Friday, October 31, 2014

Hisako Higuchi Morinaga Ladies Friday: Ji-Hee Lee's 66 Gives Her 2-Shot Lead on Momoko Ueda

Ji-Hee Lee fired a 7-birdie 66 to take a 2-shot lead on Momoko Ueda and Mihoko Iseri into the 2nd round of the Hisako Higuchi Morinaga Ladies.  Mi-Jeong Jeon and Esther Lee are only 3 back, Ji-Yai Shin, Yumiko Yoshida, Ai Suzuki, and Natsuka Hori are 4 behind, and Bo-Mee Lee, Miki Saiki, and the visiting Mika Miyazato are 5 off the pace.  Shin and Erika Kikuchi both got holes-in-1 on the 152-yard par-3 8th, while Kaori Makitani eagled the 487-yard par-5 6th.  With money-list leader Sun-Ju Ahn and last week's winner Shiho Oyama sitting this one out, it's a great opportunity for for Shin and Lee to make up some ground.  Let's see if they can make a move tomorrow!

Fubon LPGA Taiwan Championship Friday: Inbee Park and Mirim Lee Fire 62s; Park Leads Shanshan Feng by 3

World #1 Inbee Park followed up yesterday's 64 at the Fubon LPGA Taiwan Championship with a 62 to get to -18 and take a 3-shot lead on Shanshan Feng.  Park's ten-under-par round included a bogey on the par-4 4th and an eagle on the par-4 8th, along with 9 birdies, while Feng's 65 was marred only by back-to-back bogeys early on the back 9.

Even as Park and Feng battle it out for world domination, the Rookie of the Year race is heating up.  Mirim Lee fired a bogey-free 62 of her own today to catch Lydia Ko (65) and Line Vedel (68) at -10.  Despite birdieing 6 holes in a row on the front and 7 of her 1st 10, ROY race leader Ko offset her last birdie of the day on the par-3 14th with a bogey on the par-4 15th.  As Lee racked up 5 birdies on each side, Vedel had an up-and-down front, with 2 bogeys and 2 birdies, but turned it on during the back with 5 birdies (and a lone bogey) in her last 8 holes.  If either Lee or Vedel are going to put any pressure on Ko down the home stretch, they're going to need to outdistance her over the weekend and challenge Park and Feng for the title.

That's a tall order, especially when you consider that Azahara Munoz joins them at -10, recent world #1 and leader in every significant year-long LPGA race Stacy Lewis is at -9, 2-time champion Suzann Pettersen is at -7, and there are a bunch of golfers at -8 playing well enough to win this thing, including So Yeon Ryu, Na Yeon Choi, and Chella Choi.

Given how many big numbers have been posted already this week--Lewis doubled the par-4 9th, Michelle Wie made her 2nd triple of the week, this time on the par-4 4th (she's well back at -6), Brittany Lang tripled the par-5 12th (she's -7)--it's too soon to think that the lead chase pack near -10 can't chase down Park and Feng.  But it's likely that somebody in that pack will need to put together a course record on Saturday or Sunday to really put some pressure on them.

[Update 1 (8:10 am):  Congrats to Danielle Kang for winning her 2nd car in as many weeks with her 2nd hole in 1!!!]

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Fubon LPGA Taiwan Championship Thursday: Inbee Park and Shanshan Feng Open with 64s

Coming off a 2nd-place finish to Hyo Joo Kim at a KLPGA major last week, new world #1 Inbee Park matched Shanshan Feng's bogey-free 64 at the Fubon LPGA Taiwan Championship today.  Park and Feng were able to do what So Yeon Ryu, Michelle Wie, and Na Yeon Choi were unable to.  Where Ryu got to -9 but finished bogey-double bogey, Wie took a triple on the par-4 15th and had to recover for a 68, and Choi had to scramble for a 68 of her own after doubling the par-4 11th, the 2 co-leaders played spectacular and steady golf throughout the day, with each putting on a burst of her own.  For Park, it was 5 birdies in her last 7 holes, while for Feng it was 5 birdies in her last 10 holes.

There were eagles galore today, as well.  Feng, Line Vedel (66), and In-Kyung Kim (67) eagled the par-5 6th, Ryu the par-4 11th, and Harukyo Nomura (66) and Stacy Lewis (67) the par-5 2nd.  So no worries for Lydia Ko (69), Suzann Pettersen (70), or my fave Ai Miyazato (who fought back from a horrific start for a 73).  Looks like it's going to be all about getting on a roll and keeping on a roll this week!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

My Picks for the Fubon LPGA Taiwan Championship

Between going to Clinton for my dad's retirement conference/roast this past weekend and trying to catch up at work, I haven't been able to write about Lee-Anne Pace's and Shiho Oyama's victories.  But the Fubon LPGA Taiwan Championship is already upon us, so it's time for me to make my picks!

1. Park Inbee
2. Ryu
3. Choi Na Yeon
4. Feng
5. Pettersen
6. Lewis, Stacy
7. Ko
8. Choi Chella
9. Wie
10. Masson
11. Phatlum
12. Lincicome

Alts: Nordqvist, Lang, Park Hee Young

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Blue Bay LPGA Saturday: Lee-Anne Pace Catches Jessica Korda at -11

Lee-Anne Pace won an LET event last week in her home country and her 7-birdie 66 on moving day at the Blue Bay LPGA has given her a great shot at making it 2 in a row halfway around the world.  To do it, she's going to have to get through Jessica Korda, who bounced back from an opening double bogey with 7 birdies of her own the rest of the way today to join the South African at -11.

But don't think for an instant Pace and Korda will be in some kind of match-play situation tomorrow on Hainan Island.  Chella Choi has been knocking on the door for years now and fired a bogey-free 66 of her own to move to -10.  Shanshan Feng, Michelle Wie, and Brittany Lang are only 2 behind the co-leaders.  2-time U.S. Women's Amateur champion Danielle Kang and near-Rookie of the Year last season Caroline Masson are only 3 down.  Toss in Austin Ernst and Wanyao Lu (Haruka Morita when she competes on the JLPGA) at -7 and Beatriz Recari at -6 and you have some really good golfers ready to pounce if the co-leaders ease up on the accelerator or spin out on a curve tomorrow!

Going by their stats in the 1st 2 rounds, not to mention their recent victories, I'd say this is going to come down to Pace vs. Feng.  But given how few of my picks for the week are actually in contention, you should probably ignore that prediction!

Nobuta Group Masters GC Ladies Saturday: Shiho Oyama Extends Lead to 3 on All-Star Lead Chase Pack

Shiho Oyama faltered a little midway through her moving-day round at the Nobuta Group Masters GC Ladies, but bounced back with 4 birdies in her last 11 holes of bogey-free golf to move to -15 through 54 holes--enough to hold onto a 3-shot lead on the charging Yumiko Yoshida and Teresa Lu (who fired a bogey-free 66 and a bogey-free 67, respectively) and open up a 4-shot lead on JLPGA money-list leader Sun-Ju Ahn and 21-year-old Ayaka Watanabe.  With Momoko Ueda at -10, Ai Suzuki at -9, Paula Creamer at -8, and Bo-Mee Lee at -6, Oyama has a great chance to eliminate most of her competition if she can make it 4 rounds in the 60s this week.  But Watanabe's 63 and Yukari Nishiyama's 65 yesterday have to give everyone in the field within 10 shots of the lead (and that includes last year's money-list title-holder Rikako Morita and living legend Yuri Fudoh) just the slightest glimmer of hope.  Should be a great finish tomorrow!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Checking in on the LPGA and JLPGA: Jessica Korda, Michelle Wie, Shanshan Feng, Shiho Oyama, Ayaka Watanabe, Sun-Ju Ahn Lead the Packs

Just have time for a quick update on the Blue Bay LPGA and Nobuta Group Masters GC Ladies tournaments.

The LPGA event on Hainan Island was supposed to be 72 holes, but the 2nd round was washed out by heavy rains and the tournament will be reduced to 54 holes.  That puts an even greater premium on the great start by Jessica Korda, who opened with a bogey-free 31 on the front and held on for a 66 that gave her a 1-shot lead on Michelle Wie, Shanshan Feng, Brittany Lang, Caroline Masson, Lee-Anne Pace, and Jodi Ewart Shadoff and a 2-shot lead on Cristie Kerr, In-Kyung Kim, Chella Choi, Caroline Hedwall, Danielle Kang, and Dewi Claire Schreefel.  Of course, with 43 golfers within 5 shots of the lead, this is still anyone's tournament, and there are plenty of great golfers lurking.

Over on the JLPGA, Shiho Oyama has gone 65-67 to take a 1-shot lead on Ayaka Watanabe, who fired a bogey-free 63, and a 2-shot lead on Sun-Ju Ahn, who's looking for her 3rd-straight victory on tour.  The visiting Paula Creamer is 6 shots off the pace, while Ji-Yai Shin, who had gone as cold in her last few events as she had been hot in her previous dozen starts, bounced back from an opening 77 with a 66 today to make the cut by a hair.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

My Picks for the Blue Bay LPGA

The Blue Bay LPGA starts in about 12 hours.  For the players in the field, it's a great opportunity to take advantage of the absence of the LPGAers in the running for best 2014 in the world of women's professional golf, Stacy Lewis and Inbee Park (who, BTW, are tied atop the Rolex Rankings), not to mention Suzann Pettersen (who's gotten a huge percentage of her career victory total on tour in Asia), So Yeon Ryu, Na Yeon Choi, and others Tony Jesselli mentions in his tournament preview.  For me, it's one of my last chances to get back in contention in the race to win the season-long PakPicker!  So here goes:

1. Feng, Shanshan
2. Choi
3. Ko
4. Lincicome
5. Lee Mirim
6. Nordqvist
7. Munoz
8. Yang, Amy
9. Kerr
10. Wie
11. Thompson
12. Shin

Alts:  Park Hee Young; Hur; Ciganda

This is one of those weeks where a mercurial player like Caroline Hedwall or Laura Davies could get hot or a slumping player like Ya Ni Tseng or In-Kyung Kim could find her game, however.  With so many relatively untested Chinese pros and amateurs in the field, almost any regular LPGA member could step up and win this thing!  And who knows what role "home court advantage" will play for the top Chinese golfers?

[Update 1 (6:14 am):  Inbee Park's facing off against Hyo Joo Kim, Kyu Jung Baek, and the rest of the top KLPGA players in the last major of 2014 on that tour this week.  A good finish there could land her alone at #1 in the Rolex Rankings!]

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

22 Under 22: October 2014 Update

It's been awhile since I've updated my last ranking of the top 22 female professionals under 22 years of age--but they haven't stopped winning!  Leaving the list due to age are Ha Na Jang (6 KLPGA victories), Misuzu Narita (5 JLPGA victories, including 1 major), Natsuka Hori (2 JLPGA victories), Jenny Shin, Danielle Kang, and Rebecca Lee-Bentham.  They all turned 22 this year (Kang yesterday!).

In what follows, I note wins and majors on the top women's professional tours, along with Rolex Rankings and Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index ratings and ranks.

Simply the Best

1. Lydia Ko (4/24/97): 4 LPGA, 1 KLPGA, 1 LET; 9.75 RR [#3]; 69.27 GSPI [#5]
2. Lexi Thompson (2/10/95): 4 LPGA [1 major], 1 LET; 6.12 RR [#9]; 70.36 GSPI [#23]
3. Hyo Joo Kim (7/14/95): 1 LPGA/LET [major], 1 JLPGA, 6 KLPGA [2 majors]; 5.59 RR [#10]; 67.93 GSPI [n.r.]

The Next Best

4. Jessica Korda (2/27/93): 3 LPGA; 3.49 RR [#25]; 71.40 GSPI [#62]
5. Kyu Jung Baek (10/15/95): 1 LPGA, 4 KLPGA [1 major]; 4.50 RR [#13]; 70.69 GSPI [n.r.]
6. Sei Young Kim (1/21/93): 5 KLPGA [1 major]; 2.50 RR [#40]; 72.66 GSPI [n.r.]
7. In Gee Chun (8/10/94): 3 KLPGA [1 major]; 3.51 RR [#24]; 69.41 GSPI [n.r.]

Rising Stars

8. Charley Hull (3/20/96): 1 LET; 2.82 [#34]; 71.72 GSPI [#77]
9. Ariya Jutanugarn (11/23/95): 1 LET; 1.59 RR [#77]; 71.79 GSPI [#83]
10. Mamiko Higa (10/11/93): 2 JLPGA; 1.21 RR [#104]; 72.17 GSPI [#106]
11. Ai Suzuki (5/9/94): 1 JLPGA [major]; 1.10 RR [#113]; 72.11 GSPI [#111]
12. Harukyo Nomura (11/25/92): 1 JLPGA; 1.50 RR [#81]; 71.26 GSPI [#56]
13. Ayaka Watanabe (9/19/93): 1 JLPGA; 1.31 RR [#91]; 71.01 GSPI [#41]
14. Mi Hyang Lee (21): 1 LET; 1.66 RR [#72]; 71.16 GSPI [#50]
15. Phoebe Yao (12/15/92): 1 JLPGA; .95 RR [#131]; 71.50 GSPI [#67]

Quantum Leap Candidates

16. Minjee Lee (5/27/96): 1.61 RR [#76]; 70.00 GSPI [#15]
17. Jin Young Ko (7/7/95): 2.26 RR [#47]; 71.25 GSPI (n.r.)
18. Min Sun Kim (2/9/95): 1.69 RR [#69]; 72.10 GSPI (n.r.)
19. Moriya Jutanugarn (7/28/94): 1.11 RR [#111]; 72.44 GSPI [#118]
20. Su-Hyun Oh (5/23/96): .30 RR [#301]; 73.16 GSPI [n.r.]

Dark Horses

21. Hikari Fujita (9/26/94): .98 RR [#128]; 72.19 GSPI [#108]
22. Xiyu Lin (2/25/96): .95 RR [#134]; 72.47 GSPI [#121]

So who do you think should be on this list? What do you think of my ranking?  Anyone you'd expect to make it through LPGA Q-School's final stage I should be considering for when Harukyo Nomura, Jessica Korda, and Sei Young Kim graduate?

[Update 1 (12:36 pm):  Here's HappyFan on the KLPGA's Class of '95 (which includes In Gee Chun who was born a few months before that year started!).]

Monday, October 20, 2014

So Now Who Do You Think Has Had the Best 2014 in Women's Professional Golf? And Will?

So far, the title for best 2014 in women's golf is down to 8 golfers.  Each has at least 3 worldwide wins on major women's professional tours.  As impressive as Stacy Lewis has been, her difficulty in sealing the deal has opened the door to some golfers who have been racking up wins of late.  Still, Stacy's still my #1 candidate:
Of course, a lot can happen down the home stretch, with 6 JLPGA, 5 LPGA and 5 KLPGA, and 4 LET events left to go before the year is out.  Maybe someone will leave all these players in the dust if she really heats up as the temperatures continue to go down.

In a nutshell, the best of the best women golfers in the world have not yet begun to fight!  Who do you think will prevail in the end?

Sunday, October 19, 2014

LPGA KEB-HanaBank Championship Weekend: Newly 19-Year-Old Kyu Jung Baek Gives Herself Birthday Present with Playoff Win Over Brittany Lincicome and In Gee Chun

Kyu Jung Baek turned 19 on October 15th but could celebrate her birthday only with an opening 74 at the LPGA KEB-HanaBank Championship.  Yet with maturity beyond her years she figured out how to handle the winds and the Sky 72 Ocean course and her own balky back as she bounced back with rounds of 69, 68, and 67.  Her final-round back-9 31 included 5 birdies in a row and was so good that she even gave herself a chance to sink a curling downhill 6-footer on the par-5 18th for the win.  Even though she missed that putt, Baek succeeded in forcing her way into a playoff at -10 with Brittany Lincicome and 20-year-old In Gee Chun, who themselves closed with fantastic 66s to outdistance world #2 Inbee Park (68-67, -9), Michelle Wie (67-67, -8), Catriona Matthew (70-67, -8), Hyo Joo Kim (71-66, -7) and the rest of the 31 players within 5 shots of the lead with 18 holes left to play.  What's more, she learned from that miss and from Lincicome's birdie miss from a similar angle and distance on the 1st playoff hole.  Baek calmly sunk the downhill 5-footer to secure her 1st-ever LPGA victory and 4th KLPGA title of 2014.

I was able to cap off a great birthday by watching Baek catch fire on the back in the middle of the night.  In a week when heralded (and higher-ranked) under-22s struggled--Sei Young Kim hovered between 71 and 74 and finished T42 at +2, Ha Na Jang opened with an 80 and even 30-straight under-par rounds after it only got her back to T35 at +1, Lydia Ko could never get it going and finished T29 at -1, Minjee Lee was either awesome or awful (she sandwiched a 78 and a 74 between an opening 69 and a closing 64 to finish T24 at -3), and Kim needed that Sunday charge to finally get it out of neutral--Baek found her tempo and found the hole, making great chips, pitches, and sand saves when she needed to and taking advantage of almost every birdie opportunity she gave herself.  For the week, she took 15 putts fewer than Inbee Park, who has probably been the best putter in the world for at least the last 4 years.  Yes, Baek hit the fewest greens in regulation of anyone in the top 20 except Yoon Kyung Heo and Julieta Granada, but Heo had 120 putts and Granada 107 to Baek's 102.  It's that kind of putting that wins you tournaments on any tour.

Speaking of which, it'll be interesting to see if Baek decides to take up LPGA membership next year.  Will she make like Teresa Lu and decide to stay on her home tour for at least another year?  For that matter, which KLPGA stars will decide by November 18th to sign up for the final stage of LPGA Q-School?  Ha Na Jang has already expressed an interest in doing this....

Looking ahead to the inaugural Blue Bay LPGA event on Hainan Island, I'm hoping Michelle Wie will be able to play as planned.  As well as she scored on the weekend, I saw her shaking her right hand after many shots down the home stretch today.  Here's hoping she's healthy enough to keep teeing it up.  As excited as I am to watch LET winner this week Lee-Anne Pace tee it up against a bunch of Chinese up-and-comers (Xi Yu Lin, Jiayun Li, Yu Yang Zhang, Yuting Shi, Liqing Chen, star amateurs Jing Yan and Haruka Morita/Wanyao Lu, and new pros Simin Feng and Yu Liu) and veterans (Li-Ying Ye, Hongmei Yang, Hong Tian, and Panpan Yan) and LPGA stars (Lydia Ko, Shanshan Feng, Lexi Thompson, Cristie Kerr, Anna Nordqvist, Azahara Munoz, Brittany Lincicome, Caroline Hedwall, Mirim Lee, Amy Yang, Morgan Pressel, and Ya Ni Tseng, among others), a tournament without Wie just doesn't have as much buzz in the U.S. and world media.  Especially because Stacy Lewis, Inbee Park, Suzann Pettersen, and Na Yeon Choi are taking the week off to prepare for the Fubon LPGA Taiwan Championship (where Ai Miyazato got a sponsor invite!), the Blue Bay needs all the help it can get.

Fujitsu Ladies Sunday: Sun-Ju Ahn Prevails Over Sakura Yokomine and Erika Kikuchi in Playoff

Sun-Ju Ahn got her 2nd JLPGA victory in a row, bringing her season total to 5 and career total to 18, by triumphing over Sakura Yokomine and Erika Kikuchi with a birdie on the 1st playoff hole that earned her the Fujitsu Ladies title.

The golfer I'm trying to get everyone to recognize as "Knockout" saved her best punch for last, but for a long time it looked like she had thrown away the tournament.  When Ahn made 3 bogeys in a 5-hole stretch midway through the front 9, she dropped to -9 and gave the lead to Kikuchi, who kept it even after bogeying the 193-yard par-3 8th to fall back to -10.  But after Ahn and Kikuchi both birdied the 533-yard par-5 10th, and Kikuchi bogeyed the 405-yard par-4 11th, they found themselves tied for the lead at -10.  Then, even as Ahn stalled, Kikuchi and Yokomine went on runs:  Kikuchi birdied 3 of her next 5 holes, while Yokomine got off her 15-hole par train (dating back to the end of yesterday's round) with birdies on 14, 15, and 16.  At that point, Kikuchi was -13, Yokomine was -12, and Ahn, who birdied the par-5 16th, as well, was -11.  But Kikuchi and Yokomine bogeyed 17 and Kikuchi, needing a par to win, bogeyed it.  We had a playoff, and the rest is history.

Even though it ended up being a 3-player race to the finish, a few other players had the chance to crash the party.  Asako Fujimoto got it to -9 with 12 holes to play, but was +2 and birdieless the rest of the way to settle for T5 at -7 with Rikako Morita and Soo-Yun Kang.  Onnarin Sattayabanphot was -9 with 8 to go, but bogeyed 11, 17, and 18 to fall to T8 at -6 with Megumi Kido.  Teresa Lu's bogey-free 69 earned her a solo 4th at -8, but as 2 of her birdies came in the last 3 holes, it really was too little, too late to put any pressure on Ahn, Yokomine, and Kikuchi.  The visiting Mika Miyazato (71, E) and Ai Miyazato (74, +2) were never factors.

Ahn's win made her the fastest player in JLPGA history to break the 600 million yen barrier, beating Yokomine's record by 48 starts.  It also extended her lead on the tour money list.

1. Sun-Ju Ahn ¥136.09M
2. Bo-Mee Lee ¥110.27M
3. Ji-Yai Shin ¥96.59M
4. Misuzu Narita ¥91.57M
5. Teresa Lu ¥84.34M
6. Miki Sakai ¥83.89M
7. Na-Ri Lee ¥69.39M
8. Erina Hara ¥59.05M
9. Esther Lee ¥55.06M
10. Ayaka Watanabe ¥53.76M
11. Onnarin Sattayabanphot ¥52.76M
12. Shiho Oyama ¥50.25M
13. Lala Anai ¥48.41M
14. Rikako Morita ¥46.17M
15. Ritsuko Ryu ¥43.86M
16. Ai Suzuki ¥43.35M
17. Ji-Hee Lee ¥41.13M
18. Momoko Ueda ¥39.55M
19. Mi-Jeong Jeon ¥37.86M
20. Erika Kikuchi ¥34.97M
21. Sakura Yokomine ¥33.89M
22. Saiki Fujita ¥33.39M
23. Kaori Ohe ¥32.16M
24. Yuki Ichinose ¥31.61M
25. Phoebe Yao ¥30.40M
26. Mami Fukuda ¥30.05M
27. Mayu Hattori ¥29.60M
28. Yumiko Yoshida ¥29.34M
29. Junko Omote ¥29.01M
30. Asako Fujimoto ¥26.85M
31. Hikari Fujita ¥26.71M
32. Yeon-Ju Jung ¥25.68M
33. Soo-Yun Kang ¥24.16M
34. Rumi Yoshiba ¥23.92M
35. Kotono Kozuma ¥23.63M
36. Megumi Kido ¥23.62M
37. Na-Ri Kim ¥22.53M
38. Yukari Baba ¥22.47M
39. Mamiko Higa ¥21.42M
40. Natsuka Hori ¥21.31M
41. Rui Kitada ¥20.94M
42. Shanshan Feng ¥20.04M
43. Akane Iijima ¥20.01M
44. Yukari Nishiyama ¥19.29M
45. Miki Saiki ¥18.22M
46. Megumi Shimokawa ¥17.82M
47. Eun-Bi Jang ¥17.47M
48. Da-Ye Na ¥17.36M
49. Ah-Reum Hwang ¥16.24M
50. Nana Yamashiro ¥15.97M

Next up on the JLPGA is the Nobuta Group Masters GC Ladies, which Sakura Yokomine won last year.  Bo-Mee Lee and Ji-Yai Shin return to a very different tour than the one they took a break from.  Let's see if they fare better against Ahn's knockout punches than the Miyazatos and everyone else did this week!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Fujitsu Ladies Saturday: Sun-Ju Ahn Leads Erika Kikuchi by 1, Sakura Yokomine by 2

Sun-Ju Ahn continued her fine play at the Fujitsu Ladies on moving day with a 5-birdie 69, but another walkoff bogey dropped her back to -11, which opened the door for a persistent Erika Kikuchi, whose bogey-free 33 on the back pulled her within 1 stroke of the lead, and Sakura Yokomine, who's had a quiet 2014 but who fired a bogey-free 65 to move to -9.  With Onnarin Sattayabanphot eagling the par-5 10th to move to -8, Mami Fukuda birdieing 4 of her last 5 holes to get to -7, and Mihoko Iseri firing her 2nd-straight 69, there are a few players who can deny Ahn her 18th career JLPGA victory tomorrow.

But Teresa Lu and Phoebe Yao at -5, Miki Sakai and Soo-Yun Kang at -4, Misuzu Narita and Yumiko Yoshida at -3, Rikako Morita and Erina Hara at -2, Shiho Oyama and Ai Suzuki at -1, and Ai Miyazato and Ji-Hee Lee at E will need to play out of their heads tomorrow (and probably get a little help from the leaders) to pull into contention.  Defending champion Na-Ri Lee and Mika Miyazato were among those who made the cut by the skin of their teeth, while the likes of Miki Saiki, Yuko Mitsuka, Esther Lee, Natsuka Hori, Mayu Hattori, Mamiko Higa, Kumiko Kaneda, and Maiko Wakabayashi ended their weeks on frustrating notes.

I'm rooting for a final-round showdown between 2 former money-list title-holders tomorrow.  I'd love to see Ahn and Yokomine play like their capable of!

Friday, October 17, 2014

LPGA KEB-HanaBank Championship Friday: Karine Icher Leads as Volatility Reigns

It appears that anything can happen at the LPGA KEB-HanaBank Championship!  Just take a look at a few of the scoring swings at just the halfway point of the tournament:

  • Amy Yang 69-79
  • In Gee Chun 76-67
  • Ha Na Jang 80-71
  • Minjee Lee 69-78
  • Mo Martin 78-69
  • Shanshan Feng 71-79
  • Haeji Kang 67-75
  • So Yeon Ryu 76-69
If it can happen to golfers of this caliber, it can happen to anyone!  So all credit to Karine Icher for starting 70-68 and taking a 1-shot lead on Beatriz Recari and Brittany Lincicome through 36 holes!  Well, I have a few minutes to enjoy the 3rd round coverage before I conk out--let's see if the leaders can sustain their great play and avoid the volatility that's affected some of the best in the world!

Fujitsu Ladies Friday: Sun-Ju Ahn Fires 64 to Take 1-Shot Lead on Erika Kikuchi

Even as many of the top Korean women golfers in the world have signed up for the LPGA-KLPGA dual-sponsored event this week in Korea (and attended or helped out with Inbee Park's wedding), Sun-Ju Ahn stayed on the JLPGA for the Fujitsu Ladies and rewarded herself with a 64 that even included a walkoff bogey.

She's not alone at the top of the leaderboard, but Knockout doesn't have much company there, either.  Erika Kikuchi birdied 5 holes in a row to start the tournament and had 8 through her 1st 13 holes, but she made 2 bogeys (and her 9th birdie of the day!) coming home and had to settle for a 65.  Onnarin Sattayabanphot fired a bogey-free 67 to keep the leaders within sight, Teresa Lu eagled the par-4 9th on her way to a 68, Rumi Yoshiba had a 6-birdie 68, and Phoebe Yao, Kaori Nakamura, and Mihoko Iseri stayed within 5 shots of Ahn.

In fact, the biggest other names in the field were pretty much left in the dust:

  • 70: Sakura Yokomine, Misuzu Narita, Erina Hara, Yumiko Yoshiba, Ayaka Watanabe
  • 71: Rikako Morita, Miki Sakai
  • 72: Ai Miyazato, Shiho Oyama, Mamiko Higa, Ai Suzuki
  • 73: Ji-Hee Lee
  • 74: Yuko Mitsuka
  • 75: Mika Miyazato, Miki Saiki, Natsuka Hori
Defending champion Na-Ri Lee had an unexpectedly tough day, opening with a birdieless 77.  Let's see if she can bounce back tomorrow and if anyone can make a move on Ahn!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

LPGA KEB-HanaBank Championship Thursday: Haeji Kang Leads; Michelle Wie, Lexi Thompson, Paula Creamer Struggle

I mentioned the volatility in players' results at the LPGA LEB-HanaBank Championship yesterday, and that was certainly borne out today.  A lot of players came into the 1st round hot and came out more or less frozen:
  • Ha Na Jang 80
  • Ji-Yai Shin 77
  • So Yeon Ryu 76
  • In Gee Chun 76
  • Na Yeon Choi 75
  • Kyu Jung Baek 74
Others came in with big question marks, whether from injury or uneven play of late, and really struggled:
  • Paula Creamer 81
  • Mo Martin 78
  • Lexi Thompson 77
  • Michelle Wie 76
Other favorites hung around but didn't do anything all that special today:
  • 71:  Inbee Park, Shanshan Feng
  • 72:  Hyo Joo Kim, Azahara Munoz, Cristie Kerr, Mi Jung Hur
  • 73:  Lydia Ko, Anna Nordqvist, Brittany Lang, Pornanong Phatlum
I'd say the newlywed should feel pretty good about her round, but everyone else won't have quite her quota of happiness to cushion the pain of shots thrown away.

So who did play well to kick off the 1st-ever 4-round version of this tournament?
  • 67:  Haeji Kang
  • 69:  Amy Yang, Minjee Lee, Mirim Lee, Ilhee Lee, Catriona Matthew
  • 70:  Suzann Pettersen, Chella Choi, Beatriz Recari, Brittany Lincicome, Eun-Hee Ji, Sandra Gal, Hee Kyung Bae, Kim Kaufman
I didn't have time to watch the coverage last night and am way too tired after a full day of work and a drive to central NY (on the way to union thug business in Albany tomorrow and Saturday) to stay up for the round currently in progress.  But I'll try to do an earlier (and better) round 2 report tomorrow morning!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

My Picks for the LPGA KEB-HanaBank Championship

I've really got to get it into gear with my PakPicking this fall, as I'm slipping down the rankings, but with work really heating up, I haven't had have time to research the tournaments on the fall Asian Swing to my satisfaction.  I guess it's a good thing that players have had such volatile results at the LPGA KEB-HanaBank Championship, then.  Better to just go with my gut!

1. Kim Hyo Joo
2. Choi Na Yeon
3. Shin Ji-Yai
4. Ryu So Yeon
5. Feng
6. Ko
7. Park Inbee
8. Phatlum
9. Pettersen
10. Lee Mirim
11. Lee Minjee
12. Yang, Amy

Alts: Choi Chella; Nordqvist; Kim Ha-Neul

Here are some KLPGA stats, btw!  For more, see my rundown of worldwide 2014 winners in women's major-tour professional golf--click on the winners' names for links to how they won and who almost beat 'em!

[Update 1 (7:40 am):  Word on Seoul Sisters is that Ha Na Jang intends to go to LPGA Q-School if she doesn't win this week.  I probably should have put her in my top 12, but that's life!]

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Farewell, Dai-chan: Daisuke Takahashi Retires from Competitive Figure Skating

The Constructivist household is in mourning for the retirement of Daisuke Takahashi from competitive figure skating.  Ever since we found out, I've been asking the Full Metal Archivist to write something celebrating his career, but she's still dealing with the shock of the news and is just too sad to put her feelings into words.  What she has told me has been poetic:  "he flirted with the music, seduced audiences, and challenged judges...he was a shaman on the ice."  So I'll just point you too her April 2010 "Luv Letter" for now.  More on his legacy later!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia Sunday: Shanshan Feng Engineers 4-Shot Swing on Pornanong Phatlum for 4th Win of Her LPGA Career

Shanshan Feng birdied 4 holes in a row early on the back to tie Pornanong Phatlum at -16 late in the final round of the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia, then eagled the par-5 16th even as Phatlum was double bogeying the par-3 15th after pulling her tee shot into the water over the narrow green.  That 4-shot swing proved to be too much for the Thai star to come back from, although she did birdie the 16th to finish in solo 2nd.

Feng's final-round 63 got her to -18 for the week, 3 shots ahead of Phatlum and 4 ahead of another 63 shooter, Pernilla Lindberg, who made 4 birdies in a row on both sides today to catch So Yeon Ryu and Chella Choi in a tie for 3rd.  The 2 Korean stars couldn't join Hyo Joo Kim and Sun-Ju Ahn in the winner's circle (the KLPGA major Kim won was her 4th KLPGA victory of the season, while Ahn's was #4 on the JLPGA in 2014) in part because of disasters late on moving day, but mostly because they couldn't keep pace with Feng's stretch run.  But they shouldn't feel too bad, as a host of golfers played well enough to win this week but couldn't do what it took to hoist the trophy at the end of the day.  At one point, last week's winner Mirim Lee looked like she would be the one to challenge Phatlum down the home stretch, but a bogey on 13 and a double on 15 dropped her out of contention.  Ilhee Lee had it going on, as well, but a double on 10 and a bogey on 13 were too much to overcome, even by an eagle on 16.  Na Yeon Choi made 6 birdies in a 9-hole stretch midway through her round, but it was too little, too late in the end.

Nobody could stop Feng from racking up her 4th LPGA title and 3rd to come at the end of a season (she got 2 in her last 4 starts last season).  It was just a phenomenal performance by a player who should be underrated no longer.  Let's see if she can keep it going next week in Korea.  And let's see if Inbee Park and her bridesmaids come out swinging after her wedding tomorrow!

Stanley Ladies Sunday: Sun-Ju Ahn Fires Bogey-Free 66 to Win for 4th Time in 2014 and 17th Time on JLPGA

Sun-Ju Ahn made up 7 shots on Ji-Hee Lee over the final 7 holes of the Stanley Ladies on her way to a bogey-free 66 and a 2-shot victory, her 4th of 2014 and 17th on the JLPGA.  It's the 2nd time this season Ahn fired a Sunday 66 to seal the deal and it's the 1st time this year she's led the tour money list.  Talk about living up to the "Knockout" moniker I bestowed on her in June!

1. Sun-Ju Ahn ¥121.69M
2. Bo-Mee Lee ¥110.27M
3. Ji-Yai Shin ¥96.59M
4. Misuzu Narita ¥90.84M
5. Miki Sakai ¥82.36M
6. Teresa Lu ¥79.54M
7. Na-Ri Lee ¥68.66M
8. Erina Hara ¥58.14M
9. Esther Lee ¥55.06M
10. Ayaka Watanabe ¥53.03M
11. Onnarin Sattayabanphot ¥50.56M
12. Shiho Oyama ¥49.34M
13. Lala Anai ¥47.50M
14. Ritsuko Ryu ¥43.13M
15. Rikako Morita ¥42.79M
16. Ai Suzuki ¥42.17M
17. Ji-Hee Lee ¥40.73M
18. Momoko Ueda ¥39.55M
19. Mi-Jeong Jeon ¥37.86M
20. Saiki Fujita ¥33.39M
21. Yuki Ichinose ¥31.61M
22. Kaori Ohe ¥30.99M
23. Mayu Hattori ¥29.60M
24. Phoebe Yao ¥28.80M
25. Erika Kikuchi ¥28.57M
26. Yumiko Yoshida ¥27.97M
27. Junko Omote ¥27.63M
28. Sakura Yokomine ¥27.49M
29. Mami Fukuda ¥26.66M
30. Asako Fujimoto ¥26.38M
31. Hikari Fujita ¥26.31M
32. Yeon-Ju Jung ¥24.95M
33. Rumi Yoshiba ¥23.38M
34. Kotono Kozuma ¥22.90M
35. Yukari Baba ¥22.47M
36. Na-Ri Kim ¥21.92M
37. Megumi Kido ¥21.42M
38. Mamiko Higa ¥21.42M
39. Natsuka Hori ¥21.31M
40. Soo-Yun Kang ¥20.77M
41. Rui Kitada ¥20.41M
42. Shanshan Feng ¥20.04M
43. Akane Iijima ¥20.01M
44. Yukari Nishiyama ¥18.76M
45. Miki Saiki ¥18.22M
46. Megumi Shimokawa ¥17.82M
47. Eun-Bi Jang ¥17.47M
48. Da-Ye Na ¥17.36M
49. Haruka Kudo ¥15.41M
50. Ah-Reum Hwang ¥15.33M

Next up is the Fujitsu Ladies, which Na-Ri Lee won last year when the final round was washed out.  As hot as Lee has been of late, Ahn will be the favorite coming into it, but she'll have to deal with both Ai and Mika Miyazato!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia Saturday: Pornanong Phatlum Opens up 3-Shot Lead on Ayako Uehara

Pornanong Phatlum birdied 7 of her 1st 10 holes and hung on to post a 65 on moving day at the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia, which left her 3 shots ahead of Ayako Uehara, 4-up on Chella ChoiShanshan Feng, Lydia Ko, and So Yeon Ryu, and 5-up on Ariya Jutanugarn, Na Yeon Choi, and Ilhee Lee.  Despite going +1 over her last 8 holes, Phatlum got off easy compared to most of her nearest competitors.  Sure, Jutanugarn fired a 9-birdie 64, NYC closed with a bogey-free 32, and Uehara with a bogey-free 33, and Feng and Lee put together bogey-free rounds.  But Ko double bogeyed the par-5 12th, Ryu finished with a pair of doubles and was +5 over her final 6 holes, and Chella Choi took a quad on the par-4 14th.

At least they're in the hunt.  Suzann Pettersen (+1) and Lexi Thompson (E) have made 6 doubles between the 2 of them, Karrie Webb (-2) and Paula Creamer (-2) haven't been able to sustain any runs, and Anna Nordqvist (-4), Stacy Lewis (-5), and Azahara Munoz (-6) haven't been able to get it going, either.

So with the biggest names in the field practically holding the door open for Phatlum and Uehara, the 2-time LET winner and 3-time JLPGA winner both have great chances for their 1st-ever LPGA victories.  Let's see if either of them can bust through it tomorrow!

Stanley Ladies Saturday: Ji-Hee Lee Leads Misuzu Narita by 3, Sun-Ju Ahn by 4

Ji-Hee Lee followed up yesterday's bogey-free 65 at the Stanley Ladies with a bogey-free 31 today, then held on to post a 67 that left her at -12, 3 shots ahead of Misuzu Narita (who eagled the par-5 8th) and 4-up on Sun-Ju Ahn (who double bogeyed the par-4 17th).

Rikako Morita and Esther Lee kept pace with Lee today, but remain 6 shots behind her for the week, tied with money-list leader Bo-Mee Lee (68), Da Ye Na (69), and 1st-round co-leader Onnarin Sattayabanphot in 7th.  18-year-old amateur Akiho Sato also fired a 67 today, which moved her into a tie for 4th with Miki Sakai (68) and Erina Hara (70) at -7.  But it was 20-year-old Ai Suzuki who had the low round of the day, improving 10 shots on her opening 76 to move into the top 25, leapfrogging Mamiko Higa (E), Chie Arimura (-1), and Mayu Hattori (-1) and catching Ayaka Watanabe at -2.  With Momoko Ueda and Yumiko Yoshida at -5, Sakura Yokomine and Na-Ri Lee at -4, and Rui Kitada and Mami Fukuda at -3, there's a good mix of veterans and youngsters chasing Lee.  But Yukari Baba, Natsuka Hori, Kumiko Kaneda, Erika Kikuchi, and Yuko Mitsuka will not be among them, as they missed the cut.

Even though Lee has 17 career JLPGA victories, she hasn't finished inside the winner's circle since 2012.  Meanwhile, Narita and Ahn are looking for their 4th wins of 2014.  Should be a great finish tomorrow!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Stanley Ladies Friday: Ji-Hee Lee and Onnarin Sattayabanphot Lead with 65s

Ji-Hee Lee and Onnarin Sattayabanphot opened the Stanley Ladies with bogey-free 65s to take a 1-shot lead on Misuzu Narita and Shiho Toyonaga, a 2-shot lead on Erina Hara and Nobuko Kizawa, and a 3-shot lead on Sun-Ju Ahn, among others.  Momoko Ueda (69), Na-Ri Lee (69), Sakura Yokomine (70), Bo-Mee Lee (70), Yumiko Yoshida (70), and Ayaka Watanabe (70) aren't out of this thing quite yet, but they'll need to step on the gas to put pressure on Lee, who's won 17 times on the JLPGA in her illustrious career but is languishing at #20 on the money list thus far in 2014.  Even further off the pace are Chie Arimura, Rikako Morita, and Mamiko Higa at -1, Mayu Hattori at E, Natsuka Hori at +1, Kumiko Kaneda at +2, Yukari Baba at +3, and Ai Suzuki at +4.  There are already a lot of good numbers on the leaderboard for Saturday's round, so stay tuned for an update tomorrow morning!

Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia Weekdays: So Yeon Ryu Races To Lead

Stacy Lewis's 65 was the low round of the day on Thursday at the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia, but she stalled Friday and a million players (it seemed) blew by her, led by Ayako Uehara's 63 and 64s by Lydia Ko and Jodi Ewart Shadoff.  But your leader at the halfway point is So Yeon Ryu, who went 66-65 to become the 1st player to get to double digits under par in the field.  Ryu has been so dialed in, each of her 4 bogeys came as quite a shock.  Let's see if she can handle the lead on the weekend better than Lewis did last week.

I was sick yesterday and catching up today, but I did get to see most of the tv coverage and really enjoyed seeing so many good rounds.  But it would have been nice to see more of Azahara Munoz's 65 or find out that Sandra Gal matched it and Paula Creamer was only 1 shot worse, tied with Chella Choi.  I'm excited to see a lot of Uehara today and will be rooting for Danielle Kang and Na Yeon Choi to get it going and Jenny Shin and Shanshan Feng to move into serious contention.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

My Picks for the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia

Getting my picks for the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia event in under the wire!

1. Lewis, Stacy
2. Ryu
3. Pettersen
4. Nordqvist
5. Choi Na Yeon
6. Ko
7. Thompson
8. Hur
9. Lee Mirim
10. Munoz
11. Feng
12. Creamer

Alts:  Choi Chella; Webb; Yang

Monday, October 6, 2014

On NHK Coverage of the Japan Women's Open

Most JLPGA events are covered by Japanese cable channels, so despite having TV Japan through my own cable system, I almost never get to watch the top female golfers in Japan on tv.  But NHK, which supplies the feed for TV Japan, does cover the Japan Women's Open.  And the last 9 holes of the final round made it onto TV Japan.  So I got to see first-hand the differences between NHK and Golf Channel's approaches to covering women's golf.

Give the Audience What They Want.  In the U.S., Sunday coverage is all about the leaders and who's going to win.  On NHK, I didn't see the leader Teresa Lu until 13 minutes into the coverage, and then, only to see her make her 1st bogey of the day when she missed a 20-foot par attempt.  I did see a lot of Yun-Jye Wei, who became the co-leader upon Lu's miss, but that's mostly because she was playing with the media's new darling Ai Suzuki, who got the majority of coverage in the 1st 20 minutes, along with 17-year-old amateur Kana Nagai.  Apparently NHK's audience wants to see Suzuki sizing up putts and Nagai walking up fairways, running off greens, and taking her rain jacket on and off, because the cameras followed their every move.  We did get to see footage of Nagai's amazing eagle with a fairway wood on the 428-yard par-4, but instead of recapping their rounds and showing highlights that would help explain how they each got to -6, 2 shots off the lead after Lu's bogey, they relied on the announcers to set things up and instead focused on Suzuki's and Nagai's faces and reactions in the present.  Lu had made 6 birdies in her 1st 11 holes to jump out to the lead, but mostly what the camera showed was how tiny and high-energy Nagai is and how Suzuki was reacting to the pressure of trying to win her 2nd major in a row (pouting a little after knocking her 30-foot birdie try 10-feet past, flashing a nervous smile after her par save lipped out).  The NHK coverage certainly succeeded in establishing a quasi-intimacy with both young Japanese golfers, but to someone used to following the leaders on a Sunday, it was certainly strange that we saw only 2 shots from Lu and no tournament recap or highlights in the 1st 20 minutes!

What Have You Done for Me Lately?  The other thing I'm used to from American golf coverage is a focus on the stars of the LPGA.  How many times have we checked in on Paula Creamer over the years even when she's not in contention?  It's an understatement to note that Michelle Wie and Lexi Thompson get plenty of tv time, too.  But for all that global golf fans criticize American tv for focusing so much on American stars, Golf Channel and the networks do a much better job of catching us up on all the stars of the LPGA than NHK on Japan Women's Open Sunday did for even established Japanese stars in the field.  The only player besides Suzuki and Nagai to even get mentioned was Mika Miyazato, and that was during an interview with Suzuki.  I can understand that Miyazato, Chie Arimura, Sakura Yokomine, Shiho Oyama, Rikako Morita, Misuzu Narita, and Momoko Ueda didn't have a chance to win, but not even to show a single shot from them in the 1st 20 minutes of coverage was frankly shocking to me.  Same goes for money-list leader Bo-Mee Lee, #2 Sun-Ju Ahn, and #3 Ji-Yai Shin.  Sure, they were well behind Lu and Wei, but they are the top 3 players on tour and both Shin and Ahn started the day with a great chance to pass Lee on the money list.  I mean, Mikan was playing with Lu and Ahn with Nagai, but we only saw Mikan's approach on 18 just past the hour mark (too bad she went on to 3-putt!) and mostly just caught glimpses of Ahn at the corners or edges of shots of Nagai or her shots until the 18th hole, when she stuck her approach to 12 feet and made the birdie to finish in solo 4th.

Game on!  Things got a little better after the 20-minute mark.  We saw Na-Ri Lee around 22 and a half minutes into the coverage, who had gotten to -6 thanks to back-to-back birdies to close out the front (which again they chose not to recap for us), leave a long birdie try on 12 well short and make the 6-foot par save right after Suzuki got up-and-down from a bad lie near the green and Wei failed to.  We saw Lu's approach to pin-high on the 365-yard par-4 15th right after she became the solo leader.  We saw the 2nd page of the leaderboard for the 1st time.  We saw Lee make a 30-footer on the par-3 13th to move to -7.  We saw Lu hit her birdie putt through the break.  We saw Wei struggle with the wet rough and Suzuki with the green-side bunker's wet sand as they both bogeyed the 11th.  We saw Lu land her approach on the par-5 16th a foot past the pin but bound 16 feet away.  We saw Nagai hit the middle of the green on the 15th and Lee barely avoid a green-side bunker on the 14th.  We saw Lu just miss the right-to-left sweeping birdie try.  And so on.  The NHK's coverage definitely found its rhythm in the next half-hour, although they still spent the most time on Suzuki's shots and gave the announcers plenty of time to talk about every aspect of her play.

Nice Tech!  I liked the bullseye with blue 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10-meter circles they'd superimpose around some of the pins on certain approach shots.  I also liked how they'd sometimes show a map of the hole to the left of the player about to hit their drives, or show the exact length of a putt by superimposing a line and the distance in meters on the green, or show arcs from the bullseye on sand shots so we could see how far the player was from the pin and how the terrain and the distance from the hole interacted.  It was informative without being distracting.

Down to the Wire!  Yes, they spent far too much time on Wei's bogey train on the back, but as it got down to the wire, Lu and Lee got a lot more coverage.  Lu made a great lag on the 406-yard 18th from maybe 60 feet to par out and finish her week at -8, just before Lee left a 8-foot downhill big breaker 10 inches short on the 16th to remain 1 back.  They spent a lot of time on the 17th tee as Lee chose a utility club, sized up her shot to the back-left pin, and pulled it into the front of the greenside left bunker--and focused on her face for almost the entire walk up the 180-yard par 3.  And they did a fantastic job on her shot from the sand and reaction to the ball going in the hole to tie her for the lead, showing it live and in slow motion twice.  Even as she pulled her drive on 18 into the left rough, they spent a lot of time on the green with Nagai (who just missed sinking a 50-footer for birdie and was beaming as she walked off the green) and Ahn (who had a great reaction to making her birdie try).  Lee could barely get her approach over the pond 50 yards short of the green and faced a tough uphill pitch from an uphill lie in deep rough.  When she failed to carry it to the top tier and the ball rolled backwards to about 40 feet from the pin, she needed a miracle to force a playoff, but her putt was off-line from the start.  She did well to save par from 6 feet and finish in solo 2nd.

After the End.  At that point, the last 2 pairings still on the course had virtually no chance to force a playoff.  How did NHK fill the rest of their air time?  With more Suzuki and Wei, of course!  But once they failed to get holes in 1 on 17, guaranteeing that Lu would win, the coverage pretty quickly shifted into an interview with Nagai, who had the best finish of any amateur in the history of the JWO.  They even showed her her eagle and got her reaction to it at the very end of the interview--very cute!  Before going back to Suzuki and Wei on the 17th green, they showed a list of low amateurs in the past 15 years or so and wondered aloud about who would make Team Japan in the 2016 Olympics.  They showed Lee leaving the course, Lu hanging around the scorer's tent, and Ji-Yai Shin and Ah-Reum Hwang putting out on 18.  After showing Wei's and Suzuki's approaches to 18, they finally went to the tapes, mentioning how Lu won the tournament with 3-straight birdies to start her round and showing how she sank 3 more in a 4-hole stretch as she made the turn, then focusing on key par putts down the stretch.  (Apparently Lu didn't want to be interviewed before the awards ceremony.)  So after Suzuki and Wei finished, it was back to Nagai's eagle and the 1st view of her birdie on 10, along with her best pars coming home, before showing the awards ceremony.  After answering the first couple of questions in simple Japanese, she went back and forth between English and Japanese the rest of the interview, but mostly in English.  After that, they moved so quickly into face time for their announcing crew and the closing montage that they barely had time to include defending champion Mika Miyazato congratulating new champion Teresa Lu from the awards ceremony in between.

And then, after 2 hours and 15 minutes of the most important women's golf tournament in Japan, a cute show on cats walking around in an Italian city began.  Only in Japan!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Reignwood LPGA Classic Sunday: Can Stacy Lewis Do It?

Stacy Lewis has won a lot since breaking through in April 2011 at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, but she's also come in 2nd 13 times on the LPGA alone between then and now.  Last year's inaugural Reignwood LPGA Classic was 1 of them.  Can she shake off all those near-misses, continue her bounceback from yesterday's weak start, and outrun and outgun the likes of Caroline Hedwall, Inbee Park, Suzann Pettersen, and So Yeon Ryu today?  Let's see!

[Update 1 (12:58 am):  Lewis birdied 1 to move to -14 and Hedwall bogeyed it to fall to -12.  Brittany Lang bogeyed 2 but birdied 3 to return to -11.  Mi-Hyang Lee fired a bogey-free 32 on the front to move to -9, but with Park, Pettersen, and Ryu struggling, the player with the most momentum right now is Mirim Lee, who birdied 5 and 6 to move to -13.]

[Update 2 (1:05 am):  I'm about 3 holes behind on the tv coverage, so I'll be backtracking a bit now.  Key thing to keep in mind today is that the winds are up and the greens are drying out.  Stacy looks like she's playing great, with 2 near-misses from close range on the next 2 holes.  Can't wait to see how Mi Jung Hur birdies 5 and 6 to move to -9.]

[Update 3 (1:20 am):  Nice par saves by Hedwall on 3 and 4.  Looks like Lewis bogeyed the par-3 7th to drop back into a 3-way tie for the lead with Hedwall and Mirim Lee.]

[Update 4 (1:25 am):  Park went bogey-birdie-bogey-birdie on 5 through 8 to stay at -10.  Mirim Lee just birdied the par-4 8th to take the lead at -14!]

[Update 5 (1:39 am):  Wow, Hedwall hit the par-5 6th in 2 and Mirim Lee had a 300-yard drive but couldn't take advantage of it, leaving it in a bunker short-right of the pin.]

[Update 6 (1:41 am):  Chella Choi birdied both par 5s on the front to get to -9.]

[Update 7 (1:46 am):  Nice sandie from Mirim Lee and 2-putt from Hedwall on that par-5 6th.  Stacy's putter is just the slightest bit off of late.  Can't say she hasn't been giving herself chances.]

[Update 8 (1:47 am):  Add Haeji Kang to the group at -9; she just birdied 11.]

[Update 9 (1:50 am):  Wow, that bunker Inbee pulled her approach into on #7 was deep!  Not surprised she bogeyed that hole after barely carrying the lip!]

[Update 10 (1:51 am):  The producers and announcers sure love Ilhee Lee and Caroline Masson, but neither is really in this thing.  Still, it's nice to see less tunnel vision than usual on coverage of the LPGA.]

[Update 11 (1:54 am):  Wow, Lewis and Hedwall birdied the par-5 9th to catch Mirim Lee at -14!  Can't wait to see how that happened!]

[Update 12 (2:03 am):  Nice approach from Choi on 9, bouncing it through the fringe with a little wedge to giver herself that birdie opportunity I mentioned a few updates back!]

[Update 13 (2:06 am):  Really impressed with Hedwall's pressure putting.  Another great par save on the par-3 7th.]

[Update 14 (2:13 am):  That was a pretty long birdie putt for Inbee on 8!]

[Update 15 (2:16 am):  Impressive win for Teresa Lu at the Japan Women's Open!  Now that the biggest event in women's golf in Japan has been decided, I can make a concerted effort to catch up with the tv coverage of this one.]

[Update 16 (2:18 am):  Can't wait to catch up to the 10th, as Lewis and Hedwall just gave their birdies back and handed the lead to Mirim Lee once more!]

[Update 17 (2:19 am):  And how about those 3 birdies in a row by Kang to get to -11?!]

[Update 18 (2:22 am):  Wow, Hedwall really blew that long sweeper by the hole on the 8th green.  Crazy-long birdie over the ridge by Mirim Lee right after!  Fantastic composure by Hedwall to make her 3rd big par save in her 1st 8 holes!]

[Update 19 (2:24 am):  Near-chip-in from near the pond on 9 for Pettersen after going for the par 5 in 2.  Can understand why she made a birdie there!]

[Update 20 (2:26 am):  Can see why Inbee couldn't birdie 9 after seeing where she left her 2nd shot, just far enough right to bring a hill/ridge into play on her pitch and increase her degree of difficulty.]

[Update 21 (2:33 am):  Impressive wedges in from Lewis and Hedwall on 9.  Can see why they birdied the hole!]

[Update 22 (2:38 am):  Bogey on the 1st of 3 par 5s on the back drops Park to -9.  Like Ryu, Pettersen, Hur, Chella Choi, and Ilhee Lee, she'll need a miracle to contend now.]

[Update 23 (2:40 am):  Slow play and clicking cameras join the shifting winds as factors that challenge the leaders' focus.]

[Update 24 (2:42 am):  Mi-Hyang Lee keeps her bogey-free round going and makes her 5th birdie of the day on the par-3 17th.  She's now -10.]

[Update 25 (2:45 am):  Pornanong Phatlum has made 5 birdies in her last 13 hole to move to -9!]

[Update 26 (2:48 am):  Too strong a chip and a spun-out 4-footer were what caused Lewis's bogey on 10.  Hedwall actually made a great up-and-down after a terrible chip to save bogey on 10.]

[Update 27 (2:51 am):  Park continues her bounceback day with a birdie on the par-3 13th to return to -10.  She's only 3 back now, as Mirim Lee bogeyed the par-5 12th to fall back to a tie for the lead with Lewis and Hedwall, who could only par it.]

[Update 28 (2:54 am):  What a great week for Mariajo Uribe!  After starting bogey-bogey, she made 5 birdies and no bogeys the rest of the way to end the tournament at -8.  Only 108 putts all week, too!  She's leader in the clubhouse right now.]

[Update 29 (2:57 am):  If you're wondering what Lang's been doing all this time, she's made 10 pars in a row.  Despite missing some make-able birdie putts along the way, she's still only 2 back with 5 holes left to play.]

[Update 30 (2:59 am):  What a long par save for Kang after getting off her 3-hole birdie train!]

[Update 31 (3:03 am):  Phatlum finishes her round with 3 birdies in a row to end her week at -10!  Birdie-birdie finish for Mi-Hyang Lee to pass her and become the new leader in the clubhouse at -11!]

[Update 32 (3:04 am):  Looked like Mirim Lee decelled and still blasted her 5-foot par attempt on the par-5 12th by the hole!]

[Update 33 (3:05 am):  That was not an easy birdie putt for Inbee on 13!  Maybe 20 feet?]

[Update 34 (3:06 am):  Great approach by Hedwall on 13!  Front pin with wind behind is really tough and she made it look easy!]

[Update 35 (3:09 am):  Catching up to reality in my tv fast forwarding.  3 good approaches on 13 but no birdies.]

[Update 36 (3:12 am):  Lee's miss was the worst stroke, but all came close!]

[Update 37 (3:19 am):  Love how Hedwall's using the Texas wedge to try to take down the Texan world #1!  I can't believe that 30-footer didn't drop for her on 14!]

[Update 38 (3:21 am):  Speaking of Texas wedges, how about Lang's on 15?!  Got it within 6 feet from maybe 70 yards away!  Whoa, Stacy missed a very make-able 5-foot par save.]

[Update 39 (3:22 am):  So now Hedwall and Lee lead at -13, Lewis is -12, and Lang has a chance to get there on the 15th.]

[Update 40 (3:25 am):  Such a frustrating miss for Lang!]

[Update 41 (3:26 am):  With 2 par 5s in the last 3 holes, I don't know why the announcers are writing off those at -10.  Yes, Kang failed to birdie 16, but she's still only 2 back.]

[Update 42 (3:29 am):  Wow, only 106 putts from Mi-Hyang Lee this week!  And 107 from Phatlum!]

[Update 43 (3:33 am):  Good strategy, bad execution on the approach from Stacy on the short 15th.]

[Update 44 (3:37 am):  Hedwall had trouble from the left rough making solid enough contact to get the ball to the back tier.  But it's better than being in that deep left trap that Lewis is in.  Lee, meanwhile, rolled her approach all the way to the back fringe.]

[Update 45 (3:38 am):  Big birdie for Yanhong Pan on 18 to guarantee herself a top 10.]

[Update 46 (3:40 am):  Good lag for Hedwall.  Looked like a misread by Lee on her birdie attempt.  Just figured out that it's black clothes/putter vs. white clothes/putter for those 2!]

[Update 47 (3:41 am):  Great sandie by Lewis!!!!]

[Update 48 (3:42 am):  Maybe Lang should have used another Texas wedge after getting so close to the green in 2 on the par-5 16th.]

[Update 49 (3:43 am):  Lang's birdie from 15 feet missed on the high side.]

[Update 50 (3:44 am):  But Park made her 14-footer to join Lang and Mi-Hyang Lee at -11.  But Kang just stuck one on 18 and looks like she'll finish at -12.]

[Update 51 (3:46 am):  Probably too little, too late, but Pettersen's birdied 2 in a row and with 2 to play is -9.]

[Update 52 (3:47 am):  Hedwall went for 16 in 2 but it landed soft in that uphill area 20 yards short of the green and stopped there.]

[Update 53 (3:52 am):  Kang made that birdie putt look easy.  She's now leader in the clubhouse and only 1 back.]

[Update 54 (3:55 am):  Inbee's going to need to make another 20-footer to have a chance to win this thing, as is showing Mirim Lee with a birdie on 16!  In fact, she almost chipped in for eagle!]

[Update 55 (3:56 am):  Hedwall's chip just carried a foot too far and rolled into that range she's been making a lot of testers from.  Stacy's approach from much further back ended up much further away.]

[Update 56 (3:58 am):  Lewis couldn't do it, while it was one of Hedwall's worst strokes of the day, and Park couldn't sink her birdie try, so Lee is -14, Hedwall is -13, and Lewis and Kang are at -12.]

[Update 57 (4:03 am):  Wow, did Lee come around on that short iron on 17--probably in the water or unplayable!  Hedwall stuck it into the back-left corner of the green, maybe 15 feet away from the pin.  Lewis had good tempo, but babied it to the middle of the green, maybe 35 feet short of the pin.]

[Update 58 (4:07 am):  What a great walkoff pitch-in for eagle by Yuting Shi to join countrywoman Pan at -8.  Won't be a top 10 for either, but good weeks for both!]

[Update 59 (4:11 am):  Lee could play it out from the edge of the rocks near the water and got it to the middle of the green.  Lewis will show her the line and made a great run at it.  But she rolled it 4 feet by just on the low side.  Lee canned her putt from 25 feet out!!  Now it's up to Hedwall to tie her.  Hedwall's putt looked great until the last 4 inches.  Now, with Chella Choi birdieing 18 and Mi Jung Hur doubling it, we know 3-shot swings are possible on the final hole.  Let's see if this year's finish can be as amazing as last year's!]

[Update 60 (4:12 am):  Missed comebacker by Lewis means she needs even more of a miracle than Feng did last year.]

[Update 61 (4:18 am):  Shi actually finished at -7.  Pan ended up tied with Uribe and Pettersen (who missed a little putt on 18) at T11, -8.]

[Update 62 (4:20 am):  Lang went for 18 in 2 and ended up in the back rough.  Masson went even further over in 2.  Inbee sucked her wedge back to tap-in range to join Kang at -12.  Shades of what the final group will have to deal with?]

[Update 63 (4:27 am):  Stacy pulled her drive into the rough and had to lay up.  Hedwall and Lee hit it far and straight enough off the tee to go for the green in 2 if they want.]

[Update 64 (4:31 am):  Lang and Park birdie 18 to join Kang at -12.]

[Update 65 (4:33 am):  Hedwall yanked a hybrid left into that waste bunker.  Lee pulled an iron there, too!]

[Update 66 (4:35 am):  Stacy was trying to make it from around 100 yards out, but left it about 25 feet short-right of the pin.  Best she can do is join the trio at -12.]

[Update 67 (4:38 am):  Lee went 1st and got the ball to run out after carrying it onto the green, and it climbed the tier to end up about 7 feet short left of the pin.  Fantastic shot!]

[Update 68 (4:40 am):  Hedwall hit hers higher and softer and barely landed it on the fringe, so she'll need to snake in a long twisty one to force Lee to make hers to win.]

[Update 69 (4:42 am):  Neither Hedwall nor Lewis could make theirs.  So Lee needs 2 putts to win.]

[Update 70 (4:45 am):  Hedwall makes her par putt (another tester) to finish 2nd at -13.  Lee sinks her birdie and gets her 2nd win in her rookie campaign on the LPGA!]

Japan Women's Open Sunday: Can 20-Year-Old Ai Suzuki Win Her 2nd JLPGA Major in a Row? Can Ji-Yai Shin Win for the 5th Time in her Last 10 Starts?

Let's take a look at the players with the best shot of winning the Japan Women's Open today before I jump into not-quite-live-blogging the final round!

  • Ai Suzuki (-8):  The 20-year-old won the Konica Minolta Cup almost out of nowhere, defeating Ji-Yai Shin, one of the hottest players in the world of women's golf, in the process.
  • Yun-Jye Wei (-8):  She has 4 JLPGA victories in her 14-year career on tour, but none since 2010.  She finished in the top 10 of the money list twice and top 30 7 times in her 1st 8 years on tour, but hasn't cracked the top 35 since and has only 1 top 10 in her 22 previous starts this season.
  • Ji-Yai Shin (-6):  With 4 wins in her 9 previous starts, and history on the KLPGA and LPGA as well as on the JLPGA (where she already has 9 victories) to draw on, she may well be the favorite today.
  • Ah-Reum Hwang (-5):  The 26-year-old journeywoman got a top 10 at the Konica Minolta Cup in a reduced schedule this season, but has never cracked the top 20 on the JLPGA money list in her 6 previous full seasons on tour, even when she got her lone win in 2009.
  • Hiroko Azuma (-5):  The 22-year-old tied her best career finish in tour with a T5 at the Samantha Thavasa Ladies this July, but has done very little of note before or after that week in 2014.  Here's the 1st-round leader's chance.
  • Sun-Ju Ahn (-4):  This 2-time money-list title-holder picked up her 16th JLPGA victory back in June, but has since been overshadowed by Bo-Mee Lee and Ji-Yai Shin.
  • Mi-Jeong Jeon (-4):  This 22-time JLPGA winner hasn't been quite the same golfer since winning the money-list title in 2012, with only 5 top 10s thus far this season, but she's always a threat.
  • Na-Ri Lee (-4):  She's coming off 4 top 6s in a row and counting during a time of the season where she won twice last year for her only JLPGA victories during her now 7 years on tour.
  • Erika Kikuchi (-4):  This 26-year-old is looking to improve on her 1st-ever top-20 finish on the JLPGA money list last season, her 5th full one on tour, and snatch her 1st victory away from players with much longer resumes.
  • Kana Nagai (-4):  The 17-year-old amateur is ranked #60 in the Women's WAGR and finished 7th at this year's Callaway Junior World Golf Championships in her age division.
  • Mika Miyazato (-3):  She's won the JWO twice before, but is going to have to bounce back from a front-9 39 on moving day in a big way to make it a hat trick this year.
  • Chie Arimura (-3):  This 13-time JLPGA winner has had a tough 2 years on the LPGA and will have to decide if she wants to go to Q-School again to try to improve her status after finishing outside the top 100 on the money list.  After sharing the lead here at the halfway point, she fell off the pace with a back-9 39 yesterday.
  • Teresa Lu (-3):  She decided against a return to the LPGA after winning the Mizuno Classic last year and followed it up with her 2nd JLPGA title to start June.  At #7 on the money list this season, she's aiming for the top today!
It's looking like Bo-Mee Lee (this year's money-list leader) and Rikako Morita (last year's) are too far back to contend today (they start the day at -1 and E, respectively), but Shiho Oyama and Yumiko Yoshida were only 6 down at the start of play.  So let's check in on the action!

[Update 1 (12:36 am):  Teresa Lu has birdied 6 of her 1st 11 holes to move to -9 and take a 1-shot lead on Yun-Jye Wei.  Pretty much everyone besides Na-Ri Lee at -6 has moved backwards today.  Ai Suzuki is +2 through 9, Ji-Yai Shin is +2 through 10, and Mika Miyazato is +2 through 13, for example.]

[Update 2 (12:38 am):  Kana Nagai is one of the few to move up the leaderboard, with an eagle on the par-4 4th and a bounceback birdie on the par-5 10th to join Lee at -6.]

[Update 3 (12:40 am):  Right now there are 7 players chasing Lu who are within 5 shots of her lead.  Sun-Ju Ahn and Ah-Reum Hwang round out that group, but both are only -4.]

[Update 4 (1:01 am):  Lu gave everyone chasing her some hope with a bogey on the par-4 14th that dropped her to -8, but Wei bogeyed 10 and 11 (her 2nd back-to-back bogey run of the day) to fall to -7.  Lee, Suzuki, and Nagai are only 2 down now.]

[Update 5 (1:06 am):  Sorry, Wei's bogey on 11 put her at -6.  Lee birdied the par-3 13th to follow up on her birdies on 8 and 9 to pull within 1 of the lead.]

[Update 6 (1:09 am):  Suzuki's now 3 back after making her 4th bogey of the day, this one on the par-4 11th.]

[Update 7 (1:11 am):  Rikako Morita shot her 2nd-straight 70 on the weekend to finish at -2.  Both rounds included bogeys on the par-4 18th, or she would have done even better.]

[Update 8 (1:13 am):  Erina Hara also finished her week 70-70 and ended up at -1.  She eagled the 1st today and parred out.]

[Update 9 (1:17 am):  Out-of-it files:  Yumiko Yoshida is +6 today through 17, Mi-Jeong Jeon is +4 through 16, Mika Miyazato is +3 through 16, Chie Arimura is +2 through 17, Hiroko Azuma is +3 through 14, Ji-Yai Shin is +3 through 13, Ai Suzuki is +4 through 14.  Bo-Mee Lee's 72 leaves her tied with Hara at -1.]

[Update 10 (1:21 am):  Oyama's 3-birdie 71 makes her the new leader in the clubhouse at -3.]

[Update 11 (1:22 am):  Lu parred 15, 16, and 17.  Lee parred 14 and 15.  The lead remains 1.]

[Update 12 (1:28 am):  Wei has now bogeyed 3 of her last 4 holes to drop back to -5.  Nagai has made 6-straight pars after that birdie on 10 got her to -6.  She needs to make a couple of birdies coming home to catch Lu, it looks like.]

[Update 13 (1:37 am):  Lu is in with a 6-birdie 67 that makes her the new leader in the clubhouse at -8.  Now everyone else knows what they need to shoot to catch or pass her!]

[Update 14 (1:42 am):  Tough weekend for Mikan (74-77) makes this one of those tease JWOs for her.  Too bad!]

[Update 15 (1:43 am):  Lee failed to birdie the par-5 16th.  She's 1 down with 2 to play.]

[Update 16 (1:44 am):  Nagai parred the par-3 17th, so she needs an eagle on the par-4 18th to force a playoff.]

[Update 17 (1:52 am):  Wow, Lee birdied 17 to join Lu at -8!]

[Update 18 (2:00 am):  69-71-72-70 by Nagai leaves her alone in 3rd.  What a great week for the amateur!  She ended up 1 shot ahead of Sun-Ju Ahn, who birdied the 18th for a 71.]

[Update 19 (2:02 am):  Erika Kikuchi won't be happy about the 4 bogeys she made each day on the weekend, but she made enough birdies in the 2nd half of the tournament to finish at -3, tied with Oyama right now for 8th.]

[Update 20 (2:04 am):  Arimura's 75-74 finish on the weekend sums up her 2014.]

[Update 21 (2:07 am):  OMG!  Lee bogeys 18 to all but hand the title to Lu!]

[Update 22 (2:08 am):  Man, that was Lee's 1st bogey of the day and 1st in her previous 26 holes.  What a terrible time for it!]

[Update 23 (2:10 am):  Wei and Suzuki need to finish eagle-eagle to force a playoff.  Looks like Lu's 3rd JLPGA victory will be her 1st major!!!!]

[Update 24 (2:15 am):  No hole in 1s for Wei or Suzuki.  Lu wins!]

[Update 25 (3:51 am):  Here's the JLPGA's hole-by-hole leaderboard/grid!  I'll have the money-list update after I get up--and even longer after the LPGA's China event is over!]

Saturday, October 4, 2014

LPGA/JLPGA Sunday Set-Up

Caroline Hedwall passed Stacy Lewis during moving day at the Reignwood LPGA Classic with 6 birdies during a 10-hole stretch but Lewis caught her at the finish line with 4 birdies in her last 6 holes to move to -13 as well.  Both lead Brittany Lang and Mirim Lee by 2 shots, Inbee Park and Caroline Masson by 3, Suzanne Pettersen, Sun Young Yoo, Belen Mozo, and Ilhee Lee by 4, and So Yeon Ryu, Mi Jung Hur, Chella Choi, Haeji Kang, and Yuting Shi by 5.  Hedwall's looking for her 1st (and long overdue) LPGA victory, while Lewis is trying to chase down history (and showed incredible resilience after going +3 with no birdies over her 1st 12 holes).  Just missing a hole in 1 on the par-3 13th seemed to spark Lewis's charge.  Can she pick up where she left off yesterday and keep the pedal to the metal today?

Meanwhile, on the JLPGA, Chie Arimura (75) and Mika Miyazato (74) succumbed to the pressure of trying to win the biggest tournament in women's golf in Japan and moved backwards to -3 at the Japan Women's Open, Miyazato with a 39 on the front and Arimura with one on the back.  That leaves them 5 shots behind co-leaders Ai Suzuki (69) and Yun-Jye Wei (68), 3 behind former world #1 Ji-Yai Shin, 2 shots behind Ah-Reum Hwang and Hiroko Azuma, 1 shot behind Sun-Ju Ahn, Mi-Jeong Jeon, Na-Ri Lee, Erika Kikuchi, and amateur Kana Nagai, and tied with Teresa Lu.  The 20-year-old Suzuki is looking to make her 2nd JLPGA victory her 2nd major title in a row, while the veteran Wei is looking for her 5th win on tour and 1st since 2010.

So we have some old-fashioned barn burners going on right now in Asia, with lots of great stories to share besides those of the dual co-leaders.  Come midnight, I'll be sharing them with you as I not-quite-live-blog both tournaments!  Stay tuned!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Stage II LPGA Q-School Day 4: Ginger Howard Medals; Mamiko Higa Fails to Advance to Stage III

It's official!  Ginger Howard is your medallist at LPGA Q-School Stage II!  The Symetra Tour regular shot a 71 today to finish the week at -9 and outplay Alison Lee (72, -8), Annie Park (70, -6), Su-Hyun Oh (74, -6), Minjee Lee (70, -5), Samantha Richdale (69, -5), and Karlin Beck (67, -5).  The top 80 and ties move on to Stage III, but 2013 JLPGA Rookie of the Year will not be among them.

Here's how all my Stage II notables fared:

Top Prospects
  • Minjee Lee 72-67-74-70 (T5)
  • Ariya Jutanugarn 73-75-73-70 (T51)
  • Mamiko Higa 74-77-76-70 (T92)
  • Stephanie Meadow 71-73-69-74 (T16)
  • Nontaya Srisawang 72-73-73-70 (T22)
  • Alison Lee 71-71-66-72 (2nd)
  • Annie Park 70-71-71-70 (T3)
  • Su-Hyun Oh 72-70-66-74 (T3)
Great Bets
  • Emily Tubert 76-72-73-76 (T92)
  • Cheyenne Woods 74-72-70-70 (T12)
  • Grace Na 71-79-79-70 (T118)
  • Laetitia Beck 77-75-71-72 (T78)
  • Sophia Popov 71-73-70-76 (T41)
  • SooBin Kim 75-74-76-69 (T72)
  • Simin Feng 73-72-71-73 (T32)
Good Shots
  • Valentine Derrey 73-73-70-72 (T22)
  • Camilla Lennarth 71-74-70-72 (T16)
  • Kylie Walker 75-70-80-74 (T118)
  • Stephanie Na 81-73-76-71 (T138)
  • Holly Clyburn DQ
  • Haruka Morita (Wanyao Lu) 71-73-73-72 (T32)
  • Chirapat Jao-Javanil 72-71-76-73 (T59)
  • Ginger Howard 72-67-69-71 (1st)
  • Yu Liu 77-70-71-72 (T41)
  • Therese Koelbaek 72-73-74-72 (T51)
If I had remembered that Hee Young Park's younger sister was Ju Young Park, I would certainly have been tracking her progress this week.  As it turned out, she went 71-70-72-71 to finish T8!  Sophie Giquel also sneaked into the top 80 with a solid 73 today that left her at T78, right on the right side of the cut line at +7 for the week.  On the down side, I was sad to see that Mitsuki Katahira and Katie Kempter finished outside the top 80 and that Hannah Yun didn't even sign up for Q-School this year.  We'll have to wait and see what their plans for 2015 are.

To close on a happy note, let me offer my congratulations to everyone who moved on to Stage III and encouragement to those who didn't.

Reignwood LPGA Classic Friday: Stacy Lewis to Field, "Catch Me If You Can!"

There are a lot of female golfers having great seasons, but Stacy Lewis is doing it on the biggest stage against the toughest competition while playing the most consistently excellent golf.  She didn't have a particularly great ball-striking day by her standards yesterday to kick off the Reignwood LPGA Classic, but took only 24 putts on her way to a bogey-free 66.  Today, she responded to an opening bogey with 6 birdies the rest of the way, including 3 in her last 6 holes, to move to -12 and dare the field to catch her.

So far only Brittany Lang has really responded to Lewis's challenge.  Her bogey-free 66 crammed 7 birdies into her last 12 holes.  It's that kind of burst that's required to keep up with the world #1 these days, and yet Lang is still 2 back at the halfway point.  Speaking of bursts, Suzann Pettersen birdied 4 of her last 5 holes to post a bogey-free 66 of her own and move within 6 of Lewis after a forgettable 1st day.  We'll have to see if LPGA newbies Caroline Masson (7-birdie 68) and Mirim Lee (bogey-free 68) can keep the pedal to the metal; they moved within 4 of the lead, catching Caroline Hedwall (4-birdie 71) and Belen Mozo (5-birdie 69) at -8.  Meanwhile, So Yeon Ryu finally woke up, with 5 birdies in her last 13 holes and 3 in her last 4, but she's 7 off the pace, as are Inbee Park and Chella Choi, while Mi Jung Hur (-2), Ya Ni Tseng (-2), Na Yeon Choi (E), and defending champion Shanshan Feng (E) are even further behind.

So huge advantage to Lewis heading into the weekend in Beijing.  She's got a big lead on the biggest names chasing her while putting the pressure on those closest to her.  I don't see any reason she won't continue making at least 5 birdies a round.  She hasn't missed a fairway all week, she has taken only 51 putts in 36 holes, and she's talking like she has history in her sights.  A solid weekend allows her to extend her lead on the money list and in the Player of the Year race and Race to the CME Globe.  The time is certainly ripe for Lewis to rack up even more Hall of Fame points.  Can anyone stop her?