A Young Girl Rocks Out on Keyboard – Do You Think She Hit a Golf Ball?

Dan Everett posted shared this on his Facebook page and I thought I’d say a few words about her playing. I managed to find it on YouTube:

The commenters there identify the piece as Sonatina in D Major, Op 36, No 6 by Muzio Clementi. I wouldn’t have guessed that, but then, I simply don’t know Clementi. But that’s irrelevant.

I want to talk about her playing. Actually, I want to talk about how she uses her body. She plays with her body, as any halfway decent musician does. Look at how her upper body moves once she’s underway. That’s not merely a matter of moving her arms back and forth in front of the keyboard, it is some of that. It’s mostly keeping the groove and it’s setting the muscle tone in which her arms and fingers make the more differentiated movements that activate the keys.

Fredonia’s Got Talent!

Apologies to my regular readers for taking this mini-sabbatical from Mostly Harmless!  Probably the main reason I’ve been too busy to blog has been all the extra time I’ve been putting into meeting with my students this past month to consult with them on their critical essays and final research projects.  Although most of them chose not to do web authoring projects, a good number did; here are links to their work:

Please check ’em out while you’re waiting for me to finish grading!
[cross-posted at sf@SF and Citizen of Somewhere Else]

ElleAir Ladies Open Sunday: Sakura Yokomine Wins for 1st Time in 2014, Becoming 2nd Golfer in JLPGA History to Break the Billion-Yen Barrier in Career Winnings

Sakura Yokomine’s 23rd career victory on the JLPGA may be one of her sweetest.  Not only was her win at the ElleAir Ladies Open her 1st of 2014, it may well be her last as a JLPGA member–at least for awhile–as she’s one of the favorites at LPGA Q-School’s final stage in early December.  Of course, she can go on to win the final event of the JLPGA season, the Ricoh Cup, next week.  But let’s stay in the present for now!

Yokomine entered the final round 2 shots behind 20-year-old sensation Ai Suzuki, who bounced back from a bogey on the 197-yard par-3 3rd with birdies on the 4th and 6th holes, both short par 4s.  At that point, Suzuki was -17 and led her playing partner, 23-year-old Miki Sakai, by 2 shots; Yokomine, the last member of the final threesome, was one more shot behind.   But around the time that Sakai birdied the 148-yard par-3 7th to pull within one shot of Suzuki, some players from a few groups ahead of them entered the fray.  Rikako Morita, last year’s money-list title-holder, was the 1st to catch Yokomine at -14, as she opened with a bogey-free 33.  Yokomine responded with back-to-back birdies to close out the front 9 and tie Sakai for 2nd at -16, but Morita had already moved to -15 with her 2nd birdie in a row, this one on the long par-4 10th.

But it was a burst by Teresa Lu, which began with an eagle on the short par-5 9th and continued with birdies on the short par-5 11th and the long par-3 13th, that made the final threesome pay attention to what was going on 3 groups ahead of them.  Combined with a pair of early birdies (and her lone bogey of the day on the long par-4 8th), Lu moved from -10 to -15 in the space of 13 holes.  And when Suzuki bogeyed the long par-4 12th to fall back to -16, in a tie for the lead with Sakai and Yokomine, Lu had gone from 6 down to 1 down.  Which was exactly where her playing partner Erina Hara got to when she made her 6th birdie of the day (against only 1 bogey) on the 338-yard par-4 14th, her 3rd in her previous 4 holes.

So with a few holes to play there were 6 golfers who could win this thing.  Lu was the 1st to strike, sprinting past Hara with back-to-back birdies to close out her round and become the leader in the clubhouse at -17.  (Both players dashed the hopes of Na-Ri Lee, who had birdied 7 of her 1st 13 holes to fly to -15 very early in the day, but fallen to earth with a double bogey on 12 and finished at -14.)  Right behind them, Morita followed suit with birdies on the 273-yard par-4 16th and 535-yard par-5 18th to join Lu atop the leaderboard.  And when Yokomine and Sakai both responded with birdies on the 385-yard par-4 15th–Yokomine by making a 30-footer–we had 4 players tied for the lead at -17, 1 shot ahead of Suzuki.

The tiny 16th hole proved to be the difference-maker, as Yokomine birdied it, Sakai doubled it, and Suzuki parred it.  When Yokomine parred out and Sakai finished bogey-birdie to tie Hara at -15, that meant that Suzuki needed to birdie out to force a playoff.  In the end, her walkoff birdie secured her a tie for 2nd place with Lu and Morita.  Yokomine’s bogey-free 68 proved just good enough to beat Lu’s 65, Morita’s 66, and Suzuki’s 71.

What’s more, Yokomine’s victory pushed her past the billion-yen mark in career winnings.  Yokomine joins Yuri Fudoh as the only 2 golfers in JLPGA history to accomplish that amazing feat.  Speaking of amazing feats, Sun-Ju Ahn’s top-10 finish was enough to secure her 3rd money-list title on the JLPGA.  This one was the hardest for her, as she played through severe pain in her right wrist since the last week of October to hold off Bo-Mee Lee and Ji-Yai Shin.

So congratulations to Yokomine and Ahn.  Here’s how the JLPGA money list looks heading into the Ricoh Cup:

1. Sun-Ju Ahn ¥152.56M
2. Bo-Mee Lee ¥118.58M
3. Ji-Yai Shin ¥100.44M
4. Teresa Lu ¥98.17M
5. Misuzu Narita ¥95.23M
6. Miki Sakai ¥91.90M
7. Shiho Oyama ¥79.29M
8. Na-Ri Lee ¥77.45M
9. Erina Hara ¥74.96M
10. Momoko Ueda ¥70.60M
11. Ayaka Watanabe ¥65.72M
12. Ai Suzuki ¥59.97M
13. Esther Lee ¥59.01M
14. Sakura Yokomine ¥57.89M
15. Rikako Morita ¥55.18M
16. Onnarin Sattayabanphot ¥54.80M
17. Lala Anai ¥51.29M
18. Ritsuko Ryu ¥47.75M
19. Yumiko Yoshida ¥46.68M
20. Ji-Hee Lee ¥43.08M
21. Kotono Kozuma ¥41.80M
22. Junko Omote ¥40.51M
23. Erika Kikuchi ¥40.27M
24. Mi-Jeong Jeon ¥39.72M
25. Saiki Fujita ¥38.94M
26. Mami Fukuda ¥37.06M
27. Kaori Ohe ¥35.78M
28. Asako Fujimoto ¥32.45M
29. Yuki Ichinose ¥31.61M
30. Phoebe Yao ¥31.35M
31. Mayu Hattori ¥30.32M

32. Soo-Yun Kang ¥29.53M
33. Rui Kitada ¥29.39M
34. Yoko Maeda ¥29.21M
35. Yeon-Ju Jung ¥28.43M
36. Na-Ri Kim ¥28.21M
37. Megumi Kido ¥27.89M
38. Hikari Fujita ¥27.14M
39. Yukari Baba ¥26.44M
40. Rumi Yoshiba ¥25.74M
41. Akane Iijima ¥23.32M
42. Da-Ye Na ¥23.06M
43. Yukari Nishiyama ¥23.03M
44. Natsuka Hori ¥22.60M
45. Mamiko Higa ¥22.44M
46. Shanshan Feng ¥20.04M
47. Megumi Shimokawa ¥19.74M
48. Miki Saiki ¥18.67M
49. Eun-Bi Jang ¥18.14M
50. Ji-Woo Lee ¥17.61M

Next week’s event, the Ricoh Cup, is the last major of the JLPGA season, in addition to being its season-ending tournament.  It features this year’s winners, anyone in the the top 25 on the tour money list without a win, anyone in the top 25 of the Rolex Rankings who hasn’t otherwise qualified and wants to participate, and any Japanese player with a win on the LPGA.  That means that teenager Minami Katsu and world #1 Inbee Park will be competing against the JLPGA’s finest!

My Favorite Shots from The Blizzard of 2014

Mizuno Classic Weekend: Mi Hyang Lee Prevails in Classic Barnburner

21-year-old Mi Hyang Lee won the 2nd tournament of 2014 among major women’s professional tours by firing a final-round 63 in New Zealand and blowing past Lydia Ko, among others.  And she’s just won the Mizuno Classic, the 2nd of November–and her 1st on the LPGA–by blowing past 51-year-old Laura Davies, among others, catching Ilhee Lee and Kotomo Kozuma at -11, and beating them with a birdie on the 5th playoff hole.  With 9 players finishing at -10 and 5 at -9, it’s amazing that Lee could prevail, but somebody had to do it.  Here’s how it happened.

Lee had sprung into contention with a 2nd-round 67, but it wasn’t nearly the best round on moving day.  The JLPGA’s young star Ai Suzuki birdied her last 4 holes in a row (and 5 of her last 6) for a 64 that got her a share of the lead with Davies (67) and Ilhee Lee (66) at -9.  Na-Ri Lee birdied 6 of her last 11 holes to post a 65 that got her into solo 7th, 2 shots off the lead and 1 behind Mi Hyang Lee, Kozuma (67), and Chella Choi (68).  With Jessica KordaMisuzu Narita, and Teresa Lu firing 67s of their own to move to -6, -5, and -4, respectively, and with big names Karrie Webb (68), Sakura Yokomine (69), and Bo-Mee Lee (69) lurking, Sunday dawned with 21 players within 5 shots of the lead.  The only disappointment was that the 2 biggest names in the field, LPGA money-list leader Stacy Lewis and JLPGA money-list leader Sun-Ju Ahn, were not in that group.

Even without them in the hunt, what a Sunday it turned out to be!  Hall of Famer and 2006 champion Webb kicked off the festivities with a bogey-free 31 on the front from the 3rd-to-last group to move to -11 at the turn.  Playing in the next-to-last group, Choi and Mi Hyang Lee birdied 4 of her 1st 7 holes and 3 of her 1st 7, respectively, to join her.  Meanwhile Korda, sandwiched between those 2 groups, got it to -10 with a birdie-free 32 on the front.  But all of them were chasing Choi’s and Lee’s playing partner Kozuma, who birdied 4 holes in a row after parring the 1st and got it to -13 with a birdie on the par-5 7th.  As the 2nd-round co-leaders stumbled out of the gates–Suzuki bogeyed her 1st 2 holes and scrambled her way to a 37 that left her at -8, Davies offset her 2 birdies with 2 bogeys to stay at -9, and Ilhee Lee made 11-straight pars dating back to the end of moving day before making her lone birdie on the front that got her to -10–Kozuma suddenly gave everyone hope with bogeys on 9 and 11 that dropped her back to -11.

Even as the 22-year-old looking for her 1st JLPGA victory looked like she was starting to fumble it, other players entered the fray.  LPGA newbie Ayako Uehara, a 3-time winner on the JLPGA who was a fixture in the top 26 of their money list from 2006 to 2012, ended her 8-hole par train that closed out yesterday’s round with a birdie on her 1st hole today and followed it up with 4 more in her next 12 holes of bogey-free golf to climb to -11 and into a tie for the lead with her playing partner Korda (who birdied the 12th to get there), Choi (who would follow up her birdie barrage on the 1st 7 holes with a par train over her next 7), Kozuma, and Ilhee Lee (who birdied the 7th and 11th to get there and had gone without a bogey for 33 holes and counting at that point).  But what of Webb, Davies, and the eventual winner?  Well, Webb went bogey-birdie-bogey to fall back to -10 with only 4 holes left to play, Mi Hyang Lee had bogeyed the 10th to join her there but fought back into a tie for the lead with a birdie on the 14th, and Davies birdied the par-5 13th to get to -10.

A bunch of late charges complicated matters yet further.  1st-round leader Morgan Pressel, who had stalled Saturday after an opening 67 due to an unexpectedly balky putter, followed up her bogey-free 33 on the front today with 3 birdies in her last 6 holes, including 2 in her last 3, to post her 2nd 67 of the week and become the leader in the clubhouse at -10.  She was joined a few minutes later by playing partners Sakura Yokomine and Saiki Fujita.  Yokomine had birdied 2 of her 1st 3 holes but stalled midway through her round, yet finished strong with 4 birdies in her last 8 holes, including 3 of her last 6.  Fujita, meanwhile, followed up her 4 birdies in her 1st 6 holes with a lone eagle on the 13th in a sea of pars.  Their final playing partner, Harukyo Nomura, had a great chance to become the 4th co-leader in the clubhouse, but despite making 5 birdies between the 7th and 15th holes, could not make another on the 540-yard par-5 16th, 180-yard par-3 17th, or 405-yard par-4 18th.

So the big question as the leaders entered the home stretch was who would join Pressel, Yokomine, and Fujita at -10–and who would surpass them?

The 1st to try was Webb.  She made a heroic birdie on 17 to get to -11, but had to settle for becoming the 4th co-leader in the clubhouse when she suffered a walkoff bogey.

Next up were Korda, Uehara, and Na-Ri Lee.  Korda had fallen back to -10 with a bogey on the par-4 14th and couldn’t make a birdie coming home.  Lee did birdie 2 of her last 4 holes, but it was too little, too late.  So all Uehara needed to do to pass the 6 co-leaders was to stay at -11.  She did it with pars on 14, 15, 16, and 17, but she couldn’t do it on 18.  Now there were 7 players at -10 and only 6 left on the course.  Would anyone break the logjam?

The next threesome featured up-and-coming golfers looking for their 1st win ever (Choi and Kozuma) or 1st win on the LPGA (Mi Hyang Lee).  Kozuma had righted the ship after her mid-round stumbles and had made 6-straight pars as she headed into the 18th at -11.  Lee had followed up her birdie on 14 with 3-straight pars to keep pace with the JLPGA’s last hope for a homegrown winner.  But Choi had bogeyed the par-4 15th and needed a birdie on 18 or walkoff bogeys by her playing partners to have a hope of winning.  In the end, all 3 parred out, making it 8 golfers at -10–and 2 at -11.

Would anyone in the final group be able to beat Lee and Kozuma?  Davies couldn’t do it, as she finished with 5-straight pars to become the 9th player to end the week at -10.  After her rough start, Suzuki had fought back to -9 with 2 holes to play, but parred out.  Ilhee Lee got it to -12 with a birdie on the long par-5 16th, but she ended her 38-hole bogey-free run with a bogey on 17.  Could she birdie 18 for the win?  Would she join Webb and Uehara in the walkoff bogey club?  Nope, she parred it to join the playoff with Kozuma and Mi Hyang Lee.

And what a playoff it was!  They played the tough 18th over and over…and over.  All pars the 1st go-round…and the 2nd.  All birdies the 3rd.  All pars the 4th.  Finally Mi Hyang Lee prevailed with her 2nd birdie of the playoff on the 5th go-round!

If you had told me at the start of the week that Stacy Lewis, Na Yeon Choi, and Sun-Ju Ahn would finish outside the top 30 and Bo-Mee Lee, Ji-Yai Shin, Misuza Narita, Teresa Lu, and Mirim Lee would struggle to make the top 20, I would have told you that anyone could walk away with the victory (and that I’d be in contention for the wooden spoon, the cellar-dweller’s prize in SeoulSisters.com’s PakPicker, this week!).  In the midst of Morgan Pressel, Chella Choi, and Na-Ri Lee putting on a ball-striking exhibition, Ai Suzuki and Ayako Uehara putting on a putting exhibition, and Laura Davies and Karrie Webb showing the kids a thing or two, Mi Hyang Lee, Ilhee Lee, and Kotono Kozuma showed us all that you don’t need to have a big name or a huge resume to create a lot of drama.  Mi Hyang Lee’s 2nd win of 2014 will move her up my ranking of the top 22 under 22 on major women’s professional tours.  Congratulations to Lee and condolences to everyone she surpassed!

[Update 1 (5:39 am):  Sunday was a day of playoffs, as Min Sun Kim broke through for her 1st career KLPGA victory and Lee-Anne Pace made it 3 Ws in her last 3 starts!]

Recommended Reading: On Inbee Park’s 3rd LPGA Victory of 2014

So once again I was unable to watch any LPGA that I DVRed this past week, due to work responsibilities reaching a white-hot pitch, imoto’s interest in catching up on past seasons of Once Upon a Time, and my own interest in seeing Primus play live for what may well turn out to be the only time in my life.

As a result, I’m going to recommend some other people’s writing on Inbee Park’s victory at the Fubon LPGA Taiwan Championship by 2 shots over Stacy Lewis:  Centurion‘s post over at LLLLet’s Golf!,  LPGA.com‘s notes and interviews, the AP‘s game story, Ladies on Tour‘s summary, Elizabeth Bethel‘s post over at ProGolfNow/Fansided, and Rick Woelfel‘s post over at Women’s Golf Center….

Enjoy!

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?

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.

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!

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?

LPGA Hall of Fame Watch, September 2014 Edition

I usually wait till Thanksgiving and the end of the LPGA season to revisit an old Hound Dog LPGA question:  who will be the next player to qualify for the LPGA Hall of Fame?  But given how well the top golfers on tour have been playing, and how much is at stake during the tour’s 2nd Asian Swing and beyond, I figured I’d review where everyone with at least a halfway decent chance of making the Hall stands right now.

Here are the criteria from LPGA.com:

  1. Must be/have been an “active” LPGA Tour member for 10 years;
  2. Must have won/been awarded at least one of the following – an LPGA major championship, the Vare Trophy or Rolex Player of the Year honors; and
  3. Must have accumulated a total of 27 points, which are awarded as follows – one point for each LPGA official tournament win, two points for each LPGA major tournament win and one point for each Vare Trophy or Rolex Player of the Year honor earned.

Check out how quickly Lorena Ochoa qualified in points in Hound Dog’s follow-up post–although he couldn’t have predicted then that she’d retire so soon, before actually meeting criterion #1!  So assuming Laura Davies and Ochoa will either play their way in or be voted in, who are the top candidates for entry right now?  

Check me on this, but here’s how I believe the points breakdown stands right now:

1. Ya Ni Tseng (23)
T2. Inbee Park (18)
T2. Cristie Kerr (18)
4. Suzann Pettersen (16)
5. Stacy Lewis (14)
6. Ji-Yai Shin (13)
7. Paula Creamer (11)
T8. Na Yeon Choi (9)
T8. Ai Miyazato (9) [the only one on this list who doesn’t meet criterion #2]

I’m going to go out on a limb here and officially doubt that Kerr will make it to 27 points.  And given how Shin, Choi, and Miyazato have stalled, it’s difficult to have much confidence that Park, Pettersen, or Lewis will catch Tseng very quickly–although given how well Pettersen has played in Asia in her career and how hot Park and Lewis are, who knows?  Tseng, meanwhile, needs to take a deep breath, realize that everyone runs into rough patches in a golf career, refocus, and learn to crawl again before she tries to run.

In short, everyone on this list has made a name for themselves, but it takes more than that to make history.  With so many 1st-time major winners this season, the only points that are left besides wins are for Player of the Year and for the Vare Trophy (for lowest scoring average).  Right now, Lewis has sizeable leads in both races.  Let’s see if she can lock them up in the next 2 months!

Who Do You Think Has Had the Best 2014 in Women’s Golf Thus Far?

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:

Of course, a lot can happen down the home stretch.  Maybe someone will leave all these players in the dust if she heats up as the temperatures go down.  After all, the JLPGA has 10 events and 2 majors among them yet to be played, including this week’s Miyagi TV Cup Dunlop Ladies Open and next week’s Japan Women’s Open, the LPGA’s fall Asian Swing kicks off next week, and the KLPGA has a couple of majors coming up in October.
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?

Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic Saturday: Mi Jung Hur Catches Paula Reto at -15, 4-Up on Stacy Lewis and Kris Tamulis

Mi Jung Hur fired a 6-birdie 67 to catch 2nd-round leader of the Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic Paula Reto atop the leaderboard at -15, 4 shots clear of Stacy Lewis (who was -4 and bogey-free over her last 14 holes) and Kris Tamulis (whose bogey-free 65 was the low round of the day).

Hur, who was tied with Lewis for the lead after the 1st round, fired a bogey-free 32 on the back to reel in the surprising South African rookie, who bounced back from a bogey on the par-4 4th, a double on the par-3 7th, and another bogey on the par-4 11th with birdies on 6, 8, 9, 14, 15, and 17.  Both Hur and Reto have hit 45 greens in 54 holes, but while Reto has made 21 birdies to Hur’s 18, Hur has taken 7 fewer overall putts than Reto.  If the 2 unlikely co-leaders keep this up tomorrow, everyone else will be playing for 3rd.

Moriya Jutanugarn squandered a whole bunch of great looks at birdie today, or she’d be right with Lewis and Tamulis, but T5 at -8 with Alison Walshe is nothing to sneeze at.  Me, I’ll be rooting for Ayako Uehara (-7), Ai Miyazato (-6), and Mika Miyazato (-4) to go low tomorrow.  The Miyazatos were both -7 late on the back, but Mikan tripled the par-5 17th and Ai-sama bogeyed the par-4 18th she had birdied the previous 2 rounds.  Uehara, meanwhile, has been unable to reach her high-water mark this week of -8 through 31 holes, as the 3 birdies she made on the front today were not enough to offset the 4 bogeys she made in that 14-hole stretch, and parring out on the back left her 8 behind the leaders.

As for the race for the top 100 on the LPGA money list, things aren’t looking too good for Paz Echeverria (DNP) and Jee Young Lee (MC), who look very likely to get passed by Joanna Klatten (#100, -1) and Reto (#105, -15).  With Becky Morgan (#106, -4), Karin Sjodin (#119, -6), Stacey Keating (#126, -6), Perrine Delacour (#127, -7), and Cydney Clanton (#145, -6) in the hunt for big paychecks, that means even Alena Sharp (#97, +1) and Yueer Cindy Feng (#96, +7) have to focus on making enough money this week to pass Ashleigh Simon, Kristy McPherson, and Lindsey Wright (all of whom missed the cut) to ensure they stay in the top 100.  Conceivably, 1 of those 5 players could be the odd one out if everyone behind them playing well thus far this week continues to do so tomorrow.

So there’s a lot at stake for a lot of players in the final round.  Reto is trying to become the 3rd rookie to enter the winner’s circle in 2014; Hur is trying to close a deal she’s been unable to the last few weeks and nail down LPGA victory #2; Lewis is out to widen her lead in the money-list, Player of the Year, and CME Globe races; Tamulis is out to graduate from journeywoman status.  And then a whole bunch of golfers are doing everything they can to avoid Q-School.  Should be very interesting!

Golf 5 Ladies Set-Up: Shiho Oyama Goes 65-63 to Take 6-Shot Lead on Misuzu Narita

Shiho Oyama has been coming alive in the middle third of 2014, but I don’t think anybody was ready for her to go 6563 in the 1st 2 rounds of the Golf 5 Ladies or to take a 6-shot lead on Misuzu Narita and an 8-shot lead on Yumiko Yoshida, Onnarin Sattayabanphot, and Kotono Kozuma.  Meanwhile Ji-Yai Shin, who’s won 3 of her last 6 JLPGA events, is 11 shots behind Oyama after what would usually be a respectable 70-69 start to her week.

Oyama’s been dealing with a lot of injuries since she tried joining the LPGA a few years back, but she got her 13th career JLPGA victory in the final event of 2013, the Ricoh Cup, which marked her 3rd major victory on tour.  She’s come close to #14 several times already this season, with 3 top 5s in her last 5 starts and 6 top 10s in her last 8, but she’s been overshadowed by the recent pyrotechnics of Shin and Bo-Mee Lee.

7 other golfers have broken 70 in the 1st 2 rounds, but at the pace Oyama’s going, somebody will need to break 65 tomorrow to have a chance to put any pressure on her at all.  And if there’s going to be any drama about the final result, that somebody had better be Narita, who had 3 wins and 9 top 10s in the 12 starts before last week’s T33.  As much as I like Narita, I’d love to see Oyama run away with this one, though!

If You Can’t Get Excited about the Evian Championship, You Can’t Get Excited about Golf

Sparkychan and Gojochan Retrospective!

Back in 2006, when I first started photographing graffiti, I thought it would be interesting to get some kid’s toys and photograph them amid the gritty territory I was exploring. So I bought two, a plastic model of Gojira (Godzilla in America), which promptly became Gojochan, and a hot-pink plush bear, Sparkychan. Here’s some stories about their life: The Collected Adventures of Sparkychan & Gojochan (Thus Far). I’ve posted some photos of them below.

* * * * *

Oh me oh my
Sparkychan meditating on the awesomeness of existence.

sparky in the hole.jpg
Gojochan raging against the dying of the night.

Ah yes
Gogochan is attracted to Sparkychan’s inner peace.
And another thing
They talk of many things, including the decay of the urban infrastructure.

The way I see it
They can read the writing on the wall. And it says, “get out while the getting’s good.”

ride the ramschackle express.jpg
And so they hopped on the next trolly, and boggied on outa’ there.

PPG.jpg
They went home watched the Powerpuff Girls and had cookies and tea, like civilized people do. Such fun!

The End

Canadian Pacific Women’s Open Sunday: So Yeon Ryu Holds Off Na Yeon Choi for 3rd Career LPGA Victory

So Yeon Ryu pulled 1 shot ahead of Na Yeon Choi at the end of the 1st round of the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open with a walkoff birdie that got her to -9.  For the next 45 holes, it looked like Ryu’s only competition would Annika Sorenstam’s feat of -27 for 72 holes, as she made 16 birdies and only 1 bogey to move to -24 with 9 holes left to play.  At that point she was 6-up on Choi, 7-up on Inbee Park, and 9-up on Azahara Munoz.  The only question seemed to be whether Ryu would beat Annika’s mark and whether Park would play the entire tournament bogey-free.

The answer to both questions, however, turned out to be no.  Park’s bogey-free run would end after 64 holes when she missed a makeable par save on the par-4 11th.  And then NYC cut SYR’s lead in half after Ryu bogeyed 10 and Choi birdied the 11th and the par-3 13th.  And when NYC birdied the par-4 15th and SYR bogeyed it, they were right back on the 70th tee where they had last been on the 19th:  1 stroke apart.  And when Ryu had to lay up on the par-5 16th and Choi had a chance to go for the green in 2, that single stroke seemed a very slim margin indeed.  But when NYC pushed her approach into the right bunker and SYR stuck her wedge to about 8 feet, you could feel the tables start to turn.  And when Choi couldn’t get the sandie and Ryu hit a perfect putt to fight back to -23, you could almost hear the click.  2 pars later for each golfer and everyone on the course could hear it.  Ryu had won for the 3rd time on the LPGA and 1st time since 2012.

The announcers made a big deal about both Ryu and Choi being Inbee Park’s bridesmaids at her October 2014 wedding, so let me make the obligatory “no longer a bridesmaid” comment.  The Park connection I’m more interested in, however, is the notion of a U.S. Women’s Open jinx.  Park lost the top spot in the Rolex Rankings after winning last year’s USWO and didn’t win again until the Manulife (where she also ended up at -23!), which is actually a mild form of the jinx.  Paula Creamer, for instance, had to wait for her 10th career LPGA victory almost 4 years after winning the USWO at Oakmont.  (Park herself had to wait about as long for her 2nd LPGA victory after winning the USWO for the 1st time in 2008).  Admittedly, the comparison isn’t exact, as both SYR and NYC have exactly 1 LPGA win since taking their own USWO titles in 2011 and 2012, respectively.  So let’s call it a delayed-reaction USWO jinx.  In any case, it’s over for So Yeon Ryu.

So congratulations to Ryu on a long-awaited and much-deserved victory.  And congratulations to Kim Kaufman, who fired the low round of the day, a bogey-free 66 that included a 3-putt par on the 16th.  She went -11 over her last 35 holes of bogey-free golf and hit every green but 9.  And congratulations, as well, to Danielle Kang, who tied Kaufman for 5th at -15 and looked like she was having a total blast the entire week.  Caroline Masson and Kristy McPherson, who tied NYC’s 67 for the 2nd-lowest rounds of the day, also deserve much congratulations.

As happy as I am for Ryu and the gang, I’m just as sad for Ai Miyazato, who seemed to have turned a corner with her 2nd-round 67, but who tied Sue Kim for the high round of the day today and was +7 over her final 23 holes.  The stats make it seem her putter let her down on moving day and she spent a lot of time in the rough during the final round.  Hope she shakes it off quickly, as the Evian is her best chance to win her 1st LPGA major!  I was hoping for better from Mina Harigae (-2), Jane Park (-2), Tiffany Joh (-1), and Ayako Uehara (+1) this week, as well.  At least Harukyo Nomura (-8) and Chie Arimura (-6) had pretty solid weeks.  Here’s hoping they play well in Portland next week!

What a Week!

Anyone following me on twitter knows that I happened to be at my favorite Korean restaurant in Western New York last night when the repeat winner of the Wegmans LPGA Championship happened to drop by.  Smooth as always in the presence of greatness, I stammered out a quiet “Congratulations, Inbee,” as she walked by.  She took the time to thank me.  And that was that.

It’s sad to think that nobody knows when the LPGA will return to Rochester.  I was so busy chasing golfers yesterday that the only player I got to interview was Mina Harigae, and then only for a couple of minutes after her most frustrating round of the week.  So to all the players I’ve followed, or interviewed, and sometimes even gotten to know a bit over the last several years in Pittsford–particularly Ai Miyazato, Mika Miyazato, Moira Dunn, Paula Creamer, Morgan Pressel, Tiffany Joh, Danielle Kang, Lizette Salas, Jane Park, Jennifer Song, Na Yeon Choi, In-Kyung Kim, Amy Yang, Momoko Ueda, Chie Arimura, Ayako Uehara, and Harukyo Nomura–thanks for everything you do!  And hope to see you competing in Rochester again soon!

Sadena Parks Wins on Symetra Tour

With her Sunday 62 and huge come-from-behind-victory in Albany, NY, Sadena Parks became the tour’s 2nd African-American champion and moved up to 6th on the Symetra Tour’s money list.  With 6 events remaining on the 2014 schedule, Parks is well behind 2-time winners Min Seo Kwak and Marissa Steen, as well as the consistent Yueer Cindy Feng (who uncharacteristically played as badly on Sunday as Parks played well), but she’s put almost $9,000 between herself and #11 Brittany Altomare.  With Selanee Henderson currently at #48 on the money list, Cheyenne Woods at #51, and Ginger Howard at #72, it’s looking more and more like they’ll have to make it to the LPGA via Q-School.  So right now Parks has the best odds of becoming only the 5th-ever African-American LPGA member.

I’d be going to this week’s event in Syracuse to see how all these players, along with my favorites Hannah Yun and Mitsuki Katahira, handle a Drumlins East course that I butchered this summer while trying to qualify for the NYSGA’s Men’s Amateur Championship, except that I’ve already committed to helping one of my best friends from grad school move into new digs in Austin, TX.  (And see if I can play a little better out of NY than in it.)  Too bad for me!  (Actually, I’m psyched for the trip!)

MVPs in the International Crown

So who won the most points for their team during the inaugural International Crown?

Inbee Park and So Yeon Ryu combined for 2 wins and each won a singles match, so together they accounted for 8 of Team Korea’s 10 points.  Their only loss came to Sweden’s Vikings on day 2.

Speaking of the Vikings, Anna Nordqvist got 3 wins and a halve, all of them coming with partner Caroline Hedwall except for her final individual victory against Japan’s Mamiko Higa.  Hedwall had a tougher row to hoe, losing to Park today.  So together they contributed 7 of Team Sweden’s 11 points.  Kudos, too, to Pernilla Lindberg for getting hot, contributing to a team win and getting a huge individual win against Ariya Jutanugarn, a much-higher-ranked young star who just had a bad week.  She’s the reason they came in 2nd.

The champions from Spain had the most balanced team.  Azahara Munoz and Carlota Ciganda contributed 2 wins in team play and 1 individual win each.  Beatriz Recari and Belen Mozo halved their match on Thursday, but won as a team on Saturday and as individuals on Sunday.  The team’s only losses came to Team USA on Friday.

Pornanong Phatlum was responsible for 6 of Team Thailand’s 9 points, 2 wins coming in team matches and 1 individually against In-Kyung Kim.  (Kim, by the way, actually played great this week, but didn’t get the points to show for it.)

Sakura Yokomine and Ai Miyazato were great as a team, winning twice and halving once to account for 5 of Team Japan’s 8 pool points.  But they couldn’t get it done against great competitors, Ryu against Yokomine and Munoz against Ai-sama (although if things had gone differently in the Ryu-Yokomine match on 17, the Munoz-Miyazato match would have mattered a lot more and might have ended up differently).  Let’s also give Mika Miyazato a lot of credit.  She got Japan’s only individual win and combined with Mamiko Higa for a win and a halve.  But she was definitely overshadowed by all the fireworks and drama Sakura and Ai-sama brought to their matches.

So while Nordqvist was the top points-getter, and Park and Ryu were the heart and soul of Team Korea, I’d say that Ciganda was the MVP of the International Crown and Mozo was the Cinderella.

What awards would you give out?

[Update 1 (7/28/14, 11:14 am):  Here’s bangkokbobby‘s take!]