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Friday, November 12, 2010

Cristie Kerr Found Ben Crane's Snake Shaker

"And if you have something bottled up inside you, go straight to the Snake Shaker..." Or so counseled Ben Crane in his "training video" from several weeks ago.

Photo of Cristie Kerr from LPGA.comI guess Cristie Kerr took it to heart and got herself one. That bottled-up scoring she's been struggling to get out showed up at the Ochoa Invitational Thursday as she set a new course record -8 (64), one shot better than the previous record. She had 9 birdies -- 6 of them in a seven-hole stretch -- and 1 bogey, which came at the long and difficult par-3 17th. (There was only one birdie there today -- by Ai Miyazato -- but I'll come back to that.) Her playing partner, Juli Inkster, was mic'ed up and made perhaps the best observation of the day: "So that's why you look so fresh. You don't do any work." Yes, Cristie made it look pretty easy.

Lorena had remarked that she expected this week to be easier than it has turned out to be. She was even par going to the par-5 18th, which she doubled. In fact, she doubled two of her holes Thursday and that's what left her at +2. Over half the field is under par, so that doesn't bode well for Lorena's chances this week.

The big news was Michelle Wie's withdrawal after the first round. When I first turned on the tournament (but before hearing any coverage) I saw Michelle tee off with either a driver or 3-wood and immediately did a double-take. Using a clock face is the best way to describe this: Michelle's hands generally get all the way up to 12 o'clock, but she only went to about 10:30. Shortly I heard she was having back problems... and the swings got worse. The fact that she finished the round at all is amazing to me; she shot +6 and withdrew. I'm sure she wanted to defend her title (this was her first-ever title defense) but it just wasn't to be.

Back to Kerr... She's 3 ahead of Stacy Lewis, who posted a nice -5 earlier in the day, and 4 ahead of Ai Miyazato, Na Yeon Choi, Katherine Hull, and Paula Creamer. Choi had 5 birdies in her first 6 holes, and got to -6 before stumbling on the way in; I'm chalking it up to jet lag after the Mizuno Classic in Japan last week. Miyazato probably had jet lag too, but played so badly last week that there was only one way left to go. She had 8 birdies, 2 bogeys, and a double. One of them was that birdie at the 17th, which I think was playing 231 yards and the pin was tucked in the back left -- Ai struck a gorgeous 3-wood that ended up pin-high where most players didn't even try to go. Hull and Creamer had fairly standard rounds, with 5 and 6 birdies respectively.

The biggest shock was probably Yani Tseng, who shot +4 and ended up ahead of only Carling Coffing (playing on her Big Break exemption) and Brittany Lincicome. In some ways I'm not really surprised; it seems to be feast or famine for Yani this year, although with 2 majors I doubt she'll complain! However, this does bring several players back into the POY race. As things stand, with a win here Cristie Kerr will take the lead in this race, leaving Tseng (who's way out of the Top 10) 8 points back in 2nd place. For those of you curious about such things, here are how POY points are awarded for Top 10 finishes:
  1. 30 points
  2. 12 points
  3. 9 points
  4. 7 points
  5. 6 points
  6. 5 points
  7. 4 points
  8. 3 points
  9. 2 points
  10. 1 point
As you can see, Tseng would need 3rd or better and for Kerr to finish out of the Top 10 in the Tour Championship if Kerr wins this week and Tseng misses the Top 10.

Golf Channel mentioned how important the points races were to Kerr (and the others) in terms of the Hall of Fame. There are three -- the scoring title, Player of the Year (POY), and the money title. Since Hall of Fame membership requires 27 points, and you get one point for a win and two for a major, you can see that these three races are worth 2-3 extra wins each year.

In the money race currently led by Na Yeon Choi, I don't see much chance of anyone catching her except Jiyai Shin... assuming Choi doesn't place too high this week. (As I said, she's T3 after the first day.) Tseng is playing herself out of contention -- this tournament paid $220,000 last year, and Tseng is nearly $230.000 behind entering this week. Kerr, Pettersen, and Miyazato have outside chances of catching Choi if they win both this week and at the Tour Championship, as they are roughly $330,000 to $380,000 behind. (The Tour Championship paid $225,000 last year.)

Hound Dog had an interesting take on the race for the scoring award. Neither Suzann Pettersen nor Yani Tseng will have enough rounds to qualify for the award (you need 70) but both will have played 19 of the 24 tournaments and missed no cuts. He thinks this is a flaw in the system when you already have a limited number of tournaments; for what it's worth, I agree. A large number of LPGA tournaments are only 3 rounds... but the real killer here seems to have come from 2 sources:
  • For Suzann it was the Sybase Match Play. Cristie's T5 finish counts as 4 rounds, while Suzann's T33 counts as only 1 round.
  • For Yani, it was a missed cut at the CN Canadian Women's Open. She missed a single cut all season, and that's enough to kill her chances.
And though he didn't mention it, Jiyai Shin only has 58 rounds played; she's not playing this week, so she'll only have 62 rounds after the Tour Championship. Hound Dog's right -- the LPGA definitely needs to take a closer look at this. When 3 of your stars play nearly 4 out of every 5 events and still can't qualify for an award just because they had one bad week, you've got a problem.

But the big question right now is whether Kerr can keep that snake shaking. Remember the 12-stroke Kerr blowout at the LPGA Championship earlier this year? I suspect the rest of the field may be starting to shake a bit themselves...

If she shows up in a helmet, we're in trouble!


  1. Talk about a potential viral video - Cristie Kerr using the Snake Shaker. It might get an "R" rating. :-D

    She was on fire yesterday, for sure.

    Lorena looked pretty good on the whole. Didn't have her irons dialed in for distances, but not too bad.

    Ok - Michelle Wie - feel bad for her - back problems are nothing to laugh about. Although a disk problem can just happen, cysts don't just appear and are always painful. How dumb is this girl for not having her back checked out when she is (allegedly) a Stanford student where they have one of the finest medical programs in the nation ?

  2. They said on the broadcast that she did have her back checked and they didn't find anything serious. Maybe I'm just a wimp, but if it hurts I think it's serious.

    And without getting into much detail, about 20 years ago I had a cyst on the end of my tailbone. Knowing how bad that hurt, I can't even imagine playing with one on my back. And isn't it a cyst in her wrist that derailed Jeong Jang the last couple of years?

  3. Exactly ! xxx Golf Channel had on their crawler that Wie had an MRI and found the cysts and bulging disk. Since there is no way she had it in Mexico and got results that fast (unless Dr House is down there) - she had to have had the MRI in California - which means this isn't new.

    Add another stone to the "this girl is as dumb as a box of rocks" pile. Doesn't she listen to anybody ?? No way a doctor recommends that she go ahead and fly from San Francisco to Guadalajara, then try to play golf for 5 or 6 days.

  4. Guess she needed the helmet after all. Once again the golf gods step in to remind us that this isn't an easy game...and that the "experts" at xxx Golf Channel really need to stop talking. (they had already written the winner's check to her with record setting scores and reminiscences about her run away win earlier this year.

  5. Yeah, the MRI was done a little while back. I assumed the cysts were smaller at the time and so they didn't think they would be a problem. In my case, I was able to get rid of the cyst I had with antibiotics; maybe they tried to treat hers that way and were unsuccessful.

    Normally I would agree with you about dumb choices, especially since this course is so hilly. But if it had been me and it was my first opportunity to defend a title, I might have tried to tough it out as well.

    As for Cristie... I'd hate to have been that snake shaker after the round!

  6. Hmm - different strokes - I would love to have been that snake shaker - a few shreeks and wild swing would inevitably turn into snuggling. ;-)

    I know what you mean about wanting to defend, but back pain is something you don't mess with.