Friday, January 24, 2014

Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic Friday: Game On!

Jessica Korda fired an 8-birdie 66 today in the 2nd round of the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic to take a 1-shot lead over Paula Creamer, who doubled her 1st hole of the day and responded by making 10 birdies the rest of the way.  Creamer's 65 was not the lone low round of the day, though.  Keeping the Team USA theme going, Michelle Wie hit 17 greens and took 28 putts on her way to a bogey-free 65 and Jenny Suh extended her own bogey-free run to 36 holes and counting when she matched Creamer's 66 to join Wie 2 shots behind Korda.  So much for my pre-tournament prediction that it would be harder to make birdies in bunches this time around the Ocean Club, eh?  Korda's averaging 7.5 birdies per round, Creamer 7, Wie 5, and Suh 4.5!

It wasn't all "USA! USA!" out there today, by the way.  The United Nations is 3 shots behind Korda, including the Netherlands' Christel Boeljon (7-birdie 67 on 24 putts), South Korea's Na Yeon Choi (6-birdie 68 without missing a green in regulation), Thailand's P.K. Kongkraphan (5-birdie 69 with only 25 putts), and New Zealand's own Lydia Ko (5-birdie 70).  But Lizette Salas used 6 birdies in her 1st 11 holes to pull within 1 of this international contingent after a bogey-free 67.  And fellow Solheim Cupper and former world #1 Stacy Lewis (71, -6) joined another group of globe-trotters, Amy Yang, Sandra Gal, and Pornanong Phatlum, all of whom posted 69s today.

There were also a lot of low rounds from lower down the leaderboard, from 68s by Jodi Ewart Shadoff and Mi Jung Hur that offset their opening 76s to 69s by Sun Young Yoo, Chella Choi, and Danielle Kang that moved them up to T20.  In fact, there were a bunch of 69s today from a diverse group of players like Juli Inkster, Alena Sharp, Kathleen Ekey, and Mi Hyang Lee.  But almost as many golfers went from good to worse, like Brittany Lang, whose 78 today (sparked by a pair of doubles on the front) dropped her right down to the cut line at +1, Mi Rim Lee, whose 77 left her 8 shots behind Rookie of the Year rival Lydia Ko after being down only 1 shot after 18 holes, yesterday's co-leader Meena Lee, whose 76 dropped her 9 off the lead, and Becky Morgan, who followed up yesterday's 70 with an 80 today to miss the cut.

With all these heroics and tragedies in the 1st 2 rounds of the LPGA's season opener, it's easy to overlook players who just kept plugging along, such as the big group at -5, whose scores ranged from 71 to 72:  Hee Young Park, Azahara Munoz, Brittany Lincicome, Candie Kung, Pernilla Lindberg, and Thidapa Suwannapura.  I was glad to see Morgan Pressel keep it at -3, Se Ri Pak and Birdie Kim get to -1, Ai Miyazato get her putter back under control and bring herself back to E, and Seon Hwa Lee and Tiffany Joh just barely make the cut.  I have to admit to being surprised that Lexi Thompson and Angela Stanford fall into this category, as I expected both to be going lower, while they're actually at E.  Lexi eagled the par-5 4th but made her 2nd double on the 9th hole in as many days, while Stanford continued to offset every good thing she did with an equal number of mistakes.  But I am glad to see Ayako Uehara (74, E) and Harukyo Nomura (74, +1) hanging in there right with them.  At least they have a chance to get hot on the weekend.

Not so for a bunch of good golfers, from Q-School record-setter Jaye Marie Green (77, +2) to defending champion Ilhee Lee (74, +2), from Hall of Famer Juli Inkster (72, +4) and veteran Moira Dunn (76, +4) to rookies Jennifer Kirby (73, +2) and Giulia Molinaro (75, +4).  Others didn't even come close, from rookies like Amy Anderson and Paula Reto to veterans like Pat Hurst and Jeong Jang to shockers like Beatriz Recari.

So with 2 players already double digits under par, I'm thinking unless the winds come up over the weekend those chasing them had better be -10 or better after 54 holes.  But it's hard for me to believe the winning score will be in the -20 to-22 range.  I'm thinking -15 to -18, which is already about 10 shots better than I expected.  The leaders have shown the birdies are out there.  Who will find the most?  Stay tuned!

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