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Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Perfect Storm: Hurricane Yani

Yani TsengWhat is it with Yani Tseng and major championships, anyway? Of her three wins, two are majors -- the 2008 LPGA Championship and the 2010 Kraft Nabisco. (The pic is from her bio page at LPGA.com.)

Although Cristie Kerr has posted the best round of the championship so far -- a 5-under 67 -- Tseng's 68-68 has her four clear of Kerr, Amy Yang, and Brittany Lincicome.

British Opens always invite discussions about "the wrong side of the draw" -- that getting the wrong morning-afternoon times will cost you shots. ESPN's figures indicate that the bad half of the draw cost players roughly 5 shots for the two rounds this week. A player like Juli Inkster, who posted 71-70 (-3) on the wrong side of the draw, could have theoretically been tied with Tseng for the lead. As it stands, she's T5.

Even Catriona Matthew struggled -- the 2009 champion carded a 10 on the par-4 13th! It involved a penalty, and I can't help but assume that being on the wrong side of the draw had something to do with the score. She was at even before the catastrophe, so that one hole cost her the weekend.

The cut may have cost Amanda Blumenherst even more... the Rookie of the Year race. The cut ended up at +5, and her 77-76 wasn't even close. Azahara Munoz, already 224 points ahead, made the cut easily at +1 (T24); with only a few LPGA events left, I doubt Amanda has any real chance of catching her now. Based on the Constructivist's figures on the LET ROY race, Munoz looks to make a big jump there as well but I don't see her making any real assault on the top 2 players -- leader (by a large margin) Kristie Smith missed the cut, but 2nd-place Maria Hernandez is at -1.

So let's take a look at the Top 10 in the Rolex Rankings, after the cut:
  1. Jiyai Shin, -2
  2. Ai Miyazato, +2
  3. Cristie Kerr, -4
  4. Suzann Petterson, -3
  5. Yani Tseng, -8
  6. Na Yeon Choi, E
  7. Paula Creamer, +4
  8. Anna Nordqvist, +5
  9. Song-Hee Kim, +4
  10. Karrie Webb, +2
As I said, the cut ended up at +5 and, allowing that Tseng's -8 may not hold up, that puts players on the cutline (like Nordqvist) 9 shots off second place. Personally, I think Creamer, Nordqvist, and Kim are too far back (barring a major collapse by the leaders -- I'm afraid T49 leaves too many good players between them and the lead). Webb and Miyazato (nice comeback by her on Friday!) at +2 still have 30 good players ahead of them, but they have an outside chance if the weather turns nasty and they play well.

Ah yes, the weather. The Ladies Golf Union has a link to the BBC weather forecast for nearby Blackpool and here's what they predict for Saturday: "Fairly cloudy at first, but with some brighter spells developing. Showers will also get going through the afternoon, some of which will be quite heavy. Temperatures around average." Add winds of 16-20mph, and it looks like Yani will have her work cut out for her to maintain her lead; if she stumbles, any of the players at +2 or better could get close.

But will she stumble? Based on her past performance, I'm not betting on it; she's proven that she can handle the pressure of leading big tournaments. This week, not only has she hit 32 of 36 greens (89%) and taken only 63 putts, but she's made only one bogey. (I know we've been told that 31.5 putts per round sounds high, but when you hit that many greens in regulation, almost every putt puts you lower under par.) All this despite being about 15 yards behind her typical driving distance average.

So what happens when the Taiwan Typhoon storms the course in Blackpool this weekend? I don't know, but I hope the other players brought their bad weather gear...

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