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I was complaining yesterday how boring the LPGA’s final tournament of the 2013 season has been compared to the JLPGA’s penultimate one, but moving day has made the CME Titleholders much more interesting and dramatic. Natalie Gulbis fired an 8-birdie 65 to move into a tie for the lead at -11 with Gerina Piller and Pornanong Phatlum (bogey-free 67s), but they didn’t even have the best or most interesting rounds of the day. How do you top Gulbis’s 2 3-hole birdie trains or Phatlum’s shooting her round of the week despite parring the par-5 6th that she had eagled the 1st 2 rounds in a row? How about an 8-birdie 66 from Michelle Wie the week after Lexi Thompson won for the 3rd time on tour and Lydia Ko made her LPGA debut as a professional? How about a 63 from Stacy Lewis that included an eagle on the par-4 3rd and birdies on 6 of her last 8 holes?
With Wie 3 back and Lewis 2 back–tied with Shanshan Feng (6-birdie 67), Thompson herself (bogey-free 67), and Sandra Gal (74)–and a total of 15 players within 5 shots of the lead, the top of the leaderboard has tightened up and gathered up a lot more star power. Inbee Park bogeyed 2 of her last 3 holes but is still only 4 off the pace. So Yeon Ryu rode a bogey-free 33 on the back to within 5 shots of the tri-leaders. Azahara Munoz (4 back) and Amy Yang (5) shot their 2nd-straight rounds in the 60s. Cristie Kerr (4 back) is not out this either, despite ending her round with 10-straight pars. So who wins is really up for grabs!
The Rookie of the Year race is also up for grabs all of a sudden. Moriya Jutanugarn, who twice got to -3 yesterday, shot a 3-bogey 74 today to drop back to E for the week. Given that Caroline Masson is guaranteed 5 points from a T41 or worse finish, Jutanugarn needs to earn 17 points to win the ROY race outright. In other words, she needs to finish T33 or better. She’s now T35. In addition, Ayako Uehara can still go low and win the tournament and the ROY race. Yes, she’s 7 shots back at -4, and it’s unlikely all the 19 players ahead of her will move backwards in a big way tomorrow, but Lewis showed that a score in the low 60s is possible this week. Basically, Uehara’s going to have to be firing at every flag, while Jutanugarn’s got to play better than a good proportion of the half of the field that’s ahead of her, and Masson’s going to have to go into the low or mid-60s to make Jutanugarn’s job more difficult. The nice thing from Masson’s perspective is that she’s going off the back in the next-to-last group, so she’ll have a pretty good sense of what she’ll need to shoot to get into the top 40. If she can somehow get to 40th, she can force Jutanugarn to finish T28 or better.
Mika Miyazato is my favorite player who’s highest on the leaderboard; after a bogey-free 68, she’s only 6 shots off the pace. Let’s see what she can do tomorrow amidst the fireworks at the top of the leaderboard and the battle to best mediocrity from the top rookies in the Class of 2013.