Monday, October 31, 2011

Mizuno Classic Preview

After a one-week break, the LPGA tour resumes this week with the Mizuno Classic.

Here some of the details:

Course: Kintetsu Kashikojima Country Club
Location: Shima-shi, Mie, Japan
Defending Champion: Jiyai Shin
2010 Winning Score: 65-66-67=198 (-18)

Final Field: 78 Players
Par: 72
Yardage: 6,506 Yards
Purse: $1.2 Million

This tournament is only 54 holes.

I assure you this IS an LPGA event. Unfortunately, it seems someone forgot to inform the girls. Here is a list of the major players who will NOT be competing this week:

Yani Tseng, Suzann Pettersen, Cristie Kerr, Paula Creamer, Michelle Wie, Katherine Hull, Morgan Pressel, Amy Yang, Brittany Lincicome, Sun Young Yoo, Angela Stanford, Jee Young Lee, Maria Hjorth, Anna Nordqvist, Juli Inkster, Sophie Gustafson, Se Ri Pak, Brittany Lang, Karen Stupples, Wendy Ward, Natalie Gulbis, Sandra Gal, and Katie Futcher.

As you can see the top 3, 6 of the top 10, and 24 of the top 50 players in the Rolex Rankings are not in attendance, making this an extremely weak field, in spite of the fact that all of the great players from the JLPGA are playing.

Here are some of the elite players on the JLPGA tour that will be teeing it up:

Sun Ju Ahn, Chie Arimura, Sakura Yokomine, Ji-Hee Lee, Miki Saiki, Mi-Jeong Jeon, Yukari Baba, Shiho Oyama, Na Ri Kim, Kumiko Kaneda, Ayako Uehara, and Ritsuko Ryu.

The above is an impressive list of JLPGA stars. They are all ranked in the top 50 of the Rolex Rankings. The fact that the Mizuno field is still ranked as one of the 3 weakest of the year is attributed to all the missing LPGA players.

This will NOT be televised in the United States.

Rolex Rankings Mover of the Week:
Chie Arimura, winner this week on the JLPGA tour, moves from #18 to #13.

Hard to Believe Stat of the week:
Suzann Pettersen, the #2 player in the world, is closer to the #37 player than she is to #1. Let's take a look:

#1 Yani Tseng - 18.40 Rolex Rating
#2 Suzann Pettersen - 10.93
#37 Soo Jin Yang - 3.47

I usually don't report the Ladies European tour results, but it is certainly worth mentioning that Yani Tseng won again this week. She beat Pernilla Linberg by 7 shots. Melissa Reid and Lee-Anne Pace were 8 shots back.

[Update 1 (5:58 pm):  It's also worth noting that Amy Yang won the last KLPGA major of the year last week.  So the only winner from a major tour from last week in this week's field is Chie Arimura.--TC]

Hisako Higuchi Morinaga Weider Ladies Overview: Chie Arimura Defeats Yukari Baba in Playoff for 3rd Win of 2011

Chie Arimura fired a bogey-free 68 in the final round of the Hisako Higuchi Morinaga Weider Ladies yesterday to force a playoff with Yukari Baba and then won it on the 3rd hole with a 7-foot birdie putt that gave her her 3rd JLPGA victory of 2011 and 10th of her career. 

Playing with Mika Miyazato 2 groups ahead of Baba, Na-Ri Kim, and 2nd-round leader Natsu Nagai, Arimura opened with a 3-birdie 33 that brought her neck-and-neck with the final trio at -6 for the week.  But when she got to -7 with her birdie on the 503-yard par-5 12th and continued to make par after par on the back, the only player in the final group to respond was Baba, who pulled even with her with a birdie on the the 376-yard par-4 10th and briefly passed her with a matching birdie on the 12th.  Baba, however, wasn't immune to the bogey barrage that hit her group--Nagai made 4 on the back and Kim made 3 (her last 2 coming on 17 and 18)--and when she bogeyed the 411-yard par-4 15th, she fell back into a tie with Arimura and stayed there as both players parred out.  Arimura's birdie putt on the 3rd playoff hole ended a streak of 8-straight pars and denied Baba her 2nd win in her last 5 starts.

Miyazato got a front-row seat on Arimura's brilliance, but 2 back-9 bogeys knocked her out of contention.  She wasn't alone among the visitors to and irregulars on the JLPGA in failing to end up near the lead.  Shanshan Feng birdied 3 of her last 7 holes to pass Miyazato by a shot and end up 3 ahead of Na Yeon Choi and Ji-Yai Shin, 5 clear of Harukyo Nomura, and 7 past Inbee Park.  But they can't feel as bad as 1st-round co-leader Mayu Hattori, who ended up missing the cut!

Here's how the rest of the field fared:

1st/-7 Chie Arimura (70-71-68) [won in playoff]
2nd/-7 Yukari Baba (71-68-70)
T3/-4 Kaori Ohe (75-67-70), Rikako Morita (73-69-70), Shanshan Feng (69-72-71)
T6/-3 Akane Iijima (71-74-68), Esther Lee (71-70-72), Mika Miyazato (70-71-72), Ji-Hee Lee (72-68-73), Asako Fujimoto (71-69-73), Na-Ri Kim (68-71-74), Natsu Nagai (72-66-75)

T13/-2 Kaori Aoyama (75-71-68), Akiko Fukushima (72-72-70), Teresa Lu (71-73-70), Ritsuko Ryu (71-73-70), Yumiko Yoshida (72-71-71), Erina Hara (70-70-74)
T19/-1 Na Yeon Choi (76-70-69), Mi-Jeong Jeon (74-71-70), Onnarin Sattayabanphot (73-72-70), Ji-Yai Shin (70-72-73)
T23/E Ayako Uehara (74-73-69), Saiki Fujita (71-75-70), Na-Ri Lee (73-71-72)
T28/+1 Eun-A Lim (76-71-70), Harukyo Nomura (72-71-74)
T30/+2 Miki Saiki (72-75-71), Bo-Bae Song (72-73-73), Megumi Kido (72-73-73)
T34/+3 Hiromi Mogi (75-70-74), Nikki Campbell (75-68-76), Rui Kitada (74-69-76), Inbee Park (72-71-76)
T41/+4 Maiko Wakabayashi (78-69-73), Erina Yamato (72-72-76)
T45/+5 Airi Saitoh (74-73-74), Mika Takushima (71-75-75), Junko Omote (73-71-77)
T49/+6 Miho Koga (74-73-75), Yuri Fudoh(73-74-75)
T51/+7 Yuki Sakurai (74-73-76), Miki Saki (73-74-76)
53rd/+10 Tamie Durdin (72-74-80)

MC: Aiko Ueno (75-73), Ji-Na Lim (75-73), Shinobu Moromizato (74-74), Pei-Ying Tsai (72-76), Erika Kikuchi (75-74), Lala Anai (73-76), Mayu Hattori (68-81), Li-Ying Ye (75-75), Julie Lu (73-77), Yuki Ichinose (76-77), Ah-Reum Hwang (75-78), Mie Nakata (74-79), Ai-Yu Tu (78-82)
WD: Ji-Woo Lee (73-WD), Aoi Nagata (77-WD)

Arimura's win shrinks Sun-Ju Ahn's lead on the JLPGA money list down from about 40 million yen to just over 30 million:

1. Sun-Ju Ahn ¥114.98M
2. Chie Arimura ¥82.20M
3. Sakura Yokomine ¥74.10M
4. Ji-Hee Lee ¥74.01M
5. Yukari Baba ¥65.80M
6. Miki Saiki ¥61.96M
7. Yuri Fudoh ¥55.84M
8. Ritsuko Ryu ¥55.64M
9. Shiho Oyama ¥50.04M
10. Shanshan Feng ¥49.99M
11. Ayako Uehara ¥43.74M
12. Mayu Hattori ¥43.46M
13. Mi-Jeong Jeon ¥41.24M
14. Saiki Fujita ¥38.85M
15. Kumiko Kaneda ¥37.84M
16. Hiromi Mogi ¥35.63M
17. Rikako Morita ¥35.01M
18. Rui Kitada ¥34.94M
19. Na-Ri Kim ¥32.52M
20. Bo-Bae Song ¥31.72M
21. Junko Omote ¥30.91M
22. Asako Fujimoto ¥30.87M
23. Yuko Mitsuka ¥29.37M
24. Ji-Woo Lee ¥27.83M
25. Li-Ying Ye ¥25.80M
26. Na-Ri Lee ¥25.03M
27. Akane Iijima ¥24.80M
28. Inbee Park ¥24.77M
29. Hyun-Ju Shin ¥24.09M
30. Ah-Reum Hwang ¥24.07M
31. Akiko Fukushima ¥22.63M
32. Soo-Yun Kang ¥21.67M
33. Kaori Aoyama ¥21.49M
34. Esther Lee ¥21.06M
35. Eun-Bi Jang ¥20.82M
36. Eun-A Lim ¥20.72M
37. Young Kim ¥20.64M
38. Teresa Lu ¥19.40M
39. Bo-Mee Lee ¥17.62M
40. Shinobu Moromizato ¥17.30M
41. Yumiko Yoshida ¥16.85M
42. Nikki Campbell ¥16.24M
43. Tamie Durdin ¥15.98M
44. Momoko Ueda ¥15.53M
45. Megumi Kido ¥15.45M
46. Miho Koga ¥14.87M
47. Nachiyo Ohtani ¥14.59M
48. Maiko Wakabayashi ¥14.22M
49. So-Hee Kim ¥13.81M
50. Mihoko Iseri ¥13.24M

I'm curious to see how Ahn, Ai Miyazato, Sakura Yokomine, Momoko Ueda, Shiho Oyama, Kumiko Kaneda, Hyun-Ju Shin, Soo-Yun Kang, and Young Kim, who either rested last week or played in the KLPGA's last major of 2011, play this week in the Mizuno Classic.  With Ji-Yai Shin now #54 on the money list (2 spots behind Onnarin Sattayabanphot!), Ai Miyazato #69, Harukyo Nomura #73, Hee Young Park #91, and Meena Lee #103, a lot is riding on their performance!

[Update 1 (1:35 am):  Here's bangkokbobby 's overview!]

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Skate Canada Saturday: Patrick Chan Makes It 2 in a Row

Heading out to the gala practice now, so no time to do anything but congratulate Patrick Chan on his 2nd-straight Skate Canada victory and embed some youtube clips from the leaders:

Here's the winner:

Here's our guy Daisuke, who had a real opportunity to take the title after Chan made some uncharacteristic mistakes, but came out flat himself:

I wonder if he tweaked his skate or his ankle or knee when he landed his next-to-last warm-up jump badly? Looked like he was worried about his landings early in program....

Fernandez also had a chance to take it, but looked like he got conservative:

All in all, not such great skating from the leaders. I don't like it when the results are left in the judges' hands. Too bad nobody stepped up and won this thing convincingly.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Skate Canada Friday: Daisuke Takahashi Skates Near-Perfect Short Program

20-year-old Javier Fernandez of Spain thrilled the crowd at Skate Canada yesterday evening when he landed a quad and a slew of triples early and charmed his way through the rest of his short program, threatening to preempt the long-expected showdown between defending champion Patrick Chan and 2-time silver medallist Daisuke Takahashi.  Chan's program wasn't perfectly executed, but he got within a point or so of Fernandez by nearly landing a quad himself, so the pressure was firmly on Takahashi's shoulders when he took to the ice.  You couldn't tell it, though, by the way he skated--I'd say it was the best early-season short program of his career.

Take a look for yourself!  Here's Fernandez:

And Takahashi:

Let's see how the new Brian Orser protege handles going last in the free skate tonight, right after Chan and Takahashi get to lay down their challenges!

[Update 1 (10/30/11, 9:56 am):  Here's Chan's short program:

Thought he caught a bit of a break from the judges myself.]

Friday, October 28, 2011

Look for Us on TV at Skate Canada Tonight!

We're here in Mississauga and hanging out at our Holiday Inn Express for a little while after watching a 14-year-old from Russia take the lead in the ladies short program at Skate Canada.  The girls want to go swimming, but we're forcing them to watch the pairs competition on TV.  It turns out that not only did we have great seats at the Hershey Centre but we'll also be visible on camera at times while we watch the men's short program tonight.  Just look for us 5 rows above the Canada sign on the boards--you should be able to see onechan and imoto not too far above the little Canadian flag after the last "a"!  And you'll probably see me shushing them!!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

More About Yani Tseng

Much has been written these past few months about Yani Tseng. In fact, I was hesitant about writing more about her, myself. Then I thought about the reasons why I do this LPGA blog. I do it to help promote the game that I love, and try to keep these talented ladies in the news. That said, we have been witnessing greatness this year and Yani deserves every headline she gets.

If you have been reading past blogs, you already know that Yani is dominating in just about every LPGA category. I would like to focus on one of those categories now, the one I think is the most important. That would be scoring average. Leading in putting or driving is great, but putting that final score on the board is what counts the most. The player with the lowest scoring average wins the Vare Trophy and a Hall of Fame point. I have gone back to 2004 (unfortunately the LPGA doesn't provide statistics before that) and here are some results.

Lowest Scoring Average:

68.70 - Annika Sorenstam (2004)
69.24 - Lorena Ochoa (2006)
69.33 - Annika Sorenstam (2005)
69.38 - Yani Tseng (2011)
69.69 - Lorena Ochoa (2007)
69.70 - Lorena Ochoa (2008)
69.87 - Na Yeon Choi (2010)
70.16 - Lorena Ochoa (2009)

As telling as the above statistic is, some may argue that you can not compare one year to the next. You can argue that they play different courses from one year to the next. You can argue that weather could have played a bigger factor in any given year.

I won't argue with that. So let us see how dominant the winner was in each of the above years. How big was her margin of victory?

Annika Sorenstam - 69.33
Cristie Kerr 70.86
Differential 2.20%

Annika Sorenstam 68.70
Grace Park 69.99
Differential 1.88%

Yani Tseng 69.38
Cristie Kerr 70.58
Differential 1.73%

Lorena Ochoa 69.69
Paula Creamer 70.50
Differential 1.16%

Lorena Ochoa 69.70
Annika Sorenstam 70.47
Differential 1.10%

Lorena Ochoa - 69.24
Annika Sorenstam 69.82
Differential 0.84

Lorena Ochoa 70.16
Jiyai Shin 70.26
Differential 0.14%

Na Yeon Choi 69.87
Cristie Kerr 69.95
Differential 0.11%

As you can see, Annika Sorenstam, considered by most as the greatest LPGA player ever, is the only player to have a more dominant year than Yani is having this year.

Annika went on to win 6 Vare Trophies and Lorena four. Time will tell us if Yani can follow in their footsteps. One thing is for sure, we are witnessing greatness now.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Getting Psyched for Skate Canada

The Constructivist family's heading on a field trip to Ontario for Skate Canada in a couple of days. Of course the main attraction for us is Daisuke Takahashi, a true artist of the ice. Check out the various styles he's a master of (or in the process of mastering):

Love the Cowboy Bebop meets spaghetti western vibe of his free skate (even if it was a sloppy performance):

Of course Dai-chan's main competition is going to be Patrick Chan, but Kevin Van Der Perren came in 2nd behind Michael Brezina and ahead of Takahiko Kozuka at Skate America just last week, so with an up-and-comer like Adam Rippon also in the field and Denis Ten coming off a respectable performance at Skate America, as well, just about anything can happen.  Dai-chan had better bring along a real grizzled veteran's gunslinging attitude to Mississauga!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship Sunday: Ya Ni Tseng Just Has Another Gear

By now the whole world knows that Ya Ni Tseng won the inaugural Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship on her home soil with a bogey-free 66 that gave her a 5-shot margin of victory over Amy Yang and Azahara Munoz.  I didn't get a chance to finish watching the final round until last night, and I didn't want to write about Tseng's 7th LPGA win of 2011 and 12th career victory on tour until I had time to reflect on what I saw and what I read from Hound Dog and bangkokbobby.  So here's what I'm thinking.

First, I'm seeing from Ya Ni what we all got used to seeing from Annika and Lorena in their prime--the ability to stay cool while others are making big charges and respond with even bigger ones of their own.  This ability to find another gear that no one else seems to have is what separates the great players from the near-great, and Ya Ni has found it in 2011.  In front of what must be the biggest crowd she's ever played before, in the face of such great hope and expectations from an entire nation, and in response to phenomenal front 9s from playing partners Anna Nordqvist (a bogey-free 32) and Azahara Munoz (who offset her 1 bogey on the front with an eagle on the par-5 6th) that brought them to -12 and -11 for the week, respectively, Ya Ni simply birdied the 2nd to get to -11, then rattled off consecutive birdies on 6, 7, and 8 to get to -14, match their 32s, and keep the pressure squarely on their shoulders.  But while they struggled on the back with the weight of that pressure--Nordqvist quickly fell 4 behind with back-to-back bogeys on 10 and 11 and Munoz immediately offset her 1 birdie on the side with a bogey on the 17th--Ya Ni kept making par after par until she rolled in a sweeping downhill 15-footer on 16 and nearly holed out a little wedge on the final par 5.  Tseng's final round was so good that Amy Yang, who bounced back in a big way from the pair of doubles on her moving day back 9 that killed her chances to contend on Sunday, actually lost a shot to her, Morgan Pressel, who said that her 6-birdie, 1-eagle, tournament-record 65 was her best round of the year, only made up a single shot on her, and Cristie Kerr and Hee Young Park, who fired sizzling 66s of their own, couldn't make a dent in their 10- and 9-shot deficits at the start of the day. 

Second, I'm seeing another level of consistency and steadiness from Ya Ni that she's been searching for since her rookie season.  Tseng was the only player in the field to go under par all 4 rounds, to put together 3 rounds in the 60s, and to make only 5 bogeys (and no doubles) all week.  Sure, she probably knew the course better than any other elite player in the field, but to perform in all kinds of wind at such a high level and then take the course apart when the winds died down on Sunday was unreal.  Even when her putter let her down on Friday, she didn't panic and went back to making birdies in bunches all weekend.  Her 67-66 finish over the final 2 rounds was 2 shots better than Pressel's, 4 shots better than Yang's, 7 shots better than Munoz's and Katie Futcher's, 8 shots better than Sun Young Yoo's, and 9 shots better than Nordqvist's--and those were the players who had very good weekends.  Combine that hot finish with a solid start and it's no wonder nobody came within 4 shots of her for the week.

Third, I'm seeing other players not only crack under the pressure Tseng puts on them while they're fighting for the title, but also find themselves unable to sustain her level of excellence week after week.  Ai Miyazato, who won 5 times last year and was tied with Tseng heading into Friday's round, could only make 6 birdies over her last 54 holes (Tseng made 16 over that same span).  Na Yeon Choi, who was in a pair of dogfights with Ya Ni the previous 2 weeks, never got back under par after she doubled her 8th hole of the tournament back on Thursday and ended up T29 with Stacy Lewis, another player who could face Ya Ni down once but hasn't been able to keep pace with her ever since.  Brittany Lang, who's been playing great golf in the 2nd half of the season, never got under par at any time this week, averaged a double a round, and ended up in a tie for 54th with In-Kyung Kim, Ryann O'Toole, and Tiffany Joh, who have each had plenty of peak performances this year.  Suzann Pettersen, who came into the week talking tough, blew up in the wind on moving day and was never a factor on Sunday.  Tseng's lead in the Rolex Rankings on #2 Pettersen is now so large that #10 Lewis isn't even averaging that many points per event!  Tseng now has her largest lead of the year in the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index, on the LPGA money list (where's she's now won more than twice as much as #2 Kerr and has a real chance to become the 2nd player in tour history to break the $3M barrier!), and in scoring average on tour (where she's a whopping 1.2 strokes lower than #2 Kerr!). 

The only questions left are how great Ya Ni's year can get and how much history she's going to end up making in 2011.  She's won 9 times on major tours around the world, she's already #15 on the LPGA's career money list, she's about 1/3 of the way to catching Annika Sorenstam in winnings on tour (although only 1/6 of the way in wins), and she's got at least 20 Hall of Fame points guaranteed by the end of the season.  I'm just hoping she reconsiders her apparent decision to skip the Mizuno Classic (at least going by her post-round comments on Sunday)--why not go for a double-digit victory total on the LPGA in 2011?  Heck, if she can play in China on the LET (and LAGT and CLPGA) this week, why not tee it up in Japan the following week?  At this point, I wouldn't put anything past the founder of the Tseng Dynasty!

LPGA Stats & Facts, "Vol 5"

There will be a week off between the just completed Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship and The Mizuno Classic. I think it is a good time to look at some key statistics.

Players who have not missed a cut all year:
Paula Creamer (19 tournaments)
Brittany Lincicome (19)
Karrie Webb (18)
Maria Hjorth (18)
Jiyai Shin (17)

Players with most consecutive missed cuts:
Allison Hanna 11
Ji Young Oh 9
Jean Reynolds 8

Most tournaments played in 2011, without a top 20

Lindsey Wright, Meaghan Francella, Jee Young Lee 15
Mariajo Uribe 14
Na On Min, Karin Sjodin 13
Pernilla Lindberg, Anna Grzebien, Jennifer Rosales, Lorie Kane, Laura Davies 12

Rookie of the Year Race:
1 Hee Kyung Seo- 560.00 points (18 tournaments)
2 Tiffany Joh - 267.00 points (12 tournaments)
3 Christel Boeljon 244.00 points (12 tournaments)
4 Ryann O'Toole 224.00 points (13 tournaments)
5 Jenny Shin 214.00 points (13 tournaments)

The Titleholders Championship:
Qualifying this week are Pat Hurst, Alison Walshe and Grace Park.
With only 2 events left to qualify, Katherine Hull, Jee Young Lee, Christina Kim, Juli Inkster, M.J. Hur, Seon Hwa Lee, Momoko Ueda, Kyeong Bae, and Natalie Gulbis are the biggest names who have yet to qualify.

Battle for Sybase Championship spots:
The top 48 players on this year's money list automatically qualify for the Sybase Match Play Championship in 2012. Here is a look at how that is shaping up:

45 Ryann O'Toole $179,149.00
46 Eun-Hee Ji - $178,445.00 18
47 Paige Mackenzie - $177,925.00
48 Natalie Gulbis - $171,730.00
49 Pat Hurst - $170,348.00
50 Mi Hyun Kim - $157,652.00
51 Kristy McPherson - $153,727.00
52 Momoko Ueda - $153,494.00
53 Amanda Blumenherst - $151,643.00

Rolex Moves of the Week:
Paula Creamer (runner up in Japan) moves from #9 to #7
Amy Yang (T2 in Taiwan) moves from #18 to #12
Shiho Oyama (winner in Japan) moves from #49 to #32

Miscellaneous Tidbits:

Song-Hee Kim finished tied for 47th in this week's Sunrise Taiwan Championship. Her fall from an elite player to very ordinary has been dramatic. Last year she led the tour with 15 top 10 finishes. This year she has teed it up 19 times, with only 2 top tens.

You think Yani Tseng likes playing in Asia? In the 5 LPGA tournaments played this year in Asia, here are her results:

Honda Classic in Thialand - 1st place
HSBC - Singapore - 3rd place
Hana Bank - South Korea - 1st place
Sime Darby - Malaysia - 2nd place
Sunrise - Taiwan - 1st place

With her Player of the Year and Vare Trophy victories wrapped up, plus her 7 LPGA wins (two of which were major championships), Yani Tseng has added 11 Hall of Fame points already this year. That will bring her total to 20. Twenty-seven points are needed to get inducted.

Last week's Sunrise Taiwan Championship had a very unusual format. They played four rounds of golf without a cut. As a result, the last place finisher was an incredible 46 shots behind the winner.

Juli Inkster had 3 top 10 finishes earlier in the year and has not qualified for the Titleholders Championship. Grace Park finished tied for 24th last week and qualified.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Masters GC Sunday: Shiho Oyama Forces Playoff with Paula Creamer, Beats Her for 1st Win since 2008

Paula Creamer won the Masters GC Ladies in 2005 and the way she played today, it was sure looking like she'd pick up her 2nd title at this event and 3rd career JLPGA win.  Starting the day at even par from back in the pack, she birdied 4 of her last 6 holes on the front, then followed it with 3 more birdies in her 1st 6 holes on the back.  Ahead of her, Na-Ri Lee was belting out a birdie barrage of her own, with 5 birdies between her 7th and 15th holes to get to -5 for the week, but when 1st Lee and then Creamer parred out over their last 3 holes, it was the LPGA superstar who was sitting pretty as leader in the clubhouse, waiting to see if today would be the day she'd get her 1st win since the 2010 U.S. Women's Open at Oakmont.

How would the 2nd-round leaders respond to these pyrotechnics from Creamer and Lee?  By making a torrent of birdies of their own!  Well, not all of them--Billion-Yen Woman Yuri Fudoh, who started the day tied for the lead, could get only 1 all day, while money-list leader Sun-Ju Ahn came back from a pair of early bogeys with 3 birdies in her last 12 holes--but even though the big cats' A-games were away, those who made moves of their own were anything but mousy about it.  In fact, playing in the next-to-last group, Shiho Oyama and Ayako Uehara played a cat-and-mouse game of their own for much of the day.  Both players got to -4 for the week when they birdied the 162-yard par-3 4th, although it was Uehara's 1st and Oyama's 2nd of the day.  Although Uehara would bogey the next hole and Oyama the hole after that, they both would respond with a run of bogey-free golf punctuated by 3 birdies each, the latter between the 7th and 14th holes and the former between the 11th and 16th to join 2nd-round co-leader Yukari Baba from the final group at -6 (Baba had offset her 2 birdies with 2 bogeys over her 1st 12 holes, but bounced back with back-to-back birdies on 13 and 14).  So down the stretch there were 3 players with a chance to catch or pass Creamer. 

But only Oyama could get another birdie the rest of the way--hers came at the last second, on the 365-yard par-4 18th, by virtue of a bomb from over 50 feet--so it would come down to a playoff between a pair of golfers who were looking to reestablish their reputations after coming back from surgery and rehab.  From what I can tell from the JLPGA site, Oyama won the battle of the comeback kids on the 3rd playoff hole with a birdie putt of about 10 feet for her 1st JLPGA victory since 2008 and the 12th of her illustrious career.  What a way to end a drought!

Here's how the leaders and notables ended up:

1st/-7 Shiho Oyama (72-70-67) [won in playoff]
2nd/-7 Paula Creamer (72-72-65)
3rd/-6 Ayako Uehara (71-70-69)
T4/-5 Na-Ri Lee (72-72-67), Yukari Baba (72-68-71)
6th/-4 Akane Iijima (72-69-71)
T7/-3 Sun-Ju Ahn (70-72-71); ? Kawagishi [a] (76-71-66)
T9/-2 Ritsuko Ryu (75-69-70), Yuri Fudoh (69-71-74)

T11/E  Megumi Kido (73-75-68), Ji-Hee Lee (72-72-72)
T13/+1 Mi-Jeong Jeon (75-72-70), Saiki Fujita (73-74-70), Chie Arimura (73-73-71), Esther Lee (74-71-72), Yumiko Yoshida (71-71-75)
T19/+2 Onnarin Sattayabanphot (74-73-71), Miho Koga (71-75-72), Ji-Woo Lee (72-73-73), Mamiko Higa [a] (76-68-74), Harukyo Nomura (72-72-74),
T25/+3 Eun-A Lim (74-75-70), Soo-Yun Kang (73-74-72), Maiko Wakabayashi (71-75-73), Kaori Aoyama (72-73-74), Na-Ri Kim (70-74-75)
T32/+4 Tamie Durdin (76-73-71), Miki Sakai (75-72-73), Asako Fujimoto (72-74-74), Sakura Yokomine (71-74-75), Kumiko Kaneda (72-72-76)
T37/+5 Hiromi Mogi (76-73-72), Junko Omote (75-72-74), Erika Kikuchi (74-73-74), Li-Ying Ye (73-74-74), Bo-Bae Song (72-75-74), Erina Hara (71-73-77),
T47/+6 Bo-Mee Lee (77-72-73), Aiko Ueno (73-75-74)

Even though Ahn's charge came too late to put her into contention, it was good enough to extend her lead on the JLPGA money list to over 40 million yen.  She also benefitted from Creamer taking about 10 million yen out of the hands of her rivals.  It's looking more and more like she won't need her 5th win of the year to secure her 2nd-straight money-list title.

1. Sun-Ju Ahn ¥114.98M
2. Sakura Yokomine ¥74.10M
3. Ji-Hee Lee ¥72.15M
4. Chie Arimura ¥69.60M
5. Miki Saiki ¥61.44M
6. Yukari Baba ¥59.64M
7. Yuri Fudoh ¥55.55M
8. Ritsuko Ryu ¥54.65M
9. Shiho Oyama ¥50.04M
10. Shanshan Feng ¥45.79M
11. Mayu Hattori ¥43.46M
12. Ayako Uehara ¥43.13M
13. Mi-Jeong Jeon ¥40.55M
14. Saiki Fujita ¥38.24M
15. Kumiko Kaneda ¥37.84M
16. Hiromi Mogi ¥35.19M
17. Rui Kitada ¥34.50M
18. Bo-Bae Song ¥31.20M
19. Rikako Morita ¥30.81M
20. Na-Ri Kim ¥30.65M
21. Junko Omote ¥30.60M
22. Yuko Mitsuka ¥29.37M
23. Asako Fujimoto ¥29.01M
24. Ji-Woo Lee ¥27.83M
25. Li-Ying Ye ¥25.80M
26. Na-Ri Lee ¥24.42M
27. Inbee Park ¥24.33M
28. Hyun-Ju Shin ¥24.09M
29. Ah-Reum Hwang ¥24.07M
30. Akane Iijima ¥22.94M
31. Soo-Yun Kang ¥21.67M
32. Akiko Fukushima ¥21.64M
33. Eun-Bi Jang ¥20.82M
34. Young Kim ¥20.64M
35. Kaori Aoyama ¥20.49M
36. Eun-A Lim ¥20.16M
37. Esther Lee ¥19.20M
38. Teresa Lu ¥18.40M
39. Bo-Mee Lee ¥17.62M
40. Shinobu Moromizato ¥17.30M
41. Yumiko Yoshida ¥15.85M
42. Nikki Campbell ¥15.80M
43. Tamie Durdin ¥15.72M
44. Momoko Ueda ¥15.53M
45. Megumi Kido ¥14.93M
46. Nachiyo Ohtani ¥14.59M
47. Miho Koga ¥14.59M
48. Maiko Wakabayashi ¥13.86M
49. So-Hee Kim ¥13.81M
50. Mihoko Iseri ¥13.24M

With Ji-Yai Shin now #56 on the money list (right behind Onnarin Sattayabanphot!), Ai Miyazato #68, Harukyo Nomura #74, Hee Young Park #91, and Meena Lee #103, a lot is riding on their performance in the Mizuno Classic 2 weeks from now.  Next week, however, is the Hisako Higuchi Morinaga Weider Ladies, which still has in its field only Shanshan Feng, Inbee Park, Shin, Nomura, and Lee among the many dual LPGA-JLPGA members (not to mention non-members Na Yeon Choi and Mika Miyazato).  As I said last week, I'm shocked Ai Miyazato isn't teeing it up there, as she's basically putting herself in a position where she has to win the Mizuno, go to JLPGA Q-School, or force a showdown with the JLPGA leadership over their new rules for membership.

[Update 1 (9:38 pm):  Here's bangkokbobby's overview, complete with photos and video!]

Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship Saturday: Ya Ni Tseng Makes Her Move

On a windy day when only 17 golfers could manage to shoot par or better at Sunrise Golf & Country Club and as many failed to break 80 as stayed at even par (7), hometown hero Ya Ni Tseng was the only player in the field of the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship to break 70.  Her 7-birdie 67 got her to double digits under par and vaulted her into a 2-shot lead on Anna Nordqvist, a 3-shot lead on Azahara Munoz, and a 4-shot lead on Amy Yang and Hee-Won Han.  With Katie Futcher the only other player within 5 shots of the lead and only 8 other players under par, there's a very small lead chase pack with a real shot at denying Tseng a win on her home turf, which would be her 7th on tour this year and 12th in her short LPGA career. 

Lower down the leaderboard, 2 of those even-par rounds I mentioned above belonged to Jennifer Song and Grace Park, who are fighting both for their cards and for entry into the season-ending CME Group Titleholders.  Unfortunately, the winds blew away Candie Kung's chances for her 1st win since 2008, as she blew up with a 77.  However, given that I couldn't finish watching the 3rd-round coverage last night and that clicking on players' scorecards now would reveal to me the final-round results, the only thing left to do is point you toward's 3rd-round notes and interviews.  More after I catch up with the tv coverage!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Masters GC Ladies Friday and Saturday: Yukari Baba Holds onto Slim Lead

With 2nd-round play suspended at the Masters GC Ladies, Yukari Baba holds onto a 1-shot lead, thanks to a closing birdie barrage on her part that brought her to -4 and closing stumbles by Yuri Fudoh, Ayako Uehara, and Akane Iijima--although Fudoh and Uehara both will have their chances to recover early tomorrow morning and try to tie Baba for the lead.  Similarly, Sun-Ju Ahn, who's still looking for her 5th JLPGA win of the season, has a shot at shrinking her 2-shot deficit, while former money-list title-holder Shiho Oyama is done at -2.  Meanwhile, 2005 champion Paula Creamer, Ji-Hee Lee, defending champion Sakura Yokomine, and Chie Arimura will need some serious final-round charges to put any pressure on Baba and her lead chase pack on Sunday.

Here's how the leaders and notables stood when play was suspended:

1st/-4 Yukari Baba (72-68)
T2/-3 Akane Iijima (72-69), Ayako Uehara (71-2-under through 17), Yuri Fudoh (69-E through 16)
T5/-2 Shiho Oyama (72-70), Sun-Ju Ahn (70-E through 17)
T7/-1 Natsu Nagai (76-67), Yumiko Yoshida (71-E through 17)
T9/E Mamiko Higa [a] (76-68), Ritsuko Ryu (75-69), Paula Creamer (72-72), Ji-Hee Lee (72-72), Harukyo Nomura (72-72), Kumiko Kaneda (72-72), Na-Ri Lee (72-72), Erina Hara (71-1-over through 17), Mihiko Iseri (69-3-over through 16)

T18/+1 Esther Lee (74-71), Kaori Aoyama (72-73), Ji-Woo Lee (72-73), Sakura Yokomine (71-74), Na-Ri Kim (70-3-over through 16)
T23/+2 Chie Arimura (73-73), Asako Fujimoto (72-74), Miho Koga (71-75), Maiko Wakabayashi (71-3-over through 17)
T30/+3 Mi-Jeong Jeon (75-72), Junko Omote (75-72), Miki Sakai (75-72), Onnarin Sattayabanphot (74-73), Erika Kikuchi (74-73), Saiki Fujita (73-74), Soo-Yun Kang (73-74), Li-Ying Ye (73-74), Bo-Bae Song (72-75)
T43/+4 Megumi Kido (73-75), Aiko Ueno (73-75)
T50/+5 Bo-Mee Lee (77-72), Hiromi Mogi (76-73), Tamie Durdin (76-73), Eun-A Lim (74-75)

MC: Akiko Fukushima (75-75), Nikki Campbell (79-72), Miki Saiki (78-73), Hyun-Ju Shin (77-74), Teresa Lu (76-75), Rikako Morita (75-76), Mayu Hattori (75-77), Rui Kitada (72-80), So-Hee Kim (75-78), Ji-Na Lim (78-76), Yuki Ichinose (80-75), Lala Anai (78-77), Julie Lu (78-79), Kyung-Min Lim (77-80), Mie Nakata (82-9-over through 16)
WD:  Young Kim, Kaori Ohe, Miki Uehara, Tao-Li Yang

With Baba gunning for her 2nd win in her last 4 starts, Uehara looking for her 2nd of 2011, Fudoh pushing for her 3rd of the year, Iijima hoping for her 1st since last year's Golf5 Ladies, and Oyama riding a 4-event to-10 streak in which she's regularly contended for her 1st win since the title she won here in 2008, the JLPGAs only 100-Million Yen Woman of 2011 has plenty of tough company.  Should be a great finish!

Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship Thursday and Friday: Munoz and Nordqvist Leading Tseng and Kung

The top of the 36-hole leaderboard at the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship is bunched by nationality.  Azahara Munoz and Anna Nordqvist at -7 from Europe lead, followed by Ya Ni Tseng and Candie Kung at -5 from Taiwan, Amy Yang, Hee Young Park, and Hee-Won Han at -4 from South Korea, Katie Futcher at -4 from the USA, Ai Miyazato and Mika Miyazato at-3 from Japan, and Suzann Pettersen, Catriona Matthew, and Alison Walshe at -3 from Europe (although it should be noted that both Kung and Walshe are American citizens).  At a wet, warm, windy, water-filled, and spectator-flooded Sunrise Golf & Country Club, Munoz set a tournament record with a bogey-free 66 on Friday to eclipse opening 68s by Tseng and Ai Miyazato that were matched by Kung the next day.

But the big question is how many of the leaders can keep it going throughout the weekend.  So far, Nordqvist is the only one in the field to break 70 twice, only 11 golfers have broken par in each round, only 18 are under par at the halfway point, plenty of players have stumbled after good starts--most notably Inbee Park (70-74), Morgan Pressel (69-75), and Jennifer Song (69-77)--and many big names haven't gotten it out of neutral, including Na Yeon Choi (72-72), Stacy Lewis (73-72), Ji-Yai Shin (74-73), Brittany Lang (75-72), and In-Kyung Kim (75-73).  With heavy undulations on fairways and greens adding an extra degree of difficulty when it comes to getting the ball close to the pin, it's going to be as hard for those in the chase pack to make up ground on the leaders as it will be for the leaders to keep the pedal to the metal.

Will anyone starting early on moving day make a statement on Saturday?  Or will the leaders achieve some separation on the rest of the field?  I know the answers, but I'm not telling until after I've finished watching the 2nd- and 3rd-round coverage!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship Preview, Predictions, Pairings

Ya Ni Tseng and Na Yeon Choi have traded wins the last couple of weeks of head-to-head battles on the LPGA's fall Asian swing, so even though Tseng has already clinched the  Player of the Year race, don't look for either one of them to back down this week on her home turf at the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship

Thanks to Tony Jesselli and Hound Dog, who have helped set the stage for the latest showdown on tour, we know that the field is among the thinnest on tour without Karrie Webb, Angela Stanford, Brittany Lincicome, Michelle Wie, Juli Inkster, Catriona Matthew, the Masters GC-bound Paula Creamer and (as Jamie Belyea pointed out in comments) Teresa Lu (who has clearly decided to focus virtually exclusively on the JLPGA this year, even to the point of not seeking a sponsor exemption for an LPGA event on her home soil), and Shanshan Feng (who's not trying to improve her #9 position on the JLPGA money list this week, either).  But there are still plenty of players who can keep pace with Tseng and Choi at the Sunrise Golf & Country Club, which features big ponds near 5 greens, down 1 fairway, and off 2 tees, lots of strategically-placed bunkers, relatively short par 5s (although the 2 on the back are guarded by ponds), and no par 4s over 400 yards.  The finishing holes--a short par 3 over water, the longest par 4 on the course, and a 521-yard par 5 that will tempt long hitters to flirt with the greenside pond (which will put pressure even on those who choose to lay up on their 2nd shots)--should produce plenty of drama and be a great test of nerves.  Who will excel on it?  Here are my guesses for the Seoul PakPicker:

1. Choi Na Yeon
2. Tseng
3. Yang
4. Shin Ji-Yai
5. Lang
6. Pettersen
7. Lewis
8. Miyazato Ai
9. Park Inbee
10. Kim In-Kyung
11. Pressel
12. Miyazato Mika

Alts: Yoo; Pak Se Ri; Kerr

I'm looking forward most particularly to the following pairings:

10th tee, 8:00 am: Ai Miyazato, In-Kyung Kim, Candie Kung
1st tee, 11:30 am: Na Yeon Choi, Suzann Pettersen, Azahara Munoz
1st tee, 11:40 am: Ya Ni Tseng, Brittany Lang, Anna Nordqvist
10th tee, 7:50 am: Ji-Yai Shin, Stacy Lewis, Maria Hjorth
1st tee, 7:40 am: Mika Miyazato, Ryann O'Toole, Chella Choi
10th tee, 11:20 am: Amy Yang, Tiffany Joh, Mindy Kim
1st tee, 11:50 am: Se Ri Pak, Cristie Kerr, Sophie Gustafson
10th tee, 11:50 am: Hee Kyung Seo, Hee Young Park, Sun Young Yoo
1st tee, 10:50 am: Seon Hwa Lee, Jenny Shin, Jessica Korda
1st tee, 7:50 am: Grace Park, Karen Stupples, Eun-Hee Ji
1st tee, 7:30 am: Belen Mozo, Cindy LaCrosse, Pei-Ying Tsai

With Jennifer Johnson going 1st off the 1st tee, I'm also curious to see if she'll set the pace for the 8 other rookies in the field trying to put some heat on ROY race leader Seo this week.  One of them will need to win to do it--a tall order, even in this relatively depleted field.

[Update 1 (6:14 am):  bangkokbobby has the video of the POY award presentation.  He also has video of Pettersen's challenge to Tseng.]

[Update 2 (6:30 am):  IceCat at Seoul notes that the race for Category 1 is on in a big way this week--Jennifer Song will be fighting to retain her spot at #80 on the money list (and move up it!).]

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tim Maitland: Wie Throws Her Weight behind Education for All in Asia

Wie Throws Her Weight behind Education for All in Asia
Hong Kong 17th October 2011
Tim Maitland
American superstar Michelle Wie added her voice to a campaign by the United Nations’ children’s charity UNICEF for universal primary education in Asia, during a brief stop in Hong Kong.
Wie was speaking at the annual HSBC Champions Charity Golf Day at Hong Kong’s Clear Water Bay Golf & Country Club, which raises awareness and funds for UNICEF’s campaign.
“I believe everyone should have the opportunity to get, at least, a primary education,” declared the 22-year-old.
“I’ve learned so much about myself going to college, not just from studies but about myself in general: moving away from my parents, having to do everything for myself, having to manage everything, I met some amazing people and I think everyone deserves that opportunity. Hopefully I’ll graduate in March. Getting my education, obviously, I believe very strongly in that… and I think it aligns very strongly with this day,” added Wie, who was en route from last week’s LPGA event in Malaysia to Stanford University in California where she is finishing her fifth and final year of a degree in communications.
The Honolulu-born Wie, who as a 12-year-old became the youngest qualifier for an LPGA tournament, was making only her second trip to Hong Kong. Her first, a family holiday 12 years ago, was ruined by a typhoon.
She cited “YE” Yang Yong-Eun’s achievement in becoming Asia’s first male Major champion and the current domination of Taiwan’s current world number one Yani Tseng in the women’s game as proof of what Asians can achieve when they’re given the chance.
“She’s an amazing golfer. I’ve competed against her since I was 14 and the way she has improved is very inspiring. She’s a very strong force out there whenever she is in contention, which I think is very impressive and it makes me want to become a better player because I’m kind of in her situation. There are so many players on tour from different places; you have the American players but you have Yani, Shanshan [Feng of China] and all the Korean players and players from Asia where opportunities may not be as available but when one is given the opportunity it’s amazing what they can do with it: that’s so important. It’s just giving people the opportunity and seeing what they can do. If they aren’t given the opportunity you never know what might have happened. You might have the next genius, but they can’t get into primary education; it’s important to give people a chance.”
Wie also took to the golf course as part of the event, which was the culmination of HSBC charity days across Asia that had already raised HK$1.5M for the UNICEF Child-Friendly Schools program in over 20 countries. The events are part of the bank’s build-up to next month’s WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai, the continent’s highest-ranked men’s tournament.
Wie singled that tournament out as an example of what Asia has been able to achieve once it got the chance to host top-quality golf. The HSBC Champions has been a World Golf Championship event since 2009. Meanwhile the women continue their “autumn swing” playing the inaugural Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship this week and the Mizuno Classic in Japan in two weeks time. They’ll return to Asia in February for the “spring swing” which normally includes the Honda LPGA Thailand and the HSBC Women’s Champions in Singapore.
“I think over the last few years the women’s tour has become very global, but watching the men’s tour on TV it’s also become very global as well. I think HSBC does a fantastic job of making world-class events and in Singapore and Shanghai you can see the results of that. Players love coming over here. It’s always a fun time. I love coming back to Singapore every year,” she said.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship Preview

With only 4 more tournaments left on the LPGA schedule, the tour moves to Taiwan this week, for the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship. Here are some of the details:

Course: Sunrise Golf & Country Club
Location: Yang Mei, Taoyuan, Taiwan
Defending Champion: None. This is the inaugural year for this event
2010 Winning Score: None

Final Field: 90 players
Par: 72
Yardage: 6390 Yards
Purse: $2.0 Million

This tournament will have one of the weakest fields in some time.
The following major names are NOT teeing it up this week.

Paula Creamer
Michelle Wie
Brittany Lincicome
Angela Stanford
Karrie Webb
Juli Inkster
Shanshan Feng
Natalie Gulbis
Catriona Matthew

According to my strength of schedule formula, only the RR Donnelley Founders Cup had a weaker field.

Here is the television schedule:
Oct 20 7:30-9:30 PM ET GC
Oct 21 7:30-9:30 PM ET GC
Oct 22 7:30-9:30 PM ET GC
Oct 23 7:30-9:30 PM ET GC

Once again, with the late showing and the 12 hour time differential, if you plan on watching this on TV, stay away from the LPGA website or reading blogs, as the results will already be posted.

The Titleholders Championship:
Qualifying this week are Christel Boeljon, Amanda Blumenherst, and Mina Harigae.

Rolex Ranking Mover of the Week:
Azahara Munoz moves from #51 to #39.

Stat of the Week:
Na-Yeon Choi has not finished worse than T18 in her last 7 tournaments.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Fujitsu Ladies Overview: Saiki Fujita Denies Sun-Ju Ahn 2nd-Straight Title Defense

Chie Arimura may have gotten to throw out the 1st pitch at a recent Yomiuri Giants game, but it was Sun-Ju Ahn who was gunning for her 2nd-straight title defense on the JLPGA this week at the Fujitsu Ladies.  The 2011 money-list leader and winner of 4 JLPGA events already this year stayed within striking distance of leader Mayu Hattori over the 1st 2 rounds, shooting a 66 to her 67 on Friday and matching her 72 on Saturday

Playing from the penultimate pairing today, Ahn stumbled with back-to-back bogeys early in her round, but immediately bounced back with 2 birdies in a row to return to -5 with 13 holes left to play.  Hattori, who also started her day badly with back-to-back bogeys from the final pairing, would never recover and was never a factor in the final round, but her playing partner Saiki Fujita, who had caught Ahn at -5 with a fine 68 on moving day, took the lead at -7 with birdies at the very same holes that Ahn had bogeyed just minutes earlier.  Even though Fujita made 2 birdies, 2 bogeys, and 2 pars over her next 6 holes, she maintained her 2-shot lead on Ahn, who parred the 6th through the 12th holes.  However, when Fujita bogeyed the 405-yard par-4 11th and 381-yard par-4 14th and Ahn birdied the 160-yard par-3 13th and 374-yard par-4 15th ahead of her, the tables had turned and Ahn lead Fujita by 1, -7 to -6, with only a few holes to go.  Could Ahn hold on for her 5th win of the season?  Could Fujita, who hadn't even played competitively since withdrawing from the Japan Women's Open, right the ship and hold off the most dominant player on the JLPGA? 

Fujita struck 1st with a birdie on the 15th to get back to -7 and tie Ahn for the lead.  Surprisingly, it was Ahn who blinked, failing to birdie the par-5 16th, bogeying the long par-3 17th, and failing to birdie the long par-4 18th.  All Fujita needed to win was to stay at -7 and that's exactly what she did, securing her 5th career JLPGA victory with 3 pars in a row.  Other players made runs at the top of the leaderboard--most notably Rikako Morita, who birdied 5 holes between the 5th and 13th to get to -6 before playing her last 5 holes birdieless and +2, and Tamie Durdin, whose 6-birdie 68 moved her all the way to T3 at -5 and into the top 50 of the JLPGA money list for the 1st time in months--but in the end it was Saiki Fujita who denied Sun-Ju Ahn a place in the record books.

Here's how the leaders and notables ended up:

1st/-7 Saiki Fujita (71-68-70)
2nd/-6 Sun-Ju Ahn (67-72-71)
T3/-5 Tamie Durdin (68-75-68), Asako Fujimoto (70-71-70), Mihoko Iseri (68-72-71)
T6/-4 Rikako Morita (72-71-69), Na-Ri Kim (68-74-70)
T8/-3 Shiho Oyama (73-72-68), Miki Uehara (67-77-69), Nikki Campbell (71-72-70), Akane Iijima (71-71-71), Yui Mukaiyama (70-69-74)

T13/-2 Harukyo Nomura (70-73-71), Ritsuko Ryu (69-72-73), Ayako Uehara (66-74-74), Mayu Hattori (66-72-76)
T17/-1 Rui Kitada (74-72-69)
T19/E Yun-Jye Wei (72-75-69), Hyun-Ju Shin (72-73-73), Kumiko Kaneda (71-74-73), Kaori Aoyama (69-71-75), Kaori Ohe (70-71-76)
T27/+1 Na-Ri Lee (74-72-71), Soo-Yun Kang (75-71-71), Yuki Ichinose (72-71-74), Lala Anai (71-71-75)
T31/+2 Young Kim (73-73-72), Erika Kikuchi (72-73-73), Miho Koga (70-73-75)
T34/+3 Junko Omote (74-73-72), Eun-A Lim (72-73-74), Yukari Baba (70-75-74), Sakura Yokomine (72-72-75)
T39/+4 Ji-Na Lim (71-72-77)
T44/+5 Li-Ying Ye (75-71-75)
T49/+7 Erina Hara (74-74-75), Megumi Kido (73-75-75), Onnarin Sattayabanphot (71-75-77)
T54/+8 Yumiko Yoshida (74-74-76), Julie Lu (71-76-77)

MC:  Maiko Wakabayashi (73-76), Teresa Lu (74-76), Miki Sakai (74-76), Esther Lee (73-77), Aiko Ueno (74-77), Ji-Woo Lee (75-77), Erina Yamato (75-77), Pei-Ying Tsai (74-78), So-Hee Kim (78-75), Mika Takushima (78-75)
WD:  Miki Saiki (71-WD)

Even with her runner-up finish, Ahn extended her already-huge lead on the JLPGA money list over the struggling Sakura Yokomine and Yukari Baba, idle Ji-Hee Lee, Chie Arimura, and Yuri Fudoh, and withdrawn Miki Saiki.  It doesn't look like anyone's in a position to pose a threat to her 2nd-straight year of JLPGA domination.

1. Sun-Ju Ahn ¥110.68M
2. Sakura Yokomine ¥73.20M
3. Ji-Hee Lee ¥69.77M
4. Chie Arimura ¥67.73M
5. Miki Saiki ¥61.44M
6. Yukari Baba ¥52.88M
7. Yuri Fudoh ¥52.17M
8. Ritsuko Ryu ¥51.27M
9. Shanshan Feng ¥45.79M
10. Mayu Hattori ¥43.46M
11. Mi-Jeong Jeon ¥38.68M
12. Kumiko Kaneda ¥36.94M
13. Saiki Fujita ¥36.37M
14. Ayako Uehara ¥34.52M
15. Rui Kitada ¥34.50M
16. Hiromi Mogi ¥34.48M
17. Rikako Morita ¥30.81M
18. Bo-Bae Song ¥30.49M
19. Junko Omote ¥29.89M
20. Na-Ri Kim ¥29.61M
21. Yuko Mitsuka ¥29.37M
22. Asako Fujimoto ¥28.11M
23. Shiho Oyama ¥27.90M
24. Ji-Woo Lee ¥26.58M
25. Li-Ying Ye ¥25.09M
26. Inbee Park ¥24.33M
27. Hyun-Ju Shin ¥24.09M
28. Ah-Reum Hwang ¥24.07M
29. Akiko Fukushima ¥21.64M
30. Eun-Bi Jang ¥20.82M
31. Young Kim ¥20.64M
32. Soo-Yun Kang ¥20.63M
33. Kaori Aoyama ¥19.45M
34. Eun-A Lim ¥19.12M
35. Teresa Lu ¥18.40M
36. Akane Iijima ¥18.02M
37. Na-Ri Lee ¥17.66M
38. Esther Lee ¥17.33M
39. Shinobu Moromizato ¥17.30M
40. Bo-Mee Lee ¥17.07M
41. Nikki Campbell ¥15.80M
42. Momoko Ueda ¥15.53M
43. Tamie Durdin ¥14.82M
44. Nachiyo Ohtani ¥14.10M
45. Yumiko Yoshida ¥13.98M
46. So-Hee Kim ¥13.81M
47. Miho Koga ¥13.34M
48. Maiko Wakabayashi ¥12.82M
49. Megumi Kido ¥12.55M
50. Satsuki Oshiro¥12.48M

With Ji-Yai Shin now #53 on the money list, followed by Ai Miyazato at #67, Harukyo Nomura at #78, Hee Young Park at #89, and Meena Lee at #101, no field list as of yet for next week's Masters GC Ladies but commitments by all the dual LPGA-JLPGA members except Shanshan Feng and Nomura to the LPGA's new Taiwan event, and only Feng, Inbee Park, Shin, Nomura, and Lee (along with non-members Na Yeon Choi and Mika Miyazato) joining in the fun the following week, it's looking like it's all going to come down to the Mizuno Classic to determine who will avoid having to go to JLPGA Q-School or lose their 2012 card.

Frankly, it's mystifying to me why Ai Miyazato is apparently skipping the Hisako Higuchi event the week before the Mizuno.  Not only does it put even more pressure on her, as she'll need to win the Mizuno to move into the top 50, but even then that would only be only her 6th event on the JLPGA of 2011.  As I understand the tour's new membership rules, she'll need to play 7 events this season and finish in the top 50 on the money list to keep her card in 2012.  Sure, if she wins the Mizuno, she'll qualify for the season-ending major, the Ricoh Cup, the week after the final LPGA event of 2011, and everything will be fine, if a bit hectic in November.  But if she doesn't, she's going to have to rely on sponsor exemptions (like Mika Miyazato does) to enter JLPGA events in 2012, which means that her season winnings wouldn't be counted toward her career winnings--unless she decides to play JLPGA Q-School the week of the Ricoh Cup to retain her card!  How weird would that be?!

Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia Sunday: Na Yeon Choi Outguns Ya Ni Tseng Down the Stretch

It was an old-fashioned shootout at Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club in the final round of the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia today, as world #1 and most dominant golfer on the planet Ya Ni Tseng applied pressure from the penultimate group by tying the tournament record with a 7-birdie 65 that brought her to -14 for the week, Brittany Lang responded from the final group by collapsing over her final 6 holes and missing out on her best chance for her 1st LPGA win in perhaps her entire career, and playing partner Na Yeon Choi bounced back from an early double with 5 birdies over her final 13 holes, the last of which came on the 17th, to secure her 1st win of 2011, 5th career LPGA title, 3rd-straight season with a win, and 3rd-straight million-dollar season.

It was also a great week for 2010 Rookie of the Year Azahara Munoz, who shot a solid 69 from the final group to secure a solo 3rd-place finish at -12, Hall of Famer Se Ri Pak, who followed up her tournament-record tying 65 on moving day with a 4-birdie 69 in the final round to snag a solo 4th at -10, and major winner Stacy Lewis, who bounced back from a late double Saturday with a 3-birdie 70 to catch Lang at T5 (-9).  Others who finished strong include Munoz's Solheim Cup teammate Christel Boeljon (6-birdie 66 to snag a top 10), Angela Stanford (6-birdie 67 marred only by her 2nd-straight walkoff double which nevertheless still was good enough to catch Suzann Pettersen at -7), Shanshan Feng (7-birdie 67 to sneak into the top 10 with Boeljon, Paula Creamer, and Amanda Blumenherst at -6), Ji-Yai Shin (5-birdie 67 to just miss the top 10 and catch In-Kyung Kim at -5), Maria Hjorth (6-birdie 67 to wipe the taste of her terrible middle 27 holes from her mouth), and Cristie Kerr (5-birdie 67 to salvage something from an otherwise disappointing week).  Hats off to Amanda Blumenherst, Amy Yang, and Mina Harigae, as well, all of whom matched Choi's final-round 68.

Unfortunately, Ai Miyazato's return to the LPGA was less than triumphant, as she fell to +1 and T32 by going 72-73 over the weekend, leaving her with just less than $90K she needs to win over her final few events to break the $1M barrier for the 3rd-straight season, Mika Miyazato only did a couple of shots better (although her top-25 did allow her to break the half-million-dollar barrier for the 2nd season in a row), and except for Boeljon no rookies made up any ground on ROY race leader Hee Kyung Seo (not Caroline Hedwall or Jennifer Song, who at least played respectably, and not Ryann O'Toole or Tiffany Joh, who were in a race to avoid DFL, although both at least broke 75 today).  While that's good for Seo, it's bad for the prospect of much drama in this season-long race.  Or any other, for that matter.  Tseng's great finish allowed her to extend her money list, Player of the Year, and Vare Trophy leads on everyone except Choi, who's now 4th, 5th, and 2nd in those races.

The LPGA's travelling road show stops at Ya Ni Tseng's hometown for what should be a coronation and celebration of one of the best seasons in LPGA history.  With over $2.5M in winnings already this season, Tseng needs a strong finish to become the 2nd player in LPGA history to break the $3M barrier.  She'll be joined by the usual cast of characters (except Paula Creamer, who will be playing on the JLPGA next week, and Michelle Wie), with Hee Kyung Seo and Inbee Park returning to the LPGA after finishing T20 and T4, respectively, in this week's KLPGA major.  Should be a treat!

[Update 1 (4:05 am):  The Korean media is going to be making a big deal of this being the 100th LPGA win by players of Korean descent.  I'd like to know how many of those wins were by Korean Americans or players of other nationalities.  The 100th win by a Korean national will really impress me!]

[Update 2 (4:12 am):  Nice live-tweeting from Kuala Lumpur!]

[Update 3 (12:14 pm):  Nice post and pictures/video from bangkokbobby!]

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia Saturday: Na Yeon Choi Takes the Lead

Today it was Se Ri Pak's turn to tie the tournament record at the Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club, this time with a 7-birdie 65 that brought her to -8 througn 54 holes of the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia, tied with world #1 Ya Ni Tseng (69) and fellow major winner in 2011, Stacy Lewis (72).  But that trio has fallen a bit behind the 3 overall leaders:  Na Yeon Choi (67), who made 4 birdies in her final 10 holes to get to -12, Brittany Lang (69), who was +2 and birdieless over her 1st 12 holes, but birdied 4 of her last 6 holes to pull within 1 of the lead, and Azahara Munoz (68), who was leading for much of the day after birdies on 4 of her 1st 7 holes brought her to -11, but who stumbled in the middle of the round and ended up 2 behind Choi.

With Suzann Pettersen 5 back and Paula Creamer 6 back, there's a small chance one of them might charge from behind to get her 10th career LPGA victory, and there's always the hope that Michelle Wie will do something special from 6 back (or even In-Kyung Kim from 7 back), but it's much more likely that we'll see someone from the final pairing--Choi, Lang, or Munoz--get her 1st win of 2011 tomorrow.  Me, I'm thinking Choi is going to come through, but I'll be rooting even harder for Ai and Mika Miyazato to make some kind of noise in the early morning (Ai's playing with Ji-Yai Shin and Amy Yang, so she has plenty of motivation) and for Mina Harigae and Tiffany Joh to finally put one really good round together (Harigae's come close, but Joh, unfortunately, hasn't).

Friday, October 14, 2011

Bad Timing Department: T-Joh Gets a Little Love from the LPGA

Why oh why did the LPGA decide to air their new profile of Tiffany Joh today?!  Right when anyone who wants to see how she's doing this week will find her DFL in Malaysia after 2 rounds?!  The Asian swing is almost never kind to players who aren't used to travelling halfway around the world and is often pretty unkind even to those accustomed to it.  Hopefully those new to the T-Joh will put that aside and realize that she's #2 in the Rookie of the Year race for a reason!  Her struggles this week are just part of that process she talks about of "making the leap from LPGA fan to player."  So what if she is in danger of batting for the over-par cycle this week, right?

Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia Friday: Thunderstorms Merely Interrupt Birdie Downpour from Stacy Lewis

A 2-and-a-half-hour weather delay couldn't cool off Stacy Lewis in the 2nd round of the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia, as a veritable downpour of birdies moved her to the top of the leaderboard.  Lewis bounced back in a big way from a double bogey on the 9th that erased her 2 birdies on the front, tying the tournament record for low 9 held by Meena Lee with an awesome 30 on the back.  Her 8-birdie 65 tied the 18-hole tournament record held by Jimin Kang and Sun Young Yoo and got her to -9 for the week. 

Even in the face of Lewis's pyrotechnics, Brittany Lang and Na Yeon Choi hung tough.  Both came back from the rain delay to make several pars in a row and secure bogey-free rounds, a 67 from Lang that left her tied for the lead and a 68 from Choi that left her 1 back.  Although Dewi Claire Schreefel couldn't keep her own bogey-free run going after the rain delay, she hung on for a 68 that left her tied with Choi in 3rd at -8.  And Azahara Munoz kept up her fine play this week with a 4-birdie 68 that got her to -7, thanks to a -1 and bogey-free finish over her last 5 holes after she posted her only bogey of the day on the 13th hole.

Meanwhile, world #1 and most dominant golfer on the planet Ya Ni Tseng made 4 birdies in her last 7 holes to complete a 5-birdie 67 and move to -6, Michelle Wie was -3 and bogey-free over her last 6 holes to cap off a 6-birdie 68 and join Tseng in a tie for 6th, Paula Creamer fired a bogey-free 67 to move to -4, Ai Miyazato and Se Ri Pak fired 4-birdie 68s to move to -2, and Jennifer Song birdied 2 of her last 3 holes on the front to complete a bogey-free 67 and get back into red digits for the week at -1.

Other golfers didn't finish as strong, but still kept themselves in good position heading into the weekend.  In-Kyung Kim was -4 and bogey-free through her 1st 14 holes, but twice fell back from -7 to -6 for the week with bogeys on the 15th and 18th holes.   Suzann Pettersen bogeyed the 17th to settle for a 4-birdie 69 that left her 4 off the pace set by Lewis and Lang.  And a walkoff double dropped Amy Yang back to -4 for the week, although she did play well enough before it that she still managed to match her opening 69.

Lots can happen over the final 36 holes.  Anna Nordqvist followed up her 79 with a 67, while Maria Hjorth (66-76) and Sophie Gustafson (69-77) went in the opposite direction.  So no lead is safe!

[Update 1 (2:49 pm):  Here are the 2nd-round notes and interviews from]

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia Thursday: Na Yeon Choi Picks Up Where She Left Off, But She Has a Lot of Company

Na Yeon Choi was +1 after 5 holes of birdieless golf at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club, but then she returned to the form that was this close to good enough for a threepeat in Korea last week:  she birdied 3 holes in a row on the front and added 3 more in a 4-hole stretch late on the back to shoot a 66 that brought her into a tie for the lead with Brittany Lang, Maria Hjorth, and Dewi Claire Schreefel at the completion of the 1st round of the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia

With all the co-leaders making 6 birdies and 1 bogey each, it probably should come as no surprise that even though 18 players broke 70 and 31 shot par or better, there was only 1 bogey-free round among them, a 70 from Sun Young Yoo--unless you count 68s by Shanshan Feng (which included 2 doubles) and Christel Boeljon (which was flawless except for a double), a 69 by Sophie Gustafson (ditto except for a triple), and a 71 by Jenny Shin (just a double).  And what of the hottest golfer on the planet?  Ya Ni Tseng made only 1 bogey, but she could only sink 3 birdies--a solid start for a 72-hole event, but a far cry from her 10-birdie performance to kick off last week's eventual win!

There were other fairly big surprises today, as well.  Michelle Wie, who's had little go right for her recently, opened with a 5-birdie 68, as did In-Kyung Kim, who's been struggling by her lofty standards of late but who over the course of her career has always seemed to finish her seasons strong.  I can't say I expected 67s from Paige Mackenzie and Azahara Munoz, either!  On the downside, besides Boeljon and Shin, the rest of the Class of 2011 got shellacked--sure, Caroline Hedwall held on for a 72, but Jennifer Song barely broke 75 and Tiffany Joh and Ryann O'Toole couldn't even break 80.  It just goes to show how hard it is for young golfers to play well so far from home:  even the relatively more experienced Anna Nordqvist shot a 79 and Vicky Hurst a 76.  And being a veteran is no protection either, as Wendy Ward (77), Juli Inkster (76), Hee-Won Han (75), Karrie Webb (74), and Laura Davies (74) can attest.  Heck, even coming in hot is no guarantee:  just look at Christina Kim's 75, Mika Miyazato, Hee Young Park, and Chella Choi's 73s, or Ai Miyazato's 72.

The thing is, over 72 holes, everyone is going to make a good number of mistakes on such a watery course, and most everyone will make a big number here or there.  The players who refuse to be sunk by their mistakes and can sink a lot of birdie putts in response will be the ones in contention over the final 9 holes.  It'll be interesting to see who can keep it going and who can turn it around over the next 54 holes!

[Update 1 (10/14/11, 6:38 am):  Here's bangkokbobby's take on the 1st round and notes and interviews from]

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Just How Dominant Has Yani Tseng Been?

When the season started 5 players were jockeying around for the #1 spot in the Rolex Rankings. In fact Yani Tseng was #5. Let us take a look at just how dominant Yani has been this year.

Money Leaders:
1- Yani Tseng - $2,396,838.00
2- Cristie Kerr - $1,359,093
3- Stacy Lewis - $1,218,443

1- Yani Tseng - 6
T2 - Lincicome, Pettersen, and Webb - 2

Scoring Average: (Winner gets Hall of Fame point).
1- Yani Tseng - 69.59
2- Cristie Kerr - 70.53
3- Stacy Lewis - 70.77

Rolex Player of the Year: (Winner gets Hall of Fame point).
1- Yani Tseng - 289 Points
2- Stacy Lewis - 115
3- Cristie Kerr - 104

Greens In Regulation:
1- Yani Tseng - 76%
2- Paula Creamer - 75.5%
3- Suzann Pettersen 75.3%

Driving Distance: (Lexi Thompson would be #1, if she had been an LPGA member)
1- Yani Tseng - 268.6 yards
2- Maria Hjorth - 266.7
3- Michelle Wie - 266.1

Putts per greens in regulation:
1- Cristie Kerr - 1.75
T2- Yani Tseng - 1.76
T2- I.K. Kim 1.76

Top 10 finishes:
1- Yani Tseng - 11
2- Cristie Kerr - 10
Stacy Lewis - 10

Percentage of rounds under par:
1- Yani Tseng - 70.5%
2- Stacy Lewis 62.9%
3- I.K. Kim 60.4%

Birdies per round:
1- Yani Tseng - 4.77
2- Cristie Kerr - 4.03
3- Brittany Lincicome - 3.76

Percentage of rounds in the 60's:
1- Yani Tseng - 32/61 = 52.5%
2- Cristie Kerr - 25/59 = 42.4%
3- Stacy Lewis - 23/62 = 37.1%

Of the above statistics, the one I find the scariest is her second place ranking in putting. Putting was never her strong point. In 2009 she ranked 51st, and in 2010 15th. So much for her one weakness.

The above figures don't lie, Yani has been totally dominant. As I stated in a previous posting, Yani has 10 Hall of fame points wrapped up this year already. She came into this year with nine. If she doesn't win again this year she will still have 19 points. You need 26 to get in. You have to believe she will have enough points sometime next year. You need to be on the tour 10 years to enter; next year will be her 5th.

In closing, I would like to open up for debate whether or not it is a good thing for the tour to have one person dominate. Some will say that the publicity of a player dominating (like Tiger Woods did), will result in higher TV ratings, which is what the tour needs. I agree. Strictly as a fan, I think it is much more interesting when players are fighting for the top honors. What do you think?

Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia Preview, Predictions, Pairings

Hound Dog, Tony Jesselli, Emily Kay, and have done such a fantastic job of previewing this week's Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia event, the only thing I'll point out is that with the tournament extended from 54 to 72 holes this year, all the water on the par-71 Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club that I talked about in last year's preview will come even more into play and weigh even heavier on the players' minds.  Look for it to be a battle between the tour's most consistent ball-strikers and most accurate precision players! 

Here are my guesses in this week's PakPicker.  I scored more points last time around than the time before, but fell all the way from king of the hill to basement dweller because everyone else did so much of a better job with their predictions than I.  Nowhere to go but up!

1. Miyazato Ai
2. Tseng
3. Choi Na Yeon
4. Creamer
5. Miyazato Mika
6. Pettersen
7. Shin
8. Lee
9. Joh
10. Pressel
11. Lewis
12. Yang

Alts: Feng, Kang, Kerr

Lots of great pairings tomorrow--here are my faves!

1st tee, 10:22 am: Ji-Yai Shin, Ai Miyazato, Michelle Wie
1st tee, 10:33 am: Suzann Pettersen, Na Yeon Choi, Paula Creamer
10th tee, 10:11 am: In-Kyung Kim, Mika Miyazato, Sophie Gustafson
1st tee, 10:44 am: Ya Ni Tseng, Brittany Lincicome, Jimin Kang
1st tee, 10:11 am: Juli Inkster, Karrie Webb, Cristie Kerr
1st tee, 10:55 am: Stacy Lewis, Sandra Gal, Beatriz Recari
1st tee, 9:16 am: Mina Harigae, Caroline Hedwall, Julieta Granada
1st tee, 9:27 am: Amy Yang, Melissa Reid, Tanaporn Kongkiatrai

Last week's LET winner Christina Kim got into the field and is 1st off the 1st tee with Brittany Lang and Ainil Johani, while Tiffany Joh goes off the back a couple of groups later with Kristy McPherson and Amy Hung.  Here's hoping 2 of the best interviews on tour make it into the press room this week!  And that both Miyazatos' near-misses recently on the JLPGA have prepared them for the heat of battle on the LPGA!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

How Big Was Christina Kim's LET Win Last Week?

2011 has been by far the worst year of Christina Kim's LPGA career:  not only did she miss the cut in every single major, she's managed to make the top 20 only twice in 17 starts, as well, and as a result has yet to cross the $100K barrier in winnings--a horrible drop-off for someone who's never failed to win less than $200K in her 9 seasons on tour and won less than $600K only 4 times before this season.  Even though her driving accuracy (77.7%) is way up--even better than it was in 2004 and 2005, the only other times lists that she hit more than 70% of her fairways--her distance is way down and her putter has been letting her down all year. 

Given all that, it was a welcome surprise that she accounted so well for herself in the Solheim Cup, but it was a much bigger shock that she won the Sicilian Ladies Open last week.  Even though the tournament's small purse guaranteed that her 1st career LET win would move her up to only 31st on the tour's money list, it could mean that she's finally coming out of her year-long slump.  The difference clearly was her putting, but she's shown flashes of brilliance before on the greens and been unable to sustain them.  Still, beating Guilia Sergas by 4, Gwladys Nocera by 5, Louise Stahle by 6, Pernilla Lindberg by 7, Rebecca Hudson by 8, Becky Morgan by 9, Tania Elosegui and Linda Wessberg by 10, Trish Johnson by 11, Lee-Anne Pace by 12, and Laura Diaz, Belen Mozo, and top LETer Melissa Reid by 13 is a big deal.  Let's see if she can sustain her momentum on Ya Ni Tseng's home turf a couple of weeks from now!

[Update 1 (10/12/11, 9:18 am):  As Tony Jesselli pointed out in comments, Xtina did make it into the Malaysia field this week!]

Monday, October 10, 2011

Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia Preview

This is getting very repetitious, but let me start by congratulating Yani Tseng on winning her 6th LPGA tournament of the year. With the Player of the Year and Vare Trophy titles already in the bag, she will add ten Hall of Fame points this year (2 of her wins are majors), even without another victory.

Here are some of the details of the Sime Darby LPGA Championship being held this week:

Course: Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club
Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Defending Champion: Jimin Kang
2010 Winning Score: 70-69-65=204 (-9)

Final Field: 72 Players
Par: 71
Yardage: 6208 Yards
Purse: $1.9 Million

The tournament has expanded this year from 54 to 72 holes. There will be no cut.
The only notable absentees are Inbee Park, Hee Kyeong Seo, and Song Hee Kim.

Here is the television schedule:
Oct 13 : GC 9:30-11:30 PM ET
Oct 14 : GC 9:30-11:30 PM ET
Oct 15 : GC 9:30-11:30 PM ET
Oct 16 : GC 9:30-11:30 PM ET

Between the late showing on The Golf Channel and the 12-hour time differential, we will be watching the first round while the second round is already underway.

Tony Jesselli's Player of the Year race:

1- Yani Tseng - 315.46 points
2- Stacy Lewis - 185.34
3- Cristie Kerr - 158.50
4- Suzann Pettersen - 147.44
5- Angela Stanford - 135.62
6- Brittany Lincicome - 126.20
7- I.K. Kim - 124.08
8- Amy Yang - 122.30
9- Paula Creamer - 116.88
10-Na Yeon Choi - 115.68
11-Mika Miyazato - 114.02
12-Karrie Webb - 111.56
13-Morgan Pressel - 106.26
14-Ai Miyazato - 96.36
15-Jiyai Shin - 87.24
16-Maria Hjorth - 86.00
17-Brittany Lang - 78.28
18-Michelle Wie - 76.70
19-Sun Young Yoo - 75.86
20-Inbee Park - 72.72

Rolex Ranking Mover of the Week:
Brittany Lincicome moves from #10 to #8.

The Titleholders Championship:
Qualifying this week are Jimin Kang, Shanshan Feng, and Chella Choi.
Katherine Hull remains the highest ranking player yet to qualify.

Hard to believe stat of the week:
This one is really hard to believe. Yani Tseng is so far out in front in the Rolex Rankings, that #2 Suzann Pettersen is closer to #16 than she is to #1.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Hana Bank Championship Sunday: Ya Ni Tseng Outduels Na Yeon Choi, Taking 6th LPGA Title of 2011

Ya Ni Tseng fired a bogey-free 67 in the final round of the Hana Bank Championship to deny Na Yeon Choi a 3-peat, take her 6th LPGA title of 2011, break the $2M barrier in LPGA winnings, and open up a million-dollar lead on Cristie Kerr in the money list race, a 174-point lead on Stacy Lewis in the Rolex Player of the Year race, and a nearly 1-stroke lead on Kerr in the race for the Vare Trophy for lowest scoring average on tour.  Holy racking up Hall of Fame points, Batman!

Choi briefly joined KLPGA star Soo-Jin Yang in the lead at -10 with a birdie on the 1st hole, but when her 37-hole bogey-free run ended on the very next hole and she followed it up with another bogey on the 6th, she dug herself a hole from which she could never quite extricate herself.  As Yang, too, was making a pair of early bogeys to also drop to -8, Tseng opened with 4 straight pars, then reeled off birdies on 5, 6, and 8 to leap to -12.  Even as Choi rallied with birdies on 7, 10, 11, and 13, Tseng kept her cool and reeled off 4 pars in a row, then retained her lead by matching the last of Choi's birdies in that run.  As Choi cooled off with 4 straight pars of her own, Tseng coolly birdied the par-4 15th to open up a 2-shot lead, then parred out to remain at -14.  Even though Choi birdied the final hole, it was too little, too late, as Tseng sank a little tester to secure her 11th career LPGA victory.

I'll have more after I catch up on the Golf Channel coverage.  From the interviews, it sounds like Tseng took some risks on 13 and 15 and they really paid off!  And from the scoreboard, it looks like Yeon-Ju Jung, Brittany Lincicome, and Anna Nordqvist put together fine Sunday charges, while Jimin Kang, Chella Choi, and Shanshan Feng qualified for the season-ending CME Titleholders.

[Update 1 (10/10/11, 10:04 am):  Hound Dog rightly points out how Jimin Kang briefly held the lead and kept herself in contention for much of yesterday's round in the course of making similarly cogent observations on other matters in his tournament epilogue.  Looks like it'll be awhile before I can watch the 2nd and 3rd rounds I taped, so readers will have to rely on him and others I link to for more until further notice.]

[Update 2 (10:06 am):  Similarly fine job by bangkokbobby!]