria Hjorth (3/0): In 2009, she came back from maternity leave and got stronger as the season progressed, culminating with a silver medal in Korea and ending up with the lowest scoring average of her 12-year career on the LPGA. If she maintains her excellent ballstriking and gets her putter going in 2010, this former English major could write a new chapter in a very solid career to date. She hasn't finished worse than T26 on the LPGA so far this season, but was the victim of the LPGA's harsh penalty for missing a pro-am starting time (even as an alternate), so didn't get a chance to compete in the KNC. Look for her to turn that into extra motivation when the LPGA returns to action.
9. Hee-Won Han (6/0): She was averaging a win a year over her 1st 6 seasons and was a fixture on the top 10 of the money list for 4 of them, but since taking a maternity leave in 2007, enduring long separations from her son in 2008, and struggling a bit by her standards in 2009, she's something of a question mark for 2010. Her scoring average last season was the closest to going above 72 since her rookie season in 2001 and she had almost as much trouble finishing in the top 10. But the 2 times she did, she took home bronze medals. If she can improve her ballstriking, particularly her approach shots, in the coming season, she'll be a top 15 player again for sure. But I'm not sure how much time on the range her son will let her have. So far she's made 3 of 4 cuts but hasn't done anything all that special this season just yet.
10. Catriona Matthew (3/1): She took even less time to come back from her maternity leave than Hjorth, winning the Women's British Open in her 2nd event back from giving birth. Let's see what she does with a full season in 2010. It'll be hard to top her Player of the Year award from the LET, but seeing as how she actually came close to striking the ball as well in 2009 as she did in 1999-2005, when she was a consistent top 30 player and sometime top 10 threat, it won't take very big improvements to keep her momentum going. 4 solid starts to her 2010 season, including a T6 and T15 in the 1st 2 U.S.-based events, show she's going to be a player to be reckoned with this season.
11. Candie Kung (4/0): If she could have hung in there on Sunday at the U.S. Women's Open, her 2009 would have been quite different, but as it was, it was a huge disappointment. She wasn't that terrible off the tee (she was actually fairly solid), but her approach shots were off and her putting was horrific. It was the 1st time in her career, barring an injury-shortened 2007, that she failed to break the 72 barrier in scoring average, she could only manage 2 top 10s, and she missed more cuts than at any other time in her 8-year LPGA career. So of course I think she's poised for a comeback in 2010. Even though she has JLPGA membership in 2010, she's hasn't yet teed it up in Japan. After a surprise T3 in the Kia Classic sandwiched between 3 finishes outside the top 35, it seems she might benefit from more weeks playing in a row.
12. Brittany Lincicome (3/1): As high as I am on everyone else's chances in 2010, I'm skeptical about Lincicome's. Yes, she had the shot of the year in 2009, denying Kristy McPherson her 1st LPGA win and Cristie Kerr her 2nd career major with her walkoff eagle at the KNC. But she's still never broken the 72 barrier in scoring average, never notched more than 5 top 10s in her 5-year LPGA career, and never hit more than 68% of her fairways. When you're as long as she is, a little lost accuracy isn't that big a deal, but Bam Bam hasn't even exceeded a 65% fairway rate since her rookie season. Except for her missed cut in the Kia Classic, she's gotten 3 top 30s so far this season, so she's playing better than I expected from her overall thus far.

Quantum Leap Candidates

13. Grace Park (6/1): Can this former Player of the Year candidate and 2004 Vare Trophy winner put her long-standing back problems behind her in 2010? It sounds like she's completely healed from last season's hip surgery and eager to play golf again. And it looks like she's ready to return to the game's elite. Her top 10 at the KNC has been the happiest surprise of the season so far.
14. Pat Hurst (6/1): She surprised me twice in 2009, first by winning the MasterCard Classic and following it up with a T8 at the KNC, then by failing to break into the top 10 the rest of the season. It's not like last season was terrible--in fact, she improved her ballstriking, particularly her approach shots, in significant ways--but just as only her rookie season in 1995 was worse than her 2008, so, too, was her 1996 the only other season she ended up with a higher scoring average than in 2009. Even in her maternity-leave shortened 1999, she only had 1 fewer top 10 than last season (in 8 fewer starts). So she'll need to make yet another comeback in 2010. Can she do it? Although she's made all 4 cuts this season, her best finish is only a top 20 at the Kia Classic. Let's see if she can surprise again the rest of 2010!
15. Wendy Ward (4/0): This 1996 rookie had her best season in 2009 on the LPGA since the 2000-2006 period, when she was a regular top 30 threat. Her scoring average last season was the 3rd-best of her career and her approach shots were so good she compensated for innaccuracy off the tee and an inconsistent putter to average 3.52 birdies per round. I don't see her as a true top 30 threat in 2010, but if she drives for a little more show and putts for a little more dough in 2010, she'll most likely prove me wrong. She missed her 1st cut of this season at the KNC, but that's a little misleading, as the 2 Asian events she played in didn't have cuts....

On the Bottom, Looking Up

16. Wendy Doolan (3/0): Due to breast cancer treatments, she played a limited LPGA schedule in 2009 and didn't add to her total of 34 career top 10s. She's got full status in Category 1 for 2010 due to a medical exemption, so she'll get her opportunities to play if she's healthy enough. So far she hasn't set the LET/ALPG or LPGA on fire, but don't count her out just yet.
17. Lorie Kane (4/0): 2010 is her last stand on the LPGA, as Hound Dog noted last week. Her last 4 seasons have gotten progressively worse, so I'm not at all optimistic on her chances of avoiding Q-School in December. Or of returning to the LPGA in 2011. After a surprise top 10 on the LET/ALPG, she was DQed at the Kia Classic and didn't qualify for the KNC.

On the Outside, Looking In

18. Dorothy Delasin (4/0): This 2000 Rookie of the Year had been struggling to keep her card from 2006-2008, but she fell off a cliff in 2009, going 0 for 16 in made cuts and even bombing out of Q-School. Her 1st 4 years on tour when she averaged a win a year and was a consistent top 30 threat are a distant memory now. Can she turn her career around on the Futures Tour this season?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Kraft Nabisco Championship Sunday: Can Tseng Keep the Pedal to the Medal?

Ya Ni Tseng was playing about the worst of the 3 leaders over the 1st 54 holes of the Kraft Nabisco Championship, but like I warned Mike at Ruthless Golf in my last update in response to his prediction of a Karen Stupples win, past performance is no indicator of future results. Tseng is playing flawlessly so far in the final round, -4 through her 1st 8 holes thanks to an eagle on the 2nd, a birdie on the 3rd, and a birdie on the 8th. She finds herself 4 shots up on Suzann Pettersen (who recently bogeyed the tough 6th) and 5-up on Karen Stupples (who followed up her bogey on 4 with a double on 6) and Song-Hee Kim (the only other player within 5 of her who's under par right now). Can anyone chase Tseng down this Easter Sunday?

[Update 1 (10:18 pm): Hound Dog gives the play-by-play for Tseng's close win over Pettersen. Brent Kelley adds his comments. And here's's notes and interviews. I'll have more tomorrow!]

[Update 2 (4/5/10, 7:30 am): JLPGA fans will appreciate the inclusion of Ai-sama, Momo-chan, Mikan, Sakura, Chie, and Shinobu (among many many others from around the world) in LPGA Fan's latest video:

I'm disappointed at the 78s that Stupples, Wie, and Yokomine shot, but overjoyed for Arimura and Grace Park! When you consider how hard it was to make the top 20 this week, Chie and Grace did fantastic!]

[Update 3 (7:40 am): More golfoblogospheric reactions: Mike at Ruthless Golf, Jeff at LinksLifeGolf, Steph at Wei Under Par, and (amazingly) Shane at Devil Ball Golf.]

[Update 4 (11:05 pm): Here's Hound Dog (again) and Armchair Golfer.]

[Update 5 (11:26 pm): And here's Ryan Ballengee.]

[Update 6 (11:34 pm): Holy cow! The SI guys actually mentioned Ya Ni Tseng (if only to compare her to Anthony Kim off the course) and focus on the way the KNC always gets overshadowed by the Masters (all w/o acknowledging they are part of the problem).]

[Update 7 (4/6/10, 12:06 am): Wow! Just checked out Global Golf Post and was shocked to see Ya Ni Tseng on the cover of their April 5th edition. They actually moved women's golf into the single-digit page numbers for the KNC!]

[Update 8 (12:42 am): Why am I only just now reading about Michelle Wie's recent shoulder and wrist problems?]

Can Miho Koga Return to the Winner's Circle at the Yamaha Ladies Open?

With 6 holes to play, 2008 JLPGA money-list queen Miho Koga is tied for the lead at the Yamaha Ladies Open with Chieko Amanuma, who needed to play Q-School last season to retain her card. With 8 of the tour's 10 finest players competing in the Kraft Nabisco Championship (minus Ai Miyazato, who missed the cut {sob!}), and with a a 3-shot lead on Sun-Ju Ahn (who's on the 17th) and a 4-shot lead on Yuri Fudoh (also on the 17th) and Bo-Bae Song (stuck in neutral on the 13th), Koga has a great opportunity to face down the lesser players hot on her heels, bounce back from yesterday's 74 and secure her 1st win since the last event of 2008. To do that, she'll need to hold off a charging Hiroko Ayada, who's -6 on her day and -5 on the back with 2 holes left to play.

[Update 1 (12:52 am): With Amanuma's bogey on the 13th, Koga has a 1-shot lead on her, Ayada (who's on the 18th), and Ah-Reum Hwang (also in the final group) as the JLPGA's online tv timeout kicks in. In the group ahead of them, Hiromi Takesue is 2 back and Bo-Bae Song is 4 back. I'm rooting for Koga!]

[Update 2 (4:30 am): Koga did it! But Ayada and Hwang made her work for the win. Ayada birdied 18 to shoot a bogey-free 65 and end the tournament at -2. Hwang bogeyed 15 but birdied 16 and 17 to get to -3. Koga birdied 15 but bogeyed 16 and parred 17 to drop back into a tie with them. It all came down to the 18th, which Koga birdied and Hwang didn't. More details, scores, and money list update later. I just spent a few hours commenting on the draft of the SUNY Strategic Plan (just like grading a paper!) and I need to sleep!]

[Update 3 (3:09 pm): Here's the final leaderboard:

1st/-4 Miho Koga (68-74-70)
T2/-3 Hiroko Ayada (76-72-65), Ah-Reum Hwang (70-74-69)
T4/-2 Hiromi Takesue (73-72-69), Chieko Amanuma (71-71-72)
6th/-1 Sun-Ju Ahn (78-70-67)
7th/E Bo-Bae Song (72-73-71)
T8/+1 So-Hee Kim (74-74-69), Saori Ikushima (74-74-69), Yuri Fudoh (70-78-69)

T11/+2 Na-Ri Kim (78-72-68), Hiromi Mogi (73-73-72)
13th/+3 Ji-Hee Lee (74-74-72)
T18/+6 Yukari Baba (77-75-70), Eun-A Lim (70-80-72), Miki Saiki (78-71-73), Ji-Woo Lee (73-75-74), Rui Kitada (73-73-76), Tamie Durdin (72-74-76)
T26/+7 Kaori Aoyama (73-78-72), Na-Ri Lee (76-72-75)
T33/+8 Yun-Jye Wei (7-76-71), Maiko Wakabayashi (75-76-73)
38th/+9 Esther Lee (78-71-76)
T39/+10 Rikako Morita (77-77-72), Nikki Campbell (76-78-72)
T46/+11 Mayu Hattori (79-75-73)
T52/+12 Jae-Hee Bae (75-74-79)

MC: Hyun-Ju Shin (77-78), Kumiko Kaneda (77-78), Sakurako Mori (76-79), Ritsuko Ryu (77-81), Yuko Saitoh (78-80), Ayako Uehara (76-82), Yuki Ichinose (76-82), Li-Ying Ye (81-78), Erina Hara (87-81)
WD: Mie Nakata (80-WD)

Yeah, the weather conditions were truly awful the 1st 2 days, obviously.
And here's the new money list:

1. Sun Ju Ahn ¥21.82M
2. Rui Kitada ¥17.17M
3. Yun-Jye Wei ¥16.82M
4. Miho Koga ¥16.65M
5. Inbee Park ¥11.25M
6. Kaori Aoyama ¥10.34M
7. Ah-Reum Hwang ¥7.70M
8. Chie Arimura ¥7.64M
9. Sakura Yokomine ¥7.52M
10. Shinobu Moromizato ¥7.51M
11. Mie Nakata ¥7.30M
12. Hiroko Ayada ¥7.17M
13. Ji-Hee Lee ¥7.09M
14. Yuko Mitsuka ¥6.16M
15. Hiromi Takesue ¥6.14M
16. Young Kim ¥5.43M
17. Yukari Baba ¥5.13M
18. Ji-Yai Shin ¥4.93M
19. Chieko Amanuma ¥4.72M
20. Yuri Fudoh ¥4.56M
21. Bo-Bae Song ¥4.54M
22. Akane Iijima ¥4.04M
23. Ayako Uehara ¥3.75M
24. Mi-Jeong Jeon ¥3.39M
25. Orie Fujino ¥3.28M
26. Nikki Campbell ¥3.13M
27. So-Hee Kim ¥3.12M
28. Hiromi Mogi ¥3.12M
29. Miki Saiki ¥3.09M
30. Esther Lee ¥2.72M

Ai Miyazato (¥2.40M) has fallen to #36 on the list, but expect her and Momoko Ueda (¥1.36M, #50) to start moving up it when they return to the JLPGA for the run-up to the Salonpas Cup, the tour's 1st major, the 1st week of May. Next up is the Studio Alice Ladies Open, and they're both entered, along with Seon Hwa Lee, Inbee Park, Young Kim, Teresa Lu, and Na-Ri Kim.]