Wegmans LPGA Championship Sunday: Inbee Park Defeats Brittany Lincicome with Clutch Up-and-Down on 1st Playoff Hole

The narrative all week here at the Wegmans LPGA Championship has been that Monroe Golf Club is a bombers’ paradise, but in the end the final edition of the tournament in Rochester became a pitch-and-putt contest between defending champion Inbee Park, who made 2 clutch 10 footers in her last 2 holes to get to -11, and Brittany Lincicome, who 3-putted from about 25 feet on the 72nd hole to fall back to that same number and open the door to the former world #1.

They played the 18th again on the first playoff hole, and even though Lincicome outdrove Park by over 50 yards, both players went over the green with their approaches.  Lincicome ended up not far from where she left her 25-footer 6 feet short, while Park had gunned for the pin and rolled to the back-right rough right behind it.  Lincicome hit a good chip, but it released to about 9 feet, while Park cozied hers up within 3 feet.  The previous night, Lincicome had admitted that the key place her nerves show up is on the greens, while Park has been talking down her putting this year but even before she switched putters last week was still among the top 3 in the world on the greens this year on the LPGA.  Long story short:  Lincicome missed.  Park made.  Park defended her title.

More to come!

[Update 1 (7:52 pm):  I spent most of the day following Mina Harigae (16th-18th holes), Jennifer Song (6th-12th), Danielle Kang (10th-18th), and Tiffany Joh and Jane Park (12th-end, back and forth between their 2 groups).  But I did get back to the 17th green in time to see Lydia Ko fail to get up-and-down from the neck on the 17th and watch Inbee pour in her birdie attempt.  I was to Inbee’s right for her drive on 18 and the intensity on her face as she transitioned to her downswing was something to behold.  I couldn’t get close to the green, but I saw her par save disappear and heard the crowd’s roar an instant later.  I tried to get back to the 18th tee in time to see the 2 players tee off from the tee area, but was blocked by the ropes for the short way and had to go the long way around.  Made it within 100 yards of the tee on the right side of the fairway, but by that time Lincicome was ready to drive.]

[Update 2 (7:58 pm):  Brittany came into the interview room while I was typing update #1.  I got to ask her about her thought process after her bogey on the par-5 12th and she gave a fantastic answer.  I hope she continues to play well because she’s one of the best interviews on the LPGA.  Totally honest and very thoughtful.]

Wegmans LPGA Championship Sunday: Inbee Park Defeats Brittany Lincicome with Clutch Up-and-Down on 1st Playoff Hole

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!

Rory and Ji-Yai Rose to the Occasion; Inbee and Suzann Couldn’t

Heading out to Rochester after my union retreat in Albany is over to scout out Monroe Golf Club and see who I can follow, but I couldn’t help thinking aloud about the way in which Rory McIlroy and Ji-Yai Shin rose to the occasion on their respective tours, while Inbee Park and Suzann Pettersen couldn’t block rookie Mirim Lee from getting her 1st career win on the LPGA.

Let’s face it:  Rory’s win was epic in every way.  Seemed even Thor was sending him some lightning bolts in honor of his play by the time they finished the final round in near-darkness!  Ji-Yai did what she had to do against a former LPGAer whose career never took off in the States like Shin’s did.  But the epic battle that could have happened between Inbee and Suzann just never materialized.  Suzann was +2 over her final 13 holes, while Inbee was +1 over her last 15 holes.

It’s crazy what a fine line separates a truly great performance from the “coulda woulda shoulda” chorus line!  At least Inbee and Suzann are in some fantastic company, as I don’t think there’s enough room on the internet to list all the guys who are wondering what mightabeen yesterday at Valhalla!

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.

The Week the Mighty Fell

Just like the temperature has been yo-yo-ing around in western NY this December, some of the best golfers in the world ran hot and cold this past week.  Stacy Lewis, So Yeon Ryu, and Tiger Woods each seemingly had wins sewn up yesterday before Pornanong Phatlum, Lydia Ko, and Zach Johnson zoomed past them down the home stretch. [Insert cliche about thrill of victory/agony of defeat, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, or another of your choice here.]

Phatlum’s Shanshan Feng-like near-hole-out to beat Lewis had Ruthless Mike wondering if Stacy is as snake-bit as Greg Norman.  Not yet.  Ryu can also stake a claim to the title, as she lost to Sei Young Kim in September on the KLPGA when Kim made 2 final-round eagles in her last 10 holes!  But my own personal nominee is Ai Miyazato, who got to watch her brother Yusaku win on the Japan Tour yesterday.  Twice in a row at the LPGA Founders Cup she’s run into the buzzsaw of the world #1 being the world #1–Ya Ni Tseng in 2012 and Stacy Lewis in 2013.  Ya Ni actually held Ai-sama off twice in 2012, just a few weeks earlier at the Honda LPGA Thailand.  Too long ago to count?  Well, Ai-sama was making a charge in late September on the JLPGA, looking like she was headed for her 1st win there since 2009, only to fall apart down the stretch and hand the trophy to Na-Ri Lee.
Let’s face it.  Golf is cruel.  And that’s how/why we love it.  Right?

Ricoh Women’s British Open Thursday: Morgan Pressel and Camilla Lennarth Make Hay While the Sun Shines

Morgan Pressel and Camilla Lennarth made hay while the sun shone yesterday–literally as well as figuratively–at the Old Course at St. Andrews, firing a pair of 66s to take the 1st-round lead at the Ricoh Women’s British Open.  They were the only golfers to get to -6 and actually stay there, as

  • world #1 Inbee Park, who got out to a blazing start in her bid to do what nobody else has ever done, with 6 birdies in her 1st 10 holes, had to settle for a 69, as she bogeyed the short par-4 13th, 3-putted 16 and 17 to go double bogey-bogey, then salvaged her round with a fine birdie on 18;
  • Katie Burnett opened with a 30 (without even birdieing the lone par 5 on the front!) but stumbled home with 4 bogeys in her last 6 holes to also take a disappointing 69;
  • Eun-Hee Ji birdied 6 of her 1st 10 holes and Nicole Castrale birdied 6 of her 1st 11, but each limited their damage to a single bogey the rest of the way, Ji at 13 and Castrale at 15, to join Stacy Lewis, Na Yeon Choi, the JLPGA’s Mi-Jeong Jeon, Ryann O’Toole, and Sydnee Michaels in T2 at -5.

In fact, plenty of players who shot good numbers in the good weather were probably also singing the “coulda woulda shoulda” song in their heads the rest of the day.  Angela Stanford, who came in on the red-eye and had her clubs lost on the way, was -5 through 14, but bogeyed 15 and 16 to settle for a 69.  Ai Miyazato was -5 through her 1st 12 holes but doubled the 13th and couldn’t find another birdie the rest of the way to join Burnett, Stanford, and the rest of the big group at -3 (among them Hee Kyung Seo, who was -4 until she bogeyed the Road Hole, and Solheim Cup hopeful Sandra Gal, who was -4 through 12 but bogeyed 13 and 14 and came back with a birdie on the Road Hole).  Liz Young was also -5 through 12 and also doubled the 13th–what is up with that tiny little hole, anyway?! [sorry, confused it with 12]–but she offset her bogey on the 16th with birdies on the 14th and 17th (yup, on the Road Hole!).  Rookie Ayako Uehara was -4 through 15 but bogeyed the 16th to join Young, Paula Creamer, Catriona Matthew, Lizette Salas, Danielle Kang, Pernilla Lindberg, Dori Carter, and amateur Georgia Hall at -4.

On a day when 37 golfers broke 70 and 73 went under par, having to accept a 70 (as Suzanne Pettersen, In-Kyung Kim, Anna Nordqvist, Hee Young Park, Brittany Lincicome, Brittany Lang, Karine Icher, JLPGA money-list leader Rikako Morita, Mamiko Higa, and LET Order of Merit leader Lee-Anne Pace, among others, did), a 71 (as Ji-Yai Shin, Se Ri Pak, Cristie Kerr, Sun Young Yoo, and Chella Choi did), or a 72 (as Laura Davies, Ya Ni Tseng, Jessica Korda, Moriya Jutanugarn, Sophie Gustafson, Jeong Jang, and Pornanong Phatlum, among others, did) is bad enough.  You want as big a cushion under par as possible in case the weather turns (and that’s usually a matter of when, not if, in Scotland).  But when you’re fighting for a spot on your side’s Solheim Cup team, a bad round has to hurt even more.  For Team USA, Jennifer Johnson, Michelle Wie, and Gerina Piller shot 74s.  Maybe whoever makes the cut gets the last spot on the team?  For Team Euro, it was even worse.  It’s bad enough that Beatriz Recari came off her win with the worst score of a day, a 78, but she’s definitely on the team and everyone has an awful day now and then.  But 76s from Caroline Masson, Guilia Sergas, Jodi Ewart Shadoff, and Charley Hull?  74s from Carlota Ciganda and Gwladys Nocera?  True, Ciganda’s a lock and Masson’s place is almost as secure, but it’s desperation time for Nocera, Sergas, Ewart Shadoff, and Hull.  They weren’t alone in wasting a nice day, as 74s from Karrie Webb, Mika Miyazato, Sakura Yokomine, 75s from Lexi Thompson, Chie Arimura, and Momoko Ueda, and 76s from Amy Yang and Ilhee Lee attest.  I don’t want to say this week means less to those players–it’s just that a little less is at stake for Thompson, who’s already on Team USA, and the rest, who don’t even have teams to fight for just yet (can’t wait for that new international team competition to roll around!).

Of course, not everybody stumbled down the stretch or had terrible days.  Pressel putted like Phil Mickelson did when he won the Open Championship.  Creamer, Kang, Lindberg, O’Toole, Marianne Skarpnord, and probably others went bogey-free.  Matthew, Ko, and probably others finished birdie-birdie.  Malena Jorgensen made 5 birdies in her last 12 holes of bogey-free golf and Caroline Hedwall birdied 3 of her last 5 holes to both break 70.  And so on!  But it’s time to get tomodachi-chan ready for her flight home to Japan (let’s hope Delta actually makes the connection to Detroit on time from Buffalo today, unlike yesterday, when they told us at the gate that they wouldn’t be able to do that) and I’m still recovering from the last push over the last few days to get my application to teach American Studies in Japan on a Fulbright grant in on time.  I might be able to sneak in an hour of WBO coverage before we have to head out to the airport, or I might have to wait.  Looking at the scorecards, I couldn’t help but see how a lot of players were doing today.  All I can say is, be sure to watch the opening montage and overviews.  Miki Saiki did something amazing on the front today!