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!

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.

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

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

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

On NHK Coverage of the Japan Women’s Open

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reignwood LPGA Classic Sunday: Can Stacy Lewis Do It?

Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic Thursday: Strike While the Iron Is Hot!

Evian Championship Sunday: Hyo Joo Kim Beats Karrie Webb on 72nd Hole on Network TV…and I Miss It!

Hyo Joo Kim looked to be in control of the Evian Championship for much of the final round, despite charges by Na Yeon Choi and Ha Na Jang, and an eagle-par-birdie run by Mi Jung Hur, but right about the time Golf Channel coverage switched over to NBC, things changed dramatically.  Even as Karrie Webb‘s birdie barrage in the middle of her round–5 birdies between the 9th and 15th holes that got the LPGA legend to -11–put the pressure on the 19-year-old KLPGA superstar, Kim bogeyed both par 3s on the back to drop from -12 to -10.  And even as Choi, Jang, and Hur faltered down the stretch, the tournament came down to the 72nd hole.

Not that I got to see any of it.  I was behind on my DVRed Golf Channel coverage and only found out about the switch to network tv a half-hour after its coverage had ended.  So I didn’t get to see how Kim stuck her approach on the final hole and sank her 12-foot birdie attempt while Webb’s approach failed to fade and she failed to get up and down from the fringe to force a playoff.  I didn’t get to see the look on Webb’s face down the home stretch as she was trying to become the 1st golfer to ever win 6 different major championships.  I didn’t get to see Kim’s body language as she was trying to become the 3rd youngest winner of an LPGA major.  At least I’ll have highlights–some time.

But on a day the Buffalo Bills went 2-0 and my entire neighborhood was cheerful, I spent most of the afternoon annoyed at myself that I never double-checked LPGA.com or my tv listings.  That’s what I get for purposely staying off the web (after posting on 20-year-old Ai Suzuki‘s record-breaking major victory on the JLPGA, that is!) so that I could savor the final-round drama!

Evian Championship Saturday: A Tale of 2 Moving Days

My Picks for the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open

Between the imminent start of the semester and the return to Western NY of my lovely ladies after nearly 2 months in Japan–not to mention needing to finish N.K. Jemisin’s Inheritance trilogy and Guy Gavriel Kay’s 2 amazing historical fantasy novels set in China (Under Heaven and River of Stars), as well as finish binge-watching Parks and Recreation before my students, colleagues, and family take up most of my time and attention–my post-Wegmans week has been packed already, so I’m rushing out my picks for the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open tonight:

1. Ko
2. Park Inbee
3. Pettersen
4. Lewis, Stacy
5. Feng Shanshan
6. Kerr
7. Ryu
8. Thompson
9. Munoz
10. Nordqvist
11. Lincicome
12. Lee Mirim

Alts: Choi Chella; Stanford; Yang

So go with Tony Jesselli‘s this week rather than mine!  Would love to sneak up to London, Ontario, on Sunday, but going to have to get a lot done the next 3 days for that to happen….

My Picks for the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open

Between the imminent start of the semester and the return to Western NY of my lovely ladies after nearly 2 months in Japan–not to mention needing to finish N.K. Jemisin’s Inheritance trilogy and Guy Gavriel Kay’s 2 amazing historical fantasy novels set in China (Under Heaven and River of Stars), as well as finish binge-watching Parks and Recreation before my students, colleagues, and family take up most of my time and attention–my post-Wegmans week has been packed already, so I’m rushing out my picks for the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open tonight:

1. Ko
2. Park Inbee
3. Pettersen
4. Lewis, Stacy
5. Feng Shanshan
6. Kerr
7. Ryu
8. Thompson
9. Munoz
10. Nordqvist
11. Lincicome
12. Lee Mirim

Alts: Choi Chella; Stanford; Yang

So go with Tony Jesselli‘s this week rather than mine!  Would love to sneak up to London, Ontario, on Sunday, but going to have to get a lot done the next 3 days for that to happen….

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

International Crown Sunday: It All Comes Down to This!

Play has just started on day 4 of the International Crown, with Inbee Park 1-up on Caroline Hedwall through 2 and Pornanong Phatlum and In-Kyung Kim all-square through the 1st.  I’ll be not-quite-live blogging every half-hour or so until the Golf Channel coverage starts.  In the meantime, check out my previews of each Sunday singles match.  I’m very interested in seeing how the under-22 crowd in the field–Ariya Jutanugarn, Moriya Jutanugarn, and Mamiko Higa–handle the pressure!  Oh, and if you get a chance to watch Stacy Lewis’s interview from Morning Drive, I guarantee your respect for her will go even higher, no matter how high it was before the interview.

[Update 1 (12:37 pm):  Here’s how the matches stand thus far.

1. Caroline Hedwall vs. Inbee Park

Inbee is now 2-up through 5.  She won 2 and 3, lost 4, and won 5.  Too bad the scorecard is traditional match-play format, with no scores on the cards.  Would be nice to get a hint of whether eagle, birdie, par, or bogey won a hole!

[Update 1.a.1 (1:08 pm):  Inbee won the par-3 6th and lost the par-4 7th, so she is now 2-up through 8.]

[Update 1.a.2 (2:02 pm):  Inbee won 11 to go back to 3-up.]

[Update 1.a.3 (2:20 pm):  Inbee is 3-up with 5 holes to go.]

[Update 1.a.4 (2:36 pm):  Judy said that Caroline’s been burning a lot of edges.  That won’t do it against Inbee.]

[Update 1.a.5 (2:37 pm):  Inbee makes the 3-footer to be dormie with 3 to play.]

[Update 1.a.6 (2:51 pm):  Inbee gets the job done with another wedge on 16!  Caroline pitched to the fringe and fails to make birdie.  She concedes Inbee the birdie.  Inbee wins 4&2.  Korea now has 8 points.]

2. Pornanong Phatlum vs. In-Kyung Kim

Pornanong just won the 4th hole to go 1-up.

[Update 1.b.1 (1:10 pm):  Inky won the par-3 6th but Pornanong bounced back with a win on the par-4 7th, and she is now 1-up through 7.]

[Update 1.b.2 (2:03 pm):  Pornanong won 8 to go 2-up but Inky won 10 to go 1-down.]

[Update 1.b.3 (2:47 pm):  If Korea is going to win this thing, Inky has to saddle up.  She’s 2-down with 4 to play.]

[Update 1.b.4 (3:03 pm):  Pornanong is 2-up with 3 holes to go.]

[Update 1.b.5 (3:12 pm):  Inky needs to make this putt on 16!]

[Update 1.b.6 (3:29 pm):  She blasted it through the break after getting a great read from Pornanong, who’s now dormie.]

[Update 1.b.7 (3:33 pm):  Pornanong misses the 17th green short but dry with a 5-iron.  Inky has a hybrid in her hands and lofts it to the front of the green.  Maybe 30 feet for a birdie.]

[Update 1.b.8 (3:39 pm):  Too aggressive a chip from Pornanong leaves her with a 15-foot putt to win the match.  She couldn’t make it.  Now Inky has a 3-footer to force the match to 18.]

[Update 1.b.9 (3:41 pm):  Inky made it and they go to 18.]

[Update 1.b.10 (3:46 pm):  From the right side of the fairway to a front-right pin, Inky just carries her iron far enough to stay on top of the shelf guarding the front of the green.  Not as extreme as on 16, but the bank kept her shot from bouncing forward right to the pin.  She’s on the fringe.]

[Update 1.b.11 (3:47 pm):  Pornanong uses the shelf past the pin to bring her 8-iron back to about 8 feet.  Great shot!]

[Update 1.b.12 (3:55 pm):  Inky can’t get her birdie try to the hole.  She’s in for par.  Pornanong needs to 2-putt to win the match.  Rolled it 18 inches by.  Conceded.  Pornanong wins 1-up.]

3. Ariya Jutanugarn vs. Pernilla Lindberg

Pernilla won the 1st hole and remains 1-up through 3.

[Update 1.c.1 (1:11 pm):  Pernilla won the par-4 5th and is now 2-up through 6.]

[Update 1.c.2 (2:03 pm):  Pernilla won 7 and 10 to go 4-up.]

[Update 1.c.3 (2:22 pm):  Pernilla is now 5-up with 7 holes to play after winning 11.]

[Update 1.c.4 (2:35 pm):  Pernilla is now dormie and putting from the fringe on 13 to win the match.  6 inches short.  Ariya has to make her putt to extend the match.]

[Update 1.c.5 (2:37 pm):  Pernilla wins 6&5.  Now Sweden has 9 points.]

4. Carlota Ciganda vs. Na Yeon Choi

Carlota won the 1st hole and remains 1-up through 2.

[Update 1.d.1 (1:11 pm):  Carlota is taking it to NYC, with wins on 3, 4, and 5 to go 4-up.]

[Update 1.d.2 (2:04 pm):  Carlota won 6 to go 5-up and 9 to go 6-up.]

[Update 1.d.3 (2:22 pm):  Carlota is 6-up with only 8 left to play.]

[Update 1.d.4 (2:26 pm):  Carlota is dormie with 7 to play!]

[Update 1.d.5 (2:41 pm):  NYC misses a makeable birdie putt and concedes Ciganda the shorter birdie putt.  Ciganda wins 8&6.  Spain now has 9 points.]

5. Sakura Yokomine vs. So Yeon Ryu

So Yeon won the 1st hole and Sakura the 2nd, so they’re all-square through 2.

[Update 1.e.1 (1:12 pm):  Sakura won the par-3 3rd and is 1-up through 4.]

[Update 1.e.2 (2:05 pm):  Sakura is now 1-up through 8.]

[Update 1.e.3 (2:25 pm):  Sakura is now 2-up through 9.]

[Update 1.e.4 (2:56 pm):  So Yeon won 10, but got her approach shot buried in a bunker on the par-5 12th and barely got it out; anyway, Sakura eagled the hole anyway to go back 2-up.]

[Update 1.e.5 (2:58 pm):  Hold on.  They updated the scoreboard.  So Yeon won 10 and 11 to briefly bring the match to all-square.  So Sakura’s eagle only puts her 1-up.]

[Update 1.e.6 (3:07 pm):  So Yeon put it just past pin-high after Sakura went over on the par 3, but after a fantastic chip and a So Yeon miss, Sakura has 3 feet to halve the hole.  She missed it right.  I’ve seen that miss several times the last few days.]

[Update 1.e.7 (3:14 pm):  After So Yeon used the left bank on the 14th green to put a 4-hybrid about 25 feet past the pin, Sakura took it just right of the pin and left it about 10 feet away for birdie.  Great match!]

[Update 1.e.8 (3:35 pm):  Nice 2-putt save by So Yeon after “a rush of blood to her head” on the birdie try.  Wonder why they didn’t show the birdie attempts on the coverage?]

[Update 1.e.9 (3:42 pm):  Sakura puts it right in the middle of the 15th green.  So Yeon was much closer to the green, but her approach didn’t hold, either, and she ended up about 2 feet farther from the hole than Sakura.]

[Update 1.e.10 (3:48 pm):  Both make routine 2-putts.  Now they’re heading into the 16th, where So Yeon made one of the most important birdies of her life last night!]

[Update 1.e.11 (4:00 pm):  So Yeon goes for the green in 2 and just carries it to the top of the shelf, right in the same neck that blocked Lexi twice yesterday.  She’s on the fringe with an eagle putt ahead of her.]

[Update 1.e.12 (4:02 pm):  Yokomine laid up just into the left rough.  With the pin back, she had plenty of room to bounce it up to the green, but she just carried it too far and it went to the back fringe or 1st cut.]

[Update 1.e.13 (4:06 pm):  Amazing lag from So Yeon from maybe 80 feet almost went in.  Easy birdie after all!]

[Update 1.e.14 (4:07 pm):  Can Sakura bring the magic again on this chip?  Nope.  So Yeon is 1-up with 2 to play.]

[Update 1.e.15 (4:10 pm):  Dammit, So Yeon put it in the water on 17.  Don’t get me wrong, I want Sakura to win, but I want it through great shots.  Oh well, Sakura guarded so much against the pond she went left of the cart path into the dining area!  So Yeon’s still in this hole!]

[Update 1.e.16 (4:15 pm):  Yokomine did what she had to, lofting it over the trap and letting it roll out to the edge of the green.  She has about 30 feet for par and So Yeon has about 8 for bogey.]

[Update 1.e.17 (4:16 pm):  Maybe some more magic for Sakura here?  She needs it, as she’s showing So Yeon the line on her par attempt.  Just missed it, right.  Now the pressure’s on So Yeon to halve the hole and become dormie heading into 18.]

[Update 1.e.18 (4:17 pm):  So Yeon’s taking a long look.  HUGE putt for her!]

[Update 1.e.19 (4:17 pm):  So Yeon’s drive was leaking right but stayed at the edge of the fairway.  Nervous moment as the creek was only a few yards right of where she ended up.  Sakura got almost no roll on her drive; she’s in the right side of the fairway.]

[Update 1.e.20 (4:30 pm):  Sakura hit a nice shot from about 150 out, putting it maybe 8 feet past the pin on 18.  So Yeon’s approach went a little longer and a little lefter.  She’ll have about 20 feet to close out the match.]

[Update 1.e.21 (4:38 pm):  Can’t believe Golf Channel didn’t show So Yeon’s lag.  She’s in for 4.  So Korea will get 2 points if Sakura misses and each team will get 1 if she makes.  She just missed on the left side.  So Yeon wins 1-up.]

6. Beatriz Recari vs. Mikaela Parmlid

Beatriz and Mikaela halved the 1st hole, so they’re all-square through 1.

[Update 1.f.1 (1:13 pm):  Beatriz won the 2nd and 3rd and is 2-up through 4.]

[Update 1.f.2 (2:06 pm):  Beatriz won 5, Mikaela won 6, and Beatriz won 8 to go back to 3-up.]

[Update 1.f.3 (2:23 pm):  Beatriz is now 4-up with 9 holes to go.]

[Update 1.f.4 (3:04 pm):  Mikaela wins 11 to get back to 3-down.]

[Update 1.f.5 (3:10 pm):  2 in a row for Mikaela!  Only 2-down now with 6 to play.]

[Update 1.f.6 (3:51 pm):  Too bad!  Parmlid can’t get the 18-foot par putt to drop to halve the 14th.  Back to 3-down.]

[Update 1.f.7 (4:22 pm):  Parmlid couldn’t make the 6-footer on the par-5 16th to extend the match.  Recari wins 3&2.]

The remaining matches have not yet completed a hole as of the 1st update.]

[Update 2 (1:14 pm):  See above for updates on matches already in progress at last update!

7. Mamiko Higa vs. Anna Nordqvist

Anna won the 3rd to go 1-up through 3.

[Update 2.a.1 (2:07 pm):  Mamiko won 4 and 5 to go one-up, but Anna brought it back to all-square by winning 7.]

[Update 2.a.2 (2:20 pm):  Anna makes it 2 holes in a row to go 1-up through 8.]

[Update 2.a.3 (2:49 pm):  Mamiko won 9 but couldn’t sink a 12-footer to halve 10.  Nordqvist is still 1-up.]

[Update 2.a.4 (3:01 pm):  Great putt by Nordqvist on 11 for birdie to go 2-up.]

[Update 2.a.5 (3:36 pm):  Another great mid-range putt from Nordqvist for another win, this one on 12.  She’s 3-up.]

[Update 2.a.6 (3:44 pm):  Just when you thought she might be on the ropes, Mamiko makes a 20-footer for birdie on the par-3 13th to go back to 2-down.]

[Update 2.a.7 (3:59 pm):  Anna’s too much for Higa–and probably anyone–today.  With Higa in the bunker on 14, Anna calmly bounces 1 in to 8 inches.  Higa needs to make like Ai-sama just to halve the hole.]

[Update 2.a.8 (4:10 pm):  1st tentative stroke I’ve seen today from Anna, but she halves the hole and goes dormie with 3 to play.]

[Update 2.a.9 (4:33 pm):  Anna had 2 putts from 10 feet on the fringe to win the match, and she cozied the 1st right up there.  She wins 3&2.]

8. Belen Mozo vs. Moriya Jutanugarn

They’re all-square through 2.

[Update 2.b.1 (2:07 pm):  Moriya won 4 and 6 and Belen won 5, so Moriya is 1-up.]

[Update 2.b.2 (2:28 pm):  Belen won 7 and 8 to go 1-up.]

[Update 2.b.3 (2:44 pm):  A par is enough for Mozo to make it 3 in a row.  She’s 2-up through 9.]

[Update 2.b.4 (2:52 pm):  Nice shot and nice bounce for Moriya on 10.  Let’s see if she can make the 6-footer.]

[Update 2.b.5 (3:11 pm):  Moriya made it on 10 and then Belen missed a makeable 10-footer on 11, so Belen remains 1-up.]

[Update 2.b.6 (3:49 pm):  Belen makes a tap-in birdie on 12 to go 2-up.]

[Update 2.b.7 (3:53 pm):  After a lot of discussion, Belen goes to the back-left of the pin on 13.]

[Update 2.b.8 (4:04 pm):  Nice lag from Mozo on 13 to halve the hole.]

[Update 2.b.9 (4:47 pm):  Golf Channel’s been ignoring this match until they got to 16 and because I had to talk to a man about a tree (literally), I’m still behind on the DVR, so haven’t looked online to see the results.  They finally realized that Belen can clinch it for Spain and showed her hitting a good lay-up on the par-5 16th.  She’s 2-up and Moriya needs to make something happen!  She backs off from her fairway wood.  She restarts her routine and then lands it too far short of the top of the bank, so she rolls back down the hill.  If Belen can get up and down, she not only wins the hole and the match, but also the crown!]

[Update 2.b.10 (4:49 pm):  Nice approach from Belen, hitting it just past the pin and spinning it enough to stop it before it ran down to where Yokomine ended up on this hole earlier.]

[Update 2.b.11 (4:50 pm):  Great pitch from Moriya.  Now it’s a putting contest.]

[Update 2.b.12 (4:52 pm):  Mozo sinks it!!!  Now Moriya needs to make hers to extend the match.]

[Update 2.b.13 (4:54 pm):  Moriya misses low side.  Mozo wins 3&2.  The crown is Spain’s!]

[Update 2.b.14 (4:58 pm):  When you think about how high was on day 1 and how low they were on day 2 after Team USA swept them, the way they played on the weekend is even more impressive.  Carlota destroying NYC really set the tone for them today and Beatriz and Belen responded against opponents they knew they had a good chance to beat.  Bottom line is they did what they had to do.  Great job!]

9. Mika Miyazato vs. Onnarin Sattayabanphot

They’re all-square through 2.

[Update 2.c.1 (2:08 pm):  Mikan won 4 and 5 and is 2-up through 6.]

[Update 2.c.2 (2:27 pm):  Mikan wins 7 to go 3-up.]

[Update 2.c.3 (2:38 pm):  Nice putt on 8 by Onnarin to get back to 2-down.]

[Update 2.c.4 (3:30 pm):  Mikan sticks it on 11 to tap-in range.]

[Update 2.c.5 (3:33 pm):  Onnarin halves the hole with a fantastic 20-footer for birdie!]

[Update 2.c.6 (4:12 pm):  Thought Mikan had the birdie putt from the back fringe on 13, but it veered left on the last roll.]

[Update 2.c.7 (4:13 pm):  Onnarin has about a 5-footer to save par and she makes it dead-center, halving the hole.  She’s still 2-down with 5 to play.]

[Update 2.c.8 (4:32 pm):  Mikan’s birdie try on 14 seemed to wobble its way around the hole.]

[Update 2.c.9 (4:36 pm):  Yikes.  Mikan missed her tap-in to fall back to 1-up.]

[Update 2.c.10 (4:51 pm):  Mikan has a 4-footer to win 15.  Hits the right corner of the cup and spins out.  Still 1-up, now with 3 to play.]

[Update 2.c.11 (5:03 pm):  Great approach by Mikan on 16.  She’s in that same range she’s missed from the last 2 holes, but this time for birdie.]

[Update 2.c.12 (5:07 pm):  Onnarin took a run at her birdie putt, assuming Mikan will make hers.  Now if she misses the comebacker Mikan won’t have to putt.  Onnarin makes the 4-foot par putt, though.  Can she dodge a 3rd bullet in a row?  Mikan’s little water bottle ritual is getting a lot of humorous commentary the last few holes!  She makes it and goes dormie with 2 to play.]

[Update 2.c.13 (5:14 pm):  Onnarin concedes a long par putt to Mikan on 17.  Mikan wins 3&1.]

10. Ai Miyazato vs. Azahara Munoz

Aza won the 1st hole.]

[Update 2.d.1 (2:09 pm):  Ai-sama won 4 and 5 to go 1-up.]

[Update 2.d.2 (2:30 pm):  Aza won 7 to square up the match.]

[Update 2.d.3 (3:02 pm):  Great 12-footer by Aza to halve 9.  Still all-square.]

[Update 2.d.4 (3:37 pm):  Aza sticks it on 11!  Pressure’s on Ai-sama!  She gets it in birdie range–maybe 8 feet short right of the cup.]

[Update 2.d.5 (3:40 pm):  Yikes, both players missed!  Ai-sama must feel like she dodged a bullet.]

[Update 2.d.6 (4:07 pm):  Ai-sama didn’t miss the tap-in for birdie on 12, so she’s 1-up!]

[Update 2.d.7 (4:18 pm):  Fantastic 15-footer for birdie by Aza.  Back to all-square through 13 now.]

[Update 2.d.8 (4:43 pm):  Aza made a nice try from about 20 feet on 14.  Looked good all the way but rolled about 2 feet by the cup.]

[Update 2.d.9 (4:59 pm):  Aza made a great birdie on 15, again from medium range, right after finding out her team had won the crown.  She’s 1-up with 3 to play.]

[Update 2.d.10 (5:01 pm):  Great drive by Aza on 16, dead center.  Good one from Ai-sama, to the right side of the fairway.]

[Update 2.d.11 (5:04 pm):  Bad lay-up by Ai-sama with a fairway wood.  Deep in the right rough.]

[Update 2.d.12 (5:09 pm):  Ai-sama’s 121 out with Aza in perfect position.  The rough closed her club face and the ball rolled into the front-left trap.  Munoz is about half the distance from the hole and puts it about 2 feet outside where Mikan had left hers.  Munoz can win the match on this hole.]

[Update 2.d.13 (5:11 pm):  After a bad bunker shot, Ai-sama rolls in the 25-footer to make a huge par save.  Rueful smile and raised eyebrows from Ai-sama say it all.  Big let-down.  I’ll bet she’s hoping Aza makes the putt.]

[Update 2.d.14 (5:12 pm):  Aza’s putt rolled by the right edge of the cup at a snail’s pace.  They halve the hole and Aza remains 1-up with 2 to play.  Sorry, she would have been dormie if she had made it.]

[Update 2.d.15 (5:18 pm):  Good shot by Aza, landing it front-left on the green and letting it roll out to almost pin high.  Not a good shot by Ai-sama, leaving it on the front-right fringe.  The atmosphere here would be totally different if Sakura could have put her approach on 17 on the green, eh?]

[Update 2.d.16 (5:21 pm):  Good speed, bad line for Ai-sama.  3 feet right.  Aza has maybe 20 feet to win the hole and the match.  18 inches short.  Ai-sama concedes and Aza doesn’t.  Wonder if Ai-sama will be concentrating on this one.  Nope.  Aza wins 2&1.]

[Update 3 (1:19 pm):  At times, I’ll try to sum up where the teams currently stand.

Japan (8): up in 1, all-square in 1, down in 2
Spain (7): up in 2, all-square in 1, down in 1
Sweden (7): up in 1, down in 3
Thailand (7): up in 1, all-square in 2, down in 1
Korea (6): up in 1, down in 3

Wish they had flags by the players’ names on the scoreboard!]

[Update 4 (2:11 pm):  Here’s how the teams stand right now:

Japan (8): up in 3, all-square in 1
Spain (7): up in 2, all-square in 1, down in 1
Sweden (7): up in 1, all-square in 1, down in 2
Thailand (7): up in 2, down in 2
Korea (6): up in 1, down in 3

Can’t wait for the tv coverage to start!]

[Update 5 (2:32 pm):  Here’s how the teams stand right now:

Japan (8): up in 2, all-square in 2
Spain (7): up in 3, all-square in 1
Sweden (7): up in 1, all-square in 1, down in 2
Thailand (7): up in 1, down in 3
Korea (6): up in 1, down in 3

K, it’s tv time!]

[Update 6 (2:40 pm):  Here’s how the teams stand right now:

Sweden (9): won 1, all-square in 1, down in 2
Japan (8): up in 2, all-square in 2
Spain (7): up in 3, all-square in 1
Thailand (7): up in 1, down in 2, lost 1
Korea (6): up in 1, down in 3

Tightening up!]

[Update 7 (2:43 pm):  Here’s how the teams stand right now:

Spain (9): won 1, up in 2, all-square in 1
Sweden (9): won 1, all-square in 1, down in 2
Japan (8): up in 2, all-square in 2
Thailand (7): up in 1, down in 2, lost 1
Korea (6): up in 1, down in 2, lost 1

Tightening up!]

[Update 8 (2:54 pm):  Here’s how the teams stand right now:

Spain (9): won 1, up in 2, all-square in 1
Sweden (9): won 1, up in 1, down in 1, lost 1
Japan (8): up in 2, all-square in 1, down in 1
Korea (8): won 1, down in 2, lost 1
Thailand (7): up in 1, down in 2, lost 1

Tightening up further!]

[Update 9 (3:57 pm):  Here’s how the teams stand right now:

Spain (9): won 1, up in 2, all-square in 1
Sweden (9): won 1, up in 1, down in 1, lost 1
Thailand (9): won 1, down in 2, lost 1
Japan (8): up in 1, all-square in 2, down in 1
Korea (8): won 1, all-square in 1, lost 2

Tightening up even further!]

[Update 10 (4:23 pm):  Here’s how the teams stand right now:

Spain (11): won 2, up in 1, all-square in 1
Sweden (9): won 1, up in 1, lost 2
Thailand (9): won 1, down in 2, lost 1
Japan (8): up in 1, all-square in 1, down in 2
Korea (8): won 1, up in 1, lost 2

It’s looking like Spain right now!]

[Update 11 (4:35 pm):  Here’s how the teams stand right now:

Spain (11): won 2, up in 1, all-square in 1
Sweden (11): won 2, lost 2
Thailand (9): won 1, down in 2, lost 1
Japan (8): up in 1, all-square in 1, down in 1, lost 1
Korea (8): won 1, up in 1, lost 2

It’s still looking like Spain!]

[Update 12 (4:39 pm):  Here’s how the teams stand right now:

Spain (11): won 2, up in 1, all-square in 1
Sweden (11): won 2, lost 2
Korea (10): won 2, lost 2
Thailand (9): won 1, down in 2, lost 1
Japan (8): up in 1, all-square in 1, lost 2

It’s more and more looking like Spain!]

[Update 13 (4:55 pm):  Here’s how the teams stand right now:

Spain (13): won 3, all-square in 1
Sweden (11): won 2, lost 2
Korea (10): won 2, lost 2
Thailand (9): won 1, down in 1, lost 2
Japan (8): up in 1, all-square in 1, lost 2

It’s Spain!]

[Update 14 (5:15 pm):  Here’s how the teams stand right now:

Spain (13): won 3, all-square in 1
Sweden (11): won 2, lost 2
Korea (10): won 2, lost 2
Japan (10): won 1, down in 1, lost 2
Thailand (9): won 1, lost 3

They’re just playing for position now!]

[Update 15 (5:22 pm):  Here are the final results:

Spain (15): won 4
Sweden (11): won 2, lost 2
Korea (10): won 2, lost 2
Japan (10): won 1, lost 3
Thailand (9): won 1, lost 3

Congratulations to Team Spain!]

International Crown Saturday: The Plot Thickens

All the matches are under way on day 3 of the International Crown and already there have been fireworks galore!  Check back here for updates throughout the afternoon and evening.  And feel free to check out Ron Sirak’s and Randall Mell’s twitter feeds as they’re live-tweeting this thing!

Sweden vs. Australia

Anna Nordqvist has birdied 4 of her 1st 6 holes to lead teammate Caroline Hedwall (2 birdies) to a 2-up lead on Minjee Lee (2 birdies) and Karrie Webb (1 birdie).

Pernilla Lindberg and Mikaela Parmlid have picked up right where they left off, with 4 team birdies in the 1st 5 holes to go 2-up on Katherine Kirk and Lindsey Wright.

[Update 1 (2:06 pm):  Hedwall birdies the 7th to bring Sweden’s A-team 3-up.]

[Update 5 (2:14 pm):  Nordqvist birdied the par-4 7th; they’re now 4-up.  Kirk and Wright both bogeyed the 7th to fall 3-down.]

[Update 12 (2:53 pm):   Lindberg birdies 9 to bring her team to 4-up!]

[Update 21 (3:25 pm):  Hedwall just misses eagle on the par-5 12th with a fantastic sand shot, while Lee leaves her 20-foot eagle attempt 6 inches right of the hole.  Still a 4-up lead there.]

[Update 26 (3:33 pm):  Parmlid made her 3rd birdie of the day and Kirk couldn’t follow it up, so Team Sweden is now 5-up!]

[Update 42 (3:56 pm):  Ouch, GC is showing Wright and Kirk’s approaches on 12 and reminding us all this is where things started to go bad for them yesterday.]

[Update 43 (3:58 pm):  Forgot to mention Lindberg birdied 12, so she and Parmlid are 6-up.  I really thought Kirk and Wright would be stronger than Sweden’s B-team before the week started!]

[Update 46 (4:06 pm):  Parmlid and Lindberg played their last 31 holes in -16 and win 7&5 to get 2 points for Team Sweden!]

[Update 47 (4:09 pm):  Webb and Lee have to win out to force a halve in the match and then they need Team Japan to sweep Team Korea, but even then I think the tie-breaker is the original seeding, so it looks to me like Australia has been eliminated.]

[Update 50 (4:13 pm):  Nordqvist has a birdie putt to win the match, but it rolls 3 feet by after Hedwall failed to make her par save.]

[Update 52 (4:17 pm):  It’s automatic for Nordqvist and they win 4&3.  Sweden finishes pool play with 7 points.  They now lead Pool B.]

Spain vs. Taiwan

Azahara Munoz and Carlota Ciganda have combined for 2 birdies in the 1st 3 holes against Ya Ni Tseng and Phoebe Yao and won the par-5 4th when the Taiwanese team both bogeyed it.  They are now 3-up.

Meanwhile, Teresa Lu started eagle-birdie but she and Candie Kung are only 1-up on Beatriz Recari and Belen Mozo, as Mozo responded with a birdie on the par-3 3rd.

[Update 2 (2:07 pm):  Spain’s A-team is now 4-up through 5 as they dropped a pair of birdies on the par 4.]

[Update 6 (2:15 pm):  Aza has made her 2nd birdie in a row to bring her team 5-up!]

[Update 7 (2:17 pm):  Recari birdied the par-4 5th to bring their match all-square.]

[Update 14 (3:08 pm):  Wow!  Munoz and Ciganda are now 6-up through 9 after Yao couldn’t save par from 12 feet.]

[Update 18 (3:17 pm):  Great approach by Lu to a tough pin on #9.]

[Update 22 (3:26 pm):  Lu follows it up with a fine putt to bring her team to 2-up.]

[Update 27 (3:35 pm):  Wow!  Great approach by Ciganda on 11–pulled the string and that’s what kept it from being an eagle!]

[Update 31 (3:39 pm):  Lu knocks it stiff as Tseng’s putt goes all the way around the hole and refuses to drop.  So Tseng and Yao are down 7 with 7 to play while Lu and Kung have a chance to go 3-up.]

[Update 33 (3:43 pm):  Missed seeing Lu win the hole while we got to see a bit by the Jutanugarn sisters.  Cute, but how about showing a match that could eliminate Team Spain?  Maybe after the commercial break?]

[Update 34 (3:44 pm):  Lu did make her 2nd birdie in a row but Mozo matched it.  Match stays at 2-up.  Sorry, I misread the leaderboard in the last update!]

[Update 41 (3:55 pm):  Another great approach from Lu.  She’s playing like on Thursday!]

[Update 44 (4:02 pm):  Recari makes birdie on 11 and Lu follows it up.  Ya Ni birdies 12 and both Munoz and Ciganda miss makeable ones to close the the match, so they’re “only” 6-up with 6 to play.]

[Update 51 (4:15 pm):  Yao makes the must-make to force Munoz to win the match with a 7-footer.  Money!  Just like the Solheim Cup!  Now Munoz and Ciganda, 6&5 winners, can go cheer on Recari and Mozo.  Spain is tied with Thailand with 5 points right now.]

[Update 66 (4:44 pm):  Mozo and Recari birdied 12 to get back to 1-down!]

[Update 72 (4:56 pm):  Recari cleans up par on 14 to bring the match to all-square with 4 to go!]

[Update 78 (5:06 pm):  4 birdie tries on 15.]

[Update 84 (5:15 pm):  No birdie for Recari.  Or anyone else.  Amazing we only got to see 1 putt on that hole!]

[Update 90 (5:30 pm):  Amazing pitch-in from heavy rough by Belen Mozo on 16!!!!  And great celebration with Beatriz!]

[Update 91 (5:31 pm):  Teresa Lu almost matched it from just off the green, but Mozo’s eagle brings them to 1-up with 2 to play.]

[Update 94 (5:37 pm):  3 on the green on 17, nobody super-close or super-far, but Recari’s on the stone border near the pond right.]

[Update 98 (5:43 pm):  Recari can’t get the tough up and down, so it’s going to be up to Mozo!]

[Update 99 (5:45 pm):  She can’t get the birdie, but she gets her par and forces Lu and Kung to make their putts to square the match.]

[Update 100 (5:46 pm):  No birdie for Teresa.]

[Update 108 (6:07 pm):  Wow, Mozo makes a long one to win the match 2-up, eliminate Taiwan, and move to the top of Pool A with 7 points!!!]

Korea vs. Japan

It’s pars galore as Inbee Park and So Yeon Ryu square off against the Okinawan giant-slayers, Mika Miyazato and Mamiko Higa.  They’re all-square through 3.

Na Yeon Choi and In-Kyung Kim dropped a birdie on Sakura Yokomine and Ai Miyazato on the very 1st hole, but the Japanese duo are used to coming from behind.  They’re 1-down through 2.

[Update 3 (2:08 pm):  Inbee Park made the 1st birdie of the day to lift her and So Yeon Ryu to 1-up.]

[Update 9 (2:20 pm):  Ryu birdies 5 to bring them 2-up.]

[Update 10 (2:41 pm):  The M&Ms respond with a pair of birdies on the par-3 6th to pull back to 1-down.]

[Update 17 (3:16 pm):  Looks like Ai-sama birdied the 7th to bring her and Yokomine all-square with NYC and Inky.]

[Update 20 (3:23 pm):  Park sinks a sweeping left-to-right 18-footer for birdie to take the 8th and bring her team 2-up.]

[Update 24 (3:31 pm):  Ouch–Yokomine missed a sliding downhiller 5-footer and they go 1-down to NYC and Inky.]

[Update 25 (3:32 pm):  Wow, great approach by Ryu on #9–maybe even better than Lu’s!]

[Update 30 (3:38 pm):  Ryu makes birdie to go 3-up.]

[Update 35 (3:47 pm):  Mikan pulls her approach short left of the green while Inbee pulls hers just past the pin on the green.]

[Update 45 (4:04 pm):  Yokomine eagles 10 and has the cutest reaction in the world!  NYC needs to jar it to halve the hole, but missed the green.  Inky takes her try and flies it a little past the pin.  The match is now all-square!]

[Update 49 (4:11 pm):  Higa couldn’t get her 16-footer to drop, so they lose the 11th to go 4-down with 7 to play.]

[Update 53 (4:19 pm):  Ai-sama hits it to a foot on 11.  This is about where she and Sakura came alive yesterday.  They’ll need a great push today to handle NYC and Inky!]

[Update 54 (4:23 pm):  Inky’s birdie try just slides by.  Ai-sama’s putt is conceded and they’re 1-up!]

[Update 58 (4:32 pm):  Higa with an eagle try from the left fringe on 12 breaks hard right and ends up 5 feet away.  Ryu has an eagle chance.]

[Update 59 (4:34 pm):  From the back fringe, Ryu leaves her 20-footer short and low, but closer than Mamiko.]

[Update 61 (4:35 pm):  Higa side-doors her birdie try–in!]

[Update 63 (4:38 pm):  Ryu answers it.  Still 4-up, now with 6 holes to go.]

[Update 65 (4:43 pm):  Higa uses the backstop on 13 and it rolls back almost all the way to the cup.  She’ll be conceded the birdie, so the pressure’s on Park and Ryu to answer.]

[Update 67 (4:49 pm):  Ryu answers with a delicate downhill 20 footer.  Behind them, Yokomine makes a 90-foot chip for eagle on 12!

[Update 68 (4:51 pm):  Then Sakura almost one-hands her finish and sticks it on 13!  Holy cow!]

[Update 71 (4:54 pm):  Inky responds by leaving it in tap-in range!]

[Update 74 (5:03 pm):  Ryu has 4 birdies in her last 5 holes.  Yokomine sinks her birdie putt on the right edge; good thing, b/c Inky really did have a tap-in.  Good halves all around!]

[Update 79 (5:08 pm):  Ryu just babies birdie try on 14.  Higa has a 3-footer to extend the match–and makes it.  Korea is dormie in the 1st match.]

[Update 82 (5:13 pm):  Great approach by NYC on 14.  9 feet for birdie!!]

[Update 86 (5:18 pm):  No F-in way!!!! Ai-sama holes out from bunker!  All of a sudden NYC needs to make her birdie try to avoid going 3 down!  And it just swerves right at the end….  Only 4 to play in this match.]

[Update 95 (5:39 pm):  Park and Ryu beat the Okinawan giant-slayers 4&3.  Just too much:  -7 through 15 holes!  Minutes later, Ai-sama has a putt from near the back fringe to win her match:  it stops right on line 2 feet short of the cup.]

[Update 97 (5:42 pm):  Whoa, maybe that’s 3 feet.  Looks longer after Sakura failed to make par.  But she knocks it in and they’re dormie.]

[Update 106 (6:03 pm):  Sorry, had to take a minute to wash some rice for dinner.  A lot easier for one cup than for three with The Full Metal Archivist, Onechan, and Imoto still in Japan for another month!  Speaking of Japan, isn’t it about time to see if they can close out their match?]

[Update 107 (6:06 pm):  Right on cue, Golf Channel goes to the 16th green.  And Yoko-meanie (sorry, Judy, 1st mispronounce of the day–then she goes to Yoko-mini!) just misses her birdie.  Nice mention of the Okinawa-centric nature of Team Japan.  Inky has a good birdie chance, about 12 feet, but it just veers off to the left in the last foot.  Now it’s up to NYC.]

[Update 109 (6:08 pm):  NYC can’t do it from the opposite side of the cup.  So Japan wins Pool B with 8 points and Korea has to go to the playoff for the last spot on Sunday.]

USA vs. Thailand

It’s pars all around on the 1st hole as Lexi Thompson and Cristie Kerr take on Moriya and Ariya Jutanugarn.

No scores in yet for the Stacy Lewis-Paula Creamer vs. Pornanong Phatlum-Onnarin Sattayabanphot match.

[Update 4 (2:10 pm):  Kerr birdied the par-4 2nd to bring her and Lexi 1-up, while Phatlum and Sattayabanphot both birdied the 1st to also go 1-up.]

[Update 8 (2:19 pm):  It’s birdies all around for Lewis, Creamer, Phatlum, and Sattayabanphot on 2 as they halve the hole.  Note:  Just found out from Golf Channel’s early coverage that Sattayabanphot snaked in a long one and Lewis matched it.]

[Update 11 (2:50 pm):  The Jutanugarns both bogey the par-5 4th to hand Kerr and Thompson a 2-up lead.]

[Update 13 (2:59 pm):  Nice stroke by Lexi on her 10-foot birdie putt to match the Jutanugarns’ birdie on the 5th!]

[Update 15 (3:09 pm):  Wow, sweet chip in by Sattayabanphot when it looked like Team USA would have 2 birdie putts to win the hole!]

[Update 16 (3:13 pm):  Stacy hit her 20-footer through the break and Paula just pulled her 7-footer enough for it to hit the corner of the cup and not fall.  Sattayabanphot and Phatlum go 2-up.]

[Update 19 (3:19 pm):  Lexi left a make-able downhill 10-footer a foot short in her bid to bring Team USA 4-up in their match.]

[Update 23 (3:28 pm):  Nice lag from the back of the green on the par-3 6th by Lewis.  Sattayabanphot has an uphill 8-footer and saves par.]

[Update 28 (3:36 pm):  Cristie’s putt broke the other way than Lexi’s, so now Ariya has a 16-foot chance to win the hole.  She blasted it by, so now the sisters will have to make some tough putts to halve the hole.]

[Update 29 (3:37 pm):  Moriya hits it through the break and doesn’t have an easy one for bogey.]

[Update 32 (3:41 pm):  No worries, as Ariya and Cristie clean up their pars.]

[Update 36 (3:48 pm):  Fantastic sand wedge from heavy rough by Lexi with the pressure on to about 16 feet by the pin.  Ariya does the same from a bit better lie to about 18 feet.]

[Update 37 (3:50 pm):  Stacy has a short downhiller for birdie to win the 7th and pull her and Paula within 1 hole of the Phatlum-Sattayabanphot team.  And she makes it!]

[Update 38 (3:52 pm):  With Moriya in for a bogey, Ariya tries to lag her putt but it rolls out 7 feet by the pin.  Now it’s Lexi’s turn:  and she hits the hole but the ball still rolls 6 feet by!  Now Cristie is closest with 4 feet for par.]

[Update 39 (3:53 pm):  Great putt by Ariya!  Now it’s Lexi’s turn.]

[Update 40 (3:54 pm):  Sweet follow-up by Lexi.]

[Update 46 (4:05 pm):  Big birdie putt by Paula on 8.  Phatlum hits it through the break and this match is now all-square!]

[Update 48 (4:10 pm):  Long birdie try from the back collar of the 9th green by Ariya ends up 1 inch to the right of the cup.  The hole is halved.]

[Update 55 (4:28 pm):  A pair of good birdie tries for Team USA on 10 while everyone needs to make tough pars saves on 9.  Cristie’s 20-foot try on 10 was a roll short and left, while Lexi has a 10-foot downhill sweeper for birdie, but can’t make it.  Halved.  Meanwhile, Phatlum saved par on 9 to keep their match at all-square.]

[Update 56 (4:30 pm):  Cristie hit a hybrid to the left corner of the fairway on 11 while Lexi puts an iron in the middle of the fairway.]

[Update 57 (4:31 pm):  Great explanation and visual of how Lexi went back to her old putting stance in 2013 and improved her putting as a result!]

[Update 60 (4:34 pm):  Moriya sticks one on 11!  Maybe she’s coming alive today!]

[Update 62 (4:37 pm):  Lexi answers it, about a foot closer to the pin!  Ariya is about 2 feet outside Moriya.  Cristie pulls her sand wedge about 12 feet left of the pin.]

[Update 64 (4:42 pm):  Cristie thought she had it, but it slid by.  Meanwhile, Phatlum sticks it inside other good shots on 10.  Ariya made her birdie try to put pressure on Lexi, but she also showed her the line a bit.  Looks like about 5 feet.  Money!  Another halve.  Still 2-up with 7 to go.]

[Update 67 (4:45 pm):  Paula uses the entire cup to force Phatlum to make her 3-footer.  Money.  Still all-square heading to the 11th tee.]

[Update 69 (4:52 pm):  Ariya just misses 12 short on her 2nd shot from a fairway bunker.  Judy Rankin points out it’s almost exactly where Yokomine just was.  Moriya puts her not far from where Ryu had put hers on the back fringe.]

[Update 70 (4:53 pm):  Announcers joking about Lexi having a 6-iron in instead of yesterday’s 7-iron.  It tracks right by the hole and stops about 3 feet away!!!]

[Update 73 (4:58 pm):  After Paula sticks it on 11 to 6 feet, Pornanong gets hers to about 9.]

[Update 75 (5:04 pm):  Cristie and Moriya make good birdie putts.  If Lexi can sink her eagle putt, Team USA goes 3-up.]

[Update 76 (5:04 pm):  Bang!  Lexi eagles 12 for the 2nd day in a row!]

[Update 77 (5:05 pm):  Phatlum makes a great birdie, but Paula got the read from her and…misses her birdie putt right.  Team Thailand is 1-up!!]

[Update 80 (5:09 pm):  The backstop wasn’t Cristie’s friend on 13.]

[Update 81 (5:12 pm):  It was for Lexi and the ball almost rolled back in the cup for a tap-in birdie.  Ariya pushed her approach.  Juli Inkster’s now talking about being Moriya’s LPGA mentor.  Wonder if she ever gave her any advice relevant to this situation?  “Mo” put it about 15 feet short right of the pin.]

[Update 83 (5:14 pm):  Whoa, Phatlum birdied 11 as Golf Channel goes to commercials to bring her team 1-up!]

[Update 85 (5:17 pm):  No birdie for Moriya.  4-down with 5 to play.]

[Update 87 (5:19 pm):  Phatlum hits 12 in 2 but Lewis uses the undulations and gets her 2nd to about 7 feet away!]

[Update 88 (5:27 pm):  Phatlum’s putt looks like 40 feet or more….  Described as downhill and sliding right.  Nice lag to 2 feet, right on line.  Now Paula will try to make her 25-footer to get the birdie in and show Stacy the line.  She burns the cup on the high side!  Now it’s up to Stacy to get this eagle!  She’s a very streaky hot putter, but she just hasn’t locked in this week yet.  Not anymore! Eagle to square the match!!]

[Update 89 (5:28 pm):  Paula sticks her 7-iron on 13 6 feet left of the pin.  Nice shot!]

[Update 92 (5:32 pm):  Stacy goes about 12 feet past pin high.  Pornanong, who beat Stacy in Dubai last December, hit it thin, right and long on the green.  Sattayabanphot can’t quite use the backstop to bring the ball as close as others have, but she has about 15 feet for birdie.]

[Update 93 (5:36 pm):  Moriya snakes in a long one on 14 to pull her sister within 3 holes with 4 holes to play.  Meanwhile, Phatlum’s snakes by the cup just left with near-perfect speed.]

[Update 96 (5:41 pm):  Stacy just can’t get the speed down on her birdie try, hitting it through the break.  Now it’s up to Paula to make her maybe 7-footer to win the hole.  And it tails off on the last roll….]

[Update 101 (5:48 pm):  Lots of good approaches on 14 and 15.  But Stacy dumps hers in the trap, reminiscent of her approach on 17 yesterday, as both Jerry Foltz and I thought at the same time.  Phatlum hits it the closest on 14.]

[Update 102 (5:52 pm):  Neither Ariya nor Moriya could make their putts, so it’s looking like Cristie and Lexi will go dormie.]

[Update 103 (5:53 pm):  Cristie Kerr is money!  I wrote that even before she made her 5-footer to take her team 3-up with 3 to play.]

[Update 104 (5:55 pm):  Paula’s maybe got a 15-footer.  Stops about 2 inches shy of the cup.  Can Thailand go 1-up?  It’s up to Phatlum.]

[Update 105 (5:56 pm):  Bang!  Never a doubt from the opposite side as Paula!  1-up with 4 to go.]

[Update 110 (6:10 pm):  So as the US-Thailand matches come down to the wire, Team USA would be in a playoff against Team ROK if the matches don’t change!]

[Update 111 (6:12 pm):  Phatlum sticks her approach on 15, just missing an eagle!!!!  Great chance to go 2-up in that crucial match as Team USA has one chance to match it with about a 15-footer for birdie.]

[Update 112 (6:14 pm):  Lewis can’t make the birdie and Team Thailand is 2-up with 3 to play!]

[Update 113 (6:17 pm):  Looks like Cristie and Lexi should close out Ariya and Moriya on 16.  Moriya flops it from the rough over the par 5 and lets it trickle down for an uphill birdie attempt.  Ariya’s above the hole in 3 after a tough chip position from short of the green.]

[Update 114 (6:19 pm):  Cristie just needs to lag her 25-footer and she did it to perfection.  Team USA wins the key match to ensure they’ll at least be in a playoff against Team ROK!]

[Update 115 (6:23 pm):  Wow, first Onnarin and then Paula hit terrible approaches on 16 when going for the green in 2 from the fairway.  Now it’s up to Stacy Lewis.  Lucky it stayed on the green after double crossing her approach to the lower left tier.]

[Update 116 (6:25 pm):  Pornanong layed up and didn’t hit a great approach.]

[Update 117 (6:31 pm):  Paula chopped it out from a terrible lie in the right rough and got it to the back tier.  Stacy leaves her–what, 80-footer?–about a foot short!  Amazing eagle try!!]

[Update 118 (6:32 pm):  Team ROK’s been waiting for a while.  Looks like Inbee and So Yeon will be carrying the flag in the playoff.]

[Update 119 (6:34 pm):  Phatlum got her par.  Sattayabanphot needs to make hers from the fringe (after an even better shot from the rough than Paula had).  It seemed to go airborne as it left the fringe for a fraction of a second and stayed barely left of the cup all the way.  Team USA 1 down with 1 to play.]

[Update 120 (6:37 pm):  Big approach shots coming up on the par-3 17th!  Here’s how the overall points stand for those teams we know are in:

8 Japan
7 Sweden, Spain

If Phatlum and Sattayabanphot hold on, Thailand will end up with 7 points.  And the USA and ROK would end pool play with 6.  If they halve, it’ll be Team USA with 7 and Thailand with 6.  If Team USA can win the last 3 holes in a row, they’ll tie Japan with 8 points!]

[Update 121 (6:41 pm):  Paula loses hers a little right but it lands on the fringe and bounces a little forward for a nice birdie chance.  Stacy hit her approach here yesterday in the water and ended up in about the same kind of position as Recari did a bit earlier today.  If either Phatlum or Sattayabanphot can stick it, the pressure’s really on Paula.  But Phatlum puts it in the water short right!  Now all the pressure’s on Onnarin!!!!  She’s speaking Japanese with her caddy, by the way!  OK, she put it in the back left corner, about 30 feet from the pin!]

[Update 122 (6:44 pm):  Good break for Stacy that the wire or whatever was up against her ball, so she got to remove it and replace her ball without any penalty.  She’s only about 20 feet from the pin, chipping off stone.  She’s gotta pop it out and hope!  But Sattayabanphot is away.]

[Update 123 (6:45 pm):  No, wait, it’s Stacy!  Oh, man, it checked up on her.  She’s got about 15 feet for par.  She kinda scraped it in instead of getting the ball clean.]

[Update 124 (6:47 pm):  Good putt by Onnarin, about 18 inches or so past the cup on the high side.  Paula needs to make it to win the hole!]

[Update 125 (6:49 pm):  Man, Paula’s putt dove at the end and she missed on the low side.  Sattayabanphot cleans up to bring Team Thailand dormie.]

[Update 126 (6:51 pm):  So Japan is guaranteed to be the top points-getter in pool play.  Now let’s see who’s got to face Park and Ryu in the playoff.]

[Update 127 (6:53 pm):  Nice drives by Paula and Stacy.  Phatlum outdrives Stacy.  Onnarin (who made the amazing putt to beat Ya Ni Yseng and Phoebe Yao team here yesterday) puts hers in the 1st left bunker.]

[Update 128 (7:00 pm):  Wouldn’t it be cool if Golf Channel had hired someone who speaks Korean (and others who speak other languages) to translate non-English conversations the mikes pick up?  Never mind.  What a great shot by Sattayabanphot to get hers to the front fringe!  Stacy misses the backstop and is about 25 feet above the pin.  Paula misses it by more and is about 10 feet further away than Stacy.  Pornanong misses the green long and left, with what looks like a bad lie.]

[Update 129 (7:02 pm):  Wow, after carrying her for a good part of the day, Pornanong is putting a heck of a lot of pressure on Onnarin in these last 2 holes!  But she makes up for her bad approach with a great pitch!  Maybe 3 feet for par?]

[Update 130 (7:09 pm):  Paula makes a good effort but can’t get it on the right line.  Onnarin is going to let Pornanong make what now looks like a 2-footer for par and she does (although she made her team nervous).  If Sattayabanphot can make her putt, this match is over.  Wow, her approach got much further onto the green than I thought it had!  She only has about 18 feet.  Nope.  Through the break.  Now it’s up to Stacy Lewis, the #1 player in the world to win the hole, halve the match, and force Thailand to face Korea in the playoff.]

[Update 131 (7:11 pm):  OK, Thailand’s in with 7 points.  New post for playoff coming right up!]

[Update 132 (7:11 pm):  Here’s the link!]

Pet Peeves About Golf Channel’s Day 1 International Crown Coverage

In no particular order:

There’s No “Q” in Sakura!  And No “Mini”!!  Sa-koo-ra Yo-ko-mee-nay.  Say it fast with equal emphasis on each syllable and you’ll be fine.  Never mind that the romanized “r” in Japanese is somewhere between an English “r” and “l”–too tough to learn for just one week.  Although if you can learn how to lisp “Atha” and “Motho,” why not go the extra mile for one of the JLPGA’s best players ever?  [Update (7/26/14, 9:33 am):  Also, Sakura’s no “meanie” (although Kirk and Wright might beg to differ after that shot on 17 Friday!).  Yo-ko-mee-nay, people!]

Speaking of Sakura…  She’s got a John Daly-esque swing.  And I think we saw it once on the 18th hole.  C’mon, people!

First-Tee Footage?!  Everyone talked about how emotional (in so many ways) the 1st drive of the 1st tee was this week.  Yet did Golf Channel shoot it, save it, and replay it for us?  Noooo!!!!!  I know playing every national anthem would have taken too long.  But how about a quick montage with the last 2 seconds of each country’s anthem and reaction shots by the players during it and right after they knew where their 1st shots went?  Or feature the best reactions at the top of Day 2’s coverage?

Show More Tee Shots!  When something even remotely dramatic happens on the tee–shot in the woods, player hits fairway after partner puts it in woods, one bomber outdrives another, whatever–we oughtta see it.  Everything matters in match play and with so few groups on the course, we should be able to get a good sense of how every match is unfolding and not have to rely so much on Juli Inkster’s summaries of what happened.

Know Your Matches.  I can’t believe that Anna Nordqvist and Caroline Hedwall–the Vikings of the Solheim Cup–struggled so much in the 1st 12 holes yesterday against struggling young Okinawans Mika Miyazato and Mamiko Higa.  So much for Solheim Cup experience and heroics, eh?  You know what else I can’t believe?  That we barely saw a shot of the latter’s great play and not even much of the former’s great comeback.  This was a made-for-tv David vs. Goliath deal, but we saw very little of it.  (True, most of the fireworks from Team Japan occurred in the 1st 5 holes.  But this is what they make highlights for.)

Speaking of Balance…  Man, the cameras loved Teams USA and Spain, and I wholeheartedly endorse that decision.  But if 2 seconds per shot of golfers walking, standing, and consulting with each other and their caddies on non-pivotal shots were cut, just think of how much more could have been shown of the Vikings vs. the Okinawans, Karrie Webb and Minjee Lee taking it to Na Yeon Choi and In-Kyung Kim (with attendant speculation on how the pressure is affecting the half of Team ROK that isn’t coming into this week with a whole lot of confidence), and Inbee Park and So Yeon Ryu lighting up the course?

And Now a Word from Our Sponsors.  Given how many commercials that GC gets to show at the end of each day, wouldn’t it be nice if they cut back a little midway through the coverage?

[Update 1 (8:00 am):  Ruthless Mike wants more credit given where it’s due to Team Taiwan.  HappyFan gives Judy Rankin credit for mentioning the Japan-Korea almost-annual team matches during an interview, but rightly criticizes the bulk of the coverage for pretending as if the Asian and other non-Solheim Cuppers have no professional team experience.  I wish I had thought of both (or, more accurately, remembered the latter).  I mean, nobody remembers the Lexus Cup?]

International Crown Thursday: Taiwan Shocks Team USA; Spain, Japan Impress

You can read all about day 1 of the International Crown over at LPGA.com, so I’ll focus here on my own observations, having just caught up on Golf Channel’s coverage on ye olde DVR (I’m busily trying to get my handicap back low enough to be allowed to try qualifying for the New York State Golf Association’s Mid-Amateur Championship, so had to watch the 2nd half on tape after hitting 11 greens at The Links at Ivy Ridge but still only shooting a 79).

Any Given Thursday.  I never would have pegged Team Taiwan to be the top point-getter on day 1, shutting out Team USA!  But Teresa Lu and Candie Kung played fantastic team golf in crushing Cristie Kerr and Paula Creamer, and 1st Ya Ni Tseng, then Phoebe Yao, then Tseng made birdies when it counted in eking out a win over Stacy Lewis and Lexi Thompson.  Incredible!  And who would have thought Mika Miyazato would birdie 3 of her 1st 5 holes to get Team Japan off to a great start against Team Sweden’s aces, Anna Nordqvist and Caroline Hedwall?  In fact, Mikan and Mamiko Higa were 2-up with 6 holes to play and withstood a late charge by the Solheim Cup’s Vikings to get the halve when Nordqvist hit a 7-foot birdie attempt through the break on the tough 18th hole.

It’s All About the Teamwork.  Team Spain showed the way to play best-ball golf today.  Munoz and Ciganda cruised against a struggling Pornanong Phatlum and Onnarin Sattayabanphot, with each ASU teammate contributing key birdies.  And Belen Mozo came through in the clutch to help Beatriz Recari eke out a point when it looked like the Jutanugarn sisters might beat them.  Gotta also love the chemistry between Karrie Webb and Minjee Lee and Inbee Park and So Yeon Ryu.  On the downside, both Team USA’s pairs came out flat, so I think switching them up for Friday is a good idea.  And Na Yeon Choi and In-Kyung Kim will need to find some better vibes as the week goes on.

Let’s Hear it for the Kids!  Minjee Lee, Phoebe Yao, Moriya Jutanugarn.  Some of the youngest players in the tournament played the best yesterday.  And even Lexi Thompson, Ariya Jutanugarn, and Mamiko Higa played pretty decently.

Let’s Hear it for the Anchors!  So Yeon Ryu, Teresa Lu, Sakura Yokomine.  It’s not like they carried their teammates for the entire matches they were in (Inbee Park, Candie Kung, and Ai Miyazato made contributions here and there), but it’s obvious that they came through when their teams needed them the most.

Looking Ahead to Friday’s Matches.  USA-Spain is going to get the most attention from the Golf Channel crew, but for my money, I think Japan-Australia is going to be fascinating.  Ai-sama and Yokomine absolutely have to beat Katherine Kirk and Lindsey Wright, while Mikan and Higa will have to play great again to hang with Karrie Webb and Minjee Lee.  The Okinawa-centric Japanese team needs to rack up as many points as possible before they play Team Korea on Saturday.

The ROK crew’s underdogs are also in a must-win situation:  NYC and Inky need to build up some confidence against Pernilla Lindberg and Mikaela Parmlid, especially if Nordqvist and Hedwall bring their A-games against Park and Ryu (this is probably the single best match of the day on paper).

The next-best match of the day in my book is the Azahara Munoz-Carlota Ciganda vs. Stacy Lewis-Paula Creamer showdown.  Assuming Lexi Thompson and Cristie Kerr can take it to Beatriz Recari and Belen Mozo (a big if after Thursday’s play, I have to admit), Lewis and Creamer have a chance to turn the entire week around for Team USA if they can knock off Spain’s aces.

Likely to be lost in the shuffle in tomorrow’s coverage is Team Taiwan.  But they can put themselves in great position if they can kick Team Thailand while they’re down.  Lu and Kung lead off against the Jutanugarn sisters, while Tseng and Yao get a shot at Phatlum and Sattayabanphot.  On paper, the Lu and Kung have an advantage over their opponents, while Tseng and Yao ought to be underdogs against theirs, but if momentum means anything, I’d say Taiwan has the best chance of anyone to be the top point-getter after day 2.

Remember, the team with the most points at the end of all the matches wins, so points tomorrow matter just the same as points on the weekend.  A good Friday for Taiwan can almost certainly knock Thailand out of singles play on Sunday.  The pressure will be on Nordqvist and Hedwall to keep Team Sweden’s hopes of playing on Sunday alive.

If all goes as I expect, here’s how the standings in each pool will look heading into the weekend:

POOL A
Taiwan 8
USA 4
Spain 3
Thailand 1

POOL B
ROK 6
Japan 5
Australia 4
Sweden 1

[Update 1 (12:42 am):  Here’s a little link love for Tony Jesselli, Ruthless Mike, and Centurion.]

[Update 2 (7:24 am):  And here’s bangkokbobby and Ruthless Mike on day 1!]

[Update 3 (7:54 am):  Ron Sirak.  In the house!  Twice.]

Marathon Classic Friday: Laura Diaz Finishes Strong to Maintain 3-Shot Lead on Lydia Ko and Lee-Anne Pace

On a day when Rory McIlroy overcame his Friday jinx, Laura Diaz had to deal with some 2nd-round struggles of her own at the Marathon Classic after opening with a bogey-free 62.  She was having trouble hitting fairways and getting anywhere near the pin on her approach shots for her 1st 12 holes, but she bounced back from a bogey on the par-3 6th with 4 birdies in her last 6 holes to post a 69 and get to -11.  That was good enough to maintain a 3-shot lead on Lydia Ko, who fired her 2nd-straight 67, and Lee-Anne Pace, who birdied both closing par 5s for a 68.

But even though Diaz tried valiantly to close the door she had left wide open over the 1st two-thirds of her round, many golfers made up ground on her today.  Brittany Lang led the way with a 6-birdie 66, while the list of players to match Ko’s 67 was long:  So Yeon Ryu and Rebecca Lee-Bentham at -7, Kayla Mortellaro joining Lang at -6, Cristie Kerr and Candie Kung getting to -5, Mirim Lee moving to -4, and Karine Icher climbing the leaderboard to -2.  Many also made it to -3 on the day, including Caroline Hedwall and Katherine Kirk at -5, Beatriz Recari at -4, Kristy McPherson, Belen Mozo, Pernilla Lindberg, and Line Vedel at -3, Jaye Marie Green at -2, and Lisa McCloskey at +1.

Which is where the cut line fell this week.  Just barely making it into the weekend were Paula Creamer, Lexi Thompson, Chella Choi, Tiffany Joh, and Amelia Lewis, among others.  Not so fortunate were Angela Stanford and Haeji Kang at +2, Sun Young Yoo and Jennifer Song at +3, Hee-Won Han and Gerina Piller at +4, Michelle Wie at +8, Birdie Kim and Azahara Munoz (playing with borrowed clubs as Air Canada has misplaced her regular set) at +9, and Lorie Kane at +10.  Among those who flirted with the cut line were Morgan Pressel, Meena Lee, and Jenny Shin at E, while Chie Arimura made 5 birdies in her 1st 10 holes of bogey-free golf to get to -5 for the week, but fell all the way back to -1 by the time she finished the front 9 (her back).

It was nice to see Harukyo Nomura make a hole in 1 and win a car on the par 3 14th (site of many entertaining caddie races today and a Paula Creamer defeat of Lexi Thompson in a long sprint of their own), but I’m even more excited that Ai Miyazato and Na Yeon Choi will be paired together on moving day, despite the fact that they’re both back at -2 thus far.  Other cool pairings include Moira Dunn and Jennifer Rosales at -3 and Mina Harigae and Christina Kim, also at -3.

Me, I’ll be trying to turn my season around in the 1st round of the Utica City Amateur tomorrow.  We should be done in time for us to catch the 3rd round on Golf Channel.  Loving the Karen Stupples-Juli Inkster team this week!

Ricoh Women’s British Open Saturday: Fasten Your Seatbelts!

It’s moving day at Royal Birkdale and a lot’s been happening in the Ricoh Women’s British Open while we in the States have been sleeping!

  • Charley Hull started bogey-bogey to fall to +7 on the week, but responded with 8 birdies over her next 14 holes.  She bogeyed 17 and is now playing 18, which she has gone bogey-double on, both times with great saves.
  • Marina Alex has made 5 birdies in her 1st 12 holes and fallen back to E for the week with a bogey on 13.
  • Lydia Ko opened with a 4-birdie 32 to move back to +1.
  • Rikako Morita fired a 5-birdie 68 to fight back to +2 for the week.
  • Inbee Park has opened with a pair of consecutive birdies to move to -2 for the week.
So stay tuned.  I’ll be doing some not-quite-live blogging this moving day morning!

[Update 1 (7:26 am):  Add Stacy Lewis to the under-par crowd!  She birdied 5 to join Alex at E.  Meanwhile, Hull birdied 18 for a 66, the low round of the week!]

[Update 2 (7:31 am):  Nice 70 by Mika Miyazato!  She’s +4 on the week now.]

[Update 3 (8:21 am):  Got a call from the lovely ladies in Chiba!  Watching the coverage on DVR, so won’t update until I catch up to live.  Hope what happened to Ayako Uehara on the back yesterday when she started missing fairways doesn’t happen to Mo Martin today after she missed the 1st 2 fairways of her round….]

[Update 4 (9:30 am):  Glad to see Martin steadying the ship!  If Ahn were putting better, she’d be in the lead!  Ryu is looking like a champion!]

[Update 5 (9:31 am):  Ko parred out on the back for a fine 69.  Good to see Paula Creamer shooting a 71 and moving back to +3.]

[Update 6 (9:32 am):  Wish we were seeing more of Inbee Park’s round.  It would also be nice to see how Stacy Lewis’s hot start cooled off.  Clear that ESPN has a limited budget for today’s coverage.]

[Update 7 (9:33 am):  Another player we should be seeing more of is Suzann Pettersen.  After just missing her 4th birdie in a row, she hasn’t been on tv at all.]

[Update 8 (9:34 am):  Ah, seeing her now getting into trouble on 15!]

[Update 9 (9:36 am):  Very impressed by the way Amelia Lewis is playing the last 2 weeks.]

[Update 10 (9:38 am):  Love how Ryu has been aggressive off the tee the last several holes!]

[Update 11 (9:41 am):  There have been no bogey-free rounds in the 1st 2 days, but Shanshan Feng is -1 and bogey-free heading into 15-18!]

[Update 12 (9:45 am):  Nice 70 from Meena Lee and 71 from Ji-Yai Shin to join Morita at +2.]

[Update 13 (9:50 am):  Great closing birdie from Laura Davies!  Back to +3!]

[Update 14 (9:52 am):  Love how Beatriz Recari is turning around her year this week!  Great approach shot on 10!]

[Update 15 (9:53 am):  Angela Stanford just birdied 17 to fight back to +1 for the week.]

[Update 16 (9:54 am):  Still no mention that Feng is bogey-free.  Is this like a pitcher in the midst of a no-hitter?]

[Update 17 (9:55 am):  Sweet birdie putt from Mo on 10!  Bad miss from short range for birdie by Feng, but keeps bogey-free run going.]

[Update 18 (9:56 am):  Nice birdie by Recari!]

[Update 19 (9:58 am):  Chella Choi’s 72 keeps her at +2.  Nice birdie from Ai Miyazato on 16 to get back to +2, too!]

[Update 20 (10:00 am):  By the way, Marina Alex ended up with a great 68 and is E through 54!]

[Update 21 (10:04 am):  Eun-Hee Ji bounced back from her lone bogey of the day with a birdie on 16 to fight back to E.]

[Update 22 (10:05 am):  Stanford finished birdie-birdie to get back to E!]

[Update 23 (10:06 am):  Amy Yang is having a roller-coaster round, but she has just birdied 2 holes in a row to fight back to E for the week with 5 holes left to play today.]

[Update 24 (10:08 am):  OMG.  Recari’s shot went backwards on 11 right after Ryu went from left to way left on 13!]

[Update 25 (10:09 am):  Great comebacker by Recari.  Hope she makes the 10-footer!  Oooh–great approach by Ahn on 13!]

[Update 26 (10:11 am):  Nice that Ayako Uehara birdied 18 to post a 72 and stay at +4.  Even nicer that I don’t have to listen to Terry Gannon finding a way to mispronounce her name every single try!]

[Update 27 (10:12 am):  Dammit, how did Ryu find that tiny creek?!]

[Update 28 (10:12 am):  Fantastic bogey save by Recari!]

[Update 29 (10:12 am):  Whoops, Yang just bogeyed the par-3 14th like Park before her.]

[Update 30 (10:16 am):  Ouch, Martin just 4-putted 12 for a double!]

[Update 31 (10:17 am):  Ryu just missed her bogey save, a 35-footer that looked in until the final 6 inches.]

[Update 32 (10:18 am):  Nice birdie by Ahn.  She’s -3 with Park!]

[Update 33 (10:19 am):  Eagle on 17 by Suzann Pettersen!  -2 and right in this thing!]

[Update 34 (10:21 am):  Another smart approach shot on 14 by Ahn!]

[Update 35 (10:22 am):  Ryu safely on the green, too.]

[Update 36 (10:23 am):  Lewis birdies 18 to join Hull at -1.]

[Update 37 (10:25 am):  BTW, Sophie Giquel-Bettan had made an 8 on 15 but bounced back with a birdie on 18 for a 73 that leaves her at +2 for the week.  Jenny Shin’s 73 was less volatile, but she’s also at +2.]

[Update 38 (10:27 am):  Ariya Jutanugarn birdies 15 to claw back to E on a roller-coaster day and week!]

[Update 39 (10:29 am):  Another terrible long eagle try from Shanshan.  Barely made it to the ledge halfway there.  But she calmly sinks the 8-foot birdie putt to get to -2 on her day and for the week!  Finally Terry Gannon mentioned that she’s bogey-free!]

[Update 40 (10:31 am):  Ai-sama birdied 18 to get to +1 for the week and remain low Japanese golfer.  Morita’s 1 back of her, Uehara 2 behind, and Mikan, Miki Saiki, and Erina Hara 3 off her pace.  Forgot to mention yesterday that Ayaka Watanabe also made the cut.  After a 75 she’s now +7.]

[Update 41 (10:33 am):  Ahn side-doors her par save to stay at -3, but Inbee birdied 17 to take the lead at -4.  Martin had earlier bogeyed 12.]

[Update 42 (10:34 am):  Awesome to see Julieta Granada playing well.  She birdied 15 to get to -2.]

[Update 43 (10:36 am):  Nice eagle-birdie finish by Pettersen to move to -3!  And Eun-Hee Ji joins Hull and Lewis at -1 with a walkoff birdie.]

[Update 44 (10:37 am):  That’s a 68 by Pettersen.  I didn’t think she’d be a contender this week, but she may well be the 54-hole leader when today’s done!]

[Update 45 (10:38 am):  Well, that may be an overstatement.  Inbee’s -4 and 18 is one of the easiest holes on the course….]

[Update 46 (10:42 am):  Shanshan got her pace down on her last eagle try.  Tap-in birdie for bogey-free 69!]

[Update 47 (10:44 am):  Nice birdie by Ryu on 15!]

[Update 48 (10:45 am):  Martin made a great out from a tough spot in the trap short of 13 green, but couldn’t sink the par putt and goes +4 over her last 3 holes.  Meanwhile, Ahn birdies 15 to tie Park for the lead at -4!]

[Update 49 (10:49 am):  Amelia Lewis birdies 17 to get to -3!]

[Update 50 (10:50 am):  Inbee had a great lag from the back of the 18th green and has 2 feet to get to -5.  She hit the right edge and missed!]

[Update 51 (10:51 am):  Another good approach shot from Ahn on 16.  She has a great chance to take the solo lead over the last 3 holes!]

[Update 52 (10:53 am):  Ouch, Ariya doubled 16!]

[Update 53 (10:56 am):  Ouch, 3-putt bogey from Martin on 14 after hitting front of green in regulation.  She’s -1 for the week still and still right in this thing if she can come back on the last 4 holes!]

[Update 54 (10:57 am):  Ryu is in trouble on 16.  Needs to make a toughie to save bogey.  Great par save by Recari on 14 to stay at E for the week.]

[Update 55 (10:58 am):  Ahn slam dunks birdie putt from 20 feet on 16.  That makes up for those earlier missed short ones!  She’s your solo leader at -5!]

[Update 56 (11:01 am):  Check out Elizabeth Bethel on Charley Hull!]

[Update 57 (11:03 am):  Ryu made both doubles on the back with wedges in her hand. Now down to -1 for the week.]

[Update 58 (11:05 am):  Wow, Inbee’s 68 could have been much lower!  She’s tied with Morita, Alex, and Pettersen for 2nd-low round of the day, though.]

[Update 59 (11:06 am):  Tough walkoff bogey by Amelia Lewis, but she’s the only golfer in the field at -2 right now.]

[Update 60 (11:07 am):  Ryu found the bunker off the right side on 17 and had to pop it out, even as Recari and Martin hit good approaches on 15.]

[Update 61 (11:08 am):  Ahn finds the greenside bunker on 17.]

[Update 62 (11:11 am):  Jessica Korda finished birdie-birdie to fight back to +1 for the week.]

[Update 63 (11:12 am):  Recari couldn’t keep her birdie try high enough.]

[Update 64 (11:13 am):  Great break for Ryu on 17, giving her an unexpected birdie chance!  Martin missed her short birdie try on 15.]

[Update 65 (11:15 am):  Ahn ended up on top of the shelf past the pin on 17; her bunker shot just squirted out a bit too hard to catch the slope and roll back toward the pin.]

[Update 66 (11:17 am):  Back at +2 are Jenny Shin, Azahara Munoz, and Ariya Jutanugarn.  They’re all T20.]

[Update 67 (11:19 am):  Ahn and Ryu both par 17.  Recari well over on 16.]

[Update 68 (11:20 am):  Gwladys Nocera doubled 15 but finished birdie-birdie to claw back to E.]

[Update 69 (11:24 am):  Yes!  Martin’s par save on 16 falls on last rotation!]

[Update 70 (11:25 am):  Nice up-and-down for Recari, too!]

[Update 71 (11:27 am):  Great drive by Martin on 17!]

[Update 72 (11:30 am):  Announcers wondering if Ahn built her stance in greenside bunker on 18.  She caught the shot clean and went well past pin.  She’s been -11 over her last 39 holes!]

[Update 73 (11:33 am):  Amy Yang birdied 18 to get to -1.  6 birdies and 6 bogeys!]

[Update 74 (11:36 am):  Good pars by Ryu and Ahn.  Hope Ahn isn’t penalized.  BTW, Granada had earlier birdied 18 to get back to -2, tied with Amelia Lewis.  Ryu’s 40 on the back leaves her at -1 for the week.]

[Update 75 (11:37 am):  I would say nobody in the top 20 is out of this thing, especially if the weather turns tougher on Sunday.]

[Update 76 (11:39 am):  Good little wedge by Martin on 17.  She can get right back in this thing with a birdie!  Recari just missed that eagle putt from the left side off the green.]

[Update 77 (11:41 am):  Misread by Martin on 7-footer.  But it’s still a par.]

[Update 78 (11:42 am):  Nice birdie by Recari to join Martin & Co. at -1.]

[Update 79 (11:47 am):  Emma Talley 2-up on Georgia Hall in race for low amateur.]

[Update 80 (11:50 am):  Recari and Martin getting punished for their slow play.  Only players to get rained on at this year’s WBO!]

[Update 81 (11:52 am):  Park and Morita hit every green today!]

[Update 82 (11:59 am):  Pars for Martin and Recari on 18.  Great comeback for Martin; missed opportunity for Recari.  2 shot penalty on Ahn for building stance on 18.  Now -3 and 1 back of Park.]

[Update 83 (12:00 pm):  Ko, Ai Miyazato, and Korda now only 5 off lead.]

[Update 84 (1:45 pm):  Hottest golfers heading into final round?  Ahn -9 over last 41 holes, Hull -8 over last 16, Park -6 over last 27, Pettersen and Feng -5 over last 32, Morita -5 over last 24, Mika Miyazato -4 over last 34, Ji -4 over last 23, Alex and Meena Lee -4 over last 22, Ko -4 over last 19.]

Walmart NW Arkansas Championship Friday: Alena Sharp Heads Surprising Leaderboard

Sure, there are lots of familiar names near the top of the leaderboard at the end of the 1st round of the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.  Michelle Wie fired a flawless 66, displaying impeccable touch on the soft par-71 Pinnacle Country Club’s greens; So Yeon Ryu and Shanshan Feng headlined the big group who put together solid 67s; Suzanne Pettersen, Na Yeon Choi, Angela Stanford, Jessica Korda, and Azahara Munoz took different paths to their 68s (NYC’s may have been the most frustrating, as she bogeyed the short par-5 18th after Golf Channel’s coverage ended); defending champion Inbee Park, a rejuvenated Juli Inkster, a steady Lydia Ko, a scrambling Cristie Kerr, and not-missing-a-beat Amy Yang posted 69s; and the likes of Stacy Lewis, Anna Nordqvist, and Chella Choi got under par with 70s.  Plus, it’s certainly no surprise to see Gerina Piller and Pornanong Phatlum at -4, Jenny Shin at -3, Hee Young Park and Catriona Matthew at -2, or Meena Lee and Mina Harigae at -1–given the way they’ve all been playing of late.

So why is this leaderboard so surprising?  Let’s start at the top, with Alena Sharp, who was -5 through her 1st 12 holes and responded to her lone bogey on the par-4 5th with back-to-back birdies on 7 and 8 to close out her round and finish with a great 65.  Sharp has posted a 65 in the 3rd round of the Manulife and a 66 in the 3rd round of the North Texas Shootout, the latter of which where she notched her only top 15 of the season (it’s her only her 2nd top 20, and, in fact, her 2nd top 40 of 2014, as well!), but she hasn’t gotten a top 10 in a stroke-play event on the LPGA since July 4th weekend 4 years ago, she’s had a terrible putting year, and has been fighting to stay in the top 80 on the 2014 LPGA money list through the Marathon Classic so she can maintain, or improve on, her #101 position on the tour’s priority status list.  Yet unlike Hall of Famer Se Ri Pak, who was also -5 through 12 holes during the morning wave but fell apart down the home stretch, making 2 doubles and 2 bogeys, Sharp bounced back from her sole mistake on the front 9 and finished strong.  Not half bad for someone who hasn’t cracked the top 100 on the money list since 2011!

But Sharp isn’t the only surprising presence on the 1st page of the leaderboard.  How about Alejandra Llaneza, who put together a bogey-free 66 in the morning wave yet didn’t get a single mention during the 2 hours of Golf Channel’s tape-delayed coverage?  Her weakness this year has been her approach shots, but she hit 16 of 18 greens yesterday.  It’s not like this round totally came out of the blue–she’s broken 70 twice each at Kingsmill and the Manulife and notched 2 Symetra Tour top 10s this spring–but it sure is great to see another Mexican golfer (post-Lorena) doing well on the LPGA!

Emma Jandel is another huge surprise at -4.  Sure, she’s coming off a top 5 on the Symetra Tour last week, but she’s not even in the top 50 on their money list and has played in only 6 LPGA events this season before this week, missing the cut in all of them.

Even though they haven’t been playing well lately, Caroline Hedwall (2013 Solheim Cup heroine), Moriya Jutanugarn (2013 Rookie of the Year), Jennifer Rosales (2-time LPGA champion), and Ji Young Oh (2-time LPGA champion), also at -4, have to count as lesser surprises than Paz Echeverria.  Sure, the Chile native has 4 top 25s this season and broke 70 3 times at the Manulife earlier this month, but I’m sure nobody was expecting her to make 7 birdies yesterday!

Or how about rookie Line Vedel making 7 birdies, too, on her way to a 68?  Sure, the Dane is #3 in the ROY race, with a top-5 finish at the Swinging Skirts, and has plenty of LET experience, but I challenge anyone to say they saw her lowest opening round on the LPGA in her rookie season coming!  In fact, there’s a European flair at -3, with LET superstar Lee-Anne Pace and LPGA ’06er Karin Sjodin (who’s been poised to break the $1M barrier in career LPGA winnings for what seems like years) joining Vedel only 3 shots off the pace.

And the list goes on!  I’ll single out veterans Moira Dunn, Hee Won Han, and Jimin Kang at -2 for special mention.

Not all the surprises were pleasant, either.  Paula Creamer and Natalie Gulbis had to pull out before play began due to injuries, Ariya Jutanugarn opened with an uncharacteristic 74, rookie Mirim Lee with a 75, and Lizette Salas with a 73, and 2-time champion Ya Ni Tseng made 5 birdies but could manage only a 71.

With 76 players at E or better, I’ll be rooting for Ai Miyazato (E), Mika Miyazato (+1), Ayako Uehara (+2), and Chie Arimura (+3) to keep Harukyo Nomura (-2) company on the right side of the cut line.  And for big comebacks from Seon Hwa Lee (76), Tiffany Joh (75), Jeong Jang (74), and Jane Park (72).  Can’t wait to see the coverage tomorrow!  (Yes, I got Golf Channel.)

Prime-Time Pairings at the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic

I’ll be lucky enough to watch the 1st round of the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic on Golf Channel at my parents’ home before I head out to Albany in the afternoon.  From the brief description of the Ocean Club on LPGA.com, it seems the players will have plenty of chances to dissolve the rust on their games in sea water.  As low as everyone went over 36 near-flooded holes last year, I’d be surprised if we had all that many all that far under par this week.

Here are my guesses as to who will prevail against the prevailing winds.  And here are my favorite pairings for today’s opening round!

10th tee, 12:20 pm:  Ai Miyazato, Paula Creamer, Jessica Korda
1st tee, 7:20 am:  Moira Dunn, Jaclyn Sweeney, Erica Popson
10th tee, 12:30 pm:  Morgan Pressel, Lexi Thompson, Gerina Piller
1st tee, 8:10 am:  Stacy Lewis, Lydia Ko, Beatriz Recari
1st tee, 8:20 am:  Na Yeon Choi, Michelle Wie, Sandra Gal
1st tee, 12:10 pm:  Angela Stanford, Pornanong Phatlum, Pernilla Lindberg
1st tee, 12:00 pm:  Hee Young Park, Ayako Uehara, Dewi Claire Schreefel
10th tee, 8:00 am:  Jeong Jang, Meena Lee, Danielle Kang
10th tee, 12:10 pm:  Juli Inkster, Brittany Lincicome, Lizette Salas
1st tee, 12:30 pm:  Pat Hurst, Amy Yang, Chella Choi

Who are your favorites?  Who would you be following if you could be at Paradise Island instead of wherever you are?  (For me, the temperature dropped from 9 to -2 during yesterday’s drive from Hamburg to Clinton….  Gotta love finally getting a real winter around here!)

I Saw My Brother Shake Annika’s Hand on Golf Channel!

So if you happened to be watching Golf Channel when they showed Annika Sorenstam teeing off at the PGA Show this morning, you would have seen my brother, as well.  He was standing to her left, on the right side of the screen.  A little later, they replayed the shot and its aftermath, which included an instant of my brother shaking hands with Annika.  So cool!

I just happened to be heading to Albany tomorrow and decided to break the drive up by staying with my parents tonight in Clinton.  Of course, they have Golf Channel (unlike me) and they taped the program.  So it all came together.

Except for the claim he made in a rushed call on a bad connection that he was going to be on Feherty Live.  Maybe another night?

Anyway, if anyone notices Golf Channel has posted the video before I do, let me know in comments.  Thanks!