Saturday, March 2, 2013

HSBC Women's Champions: Another Showdown in Singapore!

A word about spoilers and spoiler alerts: I'm of two minds, like most of us.  On the one hand, I love watching sports live because of the drama and the uncertainty and the suspense.  When I had Golf Channel, and I wasn't able to watch a tournament live, I would often avoid the internet and any other potential spoiler source.  My parents knew not to tell me anything about what they had just watched except in the most general and spoiler-avoiding terms.  So I get what Tony is talking about in his tournament previews when he warns people who hate spoilers to stay away from the internet when the LPGA is in Asia.  And I get his "no spoilers" pledge.

But I also believe that writing about a really cool development in a tournament can actually draw people to watch something they ordinarily wouldn't watch.  And I believe that if you're going to be blogging about women's golf, you'd better be able to provide something that neither mainstream golf journalism nor television typically provides.  Maybe it's a personal perspective, maybe it's a focus on players outside those contending to win the tournament, maybe it's humor, maybe it's in-depth analysis of who's on a run and who's struggling, maybe it's a historical perspective.  Whatever it is, I think it's ok for posts like that to include a few spoilers.  Or do what Happy Fan does and track interesting patterns in recent events (as he just did!).

And let's face it, if you're here, now, reading this, you're the kind of reader who doesn't mind spoilers.  Among the very tiny subset of the world population who care enough about the LPGA to know that U.S. tv coverage of the HSBC Women's Champions doesn't begin till this evening, how many of them haven't already gone to the LPGA's live leaderboard?  How many of them don't understand that the final round of the tournament will be starting during the airing of the third round in the U.S.?

Spoiler alert:  all of this is a long-winded way of justifying what I'm about to do--write about the third round!  Bottom line: doing so fits my schedule, and, more important, my family's schedule.  If I don't do it now, I won't have time this weekend to do it at all.  As you saw with my teaser post for last Sunday's final round in Thailand, I have my limits as to what I'll spoil.  But if you read the comments, or simply visited the site before the U.S. tv coverage began, you'll have seen that the big story--Ariya Jutanugarn's fall from the thrill of a hole in one on her closing back 9 to the agony of hacking away a historic win by tripling the final hole and handing Inbee Park a big victory--had already been revealed.  Why should I have been trying to keep that a secret?

OK, I've gone on long enough for those who don't like spoilers to stop reading.  So let's get into it!

We've got a showdown between the Na Yeon Choi and Stacy Lewis, #2 and #4 players in the Rolex Rankings, brewing in Singapore!  At -14 and hitting loads of greens in regulation, they're going to be hard to catch.  But Paula Creamer (-12 despite walking away from a 5-car accident right before the tournament), Ariya Jutanugarn, Sun Young Yoo, Azahara Munoz, and Danielle Kang (all at -9) are in position to, uh, crash the party if they can find a way to heat up their putters tomorrow.  Wouldn't it be amazing if Jutanugarn found redemption this Sunday for last Sunday's epic fail?  Or if Yoo and Munoz put a big win on their resumes that their development as professionals suggest they're quite ready for?  Or if Kang delivered on the promise of her back-to-back U.S. Women's Open victories way sooner than anyone expected?

Assuming it's really a 3-player race, though, the storylines are still super-intriguing.  Can Creamer break the U.S. Open jinx and win for the first time since her amazing triumph at Oakmont, putting her name besides the likes of Lorena Ochoa, Ji-Yai Shin, Ai Miyazato, Karrie Webb, and Angela Stanford?  Watch out for Creamer when she's coming back from injuries in a big tournament!  Can Stacy Lewis prove yet again she's the top American on tour and put down a huge marker in her bid to repeat as Player of the Year?  Can NYC beat fellow '08er Ya Ni Tseng to a HSBC Women's Champions title and close the gap between her and the #1 player in the world?  (For that matter, can Tseng put together another magical weekend round and move from the middle of the pack to the top?)

So even if you just focus on the top few players, there's lots of interest in today's--and tomorrow's rounds.  But check out the following tidbits:

  • Morgan Pressel is having her first good tournament in what must feel like years!
  • Nicole Castrale is rocking Tanah Merah!
  • It's not just the veteran Americans who are finding their games in the far east--Lexi Thompson and Jessica Korda are playing good golf this week.
  • Unfortunately, the same can't be said for defending champion Angela Stanford and Cristie Kerr, who are all kinds of rusty.
  • Chie Arimura and Karrie Webb, who had such a thrilling showdown two years ago, are going off at the same time tomorrow on opposite 9s, both smack dab in the middle of the pack.
  • Inbee Park and Ji-Yai Shin are doing just fine this week and could still stay at or near the top of the 2013 money list if they can pour it on tomorrow.
  • Beatriz Recari, Catriona Matthew, Lizette Salas, and Moriya Jutanugarn are continuing their nice and solid starts to the season.
  • Amy Yang and Anna Nordqvist have been kind of hanging around this season, with flashes of good play, and they're doing it again this week.
  • Nice to see vets like Candie Kung and Karine Icher near the top of the leaderboard, while up-and-comers like Chella Choi and Pornanong Phatlum are also in position to make some noise tomorrow.
  • Mika Miyazato and Momoko Ueda are off to very slow starts this season and their struggles continue thus far this week.
  • I was hoping Mina Harigae would get off to a better start this season.  There is a learning curve to playing in Asia in the spring (just ask Tiffany Joh!), but this is much worse than I was hoping for.
I wonder how long I can hold out before I shell out the extra money for Golf Channel?  The way work is going, it won't be until June!

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