Monday, September 30, 2013

KLPGA Watch: Hee Kyung Bae Outduels Ha Neul Kim and Soo Jin Yang, Outruns Visiting LPGAers

Check out Seoul for details on the impressive victory of Hee Kyung Bae over on the KLPGA by 3 shots over Ha Neul Kim, 4 over Soo Jin Yang, 9 over Inbee Park and So Yeon Ryu, 17 over Se Ri Pak and Chella Choi, and 18 over Na Yeon Choi.  Just like on the JLPGA, the lesser-known player from the home tour beat both her peers and visitors from another tour.

What makes Bae's victory even more interesting--and much like Azahara Munoz's on the LET--is that both wins led to losses by a pair of players we were expecting to play in Stage II of LPGA Q-School.  But neither Ha Neul Kim nor Charley Hull's names appear on the preliminary field list any more.  Randall Mell has the details on Hull's decision, but of course the only thing that a google search on Kim turns up is a 2012 Korea Times article on why she didn't plan to do Q-School that year.  It sure would be nice if the U.S. golf media could catch up with the planet (rather than simply being sporadically transatlantic), but to be fair, even the folks at Seoul Sisters are just speculating as to why Kim changed her mind and the Korean golf media could do a much better job of getting news out in English (as could the KLPGA, for that matter--I mean, my god, they've even chosen a format that doesn't show the url of a link when you mouse over it!).

Bottom line is, there are a lot of great golfers over in Korea.  You'd think their sponsors at least would have a stake in helping them get better known outside Korea.  So why isn't it happening?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Symetra Tour Championship: Race for the Card To End in 36-Hole Sprint...or Tomorrow

It's looking like 72 holes of the Symetra Tour Championship will result in exactly zero changes to the top 10 on the money list.  Although #8 Olivia Jordan-Higgins missed the cut Friday, the 36-hole sprint today after Saturday was washed out has made an already-difficult task for those from #11 to #25 on the list nearly impossible, as has the amazing play of Megan McChrystal and Paula Reto.  McChrystal fired a 68 in her 1st 18 today and is -4 through 12 in her 2nd to sit on top of the leaderboard at -13.  Reto shot a 70 and is -2 through 11 to fall one shot behind the leader.  If Perrine Delacour, who's -5 today and -9 overall with 5 holes to go can somehow win, she can make it into the top 10.  But she's the only one who has a chance.  If she can somehow do it, the pressure falls on #9 Alena Sharp and #10 Jaclyn Sweeney, both of whom are struggling down the home stretch, to pass Jordan-Higgins..

That's not to say there's not a lot at stake still for those who are trying to finish #11 to #20 on the season-ending money list, because that's worth a bye into the final stage of LPGA Q-School.  Jackie Stoelting at #19 missed the cut and will most likely be playing in Stage II in October.  #18 Hannah Yun is +2 today with 5 holes to go and will need to finish strong to avoid getting knocked out, as well, by Lisa Ferrero at -9, Fiona Puyo at -6, and Amelia Lewis and Jenny Suh at -5.  Let's see what happens!

[Update 1 (7:16 pm):  Delacour's -10 but she has only 2 holes to go.  She's 3 behind Reto (3 to go) and 2 behind McChrystal (2 to play).]

[Update 2 (7:18 pm):  Ferrero's bogeyed 15 and 16 to fall back to -7, now only 2 shots ahead of Marina Alex, who went 68-69 today to leap into 6th place.]

[Update 3 (7:19 pm):  Puyo's bogeyed 14 and 15 to drop to -4, tied with money-list leader P.K. Kongkraphan, who went 65-72 today.]

[Update 4 (7:23 pm):  Suh's bogeyed 15 and 16 and Lewis 14 and 16 to fall back to -3, which is good enough for T9 with Stefanie Kenoyer right now.  Nice 70-69 by Lindy Duncan and 69-70 by Candace Schepperle guaranteed them top 20s and give them a chance for top 10s if the chase back keeps faltering.

[Update 5 (7:25 pm):  Sharp stumbled home with a closing 77 to finish at +3 for the week, but she made enough to pass Jordan-Higgins if not to stay ahead of Sweeney, who went 73-72 today to end up at E.]

[Update 6 (7:29 pm):  Birdie on 8 brings Yun back to +1 in her 2nd round, +2 for the day, and +6 overall.  It sure would be great to get a birdie on the par-5 9th to make it harder to knock her out of the top 20 on the money list when all is said and done!]

[Update 7 (7:30 pm):  Wonder how many holes they can get in before it gets too dark to finish today?]

[Update 8 (7:33 pm):  Darn it, Hannah bogeyed 9, for her 4th bogey of the side.  That's going to hurt her cause.]

[Update 9 (7:36 pm):  Reto bogeyed 16 to fall back to -12, tied with McChrystal, who has only the par-5 18th left to go.]

[Update 10 (7:37 pm):  By my count, there are only 2 threesomes left on the course, but it's hard to believe they all can finish today.]

[Update 11 (7:40 pm):  I think they're done for today.  Kenoyer hasn't finished 16 yet and her partners did.  I think she decided she's had enough.]

[Update 12 (7:48 pm):   Wow!  Delacour birdied 18 to go 71-66 today and finish at -11.  If McChrystal and Reto falter tomorrow, Jordan-Higgins could fall from #8 to #11!]

Lacoste Ladies Open de France Sunday: Azahara Munoz Nips Gwladys Nocera and Valentine Derrey by a Single Shot

Just as a Korean golfer won on the JLPGA over the top Japanese female golfer on the planet, a Spanish golfer took the Lacoste Ladies Open de France title away from the best French golfers in the world.  Azahara Munoz fired a 5-under-par 65 today to get to -14 and beat Gwladys Nocera (67) and Valentine Derrey (67) by 1, Joanna Klatten (68) by 2, and Karine Icher (64) by 4.

Just like Ai Miyazato opened the door for Na-Ri Lee, so, too, did yesterday's tri-leaders.  Although Klatten eagled the short par-5 7th, she made only 1 birdie the rest of the way.  Although Derrey opened with a bogey-free 30, she closed with a birdieless 37.  And although Nocera opened with a bogey-free 31, she made 2 bogeys on the back, her last allowing Munoz to bogey the 17th (her only big mistake of the day after opening with a bogey-free 30 and following it up with a birdie on the par-5 15th) and still win the tournament.  Munoz improved on her T3 here last year to notch her 2nd career LET victory.

Other international players in the hunt didn't fare so well.  Lee-Anne Pace did tie Icher at -10, but she had to settle for a 68, while Charley Hull shot a 71 to fall to -7, 1 shot behind Carlota Ciganda (70) and Bree Arthur (66) and 2 shots behind Rebecca Artis (64).  That didn't help any of them make up serious ground on Suzann Pettersen and Lexi Thompson, who like Beatriz Recari, Catriona Matthew, Shanshan Feng, Anna Nordqvist, Munoz, Sandra Gal, Caroline Hedwall, and Jessica Korda have made the most of their starts in the LET's majors.  Thompson looks vulnerable to Pace at #2, but Pettersen looks to have built up an insurmountable lead on the Order of Merit.

Miyagi TV Cup Dunlop Ladies Open Sunday: Ai Miyazato Making a Charge!

Ai Miyazato has birdied 7 of her 1st 14 holes during the final round of the Miyagi TV Cup Dunlop Ladies Open to move to -7 for the week and open up a 3-shot lead on Na-Ri Lee and a 5-shot lead on Teresa Lu and Lala Anai.  Miyazato has a great chance to shoot the low round of the week and win her 16th JLPGA tournament the day after the 10th anniversary of her 1st-ever win on tour right at this very event.  To do that, she'll need to finish strong, as fellow Okinawan Mamiko Higa fired a bogey-free 66 that included a hole in one on the 155-yard par-3 7th hole from the 1st group off the 10th tee today.

Even as Okinawans are getting excited (LPGA rookie Ayako Uehara was -4 through her 1st 10 holes but had to settle for a 70 that brought her to +2 for the week; those late bogeys mean she'll need some help to finish in the top 10), fans of other golfers on tour are not as happy.  Fellow LPGA rookie Chie Arimura finished with her 2nd-straight 76 and will likely fall outside the top 50.  Yuri Fudoh and Sakura Yokomine closed with 73s to end up at +5 for the week, while Rikako Morita and Momoko Ueda will need to birdie the par-5 18th to beat them and improve on the +3 they are overall right now.

Still, there are a handful of golfers still out on the course who have a chance to join Higa in the under-70 club, including Shiho Oyama, Yuko Mitsuka, and Erika Kikuchi.  Na-Ri Lee will have to take advantage of the 2 short par 5s she has yet to play (14 and 18) to have a chance to join them and put pressure on Ai-sama down the stretch.

The JLPGA web site has gone into deep freeze until the tv coverage is complete, but I'm not going to stay up to wait for it to thaw out.  See you later in the morning with an update!  Ai-sama, gambatte-ne!

[Update 1 (4:48 am):  I'm in shock!  Ai-sama doubled the 154-yard par-3 15th and followed it up with a bogey on the 372-yard par-4 17th to end up with a 68 that left her at -4 for the week.  Playing 2 groups behind her, Na-Ri Lee birdied the same hole Ai-sama doubled, then parred her way in to finish at -5 and take her 1st trophy on the JLPGA right out of Ai-sama's hands.  I can't believe it!]

[Update 2 (4:59 am):  Wow, even as Ai-sama was collapsing, others were charging.  Teresa Lu finished birdie-birdie to tie her at -4, Yukari Baba closed with 3 birdies in her last 4 holes to catch Lala Anai (who birdied 4 of her last 11 bogey-free holes) at -3, Esther Lee birdied 16 to finish at -2, Erika Kikuchi fired a bogey-free 69 and Miki Saiki birdied 5 of her last 11 holes against only 1 bogey to catch Higa at -1, and Junko Omote birdied 5 of her last 11 holes of bogey-free golf and Shiho Oyama 3 (against only 1 bogey in that sane span) to round out the top 10 at E.  Ai-sama can certainly take away some positives from the fact that only 4 players (Higa, her, Yuko Mitsuka, and Hiroko Azuma) broke 70 today, but, man, you have to go outside the top 30 to find a stretch run as weak as hers.  Ouch!]

[Update 3 (5:30 am):  Here's how the money list looks now:

1. Rikako Morita ¥93.27M
2. Sakura Yokomine ¥71.50M
3. Yumiko Yoshida ¥68.54M
4. Miki Saiki ¥65.84M
5. Mamiko Higa ¥62.72M
6. Natsuka Hori ¥62.05M
7. Mi-Jeong Jeon ¥58.55M
8. Sun-Ju Ahn ¥57.67M
9. Bo-Mee Lee ¥50.97M
10. Teresa Lu ¥48.90M
11. Ritsuko Ryu ¥48.08M
12. Yuki Ichinose ¥43.24M
13. Na-Ri Lee ¥42.44M
14. Onnarin Sattayabanphot ¥40.87M
15. Da-Ye Na ¥39.45M
16. Junko Omote ¥38.40M
17. Misuzu Narita ¥37.96M
18. Hiromi Mogi ¥36.88M
19. Kumiko Kaneda ¥36.85M
20. Yukari Baba ¥36.60M
21. Asako Fujimoto ¥33.82M
22. Esther Lee ¥31.08M
23. Erika Kikuchi ¥30.08M
24. Yuri Fudoh ¥29.23M
25. Na-Ri Kim ¥28.84M
26. Shiho Oyama ¥28.17M
27. Rui Kitada ¥27.98M
28. Ji-Hee Lee ¥27.94M
29. Miki Sakai ¥27.55M
30. Mayu Hattori ¥27.42M
31. Erina Hara ¥26.91M
32. Maiko Wakabayashi ¥26.21M
33. Megumi Kido ¥23.55M
34. Kaori Ohe ¥23.03M
35. Soo-Yun Kang ¥22.38M
36. Young Kim ¥22.36M
37. Lala Anai ¥21.63M
38. Kaori Nakamura ¥20.73M
39. Akane Iijima ¥18.28M
40. Kaori Aoyama ¥17.65M
41. Yuko Fukuda ¥17.64M
42. Harukyo Nomura ¥17.27M
43. Eun-Bi Jang ¥17.25M
44. Yuki Sakurai ¥16.87M
45. Yun-Jye Wei ¥16.70M
46. Phoebe Yao ¥16.61M
47. Ji-Woo Lee ¥14.27M
48. Saiki Fujita ¥14.10M
49. Ayako Uehara ¥13.18M
50. Ah-Reum Hwang ¥12.56M

The top 50 keep their cards for 2014, so it's worth noting that Shanshan Feng is at #54, Yuko Mitsuka at #56, Li-Ying Ye at #60, Shinobu Moromizato at #63, Bo-Bae Song at #65, Hyun-Ju Shin at #70, Momoko Ueda at #73, Ai Miyazato at #75, Ji-Yai Shin at #77, and Chie Arimura at #117.  Not that most of the LPGA visitors on this list will have played in enough events on tour by the end of the season to be eligible for a card, but it does show how important the Japan Women's Open next week will be for a player like Ueda, for whom it'll be her 6th event. Of course, she'd have no trouble teeing it up on tour pretty much whenever she wanted to next season no matter where she finishes on the money list, but for her confidence it would be nice for her to crack the top 50 on the money list again for the 1st time since 2011.]

[Update 4 (1:38 pm):  bangkokbobby has the overview and the youtube!  Turns out it was Miyazato's putter of all things that let her down.  She missed a 6-footer save bogey on 15 and missed a 4-foot par save on 17, then watched as her birdie putt on 18 hung on the low left lip.  Ouch!]

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Lacoste Ladies Open de France Set-up: French Trio Leads Munoz, Ciganda, Hull, Pace

The cream is rising over through 54 holes of the Lacoste Ladies Open de France.  Gwladys Nocera, Joanna Klatten, and Valentine Derrey are all at -10 and lead Azahara Munoz by 1 shot and Carlota Ciganda, Charley Hull, and Lee-Anne Pace by 2 shots.  With Nikki Campbell and Sarah Kemp at -6, Karine Icher at -4, and Lindsey Wright at -2, there are probably a couple of dozen players with a decent chance of coming out on top tomorrow.  Stay tuned!

Miyagi TV Cup Dunlop Ladies Open Saturday: Teresa Lu and Na-Ri Lee, Seeking 1st JLPGA Win, 3-Up on Ai-Miyazato

In a week when JLPGA honchos were setting up a Japanese young guns vs. established stars narrative, and when a former teenage star who was bigger than Tiger Woods in Japan had a share of the lead after 18 holes the day before the 10th anniversary of her breakthrough victory, when most of the top Korean players were taking the week off to prepare for the Japan Women's Open, I don't think anybody expected 2 non-Japanese players who have zero JLPGA wins to share the lead at the Miyagi TV Cup Dunlop Ladies Open at the end of moving day.

But Teresa Lu and Na-Ri Lee both have a great chance to break through at the same tournament Ai Miyazato did 10 years ago today.  They sit at -3, Lu thanks to steady golf that kept her there and Lee on the strength of a 3-birdie 70 that brought her there.

And guess who's closest to them after shooting a bogey-free 66, the low round of the week?  Not Ai Miyazato, who tied Ji-Woo Lee for most bogeys (4) today among those in the top 10, and is 3 shots back after following up her opening 69 with a 75.  Not Rikako Morita, the money-list leader who shot her 2nd-straight 73 to drop back 5 shots off the pace alongside Shiho Oyama, Rui Kitada, Erina Hara, and Erika Kikuchi.  Not last week's winner Sakura Yokomine, who followed up her opening 71 with a disastrous 77 to free-fall all the way to +4 with Ayako Uehara and Yuri Fudoh.  Not Chie Arimura, who at +6 finds herself tied with Natsuka Hori, 1 shot behind Mamiko Higa, Maiko Wakabayashi, and Miho Mori.  Not Yumiko Yoshida or Shinobu Moromizato, who didn't even come close to making the cut.  Not even Miki Saiki, who dropped to +1 through 36 holes with a 2-bogey 73.

Nope, it's fellow non-Japanese young gun Esther Lee, who, like Teresa and Na-Ri, is still in search of her 1st win on the JLPGA.  The only other golfers under par for the week thus far are veteran Saiki Fujita (69) and young gun Lala Anai (70), who battled their way back to -1, Anai by making 4 birdies in her last 5 holes.  Joining Ai-sama at E is Yukari Baba, who fired her 2nd-straight even-par 72.

So with 3 golfers without a JLPGA victory at the top of the pyramid and 20 players within 5 shots of the lead, we have a dramatic set-up for tomorrow's final round.  You know whom I'll be rooting for!  Ai-sama, gambatte-ne!!!!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Way to Go, Hannah Yun (Once Again)!

It may not sound like a huge accomplishment to make the cut by the skin of your teeth, but when you face not only losing your chance to win a 2014 LPGA card but also an exemption into the final round of Q-School with a MC, and when you find yourself +8 through your 1st 26 holes (thanks to a bad 1st day and a triple on the par-3 17th today) in the final tournament of the 2013 season on the Symetra Tour, I'd say going -4 over your last 6 holes and bogey-free over your last 10 holes is pretty damn impressive.  That's exactly what Hannah Yun did today.  True, she's dug herself a 12-shot hole behind co-leaders Kendra Little and Paula Reto, but at least she has 36 more holes to climb out of it.  Let's go, Hannah!

Recommended Reading: Way to Go, Ryo!

I enjoyed reading Golf Girl's account of how 22-year-old Ryo Ishikawa won his PGA Tour card for 2014 via what Geoff Shackelford has been calling the WTF.  I was definitely one of those people she refers to who were hoping Ryo-kun would make as big an immediate impact over here as Rory and Rickie, but even though he's struggled with his game for a while and been overtaken by Hideki Matsuyama of late, I was pretty impressed with what I saw of him on PGA Championship Friday at Oak Hill.  So I'm not at all surprised he'll be back in the big leagues next year.  I second GG's hope that he'll come back strong in 2014!

Miyagi TV Cup Dunlop Ladies Open Friday: Ai Miyazato and Teresa Lu Lead at -3

This is the 10th anniversary of Ai Miyazato's victory as a teenage amateur at the 2003 Miyagi TV Cup Dunlop Ladies Open, the 1st of her 15 JLPGA victories (a total that includes a repeat during her rookie year on the LPGA in 2006).  Well, this year, she shares the lead at -3 with fellow LPGA Class of 2006er Teresa Lu, as they were the only 2 golfers in the field to break 70 in the opening round, a day in which only 7 other golfers even went under par.

2 shots behind the co-leaders are Sakura Yokomine, Mamiko Higa, Bo-Bae Song, Na-Ri Lee, Ji-Woo Lee, and Erina Hara, while Shiho Oyama, Miki Saiki, Yukari Baba, Mayu Hattori, and Junko Omote are only 3 off the pace.  Other big names in the field didn't do quite so well:  money-list leader Rikako Morita and Momoko Ueda opened with 73s, Chie Arimura, Ayako Uehara, Shinobu Moromizato, and Miho Mori with 74s, Yumiko Yoshida with a 75, Yuri Fudoh and Maiko Wakabayashi with 76s, and Natsuka Hori with a 77.

Of course, there's a lot of golf yet to be played and anything can happen in the next 36 holes.  Still, wouldn't it be cool if Ai-sama broke through for her 1st JLPGA victory since 2009 and only 3rd since joining the LPGA?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

It's a Big Week in Women's Golf!

Even in an off-week for the LPGA, there's a lot going on in the world of women's golf, not least the news that the LPGA will kick off the 2014 season in the Bahamas and may soon be closing deals for new domestic tournaments in other "destination" locations.

Probably the most important tournament of the week starts tomorrow in Miyagi, Japan, the Miyagi TV Cup Dunlop Ladies Open.  Consider the way in which their prime-time pairings bring together "rising generation" Japanese players with established Japanese stars:  JLPGA money-list leader Rikako Morita tees it up with Ai Miyazato and Chie Arimura; rising stars Mamiko Higa and Yumiko Yoshida join Sakura Yokomine; Yukari Baba and Asako Fujimoto have the privilege of playing with Yuri Fudoh; rising stars Natsuka Hori and Misuzu Narita play with Momoko Ueda; Kumiko Kaneda and Erina Hara start alongside Shiho Oyama; Miki Saiki and Megumi Kido get to test themselves against Ayako Uehara; and Kaori Ohe and Miki Sakai share the stage with Shinobu Moromizato.  Next generation Japanese hopefuls also tee it up early, including 19-year-old Ayaka Watanabe, 23-year-old Misae Yanagisawa, and 25-year-old Lala Anai leading off on the 1st tee, followed by 20-year-old amateur Seira Oki and 20-year-old pros Miho Mori and Mami Fukuda.  That should help make up for the fact that most of the top Korean players on tour like Mi-Jeong Jeon, Sun-Ju Ahn, Bo-Mee Lee, and Ji-Hee Lee (along with Okinawa's own Mika Miyazato) are taking the week off in advance of next week's major and most prestigious event on the JLPGA's schedule, the Japan Women's Open (which has also drawn Ji-Yai Shin and In-Kyung Kim into its field).

There's plenty of star power in Korea, as well, where Se Ri Pak defends her KDB Daewoo Securities Classic title against Inbee Park, Na Yeon Choi, So Yeon Ryu, and Chella Choi.

Over in Europe, the Lacoste Ladies Open de France kicks off today and features the star pairings of Gwladys Nocera/Carlota Ciganda/Charley Hull and Lee-Anne Pace/Azahara Munoz/Karine Icher.

And last but certainly not least, the Symetra Tour heads over to Daytona Beach for the 72-hole, $125,000 Symetra Tour Championship, where my faves Hannah Yun (last week's winner!) and Mitsuki Katahira are trying like everyone else to come away with a 2014 LPGA card in hand at the conclusion of this season-ending event--or at least win an exemption into the final stage of LPGA Q-School in December.  Although the tournament organizers decided to tamp down the drama a little by not pairing everyone based on their position on the money list, expect plenty of fireworks, as everyone in the top 33 still has a chance to end up in the top 10 (LPGA card) and even more golfers can play their way into the next 10 (LPGA Q-School Stage III).

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Who Will Be the Next to Enter the LPGA Hall of Fame?

The amazing runs of Ya Ni Tseng, Stacy Lewis, Inbee Park, and Suzann Pettersen have got me thinking about an old Hound Dog LPGA question:  who will be the next player to qualify for the LPGA Hall of Fame?

Here are the criteria from
  1. Must be/have been an "active" LPGA Tour member for 10 years:
  2. Must have won/been awarded at least one of the following - an LPGA major championship, the Vare Trophy or Rolex Player of the Year honors; and
  3. Must have accumulated a total of 27 points, which are awarded as follows - one point for each LPGA official tournament win, two points for each LPGA major tournament win and one point for each Vare Trophy or Rolex Player of the Year honor earned.
Check out how quickly Lorena Ochoa qualified in points in Hound Dog's follow-up post--although he couldn't have predicted then that she'd retire so soon, before actually meeting criterion #1!  So assuming Laura Davies and Ochoa will either play their way in or be voted in, who are the top candidates for entry right now?  Check me on this, but here's how I believe the current points breakdown stands:

1. Ya Ni Tseng (23)
2. Cristie Kerr (18)
3. Suzann Pettersen (15)
4. Inbee Park (14)
5. Ji-Yai Shin (13)
6. Stacy Lewis (11)
7. Paula Creamer (10)
8. Na Yeon Choi (9)
8. Ai Miyazato (9) [the only one on this list who doesn't meet criterion #2]

As Tony Jesselli points out and as I expand on, the Player of the Year race is closer than most people imagine.  Whereas only 3 golfers are in the running for that HOF point, the Vare Trophy HOF point race is pretty much a complete toss-up.  Assuming everyone within a stroke of Suzann Pettersen's 69.700 scoring average now reaches the minimum threshold of 70 rounds (only Ai Miyazato is in real danger of not reaching it, barring disasters for everyone else), a lot can happen in 7 tournaments.  True, Pettersen thrives in Asia and her 3 closest pursuers (Lewis, Park, Choi) have pretty darn good records there, as well, but who knows who will get hot and who will go cold?

As for my original question of who will be next, it's hard to imagine that Ya Ni Tseng won't get 4 more points before anyone else on this list, but there are certainly opportunities for Pettersen, Park, and Lewis to make up some serious ground on her while she's still struggling to emerge from her slump.  Nor do I see why the colder players on this list (Shin, Creamer, Choi, Miyazato) can't heat up this fall.  But if I had to predict who would get in in what order, I'd argue for:

1. Tseng
2. Pettersen
3. Park
4. Shin

And reserve judgment on the rest, although for now I believe Kerr still has a better chance than Lewis to make it....

Basically, though, you never know when injury or burnout or early retirement or pregnancy might interrupt someone's march toward the Hall, or throw her off the tracks entirely.  Nothing's a sure thing in golf, that's for sure!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Can You Imagine Any Scenario in Which Inbee Park Should Not Win Player of the Year?

There's an interesting debate going on over in PGA Tour-land over who should be their Player of the Year.  There are a couple of main reasons why the LPGA Tour does not tend to engender similar debates.  First of all, the LPGA uses a points system, so even when the race has been close close (as when Lorena Ochoa beat Ji-Yai Shin out by a single point in 2009 or when Ya Ni Tseng had only 6 points of separation on Cristie Kerr, 8 on Na Yeon Choi, 9 on Ai Miyazato, and 18 on Ji-Yai Shin the following year), the winner was clear.  Second, in most years a dominant player emerges and often repeats (as evidenced by the number of times Annika Sorenstam, Lorena Ochoa, and Ya Ni Tseng have been POY in the 2000s--every year but 2000 [Karrie Webb] and 2012 [Stacy Lewis]), thus making debate pointless.

It seemed like this year was going to be another walk in the park for the eventual winner.  Stacy Lewis picked up where she left off last season.  But then Inbee Park started winning...and winning...and winning...and winning one major after another.  With 6 wins, 3 of them majors, it seems pretty obvious that Inbee would succeed Stacy as the 2013 POY.  But then Stacy won the Women's British Open and Suzann Pettersen brought her victory and major totals even with Stacy with 2 wins in the last 2 LPGA events, including the newly-majorized Evian Championship.  So now Inbee has 281 POY points, Suzann has 204, and Stacy has 183.  In a system where a win earns you 30 points, a runner-up gets you 12, 3rd 9, 4th 7, 5th 6, 6th 5, and so on down to 10th (1 point), Inbee has not clinched POY.

But should she have?  Can you imagine any scenario where someone who wins 3 majors and 3 other tournaments in a single season should not be POY?  I can't.

[Update 1 (11:47 pm):  Ward Clayton over at agrees with me that the POY race is not over, although he sounds a little more sanguine about the possibility of Suzanne or Stacy stealing it on a technicality from Inbee than I'm feeling.]

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Volvik Championship Sunday: Hannah Yun Outduels Alena Sharp for Breakthrough Win on Symetra Tour

Hannah Yun and Alena Sharp were locked in a duel over the final 18 holes of the Volvik Championship.  Neither fired the lowest rounds of the day--those belonged to Cydney Clanton (9-birdie 65), Alejandra Llaneza (6-birdie 67), and Birdie Kim (6-birdie 67)--but they both broke 70 while playing head-to-head in the final pairing with Hannah Jun, who fought back to tie Amelia Lewis for 4th, 1 shot behind Giulia Molinaro, the only player besides Yun and Sharp to get to double digits under par for the week.

Sharp started off hot with 4 birdies in her 1st 7 holes to get to -13.  Yun fought back with birdies on 1, 2, and 7; thanks to a bogey on the 4th, which snapped her bogey-free run at 20 holes, Yun found herself at -13 with 11 holes to play, too.  Both leaders bogeyed the par-4 8th and failed to birdie either the par-5 9th or par-5 10th, which brought Molinaro within 2 shots of them, but when Yun birdied the par-4 13th to return to -13, she opened up a 1-shot lead on Sharp and a 3-shot lead on Molinaro.  From there, it was a battle of nerves, as Yun and Sharp traded pars on 14...15...16...17....  It all came down to the 18th hole.  And Yun birdied it for her 3rd-straight round in the 60s and a 2-shot victory over Sharp!

Yun earned her 1st Symetra Tour victory with exquisite ball-striking.  She missed only 1 fairway all week and hit 16, 16, and 15 greens in her 3 rounds.  Combined with great putting, which allowed her to sink 17 birdies, she was just too much for the rest of the field to handle this week.

I'll be back with how this week affects the Race for the Card, but for now a huge congratulations to Hannah Yun!

[Update 1 (3:55 pm):  Yun gets $15K for her victory, bringing her to just shy of $25K for the season.  The Race for the Card will come down to the wire!]

[Update 2 (4:24 pm):  By my estimate, here are the players one win away from the top 10 of the money list, which is worth an LPGA card for 2014:

1. P.K. Kongkraphan $43.8K
2. Christine Song $38.8K
3. Cydney Clanton $37.0K
4. Sue Kim $36.9K
5. Marina Alex $35.5K
6. Hannah Jun $35.3K
7. Giulia Molinaro $33.9K
8. Olivia Jordan-Higgins $33.5K
9. Alena Sharp $33.2K
10. Jaclyn Sweeney $32.3K
11. Kim Kaufman $31.8K
12. Melissa Eaton $29.4K
13. Laura Kueny $28.5K
14. Wei-Ling Hsu $28.4K
15. Alejandra Llaneza $27.2K
16. Marissa Steen $26.8K
17. Kendall Dye $25.1K
18. Hannah Yun $24.6K
19. Jackie Stoelting $23.1K
20. Perrine Delacour $23.0K
21. Katy Harris $22.7K
22. Caroline Westrup $21.5K
23. Isabelle Boineau $21.4K
24. Jean Chua $21.4K
25. Samantha Richdale $21.3K
26. Courtney Massey $21.1K
27. Mitsuki Katahira $19.2K
28. Amelia Lewis $19.0K
29. Jaye Marie Green, $18.7K
30. Jessi Gebhardt $14.6K
31. Michelle Shin $14.4K
32. Ginger Howard $13.6K
33. Stefanie Kenoyer $13.6K

I'll correct any mistakes when the Symetra Tour updates its money list! [6:07 pm: done.]

[Update 3 (4:32 pm):  With $18,750 going to next week's winner of the Symetra Tour Championship, a lot can change 72 holes from now!]

[Update 4 (5:36 pm):  Here are the final-round notes from the tour.]

[Update 5 (6:30 pm):  Here's what it took to get to #10 on the money list in previous seasons:

2012:  $37.6K
2011:  $29.9K
2010:  $39.3K
2009:  $30.6K
2008:  $33.8K
2007:  $33.4K
2006:  $30.6K
2005:  $23.4K
2004:  $28.2K

Keep in mind that the LPGA started awarding cards to 10 players rather than 5 very recently.  Even though there tended to be several more events on the schedule in most of these years compared to this year, most of those seasons also had 1 or 2 dominant players who took home a high proportion of the winnings.  If someone in the top 9 doesn't win next week, the #1 player on tour this season will have won the smallest amount of money in the last decade.]

Munsingwear Ladies Tokai Classic Sunday: Sakura Yokomine Wins for 2nd Time This Season, 20th Time in Career

Sakura Yokomine went out in a sizzling bogey-free 31, weathered a pair of bogeys early on the back, and held off a herd of charging challengers by making a pair of birdies and 4 clutch pars down the stretch to win the Munsingwear Ladies Tokai Classic.  Her closing 67 was not the lowest round of the day--that belonged to Yuki Ichinose whose bogey-free 64 was actually the low round of the week--but it was enough to bring her to -15 for the tournament and beat Ji-Hee Lee, Asako Fujimoto, and Da-Ye Na by 2 shots, Rui Kitada, Kaori Aoyama, and Erika Kikuchi by 3, and Ji-Yai Shin, Bo-Mee Lee, and Na-Ri Lee by 4.

Yokomine's 2nd win of 2013 and 20th of her JLPGA career was actually a much closer affair than the victory margin let on.  As she was struggling on the back, her lead chase pack was going off.  Ji-Hee Lee fired a 32 coming home that was highlighted by 3 birdies in her last 4 holes.  Fujimoto had an even better chance to catch Yokomine, thanks to 5 birdies in her 1st 6 holes on the back (including 4 in a row to start it) that brought her to -14, but she finished par-par-bogey.  Others who threw 32s at Yokomine included Ichinose and Aoyama, but they were too far behind her to put much pressure on her, as were those who closed with 33s like Na, Kitada, and Shin.

Same goes for big names who finished respectably, but were never factors on Sunday:  money-list leader Rikako Morita (69, -9, T12), former repeat money-list leader Sun-Ju Ahn (69, -7, T19), and LPGA visitors Shanshan Feng (70, -7, T19) and Mika Miyazato (68, -5, T26).  They all can take a lot of positives from this week, but no trophy.

That belongs to Yokomine, whose 2nd win at this event also marks her 1st 2-win season on the JLPGA since 2010, when she finished 2nd to Ahn on the money list the year after she won it for the 1st and only time thus far in her career.  The #2 spot on the 2013 money list is now hers.  Will this win propel her even further this year?

1. Rikako Morita ¥92.57M
2. Sakura Yokomine ¥70.96M
3. Yumiko Yoshida ¥68.54M
4. Miki Saiki ¥63.74M
5. Natsuka Hori ¥61.52M
6. Mamiko Higa ¥60.62M
7. Mi-Jeong Jeon ¥58.55M
8. Sun-Ju Ahn ¥57.67M
9. Bo-Mee Lee ¥50.97M
10. Ritsuko Ryu ¥48.08M
11. Teresa Lu ¥43.37M
12. Yuki Ichinose ¥43.24M
13. Onnarin Sattayabanphot ¥40.87M
14. Da-Ye Na ¥39.45M
15. Misuzu Narita ¥37.42M
16. Junko Omote ¥37.04M
17. Hiromi Mogi ¥36.88M
18. Kumiko Kaneda ¥36.85M
19. Asako Fujimoto ¥33.53M
20. Yukari Baba ¥32.75M
21. Na-Ri Lee ¥29.84M
22. Na-Ri Kim ¥28.84M
23. Yuri Fudoh ¥28.69M
24. Esther Lee ¥28.28M
25. Erika Kikuchi ¥27.98M
26. Ji-Hee Lee ¥27.94M
27. Rui Kitada ¥27.44M
28. Shiho Oyama ¥26.81M
29. Mayu Hattori ¥26.72M
30. Miki Sakai ¥26.63M
31. Erina Hara ¥25.77M
32. Maiko Wakabayashi ¥25.51M
33. Megumi Kido ¥23.55M
34. Kaori Ohe ¥22.72M
35. Soo-Yun Kang ¥23.38M
36. Young Kim ¥22.36M
37. Kaori Nakamura ¥20.34M
38. Lala Anai ¥17.78M
39. Yuko Fukuda ¥17.64M
40. Harukyo Nomura ¥17.27M
41. Eun-Bi Jang ¥17.25M
42. Kaori Aoyama ¥17.19M
43. Akane Iijima ¥17.15M
44. Yuki Sakurai ¥16.87M
45. Yun-Jye Wei ¥16.70M
46. Phoebe Yao ¥16.61M
47. Ji-Woo Lee ¥13.57M
48. Saiki Fujita ¥12.96M
49. Ah-Reum Hwang ¥12.56M
50. Ayako Uehara ¥12.25M

The money list is starting to look a lot more familiar to long-time JLPGA fans, with established Japanese stars (Yokomine, Saiki) and Korean stars (Jeon, Ahn, Bo-Mee Lee) starting to put some real pressure on the tour's Japanese young guns (Morita, Yoshida, Hori, Higa, Ryu, Ichinose).

Next up on the JLPGA is the Miyagi TV Cup Dunlop Ladies Open, which features the visiting Ai Miyazato, Chie Arimura, Ayako Uehara, and Momoko Ueda alongside most of the usual suspects among the JLPGA's finest (but not the top Koreans).  It's the final tune-up before the Japan Women's Open, so it'll be interesting to see if Yokomine can make it 2 wins in a row in a field that includes all her top Japanese rivals.

Way to Go, Hannah Yun (Again)!

Hannah Yun ended her 19-hole bogey-free run at the Volvik Championship on the 2nd hole, but started another one on the very next hole, rattling off 7 birdies in her last 16 holes to get to -11 heading into today's final round.  Thanks to her hitting every fairway and every green but 2, Yun leads LPGA veterans Alena Sharp and Hannah Jun by 2, Giulia Molinaro and Marta Silva by 3, and Jaye Marie Green, Brianna Do, and Min Seo Kwak by 5.  Yun hasn't put together 2 sub-70 rounds in a row on the Symetra Tour since June 2010 (and that was on a par-70 course), so this is a very encouraging sign and exciting opportunity for her.

Meanwhile, Mitsuki Katahira played a better 2nd round than 1st, but offset her 3 birdies on the front with a double and a bogey and could manage only 8 pars and a walkoff bogey on her way to  73 that had her miss the cut by 6 shots.  Hopefully she'll play better at Daytona Beach next week.

In the meantime, best of luck to Hannah Yun today!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Munsingwear Ladies Tokai Classic Saturday: Sakura Yokomine and Erika Kikuchi Move to Double Digits Under Par

Sakura Yokomine and Erika Kikuchi are tied for the lead at -10 after 36 holes in the Munsingwear Ladies Tokai Classic.  Yokomine, who has a gold and 2 silvers already this season, hasn't yet made a bogey this week, but she fell 1 shot short of matching Kikuchi's low round of the day today.  The 27-year-old Yokomine will be aiming for her 20th JLPGA victory tomorrow, while the 25-year-old Kikuchi will be searching for her 1st.

1st-round leader Na-Ri Lee didn't play as great today as she did yesterday, but she managed to hold onto a share of 2nd, 1 shot behind the co-leaders, and avoid being leapfrogged by Asako Fujimoto and Da-Ye Na, who matched Kikuchi's bogey-free 65.  Last week's major winner Bo-Mee Lee also hung in there as she joined Ji-Yai Shin and Erina Hara 3 shots off the pace.  With money-list leader Rikako Morita at -6, Shanshan Feng at -5, and Sun-Ju Ahn at -4--not to mention 23 golfers within 5 shots of the lead--it should be an interesting finish tomorrow.

But Mika Miyazato won't be a factor in it, as she'll be moving from the final pairing in the 2nd round to the 1st pairing in the 3rd, thanks to a pair of doubles on the front that knocked her out of contention and nearly onto the wrong side of the cut line--which is where the #2 (Yumiko Yoshida) and #3 (Miki Saiki) golfers on tour this year fell and the #4 (Natsuka Hori) and #5 (Mamiko Higa) players just missed falling.

Here's a quick survey of some of the major moves from today's round.

Elevator Going...Up!

  • Erika Kikuchi (-10): bogey-free 65
  • Asako Fujimoto (-9): bogey-free 65
  • Da-Ye Na (-9): bogey-free 65
  • Sakura Yokomine (-10): bogey-free 66
  • Erina Hara (-7): 8-birdie 66 (including 4 in a row to end her round)
  • Rikako Morita (-6): bogey-free 67
  • Shanshan Feng (-5): bogey-free 67
  • Mayumi Nakajima (-5): bogey-free 67
  • Yayoi Arasaki (-4): bogey-free 67
  • Ayaka Watanabe (-2): 8-birdie 67 (after tripling the par-4 14th, she birdied her last 3 holes)
  • Ji-Yai Shin (-7): bogey-free 68
  • Rui Kitada (-6): bogey-free 68
  • Mami Fukuda (-5): 5-birdie 68
  • Hyun-Ju Shin (-4): bogey-free 68
  • Ji-Hee Lee (-6): 4-birdie 69
  • Lala Anai (-6): 4-birdie 69
  • Kaori Ohe (-5): bogey-free 69
  • Yui Mukaiyama (-5): 4-birdie 69
  • Ikue Asama (-1): 4-birdie 69


  • Mika Miyazato (-1): 2-double birdieless 40 on the front left her with a 76 on the day
  • Yumiko Yoshida (+4): 4-bogey, 1-double 41 on the front and bogey-free 34 on the back
  • Ritsuko Ryu (E): birdieless 75
  • Ji-Woo Lee (-2): 2-birdie, 2-bogey, 1-triple 75
  • Asuka Tsujimura (-2): 5-bogey 75 (4 on the front)
  • Mayu Hattori (+5): 4-bogey 74
  • Akane Iijima (-2): 1-eagle, 2-birdie, 4-bogey, 1-double 74
  • Miki Saiki (+3): 3-birdie, 2-bogey, 1-double 73
  • Megumi Kido (-2): birdieless 73
  • Tamie Durdin (-3): 4-birdie, 3-bogey, 1-double 73
  • Juria Kurata (-3): 1-eagle, 3-birdie, 2-bogey, 2-double 73
  • Shiho Toyonaga (-5): 2-bogey 73
Other notables to miss the cut include Kumiko Kaneda (70, E), Esther Lee (72, E), Young Kim (72, +1), and Junko Omote (71, +2).  Everyone under par after today's round will have a chance to bounce back, get it out of neutral, or keep on rolling tomorrow.  I'll be rooting for Mikan to go low!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Way to Go, Hannah Yun!

I haven't had much good news to report on Hannah Yun's professional odyssey in 2013, but she just fired a bogey-free 67 to end the 1st round of the Volvik Championship only 1 shot behind leader Alexandria Buelow.  She hit 13 of 14 fairways, 16 of 18 greens, and took only 29 putts, so she was firing on all cylinders.  Here's hoping this is a sign of things to come from now through December, because if she can't make the top 10 on the Symetra Tour money list (it'll probably take winning their last 2 events), she'll need to play this well in LPGA Q-School.

I wish I could report the same good news for my other Symetra Tour fave, Mitsuki Katahira, but she opened with a 78 and will need a great round tomorrow just to make the cut.  She's only 3 shots behind the players in the top 2 spots on the money list, P.K. Kongkraphan and Christine Song, but they're pretty much guaranteed LPGA cards for 2014, while Katahira is way back in the 26th spot, so she's under a lot more pressure than they are.  Mitsuki-chan, gambatte-ne!

How Do You Make 4 Birdies and End Up with an 82?

Hey kids, here's a little golf tip from the Constructivist!  If you ever go a month without touching your clubs, head out to the course on a nice fall morning with no expectations, snag 3 birdies in 4 holes as you make the turn to fight back to +1 through 10 holes (one of your best starts of the year), face the toughest hole on the course (a 230-yard uphill par 3 with an elevated tee that's surrounded by trees with a creek and a mini-gorge all the way up the left), and happen to hit your 1st really bad shot of the day (yanking a 3-wood dead left off the tee), try to keep your temper.  Whatever you do, don't try to bang the ground with your club and miss, hitting your left leg a few inches above the ankle instead!  That's called adding injury to insult.

Somehow, I ended up salvaging a double, but it turned out to be the 1st of 4 on the back.  The weird thing is, I had just managed to play through my 2nd group of the day, I had the rest of the back open ahead of me, with scoring opportunities galore to boot, and the double on 11 with my Callaway ball actually brought the Titleist ball I was also playing back into the match, so I should have been able to shrug it off and enjoy the rest of the round.  But between the pain, the heat, my soreness from basketball the day before, my being out of golf shape (physically and mentally), and my lack of a snack, I lost my tempo and my temper quite a bit on the back 9.  It wasn't long before I went from limping along to stumbling home.  I was in such a fog by the end of the day that I couldn't even enjoy my birdie on the short par 5 17th, despite the fact that it's a very rare thing for me to make 4 of 'em in an 11-hole stretch.

Good news is, my leg is going to be fine and so is my game next year.  I've already gained some length from a month at the new gym and some tips from a trainer there who also works at a private club in the area, even though I was only sometimes able to swing like I was supposed to with the move from my 1st lessons in a decade that I thought I had grooved over the summer.  Despite the sorry shape of South Shore's greens, they were actually much improved from a month ago and I took only 28 putts, a rare departure from what's been my Achilles heel this summer.  If I can keep to my workout schedule and do a lot of indoor putting with onechan and imoto this winter, I'll be ready to make 2014 my best season ever.  At least, that's what I'm telling myself if this turns out to be my last round of 2013!

Munsingwear Ladies Tokai Classic Friday: Na-Ri Lee Leads off with 65; Mika Miyazato and Bo-Mee Lee 2 Back

Na-Ri Lee fired a bogey-free 65 to take a 1-shot lead on 23-year-old Shiho Toyonaga in the 1st round of the Munsingwear Ladies Tokai Classic, but there are some huge names hot on their trail.  Last week's playoff winner Bo-Mee Lee and the LPGA's Mika Miyazato each posted 6-birdie 67s, while Sakura Yokomine came in with a bogey-free 68, Ji-Yai Shin with a 5-birdie 69, Sun-Ju Ahn with a 3-birdie 70, Rikako Morita with a 3-birdie 71, and Shanshan Feng with a 2-birdie 72.  We'll see over the next 36 holes whether Lee can keep the pedal to the metal and snag her 1st JLPGA victory in her 6-year career in Japan.

2013's ongoing rivalry between Japan's young guns and the JLPGA's South Korean stars continues apace.  Among those joining Feng at E were Natsuka Hori, Yuki Ichinose, Hyun-Ju Shin, and So-Hee Kim.  Among those matching Morita's -1 total were Soo-Yun Kang, Erina Hara, and Maiko Wakabayashi.  Kaori Ohe and Asako Fujimoto tied Ahn at -2, while Shin had good company at -3 with Ji-Hee Lee, Na-Ri Kim, Ritsuko Ryu, Megumi Kido, Erika Kikuchi, Misuzu Narita, and Lala Anai (not to mention ONnarin Sattayabanphot).  Joining Yokomine in the top 10 were 20-year-old Juria Kurata and Ji-Min Lee (along with Tamie Durdin and Kaori Aoyama).  And rounding out the top 5 were Ji-Woo Lee, Ah-Reum Hwang, and Asuka Tsujimura.

Mayu Hattori (75), Miki Saiki (74), Kumiko Kaneda (74), Mamiko Higa (73), Yumiko Yoshida (73), and Yuko Mitsuka (73) got off to tougher starts and will have to keep one eye on the cut line tomorrow as they try to fight their way into contention.  To do so, they'll have to make like Toyonaga, who birdied 4 holes in a row on the way to posting a bogey-free 30 on the front; Durdin, who also made 4 birdies in a row on the front; Shin, Na-Ri Lee, Hwang, Yokomine, Kikuchi, Ji-Min Lee, and Pei-Lin Yu, who each got on 3-hole birdie trains; and Miyazato, who birdied 4 of her last 7 holes.

Speaking of Miyazato, I wonder if Morita and Higa were a little nervous to be playing with her; neither played up to their usual standard in the 1st round.  With 35 golfers within 5 shots of the lead and only 36 holes to go, moving day will be quite telling tomorrow.  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Mika Miyazato to Compete on JLPGA This Week

I'll be watching closely to see how Mika Miyazato plays this week in the Munsingwear Ladies Tokai Classic on the JLPGA.  For the 1st 36 holes of the Evian Championship, she played far above my expectations, but suffered one of the worst rounds of her professional career on Sunday.  And yet my curiosity about her capacity to bounce back from the disappointment and embarrassment of her last 18 competitive holes is only part of the reason I'm so interested in what looks like her 1st appearance in this event.

Mikan was the 1st female golfer from Japan to start her professional career on the LPGA (at least that I'm aware of).  And a successful career it's been.  In her 4th season on tour, she broke through at the 2012 Safeway Classic.  Right now, she's ranked #15 among those who started their LPGA careers between 2005 and 2013 (according to my system, that is).  Despite that success over here, she hasn't chosen to play much on the JLPGA as a professional.  Although she came close to winning the Japan Women's Open in 2009, she ended up squandering a 5-shot lead through 54 holes.  She bounced back the following year and extended a 4-shot lead through 3 rounds to a 6-shot victory, her 1st as a professional and her only win on the JLPGA to date.

Given that history, her accepting the invitation to play this week is a big deal--worth its own web page on the tournament site!  Most likely, Mikan wanted to please one of her sponsors (Munsingwear) and get in some competitive rounds in Japan before the 2013 Japan Women's Open begins in 2 weeks.  That probably explains why she isn't joining Ai Miyazato, Chie Arimura, Momoko Ueda, and Ayako Uehara in next week's Miyagi TV Cup Dunlop Ladies Open.  After all, with Jiyai Shin and In-Kyung Kim also choosing the JLPGA's 3rd major over the LPGA's inaugural event in China, Mikan will have her work cut out for her to improve on last year's 4th-place finish, much less win the JWO again.

For that to happen, she's going to have to find a way to adjust to greens in Japan and get her putter rolling much more smoothly than it has so far this season on the LPGA.  I'm rooting for her to find a way to get it done.  She tees off with fellow Okinawan Mamiko Higa and JLPGA money-list leader Rikako Morita in the opening round this week.  Higa will be trying to bounce back from a 6-hole playoff loss to Bo-Mee Lee last week, while Morita will be trying to fight her way through the only real rough patch of the season that she's been mired in of late.  So they'll all have something to prove this Friday!

[Update 1 (11:14 pm):  Turns out Ji-Yai Shin and Shanshan Feng are also playing this week on the JLPGA!]

Monday, September 16, 2013

The LPGA's Top Rivalries: Generation Gaps, September 2013

With the LPGA taking a pause before its fall Asian swing, it's time to reexamine how the LPGA's last 8 generations stack up. Check out the career money and wins/majors totals for the top players in the generations that span the Sorenstam Era (1994-2008), the overlapping Ochoa Era (2003-2009), and the overlapping Tseng Dynasty (2008-present).

[Note: [square brackets] indicate the player has retired from professional golf; {squiggle brackets} indicate the player is no longer an LPGA member but still playing on another tour; *=includes non-member win; **=includes 3 non-member wins.]

1994-1996: The Sorenstam Generation

[1. Annika Sorenstam (1994) $22.57M (#1), 72/10]
2. Karrie Webb (1996) $18.05M (#2), 39*/7
3. Catriona Matthew (1995) $8.22M (#16), 4/1
4. Pat Hurst (1995) $6.94M (#22), 6/1
5. Lorie Kane (1996) $6.93M (#23), 4/0
6. Wendy Ward (1996) $4.97M (#45), 4/0
{7. Carin Koch (1995) $4.44M (#48), 2/0}

Hurst and Kane are locked in a real fight for the #4 spot.  Webb continues to inch closer to Sorenstam (moreso in winnings than wins).

1997-1999: The Pak Generation

1. Cristie Kerr (1997) $14.99M (#3), 16/2
2. Se Ri Pak (1998) $12.14M (#6), 25/5
[3. Mi Hyun Kim (1999) $8.62M (#13), 8/0]
{4. Sophie Gustafson (1998) $6.17M (#27), 5/0}
5. Maria Hjorth (1998) $6.09M (#28), 5/0
[6. Rachel Hetherington (1997) $5.73M (#34), 8/0]
7. Laura Diaz (1999) $5.19M (#43), 2/0
8. Karen Stupples (1999) $3.98M (#53), 2/1
9. Janice Moodie (1998) $3.68M (#57), 2/0

Even though Kerr's passed Pak and now Ochoa on the career money list, she'll have to join them in the Hall of Fame to have her name on a generation, too. With Kim and Hetherington retired, and Gustafson limiting herself to the LET for the foreseeable future, Hjorth has a great opportunity to move up the list. Stupples is this close to breaking the $4M barrier.

2000-2002: Angela and the Seoul Sisters

1. Angela Stanford (2001) $8.06M (#17), 5/0
2. Hee-Won Han (2001) $6.97M (#21), 6/0
3. Jeong Jang (2000) $6.61M (#25), 2/1
4. Candie Kung (2002) $5.72M (#36), 4/0
[5. Grace Park (2000) $5.44M (#40), 6/1]
6. Natalie Gulbis (2002) $4.80M (#46), 1/0
{7. Gloria Park (2000) $3.28M (#70), 2/0}
8. Heather Bowie Young (2000) $3.18M (#72), 1/0
9. Jennifer Rosales (2000) $2.74M (#90), 2/0
10. Dorothy Delasin (2000) $2.65M (#92), 4/0
11. Nicole Castrale (2002) $2.53M (#96), 1/0
12. Guilia Sergas (2002) $2.13M (#111), 0/0

Stanford is increasing her lead on Han as the top player of this generation in terms of winnings (hence the change to the generation's name), although it's still hard to argue that her overall career tops the now-retired (and much missed) Grace Park's. Meanwhile, the "other" Park's pursuers are slowly catching up on her.

2003-2005: The Ochoa Generation

[1. Lorena Ochoa (2003) $14.86M (#4), 27/2]
2. Suzann Pettersen (2003) $11.09M (#7), 13/2
3. Paula Creamer (2005) $10.35M (#8), 9/1
4. Brittany Lincicome (2005) $5.37M (#41), 5/1
5. Christina Kim (2003) $4.22M (#49), 2/0
6. Meena Lee (2005) $4.14M (#50), 2/0
7. Katherine Hull-Kirk (2004) $3.54M (#62), 2/0
8. Stacy Prammanasudh (2003) $3.54M (#63), 2/0
9. Karine Icher (2003) $3.03M (#78), 0/0
10. Shi Hyun Ahn (2004) $2.65M (#93), 1*/0
11. Lindsey Wright (2004) $2.57M (#95), 0/0
{12. Young Kim (2003) $2.36M (n.r. [~#105]), 1/0}
13. Jimin Kang (2003) $2.26M (#108), 2/0

With Lorena looking less and less likely to ever come back to the LPGA full-time, the only real question is how close Pettersen and Creamer can come to matching her career. The race between the 3 mid-level Americans, 2 Australians and 3 Koreans below them will be of interest, as well, as Lincicome has broken out of the pack and Icher wants to join in the fun. (I've heard Stacy P will be the 2nd in the generation to retire, but I won't bracket her just yet. Looks like Young Kim won't be returning from the JLPGA, either.) Creamer, Lincicome, and Lee (the top '05ers) are the 1st from this generation that I've started tracking more closely with a wider variety of stats and have included in my career ranking that focuses mainly on the younger generations.

2006-2008: The Tseng Dynasty

1. Ya Ni Tseng (2008) $9.29M (#9), 15/5
2. Na Yeon Choi (2008) $8.41M (#14), 7/1
3. Ai Miyazato (2006) $7.54M (#19), 9/0
4. Inbee Park (2007) $7.45M (#20), 9/4
5. In-Kyung Kim (2007) $6.18M (#26), 3/0
6. Morgan Pressel (2006) $5.08M (#44), 2/1
7. Seon Hwa Lee (2006) $4.06M (#52), 4/0
8. Brittany Lang (2006) $3.95M (#54), 1/0
9. Sun Young Yoo (2006) $3.80M (#56), 2/1
10. Song-Hee Kim (2007) $3.67M (#58), 0/0
11. Jee Young Lee (2006) $3.52M (#64), 1*/0
12. Hee Young Park (2008) $3.49M (#66), 3/0
13. Amy Yang (2008) $3.15M (#74), 0/0
14. Julieta Granada (2006) $3.03M (#79), 1/0
15. Eun-Hee Ji (2007) $3.00M (#80), 2/1
16. Shanshan Feng (2008) $2.87M (#85), 1/1
17. Angela Park (2007) $2.12M (#112), 0/0
18. Kristy McPherson (2007) $2.06M (#114), 0/0
19. Sandra Gal (2008) $2.02M (#116), 1/0
20. Momoko Ueda (2008) $1.70M (#130), 2*/0
21. Ji Young Oh (2007) $1.61M (#134), 2/0
22. Kyeong Bae (2006) $1.44M (#146), 0/0
23. Katie Futcher (2006) $1.33M (#153), 0/0
24. Jane Park (2007) $1.24M (#166), 0/0
25. Meaghan Francella (2006) $1.19M (#173), 1/0
{26. Teresa Lu (2006) $1.13M (#180), 0/0}

The Tseng Dynasty is still strong, but fellow '08er NYC is making some noise and Inbee is buzzing up the list. This generation is the deepest in LPGA history, despite the fact that so many golfers in it have already suffered huge slumps in their short careers. Few LPGA generations have more than 4 players with 5 or more wins, but I'll bet this turns out to be one of them!

2009-2011: New Blood

1. Ji-Yai Shin (2009) $6.07M (#29), 11**/2*
2. Stacy Lewis (2009) $5.64M (#38), 8/2
3. Anna Nordqvist (2009) $3.11M (#75), 2/1
4. Mika Miyazato (2009) $2.94M (#83), 1/0
5. Michelle Wie (2009) $2.76M (#88), 2/0
6. Azahara Munoz (2010) $2.37M (#103), 1/0
7. Hee Kyung Seo (2011) $1.95M (#120), 1*/0
8. Beatriz Recari (2010) $1.81M (#126), 3/0
9. Chella Choi (2009) $1.61M (#132), 0/0
10. Vicky Hurst (2009) $1.42M (#147), 0/0
11. Haeji Kang (2009) $1.20M (#172), 0/0
12. Mi Jung Hur (2009) $1.19M (#175), 1/0
13. Jessica Korda (2011) $.92M (#212), 1/0
14. Jenny Shin (2011) $.87M (#220), 0/0
15. Ilhee Lee (2010), $.87M (#221), 0/0
16. Caroline Hedwall (2011) $.87M (#222), 0/0
17. Jennifer Johnson (2011) $.78M (#233), 0/0
18. Mina Harigae (2010) $.76M (#238), 0/0
19. Pornanong Phatlum (2009) $.75M (#239), 0/0
20. Gerina Piller (2010) $.74M (#242), 0/0
21. Jodi Ewart Shadoff (2011) $.64M (#256), 0/0
{22. Gwladys Nocera (2010) $.61M (#261), 0/0}
23. Mindy Kim (2009) $.59M (#266), 0/0
24. Mariajo Uribe (2010) $.57M (#267), 0/0
25. Amanda Blumenherst (2010) $.53M (#274), 0/0
26. Cindy LaCrosse (2010) $.47M (#295), 0/0
27. Alison Walshe (2010) $.46M (#298), 0/0
28. Dewi Claire Schreefel (2010) $.43M (#304), 0/0
29. Pernilla Lindberg (2010) $.37M (#316), 0/0
30. Christel Boeljon (2011) $.37M (#319), 0/0
31. Belen Mozo (2011) $.34M (#330), 0/0
32. Ryann O'Toole (2011) $.34M (#335), 0/0
33. Tiffany Joh (2011) $.31M (#345), 0/0
34. Jennifer Song (2011) $.24M (#369), 0/0

Obviously with this generation, it's really too soon to tell who's going to have a great LPGA career, besides Shin and Lewis (and Blumenherst, who is retiring). For now, I'm erring on the side of inclusiveness by putting everyone over $150K in career winnings in this generation on this list. As we get further into their careers, I'll slowly start raising the bar, until by 2015 they'll need to have broken the $1M barrier to stay on the list. I'd be very impressed if as many of them did it as in the previous generation in the same amount of time. The problem for everyone who hasn't already done it is they are all competing against each other and are sandwiched between 2 historic generations. Still, this is about the time in a player's career that they start to make quantum leaps. Let's see if Shin and Lewis can pull others in their generation in their wakes.

2012-2014: Generation Prodigy

1. So Yeon Ryu (2012) $2.37M (#101), 2*/1*
2. Lexi Thompson (2012) $1.26M (#163), 1*/0
3. Lizette Salas (2012) $.94M (#209), 0/0
4. Danielle Kang (2012) $.43M (#303), 0/0
5. Mo Martin (2012) $.42M (#305), 0/0
6. Carlota Ciganda (2012) $.33M (#337), 0/0
7. Sydnee Michaels (2012) $.29M (#353), 0/0
8. Caroline Masson (2013) $.24M (#368), 0/0
9. Chie Arimura (2013) $.23M (#377), 0/0
10. Moriya Jutanugarn (2013) $.22M (#386), 0/0
11. Ayako Uehara (2013) $.21M (#390), 0/0
12. Jacqui Concolino (2012) $.19M (#400), 0/0
13. Veronica Felibert (2012) $.13M (#434), 0/0
14. Thidapa Suwannapura (2012) $.12M (#440), 0/0
15. Austin Ernst (2013) $.12M (#445), 0/0
16. Rebecca Lee-Bentham (2012) $.11M (#459), 0/0

OK, why am I so high on this generation if very few from the Class of 2012 have made over $500K in their short careers and only 5 '13ers have broken the $100K barrier thus far this season? Partly it's because I don't think those already in it have really begun to fight, and partly it's because I'm anticipating that Lydia Ko, Ariya JutanugarnHyo-Joo Kim, and Charley Hull will be joining them next year.  If so, game on!  But with 108 active players already on this list, you can see how tough it's going to be for most in the Class of 2014 just to keep their cards....

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Evian Championship Sunday: Off to the Races

After a 90-minute weather delay, the players who survived the cut line at the Evian Championship were off to the races, trying to get 54 holes in before the heavens opened once again.  Anyone who's concerned about slow play in golf should note that over half the field has already completed their rounds.  Some big names with no chance to win clearly valued speed over quality, as Inbee Park (76, +8), Amy Yang (76, +8), Lee-Anne Pace (76, +6), Brittany Lang (74, +6), Michelle Wie (76, +4), Na Yeon Choi (75, +4), Anna Nordqvist (75, +4), and Ji-Yai Shin (73, +4) played well below their usual standards.  Their job was to clear the stage quickly for those with good chances to win.

And no doubt those who struggled from higher up the leaderboard can also console themselves with awareness of the extra-difficult conditions:  Paula Creamer shot a 74 to fall back to E.  Lindsey Wright has fallen from -4 to +4 by going +8 through 17 today, while 3rd-round leader Mika Miyazato opened with 3 bogeys and a triple on the par-5 7th to fall from -8 to -2, before fighting back with birdies on 9 and 10 and falling back with a bogey on 14.  In-Kyung Kim opened with 3 bogeys and a double in her 1st 6 holes to fall from -4 to +1, before fighting back to E for the week with 1 hole left to play.

That's not to say that there are no good rounds out there.  Angela Stanford, who's been playing too great to stick to her plan of sticking to golf in the States, posted a final-round 69 to finish at -4, despite 2 bogeys in her last 5 holes.  Shanshan Feng had a roller-coaster 6-birdie 69 to finish at -2, even though she suffered 3 bogeys in her final 7 holes.  Ai Miyazato fired a bogey-free 33 on the back to break 70 for the 2nd day in a row and fight back to -1 for the tournament.  Ai-sama's playing partner Cindy LaCrosse had an even better round going until she doubled the 18th and had to settle for a 69/-1 finish.  And hats off to the 70 club, which currently includes Lizette Salas, Ilhee Lee, and Rebecca Lee-Bentham at -2, Katherine Hull-Kirk at -1, Mi-Hyang Lee at E, and Mina Harigae at +1.  Congrats to all--and to Hee Young Park, who's -3 and bogey-free in today's round with 2 holes to play.

But the most entertaining subplot of the week has to be Caroline Hedwall, who continued to evoke the heyday of Laura Davies and Pat Hurst by turning Evian into a giant roller coaster.  After going bogey-par-birdie-birdie-bogey-birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie for a 31 on the back yesterday after starting her day going birdie-double-double (that's a 68 for those keeping score at home), she was -2 and bogey-free through 10 holes today, but finished bogey-birdie-birdie-bogey-bogey-par-birdie-double to end the week where she started at E!!!

OK, so on to the main event, which doesn't hit NBC for awhile yet (they were showing an infomercial when I started writing this post).  If Okinawa is going to be hugely disappointed today (Bo-Mee Lee beat 19-year-old Mamiko Higa in a 3-hole playoff in the JLPGA's 2nd major when the final round got washed out over in Hokkaido), who will be the champion when the golf is done?

How about Se Ri Pak, who's looking to capture a Career Grand Slam (wins in 4 different majors) today?  She opened with 2 bogeys in her 1st 6 holes to fall to -3 for the week, but has fought back on the back with 3 birdies (and a bogey) to stand at -5 with 1 hole left to play.  Not going to happen.

Will it be Lydia Ko, who's trying to become the youngest winner of an LPGA major?  Well, she started out birdie-bogey-birdie, then made a bunch of pars until she bogeyed the par-5 13th and birdied the par-5 15th.  She's -8 with 2 to play and handling the pressure of being in the final group much better than Mikan.

How about Stacy Lewis, who's trying to win her 2nd major in a row?  She opened well from the next-to-last group with 2 birdies and no bogeys in her 1st 5 holes to get to -8, but then bogeyed the par-4 6th and doubled the par-3 8th and with one bogey and one birdie on the back thus far is still -5 with 2 holes to play.  Not going to happen.

How about So Yeon Ryu, who was robbed of a KLPGA victory last week when someone made 2 eagles from the fairway in her last 10 holes and beat her in a playoff?  Playing with Lewis and Chella Choi, she's made 3 birdies and a bogey to get to -7 with 2 holes to play.  She's still in this thing.

How about Lexi Thompson, who's been overshadowed by Ko and Charley Hull in recent weeks?  She's made 5 birdies and only 2 bogeys to fight to -6 with the 18th left to play. If she can make up for her pair of bogeys there in the opening rounds with something special, she'll be the leader in the clubhouse with a low enough score to give the leaders pause.

How about Chella Choi, who's looking to make her 1st LPGA victory a major?  She was playing well, with 3 birdies and a bogey to get to -7 with 3 holes to play.  But a disaster on the par-3 16th--a triple--has ended her title run.

That leaves your leader Suzann Pettersen, who's been playing probably the best golf of her life in recent weeks.  She made 3 birdies and a bogey on the front to pass Mikan as she was crashing and burning, then made her way to -10 for the week by matching Ko's birdie on the par-5 15th and maintains a 2-shot lead on her and a 3-shot lead on Ryu with 2 holes left to play.

Look's like this will be all done before NBC goes on air.  Stay away from here if you don't want the ending spoiled!

[Update 1 (11:42 am):  Oh man, Mikan doubled the 16th!  I feel awful for her!]

[Update 2 (11:44 am):  Lexi parred 18 to post the low round of the day thus far (a great 68), but -6 won't scare Pettersen in the slightest, especially after she got past the treacherous 16th with a par.  She's now tied with Ryu (who bogeyed 17) in 3rd.  Great week for the American teenager!]

[Update 3 (11:47 am):  Wow!  The Rocket birdied the par-5 9th for a bogey-free 67 that brought her back to E for the week.  Looks like Hee Young Park and Caroline Hedwall are twins separated at birth.  Just take a look at the Rocket's back 9 before today!]

[Update 4 (11:49 am):  Pak parred 18 to finish at -5 for the week.  A great finish for the wounded warrior, but not what she wanted.]

[Update 5 (11:50 am):  Ko parred 17.  Still -8.]

[Update 6 (11:51 am):  So did Pettersen.  2-up with 1 to play!]

[Update 7 (11:54 am):  Realized I never mentioned Beatriz Recari.  She birdied her 1st hole to get to -5 for the week, but never went lower than that as she made 3 bogeys and a birdie the rest of the way to end up at -3 for the week.  Good enough for a top 10, but not to contend.]

[Update 8 (11:56 am):  Inky was another player who rode the Evian roller coaster this week.  After a final-round 75, she also ended up at E overall.]

[Update 9 (11:58 am):   In case you're wondering how Jennifer Johnson got her top 10, she made an early birdie to get to -3, immediately bogeyed back-to-back holes, then birdied the 2 par 5s on the back to fight back to -3 for the week.]

[Update 10 (12:03 pm):  Ryu finished bogey-bogey to end up T4 with Pak at -5.  Not the finish either wanted, but still pretty darn good.]

[Update 11 (12:05 pm):  So they didn't quite finish before NBC's coverage started, but close.  I'm going to watch now.]

[Update 12 (10:41 pm):  Finally finished watching the last few holes after lots of family time, and Pettersen's serenity, ability to hit clutch shots from 100 yards and in, scrambling and putting touch, and confidence were so wonderful to see.  The look on her face when Ko's pitch from behind the 18th green almost trickled in was priceless.  And speaking of Ko, it's hard to imagine how she could be more lovable or a tougher competitor.  Yes, she couldn't get those birdie tries on 16 and 17 to drop, but almost everything else she did was awesome and just a little bit goofy at the same time.  When you can charm Suzann Pettersen, you know you have a lot of charisma.  Back to Pettersen, it was also heartwarming to see her smiling so much on 18, even before she made that great 2-putt for a 68 and to stay double digits under par for the week.  Sure, I was hoping for a Miyazato, Ko, or Pak win, but my respect and admiration for Pettersen went up several notches in the brief time she and Ko shared center stage on network tv.  Here's hoping for much more from both!]

Konica Minolta Cup Sunday: Final Round Washed Out; 3-Hole Playoff between Bo-Mee Lee and Mamiko Higa to Start at 1 pm Hokkaido Time

It appears that the LPGA isn't the only tour cursed by bad weather this week.  The JLPGA just announced that they have decided to cancel the final round of their 2nd major, the Konica Minolta Cup, and hold a 3-hole playoff between 3rd-round co-leaders Bo-Mee Lee and Mamiko Higa.

[Update 1 (2:18 am):  Bo-Mee Lee has won the playoff!]

[Update 2 (2:21 am):  This was the 1st time since the tournament went to 72 holes in 1982 that they had to shorten it to 54 holes.  I'll try to get more details on the playoff later in the morning!]

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Evian Championship Saturday Afternoon: Lydia Ko Fires Bogey-Free 67 to Pull within 1 of Mika Miyazato

Lydia Ko got a pair of birdies early in her round and finished it with another pair to fire a bogey-free 67 and leap to -7 through 36 holes of the Evian Championship, putting her only 1 shot behind leader Mika Miyazato.  Ko tied Stacy Lewis and Chella Choi from the morning wave for low rounds in the clubhouse until Rebecca Lee-Bentham posted a 7-birdie 66 to get to -1 for the week.  With So Yeon Ryu at -7 today after getting a hole in 1 on the 16th and Lexi Thompson at -5 through 16, it's looking like Lee-Bentham's mark might even be eclipsed.  Let's see!

[Update 1 (11:36 am):  Ya Ni Tseng's struggles with big numbers and bad stretches continued this week.  She opened the back yesterday with a double and 2 bogeys for a 40 and closed it exactly the same way today to miss the cut.  She keeps showing signs of playing great golf, but then falls apart!  So frustrating!]

[Update 2 (11:37 am):  Ya Ni's not alone, of course.  Charley Hull made 2 doubles and 2 bogeys on the back to offset her 2 birdies and miss the cut, as well.]

[Update 3 (11:39 am):  Inbee Park doubled the par-4 4th to balloon to +5 for the week and flirt with the cut line, but she shot a bogey-free 34 on the back to come in at E for the day and +3 for the week.]

[Update 4 (11:41 am):  Whoops, that hole in 1 was Caroline Hedwall's, not So Yeon Ryu's!  Little glitch with the live scoring there!]

[Update 5 (11:44 am):  Now I'm not sure whether Lindsey Wright just canned one on the par-3 14th to get to -4 for the day and -7 for the week!]

[Update 6 (11:45 am):  Bad news for Se Ri Pak and her legions of fans.  2 holes ago she was -6 for the week, but just went double bogey-bogey.]

[Update 7 (11:47 am):  64 at +3 or better, 76 at +4 or better, 88 at +5 or better:  where will the cut line fall?]

[Update 8 (11:52 am):  Now 66 at +3 or better!  Catriona Matthew, Brittany Lincicome, Eun-Hee Ji, Hee Kyung Seo used to be shoo-ins at +4; now they're holding their breaths!]

[Update 9 (11:53 am):  Ah, it was a bogey by Wright at 14, not a hole in 1. Easy to confuse!]

[Update 10 (11:54 am):  Se Ri fighting!  Birdie on 16 gets her back to -4 for the week!]

[Update 11 (11:55 am):  Na Yeon Choi, Morgan Pressel, Shanshan Feng all fall back to E for the week.]

[Update 12 (11:57 am):  Check out Caroline Hedwall's scorecard!  She was +6 through 21 holes after back-to-back doubles, but has gone birdie-birdie-bogey-birdie-hole in 1 eagle-birdie to fight back to +1 for the week!  And she still has the 18th left to play!]

[Update 13 (11:58 am):  Jennifer Song (-3 through 13 today) and Mi-Hyang Lee (-2 through 13) also mounting impressive comebacks.]

[Update 14 (12:01 pm):  Lexi bogeyed 18 to settle for great 67 and tie Hurst and Creamer at -3.  Angela Stanford and Jennifer Johnson looking to make it an All-American bunch at T11.]

[Update 15 (12:03 pm):  Kerr birdied 14 and 15 to fight back to +6, but that was the best she could do coming home.  She'll have the silver lining of not having to deal with the weather tomorrow (and maybe for a day or 2 after) as they try to get to 54 holes, but any MC in a major has to sting for her.]

[Update 16 (12:05 pm):  It's looking like those at +4 will be safe, but with 77 there and most who are still on the course well better than that, the cut line is very unlikely to go to +5.]

[Update 17 (12:07 pm):  So it's looking like Hee Young Park needs to birdie 18 to play any more this week.  Laura Davies, Helen Alfredsson, Moira Dunn, Sun Young Yoo, and Moriya Jutanugarn are definitely out.]

[Update 18 (12:10 pm):  Last update for awhile and my lucky number goes to So Yeon Ryu, who was unlucky last week when she got out by KLPGAer who made 2 eagles from the fairway in her last 10 holes.  Ryu opened with a 5-birdie 30 and hung on for a 6-birdie 66 to vault to -5 for the week, T5 right now with Chella Choi.]

Evian Championship Saturday Morning: Miyazato, Pettersen, Lewis Set the Pace

Mika Miyazato is the leader in the clubhouse at the close of morning play in the 2nd round of the Evian Championship, after her 4-birdie 69 got her to -8 for the week, keeping her 1 shot ahead of Suzann Pettersen (who also shot a 4-birdie 69), 2 shots ahead of Stacy Lewis (5-birdie 67), 3 shots ahead of Chella Choi (6-birdie 67), and 4 shots ahead of In-Kyung Kim (6-birdie 69) and Beatriz Recari (5-birdie 69).

Mikan bounced back from a pair of bogeys to start her round with birdies on 6, 7, 13, and 18 and is taking a 16-hole-and-counting bogey-free run into tomorrow's final round.  Pettersen, too, stumbled out of the gates with 2 bogeys in her 1st 5 holes on the back, but she offset them with early birdies and played her last 13 holes bogey-free and -3.  The biggest comeback of the day, however, belonged to Inky, who started her day going double bogey-bogey but then boarded a 4-hole birdie train on holes 4 through 7 and followed it up with birdies on 11 and 12 before suffering a walkoff bogey.

Others in the morning wave played well, including Vicky Hurst (7-birdie 68 marred by back-to-back closing bogeys to drop her to -3 for the week), Juli Inkster (6-birdie 68 to fight back to E overall), Anna Nordqvist (5-birdie 68 that also brought her to E), Ai Miyazato (who ballooned to +6 through her 1st 23 holes when she made her 3rd bogey in a row early on the back 9, but played her last 13 holes in -5, including birdies on 16, 2, and 7--and an eagle on the par-4 1st!--for a fighting 68 in which she took 11 fewer putts than in Friday's round), Jodi Ewart Shadoff (5-birdie 68 to come back from her opening 77 and make the cut), Paula Creamer (69, -3 overall), and Natalie Gulbis (69, +2).  Hats off as well to Momoko Ueda and Holly Clyburn, whose 70s kept them in the race at -2 and -1, respectively.  Ueda is tied with Karrie Webb (72), Michelle Wie (72), and Christina Kim (74)!  Finally, a mental toughness award to Cheyenne Woods, who bounced back from an opening 80 with a solid 71.  Even though she's going to miss the cut, she showed she knows how to bounce back from a terrible round.

In the afternoon wave, by the way, Cristie Kerr is in serious danger of missing the cut, while Inbee Park, Ya Ni Tseng, Caroline Hedwall, and Charley Hull are struggling to avoid that fate, so don't judge Cheyenne too harshly.  With Lexi Thompson, Rebecca Lee-Bentham, and So Yeon Ryu putting together the best rounds of the wave thus far, there'll be lots to report on in a few hours.  Stay tuned!

[Update 1 (11:08 am):  By the way, the passionate and persuasive defense by Ron Sirak of the decision to go 54 holes this week (which may take until Tuesday, given weather forecasts) is an absolute must-read!]

[Update 2 (11:23 am):  Forgot to mention that Rookie of the Year race leader Caroline Masson is tied with fellow rookie Ayako Uehara at E, while former leader Moriya Jutanugarn will miss the cut.  With Chie Arimura 14 shots off the pace in her attempted title defense at the JLPGA's 2nd major of the season, I wonder if the ROY race will come down to Masson and Uehara?]

[Update 3 (11:49 am):  Ryan Ballengee adds some good points of his own on the decision to go 54.]

[Update 4 (11:50 am):  Lots of fireworks from the afternoon wave!]