Fredonia’s Got Talent!

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

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

ElleAir Ladies Open Set-Up: Ai Suzuki’s 64 Lifts Her to Top of Dozen Players Double Digits Under Par

Ai Suzuki followed up yesterday’s 9-birdie 65 with a bogey-free 64 today to climb to the top of the heap at the ElleAir Ladies Open.  At -16, the 20-year-old major champion holds a 2-shot lead on LPGA Q-School-bound Sakura Yokomine (65), a 3-shot lead on Miki Sakai (66) and money-list leader Sun-Ju Ahn (68), a 4-shot lead on Shiho Oyama (68) and Rui Kitada (71), and a 5-shot lead on Rikako Morita (66), Yumiko Yoshida (68), and 1st-round leader Momoko Ueda (70).  Esther Lee (66), Teresa Lu (68), and Erina Hara (69) round out the list of 12 golfers already double digits under par, while Bo-Mee Lee (66, -9), Ayaka Watanabe (66, -8), and Yuko Fukuda (66, -7) also made big moves up the leaderboard.

The only players not in tomorrow’s final round who you might have expected to be in the mix on Sunday are Misuzu Narita and Mamiko Higa, who missed the cut by a shot, Yuri Fudoh, who missed it by 3 shots, and Ji-Yai Shin, who didn’t tee it up this week.  Otherwise, we have a big showdown brewing between the vast majority of players near the top of the JLPGA money list.  Should be a great final round!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mizuno Classic Weekend: Mi Hyang Lee Prevails in Classic Barnburner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

22 Under 22: October 2014 Update

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

LPGA/JLPGA Sunday Set-Up

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

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

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