Friday, February 28, 2014

Recommended Reading: The Tale of T-Joh and the Unicorn Onesie

Teaser:  Vicky Hurst named Tiffany Joh's unicorn onesie "Sir Cherry Bon Bon" and T-Joh wore it everywhere in the Bahamas.

Read all about it and weep (from laughter).  Just don't pull out your eyebrow hairs.

HSBC Women's Champions Friday: Karrie Webb Extends Lead to 2 Shots

Anna Nordqvist (67, -4), Hee Kyung Seo (67, -1), and Nicole Castrale (68, -3) had the rounds of the day today at the HSBC Women's Champions, but they barely made up any ground on leader Karrie Webb, who wasn't as flawless as she had been yesterday, but still made 6 birdies on her way to a 69 that brought her to -9.  The Hall of Famer hit 4 fewer greens in regulation in the 2nd round than the 1st, but made up for it with an even hotter putter, taking only 26 putts.  That wasn't quite as impressive as Seo's 23, but it gave Webb a 2-shot lead on Angela Stanford, who birdied 4 of her 6 holes midway through her round, but went +1 over her last 8 holes of birdieless golf, and a 3-shot lead on Teresa Lu, who offset an early double with a walkoff eagle during a roller-coaster round (she's already made a pair of doubles and a couple of eagles this week!).

Speaking of roller coasters, Suzann Pettersen bogeyed her 1st 2 holes in a row, responded with birdies in 5 of 7 holes around the middle of her round, stumbled coming home with 3 bogeys in 4 holes, then saved her round with a walkoff eagle.  After all that, she matched Lu's 70 and sits at -3, along with Na Yeon Choi and Azahara Munoz who also made a lot of birdies but didn't have much to show for it thanks to offsetting bogeys.  But the queen of roller coasters is shaping up to be Caroline Hedwall, whose game reminds me more and more of Laura Davies's.  After a flawless 67 yesterday, she played her 1st 15 holes in -3, but finished bogey-bogey-double to fall to -4, along with Paula Creamer, who had a mini-ride of her own with a double, 3 bogeys, and an eagle in her 1st 11 holes, then settled down and played her last 8 holes -2 and bogey-free.  Even Morgan Pressel (69, -4) and Danielle Kang (70, -4) had plenty of drama in their rounds, Pressel by firing a bogey-free 33 on the back and Kang by finishing birdie-par-birdie-eagle.

With Ha Na Jang (bogey-free 69 despite hitting only 3 fairways) and Lydia Ko (-5 and bogey-free over her final 15 holes) leading a big pack at -2 that includes Inbee Park, So Yeon Ryu, Lexi Thompson, and Brittany Lincicome, the weekend is shaping up to be quite interesting.  Even Amy Yang (73, -1), Ji-Yai Shin (70, E), Ya Ni Tseng (71, E), Chella Choi (71, E), Michelle Wie (71, E), and Shanshan Feng (72, E) aren't quite out of it yet.

But world-beaters like Stacy Lewis (72, +3), Hee Young Park (74, +5, even with a walkoff eagle), and Ai Miyazato (75, +6) and formerly hot golfers like Pornanong Phatlum (75, +4), Lizette Salas (76, +7), and Jessica Korda (79, +10) are going to have to wake up on the weekend if they want to take anything positive away from Singapore.

So the Showdown in Singapore may have some surprises at the top of the leaderboard--particularly Lu and Castrale--and the LPGA's Big 3 from 2013 might be stuck in neutral (or on a roller coaster), but it's a treat to watch a Hall of Famer like Webb and a veteran like Stanford show the kids how it's done.  And there's a lot of golf still to be played!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

HSBC Women's Champions Thursday: Karrie Webb Takes Lead with Bogey-Free 66

Karrie Webb hit 16 greens in regulation and took only 28 putts as she cruised into the lead of the HSBC Women's Champions on the strength of a bogey-free 66.  With Paula Creamer and Caroline Hedwall only 1 back, Angela Stanford and Teresa Lu 2 behind, Azahara Munoz 3 shots off the pace, and 19 players in all under par after the close of the 1st round, Webb will have her work cut out for her over the next 54 holes.  Here are a few trends I noticed:

  • Drive for Show...:  Munoz was the only player in the field to hit at least 10 fairways and break 70 (she did so despite taking 32 putts), while Suzann Pettersen (11), Eun-Hee Ji (11), So Yeon Ryu (10), Brittany Lincicome (10), and Moriya Jutanugarn (10) were the only other players to go under par while doing so.  So why weren't they higher up the leaderboard?  A combination of bad putting and big numbers.  Same goes for bombers like Lexi Thompson (71) and Ya Ni Tseng (73), who drove the ball almost as accurately and just as long as, if not longer than, Lincicome and Pettersen, but couldn't go low.  Lydia Ko (73) hit 11 fairways, but couldn't do much with it, either....
  • ...Putt for Dough:  The players who broke 70 more or less struggled to find the fairway, but of them only Hedwall and Munoz took 30 putts or more (to give them credit where it's due, each hit 16 greens).  A little lower down the leaderboard, you'll see players like Danielle Kang and Gerina Piller in the same boat, but most everyone who scored well did it with the flat stick.  If you're not impressed by that feat, consider that world #1 Inbee Park (71) hit 14 greens but took 31 putts.  To say that's uncharacteristic is to undersell how well the leaders putted today.
  • And Don't Forget to Hit Those Greens:  Ji-Yai Shin was inaccurate off the tee by her high standards (only 9 fairways hit), but she putted well, so why did she open with a 74?  She hit only 9 greens.  Cristie Kerr hit 2 more, but offset every single one of her 5 birdies.  And Jessica Korda bombed it out further than anyone and took only 28 putts, but she hit only 8 greens--no wonder she made 3 bogeys on each side!
  • Worst of Both Worlds:  Stacy Lewis's stats were so bad (6 fairways, 34 putts) that it's amazing she only shot a 75.  Ai Miyazato's were almost as poor (8 fairways, 34 putts) and she also ended up at +3.  Hee Young Park only hit 9 greens and still took 30 putts, so it's no surprise she joined them at +3.
So when you see a 66 and 2 67s on a day when only 6 golfers broke 70 and 21 couldn't break 75, you should be impressed.  Let's see who can match or surpass that feat tomorrow!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Key Pairings for the Showdown in Singapore

The HSBC Women's Champions event is about to start in Singapore, so here are my top pairings for the Showdown in Singapore.

Welcome Back, Chalk Line!
1st tee, 10:15 am:  Ji-Yai Shin, Karrie Webb, Stacy Lewis
Here's hoping Shin goes low this week so we can find out why she chose the JLPGA over the LPGA for 2014.

The Once and Future Queens
1st tee, 9:53 am:  Inbee Park, Ai Miyazato, Lexi Thompson
Current #1, former #1, future #1?

World's Fair
1st tee, 9:42 am:  Suzann Pettersen, Ya Ni Tseng, Catriona Matthew
1st tee, 9:20 am:  So Yeon Ryu, Shanshan Feng, Caroline Hedwall
10th tee, 10:04 am:  Hee Young Park, Carlota Ciganda, Julieta Granada
10th tee, 9:31 am:  Se Ri Pak, Karine Icher, Jodi Ewart Shadoff
10th tee, 9:42 am:  Meena Lee, Caroline Masson, Moriya Jutanugarn
By my count, that's 12 countries represented in just these pairings!

American Pilgrims vs. World
1st tee, 9:31 am:  Paula Creamer, Jessica Korda, Lydia Ko
10th tee, 8:47 am:  Morgan Pressel, Jennifer Johnson, Ha Na Jang
1st tee, 10:04 am:  Angela Stanford, Michelle Wie, Anna Nordqvist
Ko and Jang are the real deal.  How will the Americans do against them?  Nordqvist doesn't quite fit the teen theme, but she's going for her 2nd win in a row (after waiting nearly 5 years between victory #2 and #3.

It's Not Lu, It's Me
10th tee, 9:09 am:  Teresa Lu, Chella Choi, Giulia Sergas
JLPGAer Lu plays her 1st LPGA event since winning the Mizuno Classic and turning down LPGA membership for 2014.  Would also like to see her go low and get interviews.

Don't Call It a Comeback
1st tee, 8:36 am:  Nicole Castrale, Ayako Uehara, Xiyu Lin
It's Castrale's 1st LPGA start since surgery.  Would be great to see Uehara and Lin adjust to LPGA competition faster than expected.

Welcome to the Big Leagues, Kid!
1st tee, 8:47 am:  Amy Yang, Jenny Shin, Amanda Tan
1st tee, 9:09 am:  Na Yeon Choi, Mika Miyazato, Danielle Kang
Great to see Kang in a prime-time pairing!

Yueer Cindy Feng Dominating SunCoast Series

So here's another question:  anyone notice that Yueer Cindy Feng already has 3 victories in 2014 on the SunCoast Series?  True, Jung Min Lee won this week by 3 shots over Song Yi Ahn and 6 over Maria Hjorth, but Feng didn't tee it up.  When she has, she's beaten the likes of Hjorth, Louise Friberg, Jenny Suh, Kim Kaufman, Sally Watson, Ulrika Van-Niekirk, Lauren Doughtie, and Karlin Beck (not all at once).  Not exactly a murderer's row, but a win's a win for an LPGA rookie and racking up 3 of them in 4 starts is not half bad.

The Cactus Tour Is Going Global

Did you happen to see the leaderboard for the most recent Cactus Tour event?  Go-Un Yu went 65-69-69 to beat Kimberly Kim and Seung-Ji Han by 3 shots and Shi-Hyun Ahn by 4.  Sarah Oh came in 5th at -6, Song-Hee Kim T11 at -1, there were easily a dozen Korean names I don't remember seeing before fairly high up the leaderboard, and the highest finisher not of Korean descent was Gabriella Dominguez (T6 at -3).  This is a really big shift from the 1st 3 events of 2014 and I'm wondering why.  It's cool, but it's also pretty puzzling....

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

My Picks for the HSBC Women's Champions

I'm off to a terrible start making predictions for the 1st few events of the LPGA's 2014 season, but that's not going to stop me from trying again this week for the HSBC Women's Champions!

To check my gut feelings a bit, which have definitely been leading me astray, I'm going to list after each player's name how she finished in the last 4 years in Singapore (2013-2012-2011-2010), although it's worth noting that the tournament shifted venues from Tanah Merah to Sentosa Country Club's Serapong course last season.

1. Choi Na Yeon (2-T2-6-T9)
2. Lewis (1-T18-T9-T38)
3. Park Inbee (T37-T25-T40-T32)
4. Creamer (3-WDC-T24-DNP)
5. Nordqvist (T24-T31-T30-T29)
6. Webb (T18-T25-1-T19)
7. Pettersen (T32-T25-T16-T3)
8. Thompson (T8-DNP-DNP-DNP)
9. Shin Ji-Yai (T18-T8-T11-T3)
10. Feng (T32-T2-T30-T26)
11. Tseng (T28-5-3-T3)
12. Ryu (DNP-T11-DNP-DNP)

Alts: Ko (DNP-DNP-DNP-DNP); Jang Ha Na (DNP-DNP-DNP-DNP); Miyazato Ai (WD-T6-T14-1)

It's very hard to leave Caroline Hedwall, Jessica Korda, Gerina Piller, Cristie Kerr, Jenny Shin, Angela Stanford, Azahara Munoz, Sandra Gal, Amy Yang, and Chella Choi off this list, but there are only 15 spots and this tournament has a history of really big-name players rising to the top in it.  Let's see if this line-up helps me turn things around in Seoul's PakPicker competition this week!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Congratulations to Anna Nordqvist, Michelle Wie, Gerina Piller, Minjee Lee, and Alena Sharp!

When Anna Nordqvist broke a near-5-year victory drought yesterday, she not only moved to the top of the 2014 LPGA money list, caught Karrie Webb and Jessica Korda to co-lead the Player of the Year race, and got to 3rd in the Race to the CME Globe, she also jumped up to #13 in my career ranking of the best to join the LPGA since 2005.

Meanwhile, Michelle Wie's solo 4th finish helped her break the $3M barrier in career LPGA winnings, Gerina Piller's T5 helped her beat Jenny Shin to the $1M mark, and Beatriz Recari inched closer to joining the $2M Club.

Oh, and congrats to Minjee Lee for winning on the ALPG and Alena Sharp for taking the Symetra Tour season-opener!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Alena Sharp Takes Symetra Tour's Season-Opener

Alena Sharp played virtually flawless golf over the 1st 36 holes of the Symetra Tour's season-opener in Mesa, Arizona (13 birdies, 1 double bogey), as she opened up a 3-shot lead on Jennie Lee, but she made things interesting when she stumbled out of the gate in her final round with 3 bogeys in her 1st 4 holes.  Even as Emily Talley fired a bogey-free 65 to finish early at -9 (she was later joined by Sadena Parks and Becca Huffer, who both shot 68s), and Sharp's playing partners Lee and Marissa Steen fought back from early problems themselves, the LPGA veteran hung tough and sandwiched a lone bogey between pairs of birdies (on 8 and 9 and then on 12 and 13) to get back to -12.  By the time the final threesome got to the 16th tee, though, Lee had pulled within 2 shots and Steen within 3 of Sharp's lead.  After Lee bogeyed 16 and Sharp bogeyed 17, Sharp led both of her challengers by 2 shots.  And a walkoff birdie sealed the deal, giving the Canadian her 1st career Symetra Tour victory after 2 runner-up finishes last season (the 1st at this very event).

While I'm excited to discover that Parks is a fan of animated film and an American Ethnic Studies graduate from the University of Washington, I'm disappointed that Mitsuki Katahira closed with a 75 to fall outside the top 60, Yueer Cindy Feng could never get it going all week and needed to birdie her last 2 holes to finish at E (T35), and Hannah Yun ended up with a 74 that dropped her to T21 (although she did show a lot of fight by bouncing back from a pair of early doubles today).  At least Cheyenne Woods played solid golf after a rough 1st 15 holes to the tournament, finishing T14 (tied with, among others, Fiona Puyo, who fired a 6-birdie 67 today), 3 shots behind Lee Lopez and 2 behind Lindy Duncan, who both closed with fine 68s.  It was also great to see Sara Brown's name near the top of the leaderboard again; she finished at -7 on the strength of a 5-birdie 69.

The tour next travels to City of Industry, California, where Birdie Kim, Jennifer Song, and Kim Welch join the show, but it's looking like Sharp will sit this one out.  Let's see who can join her in the 2014 winner's circle!

Honda LPGA Thailand Sunday: Anna Nordqvist Fights Off Inbee Park for 1st LPGA Victory Since Her Rookie Season

Having taken a 4-shot lead into the final round of the Honda LPGA ThailandAnna Nordqvist bounced back from an early double with 6 birdies in her next 11 holes to hold off a charging Inbee Park and an incandescent Catriona Matthew and secure her 3rd career LPGA victory--and 1st since her rookie season in 2009.  Nordqvist's closing 68 left her at -15, 2 shots ahead of Park, whose bogey-free 66 stalled her at -13 as she parred out over her last 3 holes, and 4 shots ahead of Matthew, who went 65-65 on the weekend.  Michelle Wie also had a great week, but she's probably a bit disappointed that she made a pair of bogeys on the back 9 after eagling the par-5 10th to get to -11; still, she fought back to double digits under par with her walkoff birdie and secured solo 4th.

In fact, lots of golfers turned it on in the final round.  Na Yeon Choi fired a tournament-low 9-birdie 64 to move into the top 20.  Stacy Lewis and Gerina Piller's 66s allowed them to catch Ya Ni Tseng (68), Lexi Thompson (68), and Julieta Granada (69) in a tie for 5th at -9, while Suzann Pettersen's own 66 got her into solo 10th.  In fact, everyone to finish in the top 12 broke 70 today (including So Yeon Ryu and Azahara Munoz at -7), while Eun-Hee Jee (68), Dewi Claire Schreefel (68), and Morgan Pressel (69) burst into the top 25, as well.

As a result, a good number of players got left in the dust today, too.  Lydia Ko, Cristie Kerr, Karrie Webb, Caroline Hedwall, and Shanshan Feng, who started the day with an outside chance of getting into contention, had to settle for top 25s.  Pornanong Phatlum (75, +4) entered the week the hottest Thai golfer in the world, but left it 9 shots behind Thidapa Suwannapura (70, -5).  Ai Miyazato (76, +6) got passed by two JLPGA young guns, Mamiko Higa (72, +3) and Natsuka Hori (71, +5), to cap off a dismal week for the large Japanese contingent.  2013 Rookie of the Year rivals Moriya Jutanugarn (78, +9), Caroline Masson (75, +14), Chie Arimura (71, +9), and Ayako Uehara (67, +12) pretty much played down to the low expectations they set for themselves last season.  And despite finally putting together good final rounds, Paula Creamer (68, +1), Chella Choi (69, +2), and Jessica Korda (70, +4) had surprisingly flat weeks.

So Nordqvist's wire-to-wire win this week should look all the more impressive in this context.  Given how well she hit the ball and putted, particularly on Thursday and Sunday, I wouldn't be surprised if she continued to give herself good chances to add to her victory total over the next few weeks and months.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Honda LPGA Thailand Saturday: Anna Nordqvist Leads Inbee Park and Michelle Wie by 4

Catriona Matthew doubled the 18th on moving day at the Honda LPGA Thailand and still fired the low round of the week, a 7-birdie-plus-eagle 65, while former world #1 Ya Ni Tseng eased her way to a smooth bogey-free 66 and current #1 Inbee Park birdied 4 holes in a row as she started the back on her way to a 6-birdie 67, but 1st- and 2nd-round leader Anna Nordqvist made their heroics virtually moot as she fired a bogey-free 31 on the back, sparked by an eagle on the par-5 10th, to take a 4-shot lead into the final round.  With Michelle Wie sporting a bogey-free 69 to join Park at -7, Julieta Granada at -6 after a 71, Tseng, Cristie Kerr (bogey-free 68), Lexi Thompson, and Lydia Ko at -5, and Matthew and 9 other golfers at -4, they're all going to need some help from Nordqvist to get to the winner's circle tomorrow.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Honda LPGA Thailand Friday: Anna Nordqvist Maintains Lead as Most of Field Falters

On a day when the Pattaya Old Course was showing its teeth, Azahara Munoz and Julieta Granada made big moves up the leaderboard of the Honda LPGA Thailand thanks to fine 68s, but it wasn't enough to catch 1st-round leader Anna Nordqvist, who shot a 72 and stayed at -6.  Heading into the weekend, Nordqvist has a 1-shot lead on Munoz, Granada, and Sandra Gal, a 2-shot lead on Stacy Lewis and Michelle Wie, and a 3-shot lead on Karrie Webb, So Yeon Ryu, Angela Stanford, and Jennifer Johnson.  World #1 Inbee Park and #2 Suzann Pettersen are part of a large group at -2 that includes Lydia Ko, Lexi Thompson, and Caroline Hedwall.

But if the tournament's 1st 36 holes have shown us anything, it's that no lead is safe.  It's hard to recall a span on the LPGA with more eagles and more double bogeys.  This early in the season, we're seeing a heck of a lot more bogey trains than birdie trains.  And it's happening to really good golfers who have been playing really good golf lately.  Remember how Jessica Korda won the season-opener in the Bahamas?  Well, she went +5 during a 4-hole stretch on the back (her front) and ended up with a 77 that dropped her to +7/T56.  And she isn't alone there.  Remember how hot Amy Yang was at the end of 2013?  She's tied with Korda after firing a birdieless 77.  Paula Creamer?  Also a 77.  And that's after starting her day birdie-birdie to get to -2.  4 bogeys and 2 doubles later and she's +5 for the week.  Hee Young Park was -3 with 8 holes left to play, then went bogey-par-bogey-double-double-bogey; at least a birdie on 17 brought The Rocket back to +3 for the week.  Lydia Ko was -4 and bogey-free but finished bogey-bogey-par to settle for a 70.  So Yeon Ryu got off to the exact same great start and was challenging Nordqvist for the lead on the back 9, but doubled 14 and bogeyed 15 and 16 to fall back to -3.  Heck, Nordqvist herself bogeyed 2 of her last 3 holes to open the door to the field.

That's just a sampling of today's carnage, but it should be enough to help us understand just how good the 69s today by Stacy Lewis, Brittany Lang, and Mariajo Uribe really were.  And appreciate the 70s from Sandra Gal, Karrie Webb, Lydia Ko, Jenny Shin (she birdied her last 4 holes in a row to do it!), Thidapa Suwannapura, Ai Miyazato, and Karine Icher.  (Although isn't it odd how many of them needed eagles to get there?)  When it doesn't take long to name the only other players to get under par today--Inbee Park, Catriona Matthew, Mamiko Higa, Moriya Jutanugarn, and Meena Lee--you know it was a tough day out there!

So let's see what happens over the next 36 holes....

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Cheyenne Woods Headlines Symetra Tour Season-Opener

The Symetra Tour kicks off its 2014 season in Mesa, Arizona, tomorrow morning--and the tour should be getting a little more attention than usual because Miss Cheyenne Woods is making her debut there.  The recent LET/ALPG winner should be getting all the competition she can handle from the field, which features players like Louise Friberg, Alena Sharp, Yueer Cindy Feng, Lindy Duncan, Samantha Richdale, Dori Carter, Jean Reynolds, Veronica Felibert, Natalie Sheary, Jaclyn Sweeney, Jane Rah, Hannah Yun, Mitsuki Katahira, Karlin Beck, Tzu-Chi Lin, Julia Boland, Megan McChrystal, Alejandra Llaneza, Brianna Do, Lee Lopez, Madison Pressel, Mallory Blackwelder, Jennie Lee, Caroline Westrup, Brittany Altomare, and Stephanie Kono.

Woods is paired with Friberg and Sweeney at 8:40 am off the 1st tee.  I'm rooting for Woods, Yun (8:30 am, 10th tee), and Katahira (8:20 am, 1st tee) to start strong and keep it going all season!

Honda LPGA Thailand Thursday: Anna Nordqvist Leads Michelle Wie by 1, as Big 3 Lurk

It seems that Anna Nordqvist has remembered how to go low in 2014; after firing a 64 last Friday in Melbourne, she opened the Honda LPGA Thailand with 3 straight birdies, added more on 2 of the next 3 par 3s, then bounced back from back-to-back bogeys with an eagle on the par-4 15th and a birdie on the 17th to post a 66.  That put her 1 shot ahead of Michelle Wie, who sprinkled 6 birdies around Siam Country Club's Pattaya Old Course, which left her 1 shot ahead of playing partner Jennifer Johnson, a teenager you may have heard of by the name of Lexi Thompson (who eagled the 1st hole today, a par 5), and Angela Stanford (who got a hole in 1 on the 8th).

It's a good thing for these golfers they went as low as they did, because hot on their heels are some of the top-ranked players in the world:

  • -3 Suzann Pettersen, So Yeon Ryu, Caroline Hedwall, Sandra Gal
  • -2 Morgan Pressel, Eun-Hee Ji, Gerina Piller, Mina Harigae
  • -1 Inbee Park, Stacy Lewis, Karrie Webb, Cristie Kerr, Shanshan Feng, Hee Young Park, Azahara Munoz, Pornanong Phatlum, and more
  • E Se Ri Pak, Ya Ni Tseng, Paula Creamer, Lydia Ko, Ariya Jutanugarn, Caroline Masson, Carlota Ciganda, Jenny Shin, and Carly Booth
It was an awful day, though, for the Japanese golfers in the field, as Ai Miyazato was low among them with a 74 (thanks to 2 double bogeys on the back 9) and Ayako Uehara (thanks to no birdies and 2 doubles in her last 3 holes) was high with an 80.  But they weren't alone in struggling, as Hee Kyung Seo and Catriona Matthew had to settle for 76s, Na Yeon Choi and Beatriz Recari for 75s, Brittany Lincicome, Jessica Korda, and Amy Yang for 74s, and Brittany Lang, Chella Choi, and Lizette Salas for 73s.

So clearly some players are getting out of the gates fast this year while others are furiously scraping the rust off their games (and brains).  Let's see who puts it together over the next 54 holes!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Honda LPGA Thailand Pairings Feature LPGA's Big 3 Going Head-to-Head-to-Head for 1st Time in 2014

So the pairings for the Honda LPGA Thailand are out and every single one of them is interesting for one reason or another, given how strong this limited field is.  Here are the most interesting ones to me:

Race to the Top
1st tee, 11:51 am:  Inbee Park, Suzann Pettersen, Stacy Lewis

Teen Queens
1st tee, 11:29 am:  Lydia Ko, Lexi Thompson, Ariya Jutanugarn

Hall of Famer(s-to-Be?)
1st tee, 11:40 am:  Karrie Webb, Ai Miyazato, So Yeon Ryu

1st tee, 10:34 am:  Shanshan Feng, Anna Nordqvist, Carlota Ciganda

Dark Horses
1st tee, 10:29 am:  Hee Young Park, Gerina Piller, Pornanong Phatlum

Something to Prove
10th tee, 11:07 am:  Na Yeon Choi, Michelle Wie, Jennifer Johnson

We're Going Off How Early?!
10th tee, 10:12 am:  Cristie Kerr, Morgan Pressel, Ilhee Lee

Welcome to the Big Leagues, Kid
10th tee, 10:34 am:  Chella Choi, Lizette Salas, Mamiko Higa

1st tee, 9:50 am:  Ayako Uehara, Mariajo Uribe
10th tee, 9:50 am:  Brittany Lang, Meena Lee

How about you?

By the way, I'd appreciate it if you wished the Full Metal Archivist otanjobi omedetou in comments.  Yep, it's her birthday!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

My Picks for the Honda LPGA Thailand

The Honda LPGA Thailand is here and Tony Jesselli has already posted his preview and picks.  Here are my wild guesses for this week's PakPicker competition over at Seoul

1. Miyazato Ai
2. Creamer
3. Ko
4. Ryu
5. Lewis
6. Park Inbee
7. Choi Na Yeon
8. Pettersen
9. Choi Chella
10. Korda
11. Hedwall
12. Webb

Alts: Feng; Munoz; Yang

How about yours?

Monday, February 17, 2014

Congratulations to Karrie Webb and Chella Choi!

The top 2 finishers in the ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open each have a career milestone to celebrate:  Karrie Webb earned LPGA victory #40 and Chella Choi broke the $2M barrier in career winnings on the LPGA.  Congratulations to them both!

Jenny Shin pulled narrowly ahead of Gerina Piller in their race to the $1M mark, as each nabbed top 10s yesterday.

Look for Sun Young Yoo to cross the $4M rubicon soon and for Beatriz Recari to join Choi in the $2M Club before too long.  Lexi Thompson will have to bounce back quickly from her missed cut to beat Recari to membership.

Meanwhile, only 12 points separate Stacy Lewis, Inbee Park, and Paula Creamer in my career ranking spreadsheet.

Let's see how they all do in Thailand this week!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open Sunday: Karrie Webb's 40th LPGA Victory One of Her Most Unbelievable

When Karrie Webb teed off at 12:37 pm today, she was 5 shots behind 3rd-round co-leaders Chella Choi and Minjee Lee, with 6 pairs of golfers still waiting to start the final round of the ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open, including such stalwarts as Suzann Pettersen and Lydia Ko in the penultimate pairing.  She must have known that although Sandra GalGerina Piller, and Paula Creamer had gotten off to good starts--Gal made 5 birdies in her 1st 12 holes to fight her way to -6; Piller opened with a 4-birdie 33 to ascend to -7; Creamer had 3 birdies in her 1st 5 holes to move to -9--most of the golfers who started before her were struggling.  But there's no way she could have known how badly the golfers who started after her would play today.

So when Webb made 3 birdies and a bogey on each side to post a 68 and finish at -12, she probably didn't think she had a chance to win.  Sure, she had finished 2 shots ahead of Creamer, 3 shots ahead of a late-charging Stacy Lewis, 4 shots ahead of Piller (who would end up alone in 10th), and 7-up on Gal (who stalled over her last 6 holes).  But to make up 5 shots on the co-leaders and pass the other 10 golfers ahead of her at the start of the day?  No way.

And yet.  Caroline Hedwall made 4 bogeys and a double in her 1st 12 holes, while Holly Clyburn endured 7 bogeys in her 1st 14 holes, as each plunged from -9 to -4.  Pettersen was just as bad, following up an opening birdie with a triple and 2 bogeys in her next 6 holes to drop from -11 to -6.  Her countrywoman Marianne Skarpnord was even worse, making 5 bogeys and a double in her 1st 10 holes to fall all the way to -2.

That left only a handful of golfers with a legitimate chance to beat Webb.  Karine Icher had eagled the 1st and birdied the 8th to move to -11, but bogeys on 14 and 16 torpedoed her chances, although she would birdie 18 to join Creamer at -10.  Morgan Pressel birdied 4 of her 1st 12 holes to fight her way to -11, but bogeyed 13 and 14 and couldn't birdie either of the closing par 5s, so she joined Stacy Lewis at -9.  Amelia Lewis got to -10 with 9 holes to go after making 3 birdies and a bogey on the front, but suffered a birdieless back to join her fellow Americans 3 shots behind Webb.  Jenny Shin kept bouncing back and forth between -10 and -9 all day, but after returning to double digits under par with a birdie on 17, and needing an eagle to tie Webb, she suffered a walkoff bogey instead.  Her playing partner Mi Hyang Lee, who had fired a closing 63 to win the New Zealand Open just 2 Sundays ago, was -11 as she teed it up on 10, but bogeyed both it and the 11th--and added insult to injury with a walkoff double.

So then there were 3.  Lydia Ko had doubled the par-4 6th to fall to -9, fought back with birdies on 8 and 11, but suffered bogeys on 10 and 12 to remain 3 shots behind Webb.  Minjee Lee had birdied the 1st to get to -14, but proceeded to bogey 4 of her next 6 holes to drop to -10, fought back with back-to-back birdies on the closing par 5s on the front, but then gone par-bogey-double to start the back, so she was also 3 off the pace with 6 holes to play.  And Chella Choi, who like her playing partner Lee had birdied the 1st to get to -14, immediately gave it back with a double on 2 and a bogey on 3; she then stayed at -11, as she made par after par on the front and into the back.

But all of 3 of them would fall short.  Ko couldn't find a birdie until the 18th, which left her 2 shots behind Webb with Creamer and Icher.  Lee would do even worse on the closing par 5s, bogeying both of them to drop out of the top 10.  And Choi would finish her round on a 15-hole par train and end the day 1 shot behind Webb.

Amazingly, Karrie Webb had won the Women's Australian Open for the 5th time in her career.  It was sweet vindication for the veteran who had been DQed the week before for signing an incorrect scorecard.  And it marks her 40th LPGA victory!  I'm still in shock!

[Update 1 (2:54 am):  Apparently it was gusty winds that bedevilled so many of Webb's competitors.  Check out the story from the Sydney Morning Herald!]

[Update 2 (3:00 am):  As usual, the best source is twitter.  Choi apparently had a 6-footer for birdie on 18 to force a playoff and couldn't get it to drop!]

[Update 3 (3:05 am):  Follow @HayesyHeraldSun and @WomensAusOpen to reconstruct the play-by-play!]

[Update 4 (3:07 am):  Here are the video highlights:!]

[Update 5 (8:23 am):  Here's Ruthless Mike's mid-round report from about 1 am!]

[Update 6 (8:43 am):   It just struck me that Karrie's win on her home turf was even more of a story-book ending than Ya Ni's in Taiwan's 1st LPGA event or Shanshan's in mainland China's 1st.  Maybe a little less dramatic, but for 12 players behind her to fail to even force a playoff?  Just incredible!]

[Update 7 (10:18 am):  Here's Brent Kelley, putting Webb's win in historical perspective.]

Saturday, February 15, 2014

ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open Saturday: Chella Choi's 62 Leads South Korean Charge

I didn't have time to comment on this pattern yesterday, but it was striking to me when I listed the 17 nations that had golfers in contention at the ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open, South Korea, the most dominant force in women's golf in the last decade or so, barely made it onto the bottom of the list.  Sure, Australian amateur Minjee Lee and New Zealand wunderkind Lydia Ko are of Korean descent, but where were the Korean flags?

Well, Chella Choi answered that question today.  Her course-record 62, which featured 3 birdies and an eagle in her 1st 12 holes and a birdie-birdie-birdie-birdie-eagle finish, catapulted her into a tie for the lead with Minjee Lee at -13.  Lee's 5-birdie 68 was nothing to sneeze at, of course, but it was completely overshadowed by Choi's brilliance, much like her great play last week was overshadowed by Cheyenne Woods's extended birdie barrage.  But Choi isn't the only Korean national with a chance to win tomorrow.  Jenny Shin fired a bogey-free 66 to move to -9, tied with 2014 ALPG champion Mi Hyang Lee, whose 5-birdie 68 wasn't as good as the closing 63 she fired to secure that win over Lydia Ko on her home turf, but was good enough to move her into a tie for 5th with 7 other golfers (on whom more in a second).  And yes, Lydia Ko is in the hunt, too, after her eagle on the par-5 17th salvaged a 69 and lifted her 1 shot past Suzann Pettersen (who bogeyed 2 of her last 3 holes) and 2 behind Choi and Lee.

So Koreans and players of Korean descent made the most of moving day, but other nations are by no means out of this thing.  Pettersen is joined near the top of the leaderboard by fellow Norwegian Marianne Skarpnord, whose bogey-free 68 was her ticket to the logjam at -9.  Amelia Lewis (68) and Morgan Pressel (70) are the low Americans in this group, while Sweden's volatile Caroline Hedwall made 7 bogeys but salvaged a 74 to stay in the mix, France's Karine Icher continued her quest for her 1st LPGA victory with a 4-birdie 70, and England's Holly Clyburn played a game of 1 step back, 2 steps forward on her way to a 71 that kept her hopes alive.

And let's not count out host country Australia, whose own Karrie Webb leaped into a tie for 13th with countrywoman Jessica Speechley on the strength of 3 birdies and an eagle.  Even Australian amateur Su-Hyun Oh isn't out of it completely, as her walkoff eagle capped off a fine 66 that brought her to -7 with America's Jessica Korda, Germany's Caroline Masson, the Netherlands' Dewi Claire Schreefel, Japan's Harukyo Nomura, Canada's Rebecca Lee-Bentham, and China's Jing Yan.

It's probably too much to ask everyone else in the field to come from any farther behind such a strong group of leaders.  So Stacy Lewis, Paula Creamer, Carlota Ciganda, and Cheyenne Woods at -6, Anna Nordqvist (whose double and 2 bogeys as she made the turn were her Achilles heel) and Azahara Munoz at -5, Ayako Uehara and Tiffany Joh at -4, Lee-Anne Pace and Pornanong Phatlum at -3, and Ya Ni Tseng, Hee Young Park, and Sandra Gal at -2 will probably need to challenge or surpass Choi's course record tomorrow to have a chance to win.

Realistically speaking, I'd be surprised if anyone not already double digits under par didn't win this thing.  Pettersen will have fire in her eyes as she tries to turn Melbourne into Sochi, Ko will be trying to win one for New Zealand on their closest rival's home turf, fellow teenager Lee will try again to win one before the home crowd, and Choi will try to win one for her dad, who's pledged to keep caddying for her until she gets her 1st LPGA victory.  No time like the present, Chella!

Friday, February 14, 2014

ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open Friday: Caroline Hedwall, Suzann Pettersen, Minjee Lee, Anna Nordqvist Lend Olympics Feel to 2nd LPGA Event of 2014

It's hard to look at the range of flags flying near the top of the leaderboard of the ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open and not think of the Winter Olympics.  Consider the range of countries represented:

  • Sweden:  Caroline Hedwall (65, -11), Anna Nordqvist (64, -8)
  • Norway:  Suzann Pettersen (68, -10), Marianne Skarpnord (69, -5)
  • Australia:  Minjee Lee (67, -9), Jessica Speechley (67, -6), Sarah Kemp (68, -4), Karrie Webb (69, -4)
  • New Zealand:  Lydia Ko (68, -8)
  • England:  Holly Clyburn (68, -8)
  • China:  Jing Yan (66, -7)
  • France:  Karine Icher (68, -7), Valentine Derrey (69, -6)
  • United States:  Morgan Pressel (68, -7), Paula Creamer (69, -7), Jessica Korda (70, -7), Amelia Lewis (67, -6), Cheyenne Woods (65, -5), Tiffany Joh (70, -5), Sydnee Michaels (71, -5), Jaclyn Sweeney (72, -5), Stacy Lewis (69, -4)
  • Spain:  Azahara Munoz (70, -6), Carlota Ciganda (70, -6)
  • Japan:  Ayako Uehara (68, -6), Harukyo Nomura (68, -6)
  • Netherlands:  Dewi Claire Schreefel (68, -6)
  • South Africa:  Lee-Anne Pace (67, -5)
  • Italy:  Giulia Sergas (71, -5)
  • South Korea:  Mi Hyang Lee (67, -5), Jenny Shin (67, -3)
  • Germany:  Caroline Masson (68, -4)
  • Paraguay:  Julieta Granada (70, -4)
  • Philippines Malaysia:  Kelly Tan (70, -4)
Which countries will medal this week?  Can't wait to find out!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

From Sochi to Melbourne: Suzann Pettersen Off to Rollicking Start at the ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open

For someone who claimed she's been pulling all-nighters to keep up with Team Norway's performances at the Winter Olympics, Suzann Pettersen came out fresh in her 1st competitive round of 2014, opening with a 66 at the ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open to take a 1-shot lead on Hee Young Park, Jessica Korda, Jaclyn Sweeney, and Marion Ricordeau.

But lots of players are responding to the 9-birdie gauntlet Pettersen flung down yesterday.  Anna Nordqvist put together a bogey-free 64 today to move to -8 for the week while fellow Swede Caroline Hedwall used a hole in 1 on the back (her front) and a late eagle on the front (her back), along with 5 birdies, to fire a 65 a move to -11 through 36 holes.  Meanwhile, last week's breakthrough winner Cheyenne Woods used an 8-birdie 65 to put her birdieless 40 that closed out yesterday's round firmly in the rear-view mirror.  Still, it's the player she beat who's closest to Hedwall right now:  Australian amateur phenom Minjee Lee eagled the par-4 1st (her 10th today) and followed it up with 3 birdies in her last 5 holes to post a bogey-free 31 on the front, a 67 today, and a -9 total at the halfway point of the tournament.  Between Woods and Lee are a bunch of Americans at -7 (Paula Creamer, Morgan Pressel, Jessica Korda) and a mini-UN at -6 (Ayako Uehara, Carlota Ciganda, Valentine Derrey, Jessica Speechley).  And let's not forget the teenage Singapore-based Chinese amateur sensation Jing Yan, who fired a bogey-free 66 to join the young Americans at -7.

So Pettersen, who's -1 through her 1st 6 holes today and is still the low scorer in the afternoon wave (ahead of Azahara Munoz at -6, Lydia Ko and Chella Choi at -5, and players like Stacy Lewis at -3, Karrie Webb at -2, and Beatriz Recari at -1), has her work cut out for her if she wants to medal this week.  At least she won't have to worry about Lexi Thompson (70-76, +2), who's very likely to miss the cut.  (It's also been a disappointing week for Laura Davies, Sophie Gustafson, Charley Hull, Melissa Reid, Vicky Hurst, and Moriya Jutanugarn, all of whom will definitely be missing the cut.)  Let's see what she's able to do in the rest of round 2!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Kewl Pairings at the ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open!

The ALPG has announced the tee times for the 1st round of the ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open.  (There, managed to link to all 3 tours that are tri-sponsoring this event in that last sentence.)  Here are my faves:

10th tee, 8:05 am:  Karrie Webb, Suzann Pettersen, Stacy Lewis
1st tee, 1:10 pm:  Ya Ni Tseng, Morgan Pressel, Lexi Thompson
1st tee, 1:00 pm:  Paula Creamer, Jessica Korda, Charley Hull
10th tee, 8:15 pm:  Azahara Munoz, Beatriz Recari, Lydia Ko
1st tee, 1:20 pm:  Laura Davies, Brittany Lincicome, Cheyenne Woods
1st tee, 1:30 pm:  Lorie Kane, Lee-Anne Pace, Caroline Hedwall
1st tee, 8:10 am:  Pat Hurst, Hee Young Park, Chella Choi
10th tee, 1:15 pm:  Pornanong Phatlum, Carlota Ciganda, Jenny Shin
1st tee, 9:00 am:  Sophie Gustafson, Moira Dunn, Tiffany Joh
1st tee, 8:00 am:  Jane Park, Gerina Piller, Caroline Masson
10th tee, 1:25 pm:  Anna Nordqvist, Nikki Campbell, Moriya Jutanugarn
10th tee, 8:25 am:  Catriona Matthew, Katherine Kirk, Stacey Keating
1st tee, 12:50 pm:  Lindsey Wright, Sarah Kemp, Minjee Lee
1st tee, 9:20 am:  Ryann O'Toole, Dori Carter, Ariya Jutanugarn
10th tee, 1:35 pm:  Giulia Sergas, Melissa Reid, Bree Arthur

There's a 95% chance the winner will come from among these pairings, but I wouldn't count out the likes of Sandra Gal (8:35 am off #10), Gwladys Nocera (7:45 am off #10), Min-Sun Kim (7:30 am off #1), Mi Hyang Lee (1:45 pm off #10), Su-Hyun Oh (2:25 pm off #10), or Joanna Klatten (12:45 pm off #10).

So who are you going to be following on Thursday?  Or wishing you were following?

[Update 1 (4:54 am):  Here's Ruthless Mike's preview.]

[Update 2 (5:23 am):  Here's a pre-tournament interview with Lydia Ko.  Very genuine and thoughtful answers.  Another very young woman with her head on straight.  And neat to hear that her aunt who introduced her to golf is in Melbourne to watch her play!]

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Yes! Cheyenne Woods Still Planning to Focus on the Symetra Tour in 2014

Randall Mell is reporting that Cheyenne Woods's plans to work her way onto the LPGA via the Symetra Tour this season haven't changed following her surprise victory at the Volvik RACV Ladies Masters.  This is a really smart decision.  I'm glad that Cheyenne has her head on straight and that she and her management team are being realistic and thinking long-term.

Other than winning on the LPGA this season, somehow earning enough via sponsor exemptions into full-field events to make the equivalent of top 40 on the 2014 LPGA money list, or finishing in the top 20 at Q-School at the end of the year, there's no other way onto the LPGA than via the  Symetra Tour.  And of the 4 ways, getting into the top 10 on the Symetra Tour money list is the best bet.  (And if her game keeps improving, she may win enough times on the Symetra Tour to earn a "battlefield promotion" onto the LPGA this season.)

Given how limited the Symetra Tour schedule is (and the LET schedule for that matter), I suspect Woods will still get her share of LET and LPGA starts this season.  All she has to do is focus on the Symetra Tour from roughly next week through June (playing a good proportion of their 1st 13 events).  If she's doing well there in the 1st half of the season, she can turn her attention to majors (she's already in the Women's British Open in July and the Evian in September, thanks to her LET victory, and there's nothing stopping her from trying to qualify for the U.S. Women's Open in June and maybe getting another sponsor exemption into the Wegmans LPGA Championship in August)--and then to the LET after Evian.  If not, she can mostly stay in the States and play enough of the Symetra Tour's last 5 events in late July through early September to guarantee herself an LPGA card for 2015.  And even if that doesn't happen, she should finish high enough on the money list to get a free pass into the final stage of Q-School.

For a player with Woods's skills and career trajectory, focusing on the Symetra Tour is the best possible decision for this season.  Kudos to her for making and committing to it!

So What Did You All Think of the Team Skating Event at Sochi?

I haven't had time to fire up the DVR and watch the long programs in the team skating competition at Sochi, but I have to say that having selected men's and women's singles, pairs, dancers preview their routines didn't do much for me.  Maybe it's the obvious home ice advantage in scoring, maybe it's the made-for-tv exhibition aspect of it, maybe it's the fact that it came first and impinges on the individual competition, maybe it was the scoring system (which levelled out differences between skates far too much IMHO), maybe it's just the fact that skating is such a hit-and-miss sport and I'd rather have the drama reserved for one competition....  Maybe it's just the fact that Japan doesn't have world-class pairs or dancers so they didn't have a chance.  Whatever it is, I was left underwhelmed.  How about you?

Monday, February 10, 2014

My Picks for the ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open

As surprised and impressed and pleased as I was by Cheyenne Woods's breakthrough victory yesterday, I can't justify putting her in my top 15 (or, to be honest, my top 25) for the ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open.  Here are my picks for this week's PakPicker over at Seoul

1. Ko
2. Korda
3. Creamer
4. Lewis, Stacy
5. Pettersen
6. Hedwall
7. Lee Minjee
8. Recari
9. Phatlum
10. Thompson
11. Tseng
12. Lincicome

Alts: Park Hee Young; Munoz; Webb

Hard to believe I couldn't find a way to fit Sandra Gal, Minsun Kim, Su-Hyun Oh, either of the Jutanugarns, Chella Choi, Anna Nordqvist, or Carlota Ciganda into my top 15, but I have a hunch that Lincicome is getting more serious about playing up to her vast potential, Tseng has turned a corner, and Minjee Lee is for real.  I'm also thinking Recari and Webb have a lot to prove after their rocky starts to 2014.  By the way, I'd have put Pettersen higher if I didn't suspect she was spending more time cheering Norway on in the Winter Olympics than preparing for this week!  With her and Ariya Jutanugarn, as well, I'm not quite sure how healthy they are, either.

Here's hoping Harukyo Nomura surprises me and that Ji-Yai Shin and In-Kyung Kim will be starting their seasons soon.

[Update 1 (2/11/14, 7:00 pm):  Here are Tony Jesselli's picks.  How about yours?]

Sunday, February 9, 2014

She Did It! Cheyenne Woods Holds Off Minjee Lee to Claim Her 1st Professional Victory!

Cheyenne Woods made the Volvik RACV Ladies Masters her 1st professional victory on a major tour when she shot a 5-birdie 69, highlighted by a bogey-free closing 33, to hold off Australian amateur sensation Minjee Lee by 2 shots.  The turning point came on the 9th hole, after Lee had birdied the 3 previous holes in a row to catch Woods at -12.  When Woods birdied the 492-yard par 5, she never looked back, adding 3 more birdies on the back 9 to outsprint Lee, who also played bogey-free golf on the back, but could birdie only the 12th and the 18th.  The only other players to finish double digits under par--Woods and Lee's playing partner Stacy Lee Bregman (72, -12) and Camilla Lennarth (70, -12)--also poured it on down the stretch, but it was too little, too late to catch Lee, much less deny Woods.

Woods's triumph came over a fairly impressive field.  Solheim Cup heroine Caroline Hedwall closed with a bogey-free 66 to catch KLPGA Rookie of the Year candidate Minsun Kim and Korean amateur So Young Lee at -9; Belen Mozo's 9-birdie 65, the low round of the week, allowed her to meet Jessica Korda, who fired a bogey-free 69 that included an eagle on the par-5 3rd, at -8; and Ya Ni Tseng joined Gwladys Nocera and Charley Hull in the top 10 at -7 thanks to an 8-birdie 66.  The cream of the field certainly rose to the top, or at least near it, as Dewi Claire Schreefel and Sarah Jane Smith's 69s moved them to -5, Laura Davies, Chella Choi, and Sarah Kemp's 70s brought them to -4 with Tiffany Joh and Xi Yu Lin, among others, while Lindsey Wright (-3), Kyu-Jung Baek (-3), Joanna Klatten (-3), Mi Hyang Lee (-2), Maria Hernandez (-2), Marianne Skarpnord (-2), Lee-Anne Pace (-1), Shin-Ae Ahn (-1), Ashleigh Simon (-1), Melissa Reid (E), Line Vedel (E), Thidappa Suwannapura (E), Amelia Lewis (E), Lorie Kane (+1), Katherine Kirk (+1), and Char Young Kim (+1) at least played respectably.

But the day belongs to Cheyenne Woods.  I've been following her career for quite a while, and from the very start, I noted that whereas it seemed to always take her awhile to adjust to the rigors of a new level of competition, she always seemed to adjust over time.  To tell you the truth, though, her 1st pro win outside the SunCoast Series is as much of a surprise to me as her first collegiate one was.  The only other time she'd been near the top of an LET leaderboard, back in last July, she flamed out pretty dramatically.  Although she had a solid 2013 on the LET, finishing 78th on their Order of Merit in only 11 starts, she just barely held onto her card and got off on the wrong foot at LPGA Q-School (finishing 15 shots behind Jaye Marie Green's then-record-breaking 62 on its opening day), eventually missing the 72-hole cut by 5 shots.  So for her to make this kind of quantum leap so early in 2014 is super-impressive!

We'll have to see what she does with this in the coming weeks and months.  Assuming she wants to take advantage of her win, she'll face a much, much stronger field this coming week at the tri-sponsored ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open (where she's currently not on the field list, just like defending champion Ji-Yai Shin).  After that, she'll have to decide whether to stay on the LET and accept sponsor invitations into LPGA events or try her luck on the Symetra Tour.  It's an open question whether it's easier to get 2015 LPGA membership via Category 9 (non-member top-40 equivalent on the LPGA money list) or Category 10 (top 10 on the Symetra Tour money list) on the Priority Status List, but I lean strongly toward the latter (although it might be possible to try both strategies).  Sure, it means giving up a lot of money, but it's better than going back to Q-School.  Whether her management team sees it the same way is another question.

But all that's for the future.  Right now, let's just appreciate Cheyenne Woods's career milestone!

[Update 1 (8:31 am):  Here's some linkage to the ALPG's story, Tony Jesselli's reaction, the AP's story via USA Today, and Randall Mell's coverage.]

[Update 2 (8:43 am):  Here's Martin Blake.]

[Update 3 (8:45 am):  Cheyenne's on the LPGA's field list.  But I think she won't have to get in on a sponsor exemption any more!  Wonder who will get hers?]

[Update 4 (9:14 am):  Here's Brent Kelley's take.  Now I'm curious to see how big this story gets during the Olympics.  Will it be overshadowed?  Or will it get picked up and hyped during the coverage?  There's no doubt this was a magical week for Woods, but so was Jaye Marie Green's last December in Q-School and she's going to need to adjust to the rigors of the LPGA like any other rookie.  I hope we'll be able to look back on both of their weeks as huge turning points in their careers, but nothing is guaranteed in golf.  Just got to keep trying to improve!]

[Update 5 (5:25 pm):  I appreciate bangkokbobby's point that Cheyenne is now making a name for herself.  Let's see where she takes it next!]

[Update 6 (5:31 pm):  Nice to see Cheyenne's name at the top of the LET Order of Merit!]

[Update 7 (5:55 pm):  Nice job by John Strege getting Cheyenne's mom's reactions!]

[Update 8 (9:38 pm):  Here's Stephanie Wei's quick take.]

[Update 9 (2/11/14, 6:54 am):  I appreciate the vote of confidence from Golf Babes!]

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Cheyenne Woods Your 36-Hole Co-Leader and 54-Hole Leader on the LET Down Under!

Cheyenne Woods has gone 69-67-71 in the 1st 3 rounds of the Volvik RACV Ladies Masters to take a 1-shot lead on 2nd-round co-leader Stacy Lee Bregman, a 2-shot lead on amateur sensation Minjee Lee, and a 3-shot lead on Trish Johnson and Camilla Lennarth into the final round.

In a crazy week during which Karrie Webb got DQed after the 2nd round, former world #1 and recent TLPGA winner Ya Ni Tseng is hanging with LET standouts Lee-Anne Pace and Melissa Reid 12 shots off the pace, other 2014 winners like Jessica Korda (-4), Joanna Klatten (-4), and Mi Hyang Lee (-1) are tiny dots in Woods's rear-view mirror, expected contenders like Gwladys Nocera (-4), Caroline Hedwall (-2), and Chella Choi (-1) are also back in the pack, and other much-heralded young golfers like Minsun Kim (-6), Xi Yu Lin (-5), Charley Hull (-4), and Kyu-Jung Baek (-3) are hardly any closer to the lead, Woods has been a birdie machine, making 17 of them already this week, with 7 coming in a roller-coaster round today.  Oh yeah, and she eagled the long par-4 1st hole yesterday, too.  Could this be her week to break through for her 1st professional victory?

Given that 63s have been the final-round winning scores the last 2 ALPG events, this is no time to be handing Woods the trophy.  But wouldn't it be cool if she grabbed it tomorrow?

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Fascinating Leaderboard at the Volvik RACV Ladies Masters

Jessica Korda and Katie Burnett lead the Volvik RACV Ladies Masters after firing 5-under-par 68s.  They lead Lorie Kane, Lee-Anne Pace, Valentine Derrey, Stacy Lee Bregman, and Cheyenne Woods by 1 shot and Line Vedel, Dewi Claire Schreefel, Sarah Kemp, Kristie Smith, Rebecca Artis, Yu Yang Zhang, and Minjee Lee by 2.  As Ruthless Mike points out, a lot's changed since I noted that Caroline Hedwall had jumped out to an early lead.  In fact, just after I posted, she doubled the par-5 3rd and Korda birdied it, a 3-shot swing that didn't change over the rest of the front (their back).  The day was full of such swings, but I don't have time to go into details this morning.

Instead, I'll simply list the scores of notables after day 1:
  • -2 Gwladys Nocera, Melissa Reid, Tiffany Joh, Katherine Kirk
  • -1 Chella Choi, Char Young Kim, Stacey Keating
  • E Laura Davies, Sophie Gustafson, Maria Hjorth, Ya Ni Tseng, Mi Hyang Lee, Lindsey Wright, Belen Mozo, Charley Hull, Su-Hyun Oh
  • +1 Karrie Webb, Joanna Klatten, Ashleigh Simon, Kyu-Jung Baek
  • +2 Christine Song, Xi Yu Lin
  • +3 Becky Brewerton, Carly Booth
  • +4 Giulia Sergas, Vicky Hurst, Giulia Molinaro
  • +5 Nikki Campbell, Brooke Pancake
  • +6 Minea Blomqvist
Sorry, I can't go into explanations of why I find all this so fascinating, but I'm heading out to work and either teaching or in meetings without a gap until 5!

[Update 1 (8:25 pm):  OK, back from work and have a free minute to say a few things about the leaderboard when I posted this--and now.  So why "fascinating"?  Well, among the players you'd expect near the top of the leaderboard (Korda, Pace, Nocera, Hedwall), you have a pair of wily LET veterans and a pair of rising stars (both of whom play go-for-broke golf).  And who would have thought that Lorie Kane or Cheyenne Woods would be at the top of the leaderboard?  Plus, it's nice to see folks who have been struggling like Melissa Reid, Tiffany Joh, and Katherine Kirk shoot good rounds early, yet it's surprising to see the group at +1 that far back, as the ones I noted above have all been playing well of late.

In that vein, isn't it cool that Woods is now leading the tournament?  She's -5 through 14 in the 2nd round and 2-up on Trish Johnson and Stacy Lee Bregman!]

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Here Comes the Volvik RACV Ladies Masters!

The LET's Volvik RACV Ladies Masters is under way Down Under and it's going to be a great early-season test for 8-time winner and Hall of Famer Karrie Webb, former world #1 Ya Ni Tseng, the LPGA's 1st champion of 2014 Jessica Korda, last week's winner Mi Hyang Lee, veterans Laura Davies, Lorie Kane, Sophie Gustafson, Gwladys Nocera, Lee-Anne Pace, and Maria Hjorth LET rising stars Caroline Hedwall and Charley Hull, LPGAers Chella Choi, Vicky Hurst, Tiffany Joh, Brooke Pancake, Belen Mozo, and Cindy LaCrosse, KLPGAers Shin-Ae Ahn and Kyu-Jung Baek, highly-ranked amateurs Minjee Lee and Su Hyun Oh, and LPGA rookies Xi Yu Lin, Giulia Molinaro, Line Vedel, Joanna Klatten, Stacey Keating, Daniela Holmqvist, Marta Silva Zamora, Kristie Smith, Kelly Tan, and Anya Alvarez.  And, oh yeah, Cheyenne Woods!

With most of the morning wave already on their second 9, Hedwall leads at -4, Korda, Vedel, and Sarah Kemp are 1 back, Nocera, Keating, and Rebecca Cood are 2 behind, and Joh, Oh, Lin, Dewi Claire Schreefel, Kristie Smith, and Kylie Walker are 3 off the pace.  More tomorrow when everyone's in!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

OK, Can We Start Talking About Yet Another Inbee Effect on the LPGA? Now Irene Cho Ties the Knot!

Ever since Inbee Park credited her rise to world #1 to her happiness over her relationship with her fiance (see Fairways and Forehands for the most recent mention!), does it seem to you that she's opened the engagement/marriage floodgates on the LPGA? Well, it's time to add Irene Cho (married) to the list that includes Hee Kyung Seo (married), Paula Creamer (engaged), Natalie Gulbis (married), Brittany Lang (married), Mariajo Uribe (married), Brooke Pancake (married), Paola Moreno (married)....

Of course, the bigger question is whether they'll all follow the Juli Inkster track rather than the Annika/Lorena track when/after that first baby is born!  But for now it seems Inbee is the role model!

Monday, February 3, 2014

So Who Won the Super Bowl?

So I'm here in Albany for my union's delegate assembly and had to go to bed early because I'm driving across the state this morning to make it back for my university's senate meeting.  Got up early to finish writing a letter of recommendation for an awesome student for a system-wide award and just realized I don't even know who won the Super Bowl.  How awful is that?

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Mi Hyang Lee Closes with 63 to Take NZ Open by 1 Shot over Lydia Ko

Mi Hyang Lee started her final round an hour and 20 minutes before the last group in the ISPS Handa New Zealand Open teed off, a full 8 shots behind 2nd-round leader Anya Alvarez, 6 shots behind Lydia Ko, and 5 shots behind Beth Allen.  But after following up an eagle on the par-5 2nd hole with 7 birdies between the 5th and 16th holes and posting a bogey-free 63, she stood at -9 with 21 golfers still on the course.

In the end, only 4 of them had a legitimate shot at passing her:  after Hyun Soo Kim got it to -6 but tripled the par-4 15th, after KLPGA Rookie of the Year favorite Kyu-Jung Baek fell from -5 to -3 on a birdieless 74, the only player outside the final group with even an outside shot at beating Lee was 1st-round co-leader Seonwoo Bae.  Here's how all of her lead chase pack fared:

  • Bae birdied 3 of her 1st 4 holes but still ended up with a 37 on the front--thanks to a double bogey on the 350-yard par-4 3rd and bogeys on 6 and 9--to fall to -4.  Even though she birdied her 1st 2 holes on the back to give herself a shot, her bogey-free 33 on the back just wasn't low enough to catch Lee.
  • Allen was stuck in neutral on the front, offsetting her 2 birdies with 2 bogeys to stay at -5, but she roared into contention with 4 birdies in her 1st 6 holes on the back.  However, she went par-bogey-bogey over her final 3 holes to finish 2 back.
  • Alvarez birdied 2 of her 1st 7 holes to get to -10, but fell to -8 after going bogey-bogey-birdie-bogey.  She then failed to make a birdie the rest of the way and ended up 2 shots behind Lee when she suffered a walkoff bogey.
  • Ko followed up an opening bogey with birdies on 2, 4, and 10 to get to -8, but she bogeyed the 350-yard par-4 13th and could make only 1 birdie the rest of the way to fall 1 shot shy of a playoff with Lee.
In short, everyone in the final pairing came to the last tee needing a birdie to force a playoff, and none of them could find one.

Lee wasn't the only player to go low today:  Sarah-Jane Smith's bogey-free 65 vaulted her into T6 with Bree Arthur (66) and Marion Ricordeau (68) at -5, while Nikki Campbell's 68 tied her for 9th with Hyun Soo Kim at -4 and 67s by Lorie Kane and Stacy Lee Bregman allowed them to catch Baek, Charley Hull, Marta Silva Zamora, amateur Jing Yan, and Jessica Speechley at -3 (T11).  But the day belonged to the golfer who was most recently ranked 11th in her LPGA Class of 2012.  It just goes to show that someone whose previous best finish as a professional was her September 2012 Symetra Classic victory on the LPGA's developmental tour has it in her to be beat one of the best players in the world on any given Sunday.  Let's hope the Super Bowl is as exciting as this finish was!

[Update 1 (2/3/14, 5:31 am:  Lee gets the Golf Babes treatment!]

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Lydia Ko Trails Anya Alvarez by 2 in NZ Open

American Anya Alvarez fired a bogey-free 66 in the 2nd round of the ISPS Handa New Zealand Open to get to -8 and take a 2-shot lead on world #4 Lydia Ko into tomorrow's final round.  Ko, who's fighting a stomach bug, made 5 birdies but missed makeable par saves on 9 and 18.  Also in the hunt are American Beth Allen (68, -5), KLPGA Rookie of the Year favorite Kyu-Jung Baek (69, -5), 1st-round co-leader Seonwoo Bae (71, -5), Hyun Soo Kim (66, -4), and Jessica Speechley (70, -4).  With the likes of Charley Hull, Kristie Smith, Marta Silva Zamora, and Sally Watson at -2, anything can happen.

Here are some other notables' scores:
  • -1 Lindsey Wright (70), Cathryn Bristow (71), Stacey Keating (72)
  • E Linda Wessberg (71), Christel Boeljon (72), Nikki Campbell (72), Mi Hyang Lee (72), Caroline Martens (73), Jean Chua (73)
  • +1 Cecelia Cho (72), Stephanie Na (73)
  • +2 Lorie Kane (72), Xi Yu Lin (72), Laura Davies (74), Melissa Reid (74), Sarah-Jane Smith (77)
Teenage amateur Shelly Shin fired a 68 to make the cut, but many good golfers missed the cut this week, including Gwladys Nocera, Cheyenne Woods, Amelia Lewis, Daniela Holmqvist, Joanna Klatten, Frances Bondad, Ashley Ona, Tamie Durdin, Minea Blomqvist, Valentine Derrey, Sophie Gustafson, Katie Futcher, Julia Boland, and Carly Booth, while Sarah Kemp withdrew.

Let's see if Ko can keep her legend growing tomorrow!

[Update 1 (5:47 am): Frances Bondad just announced her retirement on twitter!
Best wishes on what's next for her!]