My Favorite Shots from The Blizzard of 2014

Around the World of Women’s Golf in 10 Easy Links

Between being figuratively snowed in at work and literally snowed in at home in Hamburg (where I’ve spent something like 12 of the last 48 hours shoveling), I’ve taken an unexpected sabbatical from Mostly Harmless, but I’m back!  Let’s catch up on what I’ve missed!

Christina Kim Prevails Over Shanshan Feng in Playoff at Lorena’s Place.  I’ve gotta be honest, I erased the 1st 3 rounds on my DVR after watching the intros and still have the last 6 holes of so of the final round to watch, but I’ll be sure to do so now that I finally gave in and saw that Kim won in a playoff over Feng!

Yoko Maeda Beats Satsuki Oshiro in Playoff for Early 30th Birthday Gift.  Maeda hasn’t even been on the JLPGA often enough to be called a journeywoman, but she bounced back from a walkoff bogey at the Ito-En Ladies that opened the door for Oshiro, who was also looking for her 1st-ever victory on tour, by closing it on the 1st playoff hole with a par.  Momoko Ueda finished 1 shot out of the playoff, which moved her into the top 10 on the money list.  Sun-Ju Ahn continues to maintain a near insurmountable lead on Bo-Mee Lee (not to mention Ji-Yai Shin, Misuzu Narita, Teresa Lu, and Miki Sakai, who all have either cracked the 100 million yen barrier this season or have a hope of doing it).

In Gee Chun Wins for 3rd Time on KLPGA in 2014.  Chun’s win came in dramatic fashion over the final 9 holes, but it was almost overshadowed by Kyu Jung Baek narrowly winning the Rookie of the Year race over Min Sun Kim and Jin Young Ko.  Also, Ha Neul Kim announced that she’ll be playing in the final stage of JLPGA Q-School (she finished T1 at one of the previous stage’s sites on 11/7).  Her last round in the last KLPGA event of 2014 may turn out to be her last start as a KLPGA member.

Xi Yu Lin Wins in Homeland on LET.  Congratulations to LPGA rookie Xi Yu Lin, who beat Charley Hull by 5 shots for her 1st-ever win on the LET!  Lin made her professional debut at the very same event in 2011, finishing 5th, so it’s fitting her 1st victory off the CLPGA came here, as well.

Sakura Yokomine, Ha Na Jang, Sei Young Kim, Charley Hull, Stephanie Meadow, Minjee Lee, Ariya Jutanugarn, Su Hyun Oh Highlight LPGA Q-School’s Final Stage.  But check the field list:  there are a lot of current, former, and maybe future LPGAers on it!  Names like Lorie Kane, Birdie Kim, Chie Arimura, Vicky Hurst, Cheyenne Woods, Ju Young Park (Hee Young’s little sis), Alison Lee, Annie Park, Simin Feng, Ani Gulugian, Ginger Howard, and Madison Pressel are just a few that’ll stick out to die-hard fans of women’s golf.  It all starts the 1st week of December!

The LPGA’s Last Event of 2014 and the JLPGA’s Next-to-Last Are on Tap This Week.  Check out the pre-tournament notes and interviews for the CME Group Tour Championship (where season-ending race leader Stacy Lewis, world #1 Inbee Park, and 2014 Rookie of the Year Lydia Ko have the best shot at winning the $1M Race to the CME Globe) and live scoring for the ElleAire Ladies Open (where Momoko Ueda has jumped out to an early lead).

So buckle your seat belts, everyone!  (That’s something I’ve practically forgotten how to do, as The Constructivist Family has been housebound the last 2 days and we have no idea when the state of emergency or travel ban will be lifted!)  2014 is going out with a bang!

Wegmans LPGA Championship Saturday: Who Will Make a Move as the Rains Move in on Pittsford?

Wegmans LPGA Championship Thursday: Lexi Thompson and Meena Lee Lead at -6

Even though I’m writing this from the media center at Monroe Golf Club, I’m sure you know more about what happened during the 1st round of the Wegmans LPGA Championship than I do.  You see, while Lexi Thompson (66), Meena Lee (66), Brittany Lincicome (67), Lisa McCloskey (67), and Shanshan Feng (68) were lighting it up in the morning, I was following Laura Davies, Angela Stanford, and So Yeon Ryu.  And while Cristie Kerr fired a 68 and Jennifer Kirby (-5 through 15) was going on a run in the afternoon, I was following Ai Miyazato, Sandra Gal, and Lizette Salas.  True, I did see a lot of shots from Feng, who was in the group behind us in the morning, but the only time I saw Lexi was when we happened to duck into the same porta-potty zone at the same time!  So I’m going to focus in this post on what I did focus on today:  6 golfers and 1 course (which I’ve now walked 3 times, so I feel like I’m starting to get to know it).

What was neat about following these 6 golfers was the range of styles of play they bring.  Davies is of course a classic bomber, while Ryu, Stanford, and Gal are straight shooters and Miyazato and Salas are precision players.  So I got to see how they each attempted to attack a course that was equally new to each of them.  Their scores ranged from 69 (Stanford) to 74 (Miyazato), but to tell you the truth, there wasn’t a whole lot of difference between the players in terms of quality of play.  I saw 84 drives today and only 1 missed the fairway by more than a yard–Davies’s pull into the trees off the 1st tee (where she ended up on wood chips that constituted a temporary cart path, took relief from it, punched out into the front-left trap, and made a great sandie to save par!).  Salas hit the fewest greens (11) and Gal the most (15), but until I looked it up, they didn’t seem so different from everyone else I followed, who hit 13 or 14.  I only saw a few bad misses of greens, as most ended up on the fringe or just off it.  One that stands out was Ryu’s double-cross on the par-3 6th that ended up in the front-left trap, from which she made double when she hit it a little thin out of the sand and ended up in jail over the back-right corner of the green.  Salas put herself in a few very difficult traps, as well, but she had trouble carrying the high banks and had to make excellent scrambles from the rough to save bogeys on those holes.  Even the apparent yardage differences from their scorecards are somewhat misleading, as they only average results on a few holes.  Davies was consistently longer than everyone else, while Ryu and Stanford were neck-and-neck on most holes.  Miyazato was surprisingly long, expecially on the front (their back), often outdriving both Gal and Salas.  In fact, Miyazato’s drive on 9 wasn’t that far short of Davies’s!

So what made the difference between their rounds?  If you guessed pitches, chips, and putts, pat yourself on the back.  Salas bogeyed her 1st 2 holes and needed to work to avoid a double on the par-4 11th, but she was able to make 3 birdies on each side to offset her 5 bogeys.  Miyazato had maybe the best ball-striking round I’ve ever seen her play, but she missed 5 putts between 4 and 12 feet on the back (her front) and I was so disheartened I stopped counting on the front.  And yet, after she made what turned out to be her only birdie of the day on the par-4 7th (after sticking her approach to 3 feet) and followed it up with another great approach on the short par-3 8th, she had 12 feet from pin-high right to fight back to E on the day.  The putt had perfect speed but crept around the perimeter of the hole instead of falling in.  Then she hits a great wedge on the par-5 9th that lands near the hole but fails to hold and as the rain starts falling just misses a chip-in and then misses the comebacker.  Contrast that with Stanford, who came about an inch short of an eagle on the par-4 18th and ended up being the only person I saw to break 70 today, and that just about sums it all up.

There’s a lot more to say–I literally charted every shot on my course map–but I don’t have time to go into more details.  So in the 10 minutes I have until I have to catch a shuttle and go to my favorite Korean restaurant in Rochester, let me just sum up the rounds in bullet points:

  • Ryu:  2 bad shots in a row on the par-3 6th were the only thing that kept her over par.  She did have trouble with super-long putts on the front a couple of times, but pretty much anyone would have.  Her left wrist was taped, but it didn’t seem to affect her ball-striking.  What held her back was an inability to make the putts she needed to get some momentum going.
  • Stanford:  She was solid all day and deserved to go a couple lower than she actually ended up.  That approach on 18 makes up for a lot, though!
  • Davies:  A typical adventurous round for Dame Laura, although after 1 she was almost always in the fairway all day.  She hit a driver off the deck on 9 and almost reached it in 2, but she also displayed fantastic touch out of the sand.  If a few par saves and birdie putts had fallen, she could have gone really low today.  71 was about the worst she could have scored.
  • Miyazato:  Fantastic ball-striking both off the tee and especially with her fairway woods and hybrids, solid pitches when she missed the green, but even when she stuck it or made good recovery shots, her putter just didn’t come through for her today.  At one point late on the back she missed 4 really make-able birdie or par putts in a row.  After her round, she talked about just accepting that it’s part of a process that she has to keep working at.  She attributed her improved ball-striking the last 2 months to a lot of hard work, so she knows at some point the putter will start working for her again.
  • Salas:  What a battler!  For every bad approach shot she’d hit, she’d hit a great one, too.  She had a good-sized group of family and fans following her and they had a lot to celebrate!
  • Gal:  A very elegant, artistic golfer, with great touch around the greens and on them.  She was right around the hole all day, but could get only 2 birdies to fall.  Her 71 was about the worst she could have scored, too, given the quality of her play.
All right, I hope I learned a lot about tempo, focus, and persistence that I can take to my Mid-Amateur qualifier tomorrow at Tuscarora.  Walking 36 wasn’t too much of a struggle, but I’ll be glad to get some food and some rest before I play at 9:39 am tomorrow!

Wegmans LPGA Championship Day 2: Sizing Up Monroe Golf Club

The decision to move the Wegmans LPGA Championship from Locust Hill to Monroe Golf Club has sure created a lot of extra work for players and caddies–and for me!–in what could be the last year for the LPGA in the Rochester area for a long time (more on that later).  I’m going to break my scouting report of Monroe GC into 3 posts:  this one on my overall impressions of the course; the next on the front 9, and the last on the back 9.

This one will be a little rushed, as I got to talk to the Full Metal Archivist for almost 2 hours straight this morning after she dropped onechan and imoto off at the home of the girl who stayed with us each of the 2 previous summers, so got to the course much later than I originally planned.  And then I spent a half-hour watching Stacy Lewis, Ai Miyazato, Karine Icher, Austin Ernst, and Karrie Webb practicing on the putting green instead of writing.  I have to catch the shuttle to my car in about half an hour, so whatever I can’t get to here will go into my next 2 posts.

It’s More Oak Hill Than Locust Hill.  The overall feel of Monroe GC is very different than Locust Hill to me.  Although it’s obviously a classic Donald Ross design, it seems to combine many of the attributes I associate with newer, linksy courses with the tree-lined fairways, often elevated and bump-laden greens, and clever use of the terrain that are hallmarks of Ross’s designs.  For one thing, the fairways and greens seem like they drain better than Locust Hill’s and hence are firmer (although we’ll have to see how they handle the most recent wave of rain to hit this area).  The grass in the fairways seems more similar to Oak Hills, very tightly mown and somehow smoother than Locust Hill’s, while the rough doesn’t seem to be grown to the sometimes insane lengths you saw in previous years, particularly when it became a major.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s thick and heavy (and today wet) and I don’t know whether they’ll be mowing it all week.  But it’s really the combination of fairway bunkers and much more hilly and complexly-contoured fairways that make this course more reminiscent of Oak Hill than Locust Hill to me.  There are several holes where you can get serious kicks forward or to the side, depending on where your ball lands.  There are many holes where the shaved area in the neck of traps is so steep it seems designed to repel shots or allow one spun back off false fronts to roll 15-25 yards away from the green.  But the key design feature–and maybe this is why I think of Monroe GC has a woodlands-links hybrid of sorts–is the plethora of fairway bunkers, which are often quite deep and usually placed to maximize pressure off the tee on all kinds of golfers.

It Doesn’t Favor Any Particular Type of Golfer.  Yes, I can see where short hitters may be at a disadvantage with 6 par 4s playing over 400 yards and 3 of the 4 par 3s playing long and often severely uphill.  BUT, and this is a big but, all its par 5s are short, it also provides many holes with a lot of roll out, its fairways are typically narrow, and there are so many fairway bunkers they challenge players of all lengths.  As I’ll go into more detail in my next 2 posts, there are a few holes where the bombers can take a risk and get a big reward if they can keep it in play off the tee.  BUT, and this is another big but, everyone is going to face serious challenges on and around the greens.  You need to know where to land your ball to get it close to different kinds of pins–something I couldn’t figure out very well in the abbreviated time I had to study the greens.  And you need to deal with holes where there are very few places to miss it and have a fairly simple up-and-down attempt.  That’s why I saw so many players practicing all kinds of chips and pitches from all kinds of places off the green to all kinds of places on it.  Like at Pinehurst, one’s scrambling ability will be at a huge premium this week.  And like at Royal Birkdale, so will driving accuracy.  So while longer hitters will always have the advantage of clubbing down off the tee for accuracy and using shorter clubs on their approach shots, they’ll still have to be consistently accurate to be a factor on Sunday.

It’s Visually Intimidating and Deceiving.  In a different way than Locust Hill.  My recurring image of Locust Hill is trees very close to fairways and greens with very subtle breaks, and while you have the tree-lined prison effect on a few holes at Monroe GC, you more have to deal with the occasional overhanging tree and with the fairway bunkers and fairway contours than at Locust Hill.  And there are a fair number of greens that aren’t as bumpy or undulating or tiered as the rest, more so than you’ll find at Locust Hill.  But you also have your share of blind tee shots, tee shots where you have to aim over trouble to get to the best side of the fairway, rises and falls that are hard to judge and that play with your depth perception, and areas of greens you can’t see from the fairway.  You also have to really make an effort to look at the greens from all directions and angles, because you can get a totally different look at the slopes and contours when you do that.  Basically, there are a lot of illusions out there on every kind of shot, so you really have to do your homework on this course.  At the same time, if you put yourself in good positions, it seems to me that you’ll have a lot more good birdie chances than at Locust Hill.  We’ll see who’s able to do that soon!

All right, it’s time for me to hit the road.  Going to hang with my friend and his family and maybe go to that Korean restaurant again, this time as a group.  If we have too good a time, I’ll sleep over here again (where the internet connection is not as fast or stable as at home), so I may not get to my next posts until I return to Hamburg.  We’ll see!

One thing I can say is seeing so many good swings, great tempos, and players I know and don’t know much about (got to see a lot of Lisa McCloskey, Kelly Tan, and Heather Bowie Young on the back 9 today, for instance, as well as Christina Kim) is that it makes me wish I could play this course under the same conditions they do.  I’m really getting psyched up for my Mid-Amateur qualifier this Friday at Tuscarora, even if the timing of my Texas trip and this tournament has cut down on my practice and playing time!

Wegmans LPGA Championship Day 2: Sizing Up Monroe Golf Club

Wegmans LPGA Championship Day 2: Rain, Rain Go Away!

It rained pretty hard overnight here in the Rochester area and we’ve got a hurricane-like cell slowly rotating around us, so the media center here at Monroe Golf Club is still pretty quiet.  My plan is to survey the back 9 and write up my scouting reports before I head out around 5.  Let’s see if I can stick to it!

Walmart NW Arkansas Championship Saturday: Michelle Wie Takes Lead Before Storms Stop Play

Michelle Wie fired her 2nd-straight 66 in the morning wave yesterday at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship to take a 2-shot lead on So Yeon Ryu (67) and a 3-shot lead on Suzann Pettersen (67) and Chella Choi (65).  Rookie Line Vedel got it to -7, as well, before storms stopped afternoon play, while Gerina Piller, Ji Young Oh, and Alejandra Llaneza had caught Stacy Lewis (66), Mina Harigae (66), and Mi Hyang Lee (65) at -6 and passed Na Yeon Choi (69), Lydia Ko (68), and Karine Icher (65).  Let’s see what they can do when play resumes (hopefully this morning at 7:30 am Arkansas time), not to mention those at -4–Cristie Kerr, Angela Stanford, Caroline Masson, and 1st-round leader Alena Sharp–and -3, including none other than Ya Ni Tseng.

The other big question is where the cut line will fall.  Right now 71 players are at E or better, but the line was seesawing between E and +1 for most of yesterday, so we’ll just have to see if Jeong Jang (69), Amy Yang (74), Eun-Hee Ji (71), Jane Park (71), Ilhee Lee (72), and Kris Tamulis will get to play later today or not.  They’re all at +1, along with players still out on the course like University of Arkansas star Gaby Lopez.  With Juli Inkster, Laura Diaz, Azahara Munoz, Brittany Lang, and Ariya Jutanugarn among those at E, Ai Miyazato and Morgan Pressel at +2, and Se Ri Pak, Beatriz Recari, and Chie Arimura at +3, I’m hopeful at least some of them will play great for the few holes they have left this morning.  But it’s too late for Lexi Thompson (+2), Mariajo Uribe (+3), Ayako Uehara and Christina Kim (+4), Jimin Kang (+5), Carlota Ciganda and Pernilla Lindberg (+6), Jee Young Lee (+7), and many others who finished their rounds before play was stopped, not to mention my faves Seon Hwa Lee and Tiffany Joh who are too many strokes back with only 1 hole left for each of them to play.

I was happy, though, to see that Mika Miyazato posted a 69 to fight back to -1, where she’s tied with my old golfing buddy Moira Dunn.

I’ll post updates here when 2nd-round play is complete!

[Update 1 (9:07 am):  There are now 84 players at +1 or better.  Bet the tournament organizers are hoping it ends up at E.]

[Update 2 (9:32 am):  Whoops, now there are 72 players are E or better!]

[Update 3 (9:34 am):  Ji Young Oh made a bogey and a birdie to finish at -6.  Line Vedel bogeyed 16 to join her.]

[Update 4 (9:35 am):  Belen Mozo is -4 on her round but will need to eagle the par-5 18th to guarantee she makes the cut and birdie it to have a chance.]

[Update 5 (9:36 am):  Ai Miyazato birdied 17 to fight back to +1 on her round and the tournament.  Eagle or birdie on 18 and she’s in for sure!]

[Update 6 (9:40 am):  I don’t like that Vicky Hurst and Seon Hwa Lee WDed rather than finish their 2nd rounds this morning (unless they woke up sick, that is).  Looks like Se Ri Pak and Sandra Gal will miss the cut, but at least they showed up.]

[Update 7 (9:41 am):  Piller birdied 17 to get to -7!]

[Update 8 (9:42 am):  Angela Stanford is on a roll, now -6 for the tournament with 3 holes left to play on the front (her back).]

[Update 9 (9:43 am):  Cristie Kerr is now -5 with just 17 and 18 to go.]

[Update 10 (9:44 am):  Mozo could only par 18.  She’s going to miss the cut.]

[Update 11 (9:47 am):  Lots of golfers just held on to end their 1st 36 holes at E:  Catriona Matthew, Candie Kung, Jenny Shin, Harukyo Nomura, Rebecca Lee-Bentham, Jennifer Song, Paz Echeverria, Emma Jandel.  But Ariya Jutanugarn fought her way back there with a fine 68!]

[Update 12 (9:48 am):  Munoz birdied 17 to fight back to E, too!]

[Update 13 (9:51 am):  Stanford birdied 7 to get to -7.  Kerr birdied 17 to get to -6.  Vedel parred 18 to finish at -6.  Miyazato parred 18 to stay at +1.  There are now 74 at E or better.  It’s not looking good for the bunch at +1.]

[Update 14 (9:53 am):  Lizette Salas is now -6 on her round and -4 overall with only 18 left to play!]

[Update 15 (9:54 am):  Brittany Lincicome is -5 and bogey-free with just the 9th left to go and -3 overall.]

[Update 16 (9:55 am):  Inbee Park and Anna Nordqvist are also at -3 thus far.  Ya Ni Tseng is -2.]

[Update 17 (9:56 am):  Whoops, Nordqvist just made a bogey to drop to -2.  Brittany Lang did, too, and now she’s +1, making it 73 players at E or better.]

[Update 18 (9:58 am):  Lincicome parred 9 to post a bogey-free 66!]

[Update 19 (10:01 am):  Lisa McClockey has 4 birdies in her 1st 6 holes on the back to fight back to +1.  Let’s see if she can get to E, where there are now 74 players there (or better).]

[Update 20 (10:03 am):  Gerina Piller parred 18 for a 68 that brought her to -7.  Salas also birdied it to post the low round of the week, a 64 that got her back to -5 and eclipsed the 65s by Alena Sharp, Karine Icher, and Mi Hyang Lee.]

[Update 21 (10:04 am):  Salas made 9 birdies in her 2nd round vs. only 1 in her 1st and took 10 fewer putts!  Amazing!]

[Update 22 (10:08 am):  Oops, Salas’s card got corrected–she didn’t birdie the par-4 13th, after all.  So make that 8 birdies and a 65 that got her to -4.]

[Update 23 (10:12 am):  Ya Ni Tseng and Shanshan Feng are back to -1 now.  It’s starting to look like there aren’t enough golfers in enough danger of falling back to +1 to get the cut line there.]

[Update 24 (10:13 am):  Munoz parred 18 to stay at E.]

[Update 25 (10:14 am):  Look out!  Kerr finished birdie-birdie to pull within 3 of Wie!]

[Update 26 (10:16 am):  Lang birdied 9 to fight back to E. That makes it 74 at E or better.  I think it’s time for those at +1 to start packing their bags.]

[Update 27 (10:17 am):  Stanford parred it to stay at -7, also only 3 behind Wie.]

[Update 28 (10:20 am):  Some huge names finished at -1:  Juli Inkster, Ya Ni Tseng, Shanshan Feng, Morgan Pressel.]

[Update 29 (10:22 am):  Mirim Lee fired a 68, thanks to a birdie-birdie finish on the front, but she needs 4 more players out on the course to join her at +1 for her to be able to keep it going later today.]

[Update 30 (10:26 am):  Nordqvist finished birdie-birdie on 17 and 18 to fight to -4 for the week.]

[Update 31 (10:27 am):  Inbee Park also birdied 18, her 4th in her last 10 holes, to post a 69 and join the big names at -4.]

[Update 32 (10:28 am):  BTW, Sharp birdied 17 to fight back to -5 on the week.]

[Update 33 (10:34 am):  I think I overlooked Thidapa Suwannapura’s yesterday morning 66, one of the best rounds of the week!]

[Update 34 (10:41 am):  BTW, Lisa McCloskey is mistakenly identified as Colombian on her scorecard!  Maybe for the World Cup?]

[Update 35 (10:42 am):  If so, it wasn’t lucky enough for her, as she could manage only a par on 18 to miss the cut at +1.  Meanwhile, Llaneza parred 18 to stay at -6.]

Kingsmill Championship Friday: Who Took/Will Take Advantage of a Soggy Course?

A huge storm system blew through the Williamsburg area this morning and delayed the start of the 2nd round of the Kingsmill Championship by three and a half hours.  With a much wetter course and much different winds than yesterday, the key question was who would adjust quickest to the changed conditions?  Stacy Lewis answered that question earlier today, firing a bogey-free 65 to move to -7 for the week, tied with Brittany Lang, who shot a 4-birdie 68 to get there.  So did Mariajo Uribe, whose 7-birdie 65 got her to -5.  But it was Hee Young Park whose 68 got her to the top of the leaderboard through the morning wave at -8.

With the afternoon wave unlikely to finish today, it’ll be interesting to see if any of them can do as well as the morning foursome–or the others who shot 68s, such as Katherine Kirk, Suzann Pettersen, Mina Harigae, Mo Martin, Anna Nordqvist, and Silvia Cavalleri.  So far, Lexi Thompson  and Lizette Salas are making runs at Park, while further down the leaderboard Line Vedel, Chella Choi, and Paz Echeverria are also playing good golf.  I’ll check in with an update a little later tonight!

[Update 1 (8:15 pm):  Shout-out to Jane Park for making the cut in her 1st start since injuries sidelined her months ago!  Also nice to see that Ya Ni Tseng has put together 2 under-par rounds in a row and is only 4 shots off the lead. I’m hoping Ai Miyazato can join her tomorrow morning–right now she’s +2 on her 2nd round with no birdies.]

[Update 2 (8:20 pm):  Speaking of players I like, I’m hoping the cut line rises to +2 so that Morgan Pressel can play on the weekend.  I’d also love to see Paula Creamer, Chie Arimura, and Tiffany Joh fight their way to the right side of that line tomorrow morning.  It’s too late for Laura Diaz (despite a fine 69 today), Jennifer Song, Harukyo Nomura, Se Ri Pak, Sun Young Yoo, and Moira Dunn, but I’m rooting for Louise Friberg, Amy Yang, and Christina Kim to make the cut.]

[Update 3 (8:22 pm):  Also nice to see Seon Hwa Lee make a cut.  It’s easy to forget she’s a 4-time winner on the LPGA!  Glad that Carlota Ciganda will be playing on the weekend, too.]

[Update 4 (8:25 pm):  It’s official.  2nd-round play is suspended due to darkness!]

[Update 5 (5/18/14, 5:00 am):  Yesterday was taken up by graduation and The Full Metal Archivist’s and my 11-year anniversary, so I only found out this morning that Paula Creamer’s made-cut streak came to an end on Saturday morning.  Knowing her, she’ll just start another one!  Glad to see Chie Arimura made it.  She’s too good to keep suffering like she has been on the LPGA thus far.]

The Winds Must Really Be Up in Hawaii Today

I’ll have a full report on the 1st round of the LPGA LOTTE Championship ready for you sometime tomorrow, and I still don’t have Golf Channel, much less the time to watch live tournament coverage on tv, but it’s worth noting right now that nobody’s really tearing up the Ko Olina course and there are a lot of really high scores out there, so I’m assuming the winds are playing tricks on most of the field.

We’ll soon see if Se Ri Pak can keep her recent run going and whether anyone still out on the course can keep pace with her or match So Yeon Ryu’s 68 or Ayako Uehara’s 69, the only sub-70 rounds posted thus far today.

For now, though, check out the previews from Tony Jesselli, Ruthless Mike, and Centurion–and the live leaderboard on LPGA.com!

Kim Kaufman Wins Symetra Tour’s Volvik Championship with Closing 66

The Symetra Tour’s Volvik Championship got shortened to 36 holes, thanks to some long-awaited but torrential rains out west, and Kim Kaufman figured out how to take advantage of the soft conditions, firing a bogey-free 66 today to finish at -7 and beat Jennie Lee by 4 shots.

Among those who played well last week, Marissa Steen (70, -1, T5), Kendall Dye (69, -1, T5), Dori Carter (71, E, T11), Jane Rah (73, E, T11), and Mallory Blackwelder (74, E, T11) did the best this week, while most of the top 20 on the money list after the season-opener joined them in the money today.  But Cheyenne Woods (73, +8, T79), Therese Koelbaek (73, +8, T79), Emily Talley (78, +11, T100), and Sara Brown (80, +13, T107) were not among them.  Nor were a handful of golfers who WDed after the 1st round, including Jennifer Song and Mitsuki Katahira.

They’ll all have to wait for a couple of weeks until the Tour resumes action in Florida to keep it rolling or get back on track.  Let’s hope we see some spring-like conditions by then!

Thunder-Blizzard!

Wow, we just heard what sounded like thunder in the middle of our blizzard!  Good thing I had given up on shovelling out the driveway for the 4th time today just a half hour ago….

Fortunately, the Defrost

So we got over 8″ of snow here in Hamburg in what feels like the 1st winter storm since 2010 not to suddenly weaken, veer off, or blow through too fast to do much damage.  And more may be coming.  Yada yada yada.  That’s life in western NY.  Or at least life like it oughtta be this time of year.  That’s not the weird thing.

The weird thing is that my Versa’s defrost went haywire on my way to work this morning and it turned out to be serious enough that I had to get the car towed and will have to pay a boatload of money to get it fixed.  Bad luck, right?  Well, yeah, but at least I was lucky enough to semi-glide my way to a place to park the car until I could sort things out–lucky not to slide off the road or into the oncoming lane when I was navigating via peering out my driver’s side window, that is.  But that’s not the weirder thing.

The weirder thing is that my Versa’s defrost went haywire about a mile before I hit the Thruway entrance on my way to work this morning, at a time that prevented me from renting a car to get down to Fredonia.  Snow day!  And a pretty good day for it, as there were so many accidents between Hamburg and Dunkirk on the Thruway that they shut down that section of it.

The odds were pretty decent that I might have been involved in one of those accidents.  And even better that I would have been stranded in Fredonia overnight–the same night Onechan and Imoto’s cousin from Okinawa (whom I’ll call Onichan) arrived (safely, if an hour late) for a month-long stay with us.

As it was, I got to experience the utter weirdness of having shovelled the snow out of my driveway into piles up to my chest in places and an hour later driving completely dry roads just 20 miles north on the way to the Buffalo airport.  In fact, there was barely any snow at the Wegmans at which we do most of our grocery shopping just 5 miles north of us.  Even the Erie County Fairgrounds about a mile north of us got a lot less snow than we did in the village.

That was the weirdest thing.  Too bad Onichan was too jet-lagged to really appreciate it.

Nobuta Group Masters GC Ladies Friday Round Cancelled Due to Storms

With the 2nd round of the Nobuta Group Masters GC Ladies cancelled due to storms, play will resume tomorrow morning with Rikako Morita still in the lead.

[Update 1 (9:30 am):  Fortunately, the 2 typhoons that seemed to be on a collision course to hit mainland Japan at the same time didn’t!  But the slower-moving one that decided to hug the coast line may still impact play on the weekend.]

Evian Championship Sunday: Off to the Races

After a 90-minute weather delay, the players who survived the cut line at the Evian Championship were off to the races, trying to get 54 holes in before the heavens opened once again.  Anyone who’s concerned about slow play in golf should note that over half the field has already completed their rounds.  Some big names with no chance to win clearly valued speed over quality, as Inbee Park (76, +8), Amy Yang (76, +8), Lee-Anne Pace (76, +6), Brittany Lang (74, +6), Michelle Wie (76, +4), Na Yeon Choi (75, +4), Anna Nordqvist (75, +4), and Ji-Yai Shin (73, +4) played well below their usual standards.  Their job was to clear the stage quickly for those with good chances to win.

And no doubt those who struggled from higher up the leaderboard can also console themselves with awareness of the extra-difficult conditions:  Paula Creamer shot a 74 to fall back to E.  Lindsey Wright has fallen from -4 to +4 by going +8 through 17 today, while 3rdround leader Mika Miyazato opened with 3 bogeys and a triple on the par-5 7th to fall from -8 to -2, before fighting back with birdies on 9 and 10 and falling back with a bogey on 14.  In-Kyung Kim opened with 3 bogeys and a double in her 1st 6 holes to fall from -4 to +1, before fighting back to E for the week with 1 hole left to play.

That’s not to say that there are no good rounds out there.  Angela Stanford, who’s been playing too great to stick to her plan of sticking to golf in the States, posted a final-round 69 to finish at -4, despite 2 bogeys in her last 5 holes.  Shanshan Feng had a roller-coaster 6-birdie 69 to finish at -2, even though she suffered 3 bogeys in her final 7 holes.  Ai Miyazato fired a bogey-free 33 on the back to break 70 for the 2nd day in a row and fight back to -1 for the tournament.  Ai-sama’s playing partner Cindy LaCrosse had an even better round going until she doubled the 18th and had to settle for a 69/-1 finish.  And hats off to the 70 club, which currently includes Lizette Salas, Ilhee Lee, and Rebecca Lee-Bentham at -2, Katherine Hull-Kirk at -1, Mi-Hyang Lee at E, and Mina Harigae at +1.  Congrats to all–and to Hee Young Park, who’s -3 and bogey-free in today’s round with 2 holes to play.

But the most entertaining subplot of the week has to be Caroline Hedwall, who continued to evoke the heyday of Laura Davies and Pat Hurst by turning Evian into a giant roller coaster.  After going bogey-par-birdie-birdie-bogey-birdie-eagle-birdie-birdie for a 31 on the back yesterday after starting her day going birdie-double-double (that’s a 68 for those keeping score at home), she was -2 and bogey-free through 10 holes today, but finished bogey-birdie-birdie-bogey-bogey-par-birdie-double to end the week where she started at E!!!

OK, so on to the main event, which doesn’t hit NBC for awhile yet (they were showing an infomercial when I started writing this post).  If Okinawa is going to be hugely disappointed today (Bo-Mee Lee beat 19-year-old Mamiko Higa in a 3-hole playoff in the JLPGA’s 2nd major when the final round got washed out over in Hokkaido), who will be the champion when the golf is done?

How about Se Ri Pak, who’s looking to capture a Career Grand Slam (wins in 4 different majors) today?  She opened with 2 bogeys in her 1st 6 holes to fall to -3 for the week, but has fought back on the back with 3 birdies (and a bogey) to stand at -5 with 1 hole left to play.  Not going to happen.

Will it be Lydia Ko, who’s trying to become the youngest winner of an LPGA major?  Well, she started out birdie-bogey-birdie, then made a bunch of pars until she bogeyed the par-5 13th and birdied the par-5 15th.  She’s -8 with 2 to play and handling the pressure of being in the final group much better than Mikan.

How about Stacy Lewis, who’s trying to win her 2nd major in a row?  She opened well from the next-to-last group with 2 birdies and no bogeys in her 1st 5 holes to get to -8, but then bogeyed the par-4 6th and doubled the par-3 8th and with one bogey and one birdie on the back thus far is still -5 with 2 holes to play.  Not going to happen.

How about So Yeon Ryu, who was robbed of a KLPGA victory last week when someone made 2 eagles from the fairway in her last 10 holes and beat her in a playoff?  Playing with Lewis and Chella Choi, she’s made 3 birdies and a bogey to get to -7 with 2 holes to play.  She’s still in this thing.

How about Lexi Thompson, who’s been overshadowed by Ko and Charley Hull in recent weeks?  She’s made 5 birdies and only 2 bogeys to fight to -6 with the 18th left to play. If she can make up for her pair of bogeys there in the opening rounds with something special, she’ll be the leader in the clubhouse with a low enough score to give the leaders pause.

How about Chella Choi, who’s looking to make her 1st LPGA victory a major?  She was playing well, with 3 birdies and a bogey to get to -7 with 3 holes to play.  But a disaster on the par-3 16th–a triple–has ended her title run.

That leaves your leader Suzann Pettersen, who’s been playing probably the best golf of her life in recent weeks.  She made 3 birdies and a bogey on the front to pass Mikan as she was crashing and burning, then made her way to -10 for the week by matching Ko’s birdie on the par-5 15th and maintains a 2-shot lead on her and a 3-shot lead on Ryu with 2 holes left to play.

Look’s like this will be all done before NBC goes on air.  Stay away from here if you don’t want the ending spoiled!

[Update 1 (11:42 am):  Oh man, Mikan doubled the 16th!  I feel awful for her!]

[Update 2 (11:44 am):  Lexi parred 18 to post the low round of the day thus far (a great 68), but -6 won’t scare Pettersen in the slightest, especially after she got past the treacherous 16th with a par.  She’s now tied with Ryu (who bogeyed 17) in 3rd.  Great week for the American teenager!]

[Update 3 (11:47 am):  Wow!  The Rocket birdied the par-5 9th for a bogey-free 67 that brought her back to E for the week.  Looks like Hee Young Park and Caroline Hedwall are twins separated at birth.  Just take a look at the Rocket’s back 9 before today!]

[Update 4 (11:49 am):  Pak parred 18 to finish at -5 for the week.  A great finish for the wounded warrior, but not what she wanted.]

[Update 5 (11:50 am):  Ko parred 17.  Still -8.]

[Update 6 (11:51 am):  So did Pettersen.  2-up with 1 to play!]

[Update 7 (11:54 am):  Realized I never mentioned Beatriz Recari.  She birdied her 1st hole to get to -5 for the week, but never went lower than that as she made 3 bogeys and a birdie the rest of the way to end up at -3 for the week.  Good enough for a top 10, but not to contend.]

[Update 8 (11:56 am):  Inky was another player who rode the Evian roller coaster this week.  After a final-round 75, she also ended up at E overall.]

[Update 9 (11:58 am):   In case you’re wondering how Jennifer Johnson got her top 10, she made an early birdie to get to -3, immediately bogeyed back-to-back holes, then birdied the 2 par 5s on the back to fight back to -3 for the week.]

[Update 10 (12:03 pm):  Ryu finished bogey-bogey to end up T4 with Pak at -5.  Not the finish either wanted, but still pretty darn good.]

[Update 11 (12:05 pm):  So they didn’t quite finish before NBC’s coverage started, but close.  I’m going to watch now.]

[Update 12 (10:41 pm):  Finally finished watching the last few holes after lots of family time, and Pettersen’s serenity, ability to hit clutch shots from 100 yards and in, scrambling and putting touch, and confidence were so wonderful to see.  The look on her face when Ko’s pitch from behind the 18th green almost trickled in was priceless.  And speaking of Ko, it’s hard to imagine how she could be more lovable or a tougher competitor.  Yes, she couldn’t get those birdie tries on 16 and 17 to drop, but almost everything else she did was awesome and just a little bit goofy at the same time.  When you can charm Suzann Pettersen, you know you have a lot of charisma.  Back to Pettersen, it was also heartwarming to see her smiling so much on 18, even before she made that great 2-putt for a 68 and to stay double digits under par for the week.  Sure, I was hoping for a Miyazato, Ko, or Pak win, but my respect and admiration for Pettersen went up several notches in the brief time she and Ko shared center stage on network tv.  Here’s hoping for much more from both!]

Konica Minolta Cup Sunday: Final Round Washed Out; 3-Hole Playoff between Bo-Mee Lee and Mamiko Higa to Start at 1 pm Hokkaido Time

It appears that the LPGA isn’t the only tour cursed by bad weather this week.  The JLPGA just announced that they have decided to cancel the final round of their 2nd major, the Konica Minolta Cup, and hold a 3-hole playoff between 3rd-round co-leaders Bo-Mee Lee and Mamiko Higa.

Konica Minolta Cup Sunday: Final Round Washed Out; 3-Hole Playoff between Bo-Mee Lee and Mamiko Higa to Start at 1 pm Hokkaido Time

It appears that the LPGA isn’t the only tour cursed by bad weather this week.  The JLPGA just announced that they have decided to cancel the final round of their 2nd major, the Konica Minolta Cup, and hold a 3-hole playoff between 3rd-round co-leaders Bo-Mee Lee and Mamiko Higa.

[Update 1 (2:18 am):  Bo-Mee Lee has won the playoff!]

[Update 2 (2:21 am):  This was the 1st time since the tournament went to 72 holes in 1982 that they had to shorten it to 54 holes.  I’ll try to get more details on the playoff later in the morning!]

Evian Championship Friday: Mika Miyazato Leads, But 54-Hole Target Might Mean a Major Asterisk for Eventual Winner

I’ll tell you, it sure seems that the LPGA has been cursed in the last half-dozen years or so.  Then-Commissioner Carolyn Bivens took an aggressive negotiating tack with sponsors and tournament organizers just as the economy started to crater, Michelle Wie didn’t explode onto the global stage quite as anticipated, the rise of Asian stars hasn’t coincided with a resurgence of Asian investments in U.S.-based tournaments, even Inbee Park’s historic run at a 4th-straight major title in the same calendar year was diminished by silly debates over what to call the hypothetical achievement now that the LPGA has 5 majors, and the weather has affected nearly every major played this year–including its 5th and final major, The Evian Championship, which has just been demoted to a 54-hole event because the course redesign wasn’t ready to handle the volume of actual and predicted rains.

Despite all of this, the ladies of the LPGA continue to play golf at a very high level and the 1st-round leaderboard is packed–although perhaps not with everyone who was expected to contend this week.  Moriya Jutanugarn (78), Carlota Ciganda (78), Jodi Ewart Shadoff (77), Cristie Kerr (76), Ai Miyazato (75), Ya Ni Tseng (75), Jessica Korda (75), Inbee Park (74), Caroline Hedwall (74), Anna Nordqvist (74), Ji-Yai Shin (73), and Catriona Matthew (73) will all have to keep an eye on the cut line tomorrow as they try to fight their way into shouting distance of the leaders.  So you know the course was playing tough at par 71.

Which makes Mika Miyazato‘s 7-birdie 65, Suzann Pettersen‘s 7-birdie 66, Se Ri Pak‘s 6-birdie 66, and Sandra Gal‘s bogey-free 66 that much more impressive.  To go into the mid-60s this week is a big deal, particularly when temperatures may not even reach that high all week!  Pettersen’s performance was of course well in line with how well she’s been playing this season, but even she doesn’t have that great a record at Evian.  With Mikan’s and Gal’s putting problems this year and Pak’s shoulder injury making every start a huge question mark, there are plenty of surprises at the very top of the leaderboard.

And they don’t stop there.  I mean, sure, Karrie Webb is a perennial threat to win this thing, and she’s right there again, with a 5-birdie 68, but who would have expected both Lindsey Wright and Lydia Ko to join her at T6?  Or for Christina Kim to open with a 6-birdie 67 and Michelle Wie with a 5-birdie 68?  How about Danah Bordner, Hee-Won Han, and Ji Young Oh joining Stacy Lewis, Na Yeon Choi, In-Kyung Kim, Angela Stanford, Beatriz Recari, Lee-Anne Pace, and Ayako Uehara at 69?  Hee Kyung Seo, Momoko Ueda, Azahara Munoz, and Mariajo Uribe haven’t been playing that great lately, but they matched Paula Creamer’s, Morgan Pressel’s, Caroline Masson’s, Lizette Salas’s, Chella Choi’s, Ilhee Lee’s, and Jennifer Johnson’s 70s.  And who would have expected Helen Alfredsson and Sophie Gustafson to tie So Yeon Ryu at E?

There’s just something about Evian that I believe is going to transcend the difficulties of its transition to becoming the LPGA’s 5th major.  For Pak, Webb, or Ko to win this would be history-making.  For Park to come back from a 9-shot deficit in 36 holes or Miyazato or Tseng from 10 would be breathtaking.  For Pettersen, Lewis, Choi, Inky, Stanford, or Creamer to take the title would be career-affirming.  For Mikan, Wie, Recari, Munoz, Pressel, Seo, Ueda would be a huge turning point in their careers.  For Uehara or Masson to take the title would make her the favorite to win the Rookie of the Year race.  And there are plenty of Cinderellas and dark horses who could put their mark on this major before all is said and done.

Evian Championship Friday: Mika Miyazato Leads, But 54-Hole Target Might Mean a Major Asterisk for Eventual Winner

I’ll tell you, it sure seems that the LPGA has been cursed in the last half-dozen years or so.  Then-Commissioner Carolyn Bivens took an aggressive negotiating tack with sponsors and tournament organizers just as the economy started to crater, Michelle Wie didn’t explode onto the global stage quite as anticipated, the rise of Asian stars hasn’t coincided with a resurgence of Asian investments in U.S.-based tournaments, even Inbee Park’s historic run at a 4th-straight major title in the same calendar year was diminished by silly debates over what to call the hypothetical achievement now that the LPGA has 5 majors, and the weather has affected nearly every major played this year–including its 5th and final major, The Evian Championship, which has just been demoted to a 54-hole event because the course redesign wasn’t ready to handle the volume of actual and predicted rains.

Despite all of this, the ladies of the LPGA continue to play golf at a very high level and the 1st-round leaderboard is packed–although perhaps not with everyone who was expected to contend this week.  Moriya Jutanugarn (78), Carlota Ciganda (78), Jodi Ewart Shadoff (77), Cristie Kerr (76), Ai Miyazato (75), Ya Ni Tseng (75), Jessica Korda (75), Inbee Park (74), Caroline Hedwall (74), Anna Nordqvist (74), Ji-Yai Shin (73), and Catriona Matthew (73) will all have to keep an eye on the cut line tomorrow as they try to fight their way into shouting distance of the leaders.  So you know the course was playing tough at par 71.

Which makes Mika Miyazato‘s 7-birdie 65, Suzann Pettersen‘s 7-birdie 66, Se Ri Pak‘s 6-birdie 66, and Sandra Gal‘s bogey-free 66 that much more impressive.  To go into the mid-60s this week is a big deal, particularly when temperatures may not even reach that high all week!  Pettersen’s performance was of course well in line with how well she’s been playing this season, but even she doesn’t have that great a record at Evian.  With Mikan’s and Gal’s putting problems this year and Pak’s shoulder injury making every start a huge question mark, there are plenty of surprises at the very top of the leaderboard.

And they don’t stop there.  I mean, sure, Karrie Webb is a perennial threat to win this thing, and she’s right there again, with a 5-birdie 68, but who would have expected both Lindsey Wright and Lydia Ko to join her at T6?  Or for Christina Kim to open with a 6-birdie 67 and Michelle Wie with a 5-birdie 68?  How about Danah Bordner, Hee-Won Han, and Ji Young Oh joining Stacy Lewis, Na Yeon Choi, In-Kyung Kim, Angela Stanford, Beatriz Recari, Lee-Anne Pace, and Ayako Uehara at 69?  Hee Kyung Seo, Momoko Ueda, Azahara Munoz, and Mariajo Uribe haven’t been playing that great lately, but they matched Paula Creamer’s, Morgan Pressel’s, Caroline Masson’s, Lizette Salas’s, Chella Choi’s, Ilhee Lee’s, and Jennifer Johnson’s 70s.  And who would have expected Helen Alfredsson and Sophie Gustafson to tie So Yeon Ryu at E?

There’s just something about Evian that I believe is going to transcend the difficulties of its transition to becoming the LPGA’s 5th major.  For Pak, Webb, or Ko to win this would be history-making.  For Park to come back from a 9-shot deficit in 36 holes or Miyazato or Tseng from 10 would be breathtaking.  For Pettersen, Lewis, Choi, Inky, Stanford, or Creamer to take the title would be career-affirming.  For Mikan, Wie, Recari, Munoz, Pressel, Seo, Ueda a win here would be a huge turning point in their careers.  For Uehara or Masson to take the title would make her the favorite to win the Rookie of the Year race.  And there are plenty of Cinderellas and dark horses who could put their mark on this major before all is said and done.

[Update 1 (9:07 pm):  Now I’m reading that Helen Alfredsson, Stacy Prammanasudh, and Amy Hung will be stepping away from the LPGA, as well. Wow!]

Recommended Reading: Hurry Up and Wait at the Evian Championship

Ron Sirak and Randall Mell capture the mood today as the 1st round of the Evian Championship was washed out by rains that saturated the newly-redesigned course.  The opening of the LPGA’s 5th major will have to wait one more day!