Friday, October 25, 2013

Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship Friday: An Aura of Invincibility

This is starting to look like Suzann Pettersen's week.  With a 3-shot lead in her pocket after the 1st round of the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship, all she did today was make a hole in 1 on the 2nd hole and follow it up with a birdie on the par-5 9th before ending her 15-hole bogey-free run on the 14th and bouncing back with a walkoff birdie for her 2nd-straight round in the 60s at the Sunrise Golf & Country Club.  At -7, she has a 5-shot lead on Sun Young Yoo (who shot a fine 5-birdie 69 of her own), Carlota Ciganda (who shot a 70 despite doubling the par-5 13th), and Katherine Hull-Kirk (whose 4-birdie 70 kept her in the fray as if last week's Sunday meltdown from the final pairing had never happened).  With Beatriz Recari the only other player under par through 36 holes and Caroline Hedwall, Chella Choi, Hee Kyung Seo, and Alison Walshe the only players in the field at even par, one more good round from Pettersen will probably ice this tournament.

I mean, when Ya Ni Tseng, who's won here, opens 76-78, or Na Yeon Choi, who's contended, goes 74-72, or Lexi Thompson, who's won recently in convincing fashion, starts 74-74, or Mika Miyazato, who's won a major in Japan recently, posts 75-75, you know the course is playing tough for just about everyone in the field.  So it's very very unlikely that anyone is going to make a weekend charge from way back.  That means Pettersen really just needs to beat the 16 golfers who are "only" single digits behind her over the weekend.  It's true that only 4 of them did worse today than yesterday, but so far only Yoo has managed to even tie her in the same round.  Someone has to figure out how to beat Pettersen by 5-9 shots over the next 36 holes.  That's a tall order, the way she's hitting fairways and greens.

2013 is starting to remind me of Pettersen's 5-win season in 2007, when she notched 3 of them after October 1st to zoom into 2nd on the money list behind a truly dominant Lorena Ochoa.  By then, Ochoa had sewn up Player of the Year, but this time around, with Stacy Lewis dominant in the early part of the season and Inbee Park in the middle, it's going to be very interesting to see if Pettersen's fall charge can make this year's races close.  I still think it would be a travesty if Pettersen were to actually win POY, but it would add some drama if the LPGA's final events featured head-to-head-to-head battles between the LPGA's Big 3 of 2013.  (It's not happening at Mizuno, where both Park and Pettersen are taking the week off, but wouldn't it be cool if Lewis were to successfully defend her title there?)

Maybe it's too soon for me to be wondering about this, as a lot can happen in 36 holes.  But one thing I've often wondered about on the LPGA is the effect on the other players when 1 of their peers starts to project an aura of invincibility.  Sometimes it seems like they start playing for 2nd.  Well, unless a few more players not named Pettersen break 70 tomorrow, that's what they will be playing for!

[Update 1 (9:05 am):  Check out bangkokbobby's take on Pettersen's play and all the photos he's found!]

[Update 2 (9:33 pm):  Nice piece by Randall Mell on the LPGA's Big 3!]

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