Saturday, June 26, 2010

LPGAers Race for #1

Well, it looks like the Travelers Championship is pretty well covered (Stephanie Wei is there, among others), so I'm going to stay on the "Major Trail" this week with the Wegmans LPGA Championship.

I heard today that all of the Top 6 players in the Rolex Rankings have a chance to grab the #1 position this week. Now, I don't know all the "if this happens" and "if that happens" scenarios that effect how they could make it to the top, but this certainly makes things a bit more interesting.

First, here are the Top 6 and where they are in this 2nd major of 2010:
  1. Ai Miyazato +3
  2. Jiyai Shin -2
  3. Suzann Pettersen +2
  4. Yani Tseng +2
  5. Cristie Kerr -10 (leading by 5)
  6. Anna Nordqvist +1
The first thing we notice is that Ai Miyazato is cooperating with whatever scenario comes up. I'm sure this is driving her biggest fan, the Constructivist, absolutely crazy... and I confess I'm a bit confused. As I said yesterday, she missed the cut in the year's first major; now today she barely missed the +4 cut (where she was after yesterday's round). That's despite the short length of the course -- 6,506 yards -- although admittedly the course has had quite a bit of rain and I understand the rough is a bear. But Ai rarely misses fairways... except, apparently, at majors.

Cristie Kerr is clearly the favorite this week. Perhaps the week break between wins gave her a chance to refocus, or perhaps she's just not putting so much pressure on herself at this major. (It certainly sounded that way in her interview with Rich Lerner after her round.) At any rate, her rounds of 66-64 have put her in the enviable possession of a 5-stroke lead. Granted, it's still early, but it does look good for her at this point. It's been the back 9 on Sunday that gives Kerr fits, so we'll see what happens then. I think it's important to point out that while Kerr was shooting 66, her two co-leaders after the first round -- Stacy Lewis and Seon Hwa Lee -- could only manage 74s. I suspect Kerr's extra length, which appears to be mostly carry, made the difference because Kerr missed some fairways Friday.

In fact, "Old Man Par" seems to have beaten almost all of the ladies Friday. (Doesn't the LPGA have some rule about men playing in their tournaments? I suspect if "he" was a "she" today, we wouldn't be able to repeat her name in polite society.) There were very few under-par rounds outside the Top 10 (which actually totalled 13 players on Friday), and only 2 of them shot over par -- the afore-mentioned Lewis and Lee. The only really low scores were posted by these players -- Kerr's -6 and four -5s.

Of the other players I mentioned yesterday, rookie Azahara Munoz is at -3 (T6), which could give her an edge in the Rookie of the Year race. She trails Amanda Blumentherst by less than 15 points, and leads Mariajo Uribe by well over 150 points. Uribe and Blumenherst are at +1 and +2, respectively. Laura Davies managed a -3 -- the best round outside the Top 10 -- to get back to even (T18); if she plays well this weekend, she may even have an outside chance. Kerr herself said no one expected a double-digit leader after 2 rounds. If they toughen up the course some more -- or if they get more rain -- the field could come back and Laura's long hitting could give her enough edge to catch up.

Ironically, the only player ahead of Kerr in the rankings who seems capable of giving her a run is Jiyai Shin -- who I still can't believe is playing only 2 weeks after an emergency appendectomy! Her 72-70 (T10) sounds reasonably impressive after that, doesn't it? Paula Creamer, also back from surgery (thumb, not appendix), is at -1 (T14) after rounds of 71-72. I don't know if they'll have the strength to beat this wet course, but I know better than to count them out. Shin especially has surprised me by winning on long slow courses... and she won at Wegmans last year when it wasn't a major.

TGC is carrying the 3rd round today at 4p-7p, and you can get other updates from the Constructivist and HoundDog's blogs. Since Justin Rose looks like he's going to run away with the Travelers, you might want to watch the ladies instead. This looks like it could be a fun weekend!

And, for those of you who are interested, the U.S. Women's Amateur Public Links Championship is going on this weekend, and the finals are today. Two 18-year-olds -- Emily Tubert and Lisa McCloskey -- are the finalists. I'll just refer you to Rhonda Glenn's write-up about Friday's play, at USGA.org.

2 comments:

  1. Wait - if Michelle Wie finishes in the top 50, doesn't she get the #1 spot...just because...like...y'know...'cause ?

    Great to see Kerr lapping the field this week.

    The "announcers" were saying that she got a new putter a couple of weeks ago and she's making everything she looks at - but isn't that the same model she's been playing with for years ?

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  2. I haven't been able to find out what kind of putter she's using this week, but I did find this article from Friday on ESPN:

    http://sports.espn.go.com/golf/news/story?id=5329601

    It says,

    She also credited the new putter she began using the before winning the State Farm Classic two weeks ago.

    "I've been searching for a a while," Kerr said. "I've always been a good putter, but when I found a putter that feels right, I can make almost anything I look at. So I found it."


    There are some intangibles in putters that just can't be guaranteed from putter to putter. For example, I've built a few putters before and I built one that I really liked, so I decided to build a second one. I ordered an identical head, but when it arrived it weighed several grams more -- enough to change the swingweight (and feel) considerably.

    I imagine a good putter like Kerr can feel that kind of difference very easily. The distance putting technique I taught in my putting book should help sidestep that problem as much as possible, but some "sticks" just feel better than others -- even among the same model.

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