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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

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...

Friday, July 30, 2010

The First Day on Two Continents

At the Women's British, it looks as if the Thursday morning groups have gotten the worst end of the draw. Thursday was supposed to be the nicest day of the week, but the morning turned cold, wet, and windy, while the afternoon turned out to be much better. Predictions for Friday, as Terry Gannon put it, are "interesting"; I heard that heavy rains are expected.

The scores showed the difference. Only three players -- Juli Inkster, Jiyai Shin, and Brittany Lang, at -1 -- were under par in the morning wave, but that number improved considerably in the afternoon to 15.  Yani Tseng and Katherine Hull got it all the way to -4; French player Anne-Lise Caudal, Brittany Lincicome, Sun Young Yoo, and Amy Yang finished at -3; and Michelle Wie and In-Kyung Kim posted at -2.

Among other notables, Stacy Lewis (afternoon) finished at -1 and Laura Davies (morning) at E; if Laura could find a way to win this, she would qualify for the LPGA Hall of Fame. Laura is so familiar with this course that she wrote the hole introductions for the fan guide; this would be a very popular win, especially in England.

Natalie Gulbis withdrew at the last moment -- back problems again. Apparently her surgery earlier this year did NOT fix the problem. Hopefully this is only temporary.

Of the top seven in the Rolex Rankings -- the players who are the primary focus of attention this week -- Cristie Kerr, Suzann Pettersen, and Paula Creamer are playing with injuries. Kerr has had neck and shoulder problems for a couple of weeks, Pettersen is still fighting hip and leg problems, and everyone knows about Creamer's thumb. (Ironically, Paula said the hard ground conditions actually seemed to help her, since you don't take much of a divot.) It seems to me that putting is giving these players more trouble than full shots, however.

Anyway, here are the Top 10 in the Rolex Rankings, along with their first round scores:
  1. Jiyai Shin, -1
  2. Ai Miyazato, +4
  3. Cristie Kerr,+1
  4. Suzann Petterson,+1
  5. Yani Tseng,-4
  6. Na Yeon Choi, +2
  7. Paula Creamer, +2
  8. Anna Nordqvist, E
  9. Song-Hee Kim,+3
  10. Karrie Webb, +1
None of these players is out of the running, especially with bad weather coming in.

Meanwhile, out at the U.S. Senior Open, the weather couldn't be much different -- dry with mucho sunshine. Among the favorites, Fred Couples and Tom Watson both carded even-par rounds the first day. Here are the Top 10 in the Schwab Cup standings and their scores (I didn't realize until I made this list that Nick Price wasn't even playing! He's out with a toe injury):
  1. Bernhard Langer, -1
  2. Fred Couples, E
  3. Tom Lehman, -1
  4. Nick Price, NOT PLAYING
  5. Corey Pavin, +2
  6. Dan Forsman, 
  7. John Cook, +1
  8. Tommy Armour III, +1
  9. Loren Roberts, -2
  10. Mark O'Meara, +5

My pick to win, Corey Pavin, is T20 after the first round. Is that too far back? I'm not sure; the weather is good, but the trees and greens seem to be giving the players fits because they're used to going after pins... and that's a bad play on many of these greens. However, it's unlikely we'll see another runaway like Fred Funk pulled off last year, so I'm going to smile and say Pavin's still very much in it. There are only eight players under par, after all. ;-)

The surprise leader is Bruce Vaughan, one of those quiet players on the Champions Tour who makes cuts week in and week out, with one Champions and two Nationwide Tour wins. Loren Roberts is 2 back, tied with amateur Tim Jackson, who finished T11 in the 2009 U.S. Senior Open. All three are solid players, of course, but we'll have to see if they can hold up. Loren Roberts is one player whose name I heard frequently as a favorite this week.

Let me give a little shout out to ESPN for their coverage as well. None of us expect the LPGA to get the coverage that the PGA gets, but ESPN made a real effort to do what they could. The first hour of the LPGA coverage was tape-delayed early round coverage of the leaders and name players, then they went live for two hours to get the afternoon pairings, and even stayed over to catch Kerr's finish to update all but Yani Tseng (who still had a couple of holes left).

Thursday, July 29, 2010

For Love or Money?

Jim Caviezel as Bobby JonesWhile I love the movie Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius, there's one part that always bothers me. It's where Bobby Jones says "to be an amateur is to love the game" and he refuses to turn professional because "when you play for money, it's not love anymore." Those may not be exact quotes, but they're close. (The pic of Jim Caviezel as Bobby Jones is from the IMDb database.)

Is he right? Are love and money at opposite ends of the spectrum?

The question always comes up in one form or another. This week has added more fuel to the fire because Lexi Thompson didn't get into the Women's British Open. When she turned pro, she lost her Curtis Cup exemption into final qualifying -- an amateur perk -- and couldn't make it to the regular pre-qualifying round because it was the day after U.S. Women's Open. The debate rages: Should Lexi have held off turning pro until after the British Open?

The implied questions, of course, are "Did she get greedy?" and "Is she in it for the money now?"

At only 15 years old, Lexi can't join the LPGA for another three years. Nevertheless, in three pro events (one of which I think she missed the cut) she's earned $315k, which would make her 18th in earnings. (God only knows what kind of endorsements are being lined up for her.) Wouldn't you love to be the kid who went back to school this fall and your "What I Did for Summer Vacation" essay said you made a half-million dollars (I bet she'll make at least that much), beat all but one of the best lady golf pros while chilling out in France, and became a media sensation?

Does anybody really think this is just business for Lexi? Does she seem to be burdened by efforts to make some cash? Personally, the only thing that seems to bother Lexi is her lack of options right now -- she wants to play!

Lexi seems to be surrounded by people who care whether she has fun or not. Her brother plays the men's tour and they're close, so she's under no illusions about what professional golfers have to deal with. And I want to reprint here a comment Court made on this post a few days ago:
Lexi and Nicholas both use Blue Giraffe as their management company. (I think Goydos and Appleby are with them, too) One of the guys there is a friend who really enjoys working with the Thompson family. They are a sharp, level headed family with no intention of rushing Lexi or trying to force the LPGA's hand. She's going to play her 6 LPGA exemptions and pick up another 8-10 other spots on other tours around the world - but she's a high school student first.
All these things tell me that Lexi doesn't feel any conflict between love and money when it comes to golf.

It's no secret that I'm a huge Jones fan... but this is one area where the nicest thing I can say is that he's all wet. If Jones is right, no one can ever make a living doing something they love. If you sell some of the quilts you made because quilting helps you relax, or turn your favorite hobby into a part-time business, your motives will have to be questioned. And heaven forbid that your blog becomes an overnight success -- selling advertising will end all the fun!

Money isn't the only thing that can steal your love of golf. Jones appears to have had his own struggles with unwanted fame and the need to prove himself, both of which can be bigger burdens than money. His drive to win the Grand Slam, followed immediately by his retirement from competition, indicates to me that golf had ceased to be fun for him some time earlier. Having never played golf for money, I don't know that he was in a position to be an authority on that.

Can money steal your love for the game? Sure... but I think it's only a problem if you aren't that good. Let's face it -- if an amateur expects to play a lot of tournaments, golf can get expensive. If you want to compete a lot, and if you're good enough to win a tournament against professionals, why shouldn't you get the money they would get? And if you're that good, the money ceases to be an issue because you'll have plenty.

Lexi celebrates at EvianThe problem comes when you have to struggle to make enough money to keep going. Even an amateur will learn to hate the game then.

Here's the big question: This putt won Lexi nearly $243K. Does she look miserable to you?

Here's hoping we all learn to hate golf that much.

And since everybody is throwing in their two-cents about the "should you lose an amateur exemption when you turn pro" debate, I'll add mine: I understand why the rule was made. Simply put, the lure of big money is a temptation to some players who aren't ready to turn pro yet or simply shouldn't turn pro, period. The "pros lose it" rule is an attempt to nip that temptation in the bud. And because of that -- because most amateurs won't be capable of doing what Lexi's doing -- I don't have a problem with it.

But I also think the Ladies Golf Union made a mistake scheduling the pre-qualifying round when they did, and because of that Lexi should have been exempted, NOT into the Open itself, but into the qualifying finals based on her performance at the U.S. Open. If she could hold her own as a new pro against established pros so soon, I think she earned the spot. But women's golf, not Lexi, lost out here; Lexi will be there next year, but women's golf needs her star power now.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

And Now, the Champions Major

In addition to the LPGA playing the Women's British Open this week, the Champions Tour plays the U.S. Senior Open. This is the third of the five Champions Tour majors, and it's unusual in that it's generally played the week after the Senior Open Championship... unusual because it requires a transcontinental flight to get from one to the other, with no time for acclimatization in-between. That's one of the reasons Fred Couples played the Canadian Open last week.

Picture of Sahalee
The Senior Open is going to be played at Sahalee Country Club, a private course in Sammamish WA (that's just east of Seattle), and for this tournament it's been set up as a par-71 course that will play 6900 yards. (The pic is from the Champions Tour website.) Sahalee's no stranger to big golf tournaments -- it hosted both the 1998 PGA Championship (Vijay's first major) and the 2002 WGC-NEC Invitational (won by Craig Perry). While the course has a lot of different types of hazards, its overwhelming characteristic is trees. Lots of trees. Lots of trees that grow really close together. Can you hit a straight ball? You'll need it at Sahalee. (Thanks to Wikipedia for much of that info.)

The Champions Tour doesn't have its own world rankings. They're bunched in with the younger players, and the highest-ranked I could find is Fred Couples at 127. (Bernhard Langer, who won the Senior Open Championship last week, isn't even listed.) The best we're probably going to do is the Charles Schwab Cup standings, so here are the Top 10, with their points, total tournaments played, total wins, and total Top 10s. (You can check out the entire list here.)
  1. Bernhard Langer, 1450, 12, 3, 7
  2. Fred Couples, 1433, 9, 3, 7
  3. Tom Lehman, 1134, 8, 1, 6
  4. Nick Price, 974, 11, 2, 8
  5. Corey Pavin, 790, 9, 0, 5
  6. Dan Forsman, 747, 14, 1, 8
  7. John Cook, 615, 14, 0, 5
  8. Tommy Armour III, 608, 11, 0, 6
  9. Loren Roberts, 576, 13, 1, 5
  10. Mark O'Meara, 558, 9, 1, 3
It's easy to see how Langer and Couples make the top of the list, each having 3 wins and 7 Top 10s. Fred got his in fewer starts, but Bernhard has played better lately. The Schwab Cup points list obviously doesn't include any regular Tour events these men have played, which would affect Couples, Lehman (#233 in the world), and Pavin (#151). Had I shown the entire list, you would find another player hitting both tours, Tom Watson, in 15th place with 1 win and 3 Top 10s in only 6 starts; he's also ranked #138 in the world rankings.

You might want to check out the Power Rankings at the Champions Tour website. (Everybody's doing "power rankings" now, aren't they?) They have Fred Couples at the top of their five-man list, so he must be their favorite. Not only is Fred from Seattle, but he lost the Senior PGA to Lehman in a playoff; perhaps he has something to prove.

I see things a little differently. Freddie's cooled off a bit since his hot start to the year; and while being home is certainly in his favor, a U.S. Open-style layout is not. Langer doesn't even make the power list, but I suspect the excitement of his Open win and the drastic time change will hurt him this week anyway.

Corey PavinWhile someone unexpected could come out of the pack, I think Corey Pavin has the best chance to win this one. He's playing well on both tours -- check these stats:
  • 9 for 9 cuts on the Champions Tour; scoring average 68.56; earnings $655,167
  • 5 for 7 cuts on the PGA Tour; scoring average 69.20; earnings $839,193 (70th); 88 in FedEx Standings
Even Freddie can't match those PGA stats -- he's only 145th ($397,406) in 4 of 6 events, 157th in the FedEx, and a scoring average of 70.75. Corey hasn't won this year yet, but his finishes are getting better each week... and he's got 2 Top 10s (one of those a 2nd) on the PGA Tour! The only player with anywhere near that much in winnings in so few tournaments is Tiger... and Corey's ahead of him. Plus, Corey's won a U.S. Open before. I really like his chances this week. (The pic was cropped from his Wikipedia photo.)

ESPN2 will be covering the first two days of the event, and NBC will cover the weekend.

That finishes my previews of this week's two majors. I'm picking Shin and Pavin to win them; we'll see if they can make me look like a genius this time. (God knows I need some help in that department...)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Two Majors This Week: First, the Ladies

We're nearing the end of our two-month run of majors. Next week we get a break before the last two in this stretch... but this week we get TWO strong majors. (Can I call them major majors?) We'll take a look at the U.S. Senior Open tomorrow; today we'll focus on the Women's British Open and the new #1, Jiyai Shin. (The pic is from her bio page at

Jiyai Shin bio photoThe Ricoh Women's British Open is the last major of the year for both the LPGA and the LET. The highest-ranked players played in the Evian Masters this past week, so they're all acclimated to the time change and have some competitive rounds under their belts. (In addition to a few massages and saunas, I imagine!) The Rolex Top 10 is still the same, but their order has shifted noticeably. Here's the list with their current points standing after Evian, their points before Evian, and their British Open finishes in 2009 and 2008:
  1. Jiyai Shin, 10.66 (9.56) T8, WON
  2. Ai Miyazato, 10.25 (10.27) T3, 5
  3. Cristie Kerr, 10.18 (10.27) T8, 6
  4. Suzann Petterson, 10.14 (9.86) CUT, T24
  5. Yani Tseng, 8.35 (8.32) T20, 2
  6. Na Yeon Choi, 8.22 (7.74) T8, T21
  7. Paula Creamer, 7.53 (7.59) T3, T9
  8. Anna Nordqvist, 7.23 (7.37) T51, T42 (as amateur)
  9. Song-Hee Kim, 7.19 (6.99) T11, T29
  10. Karrie Webb, 6.74 (6.79) 2, T9
When was the last time we had four ladies with more than 10 ranking points each? While there's only a half-point difference between #1 and #4, there is now nearly a two-point difference between #4 and #5. This week's major, being the last tournament with big points up for grabs, carries a bit more pressure for that reason. This will be the last tournament this year where a player could gain two or more points at once, and if the top 4 all play well and the rest don't, that gap could grow quite a bit.

My predictions in yesterday's post weren't off much; Pettersen didn't gain as many points as I thought she would, whereas Tseng actually gained a few fractions (I thought she would lose points). And while I expected Miyazato to gain some on Kerr, I didn't expect Kerr to drop so much. As it turned out, Kerr dropped a T6 at the 2008 Evian, which cost her some points. (The Constructivist did a really neat post on what caused me to guess wrong on Pettersen and Choi's moves. But I didn't think I was mostly wrong, TC -- I only missed two! ;-)

For you Morgan Pressel fans (who, like me, are overlooking her Tigeresque vocabulary as of late), you'll be happy to know she moved up to #15. (The LPGA's PDF of the rankings says she moved up 2 positions, but the previous week's PDF shows her at #16.) Her points rating improved from 4.65 to 5.27, a really good move. She finished T42 at last year's British, and I believe she could make a jump up to #7 or #8 (as Paula Creamer did) if she manages to win this week.

Lexi celebrates birdie at 72nd holeAnd for those of you keeping track, Lexi Thompson's T2 at Evian jumped her 75 spots in the rankings to #74. She has a 1.72 ranking (up from .80 last week) after only 8 tournaments and, according to the Golf Digest article linked later in this paragraph, she would be 18th on the money list with $315K after only 3 pro starts -- remember, the 15-year-old isn't a member of the LPGA (and can't be until she's 18), so she's somewhat limited in her options. It's too bad her T2 couldn't get her an exemption into this week's major. She may want to try and play some foreign events later this year; as well as she's playing, she might be able to crack the Top 20 before next season. (The pic of Lexi's celebration after sinking her birdie putt on the 72nd at Evian is from this article at

So what should we be looking for this week? First off, six players are "red lights" -- Jiyai Shin, Ai Miyazato, Cristie Kerr, Yani Tseng, Paula Creamer, and Karrie Webb  to watch. Not only did these six play extremely well last year, but they also played well in 2008... and those 2008 finishes will drop off the rankings next week. I would guess Jiyai probably needs a top 5 just to hold ground,  Yani a top 7, and  Ai and Cristie top 10s. Paula's thumb is a real question mark (remember, she couldn't even practice after the U.S. Open, so she could lose ground next week), and Karrie risks dropping completely from the Top 10. (In-Kyung Kim, at #11 and only a quarter point behind her, had a string of top 5s coming into Evian and generally plays well at the British -- T20 last year, T9 in 2008, and T42 her rookie year.)

Suzann Pettersen is a mixed bag, as she drops a fairly low finish at the 2008 British but continues to be hurt by missing the cut last year. A good finish could really kick up her point total and give her a boost up the rankings... especially if Shin, Miyazato, or Kerr struggles.

And then there's Anna Nordqvist, who played in 2008 as an amateur and has the least tournaments in the ranking period, so she'd get maximum point value if she managed to win.

The Ricoh Women's British Open will be played at Royal Birkdale, which has hosted the women four times before. Those winners were:
  • 1982: Marta Figuras-Dotti
  • 1986: Laura Davies
  • 2000: Sophie Gustafson
  • 2005: Jeong Jang
Only Jeong Jang got credit for winning a major here, as the British Open didn't become an official major (replacing the du Maurier Classic) until 2001.

I don't know how long the course is going to play yet, but JJ's win in 2005 tells me that a shorter hitter can win here. It will probably come as no surprise that Jiyai Shin (who got her British win at Sunningdale) is my favorite to win this week. The big question for me is how much a win would up her ranking points because, as mentioned earlier, the points for her 2008 win will drop from the rankings. Cristie Kerr gained 2 points when she won the LPGA Championship and dropped a T10 off the back; could Jiyai Shin pick up maybe 1.5 points and kick her Rolex points up to the 12 range? If she does, I think the other ladies will have a rough time catching her for at least several months.

This week could be a watershed week for the LPGA. I can't wait!

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Limerick Summary: 2010 RBC Canadian Open

Winner: Carl Pettersson

Around the greater world of golf: Jiyai Shin lived up to her nickname "Final Round Queen," sneaking past everyone to win the Evian Masters on the LPGA; Corey Pavin made it a race, but Bernhard Langer won the Senior Open Championship on the Champions Tour; Sweden's Richard S. Johnson won the Nordea Scandanavian Masters on the Euro Tour by sinking a looong bomb for birdie on the final hole; and D.J Brigman won the Nationwide Children's Hospital Invitational on the Nationwide Tour.

Before I get to the PGA event, I want to make a prediction. I said over the weekend that I found Evian to be the most interesting tournament this weekend because of the Top 10 battle going on. Well, it played out to be a doozy! I don't know exactly how the points will fall, but I'm predicting a major shakeup in the Rolex Rankings. Here's the old Top 6, followed by my predicted Top 6:
  1. Ai Miyazato ----------- Jiyai Shin
  2. Cristie Kerr ----------- Suzann Pettersen
  3. Suzann Pettersen --- Ai Miyazato
  4. Jiyai Shin ------------- Cristie Kerr
  5. Yani Tseng ----------- Na Yeon Choi
  6. Na Yeon Choi ------- Yani Tseng
I'm making this prediction after the finish on Sunday morning, but before the TGC broadcast and all the commentary. We'll see how close I am come Monday morning.

Pettersson holding Canadian Open trophyCarl Pettersson is from Sweden, but he lives not too far from me here in North Carolina. In fact, his last win was the 2008 Wyndham Championship in nearby Greensboro. But Carl's been struggling a bit since that victory, and he barely made the cut Friday night. (I believe he said he waited "seven beers" to find out he was playing the weekend.)

Saturday he faced off against Superman -- Dean Wilson, perhaps better known for a resemblance to Dean Cain (who played Superman on the TV show "Lois and Clark"), playing in Annika's threesome at Colonial, and being a "Stack-n-Tilter." Dean has also been struggling since his last win, but at the end of a third round 65 Dean was flying high at -15, four shots over his nearest competitor. Unfortunately for Superman, Carl was that competitor, after shooting a 60 that was mere inches from being a 59.

Kryptonite was never more clearly labeled. After a 60-67 weekend (and a +2 round from Dean) Carl followed the lead of Rory McIlroy several weeks ago and went from cutline to victory... an obviously emotional win for the Swede. (The pic comes from this SkySports article about the win.)

I mentioned in the lead-in that Richard S. Johnson won over on the European Tour earlier in the day. This Swedish double-dip reminded me of the Els-Schwartzel pair of wins a few months ago. I've written quite a bit about the South African invasion... but with both Johnson and Pettersson winning Sunday I guess you could say Sweden is striking back. Which brings us to today's limerick:
After Saturday’s wild scoring binge
Up in Canada, Carl didn’t cringe.
His head must be spinning—
The two years since winning
Made Sunday’s results “Swede revenge.”

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Short People, Low Scores

I don't mean short in stature, although I suppose at 5'5", 5'1", and 5'0" respectively, Morgan Pressel, Jiyai Shin, and Jeong Jang might fit the bill. (The pics are from their bio pages at

Morgan Pressel, Jiyai Shin, and Jang

No, I'm referring to their lack of length off the tee. This week:
  • Morgan Pressel is averaging 236.83 yards,
  • Jiyai Shin, 239.17 yards, and
  • Jeong Jang, 228.17 yards.
There's no way to label these ladies as bombers, and yet Morgan has the lead at -11 and the other two are T2 at -9. And who's right behind them?
  • Brittany Lincicome at 265.33 yards and
  • Alexis Thompson at 272.83 yards.
Both of them are at -8. And this on a wet course!

Court noted in a comment on yesterday's post that Lexi (that's the name she's going by on tour, regardless of what her bio page says) was very impressive with her eagle on 18, as well as how she handled herself in the interviews... and I have to agree. But I was way more impressed with Morgan's eagle on 18!

Tom Abbott talked to Morgan on TGC after her round about her attempts to gain some yardage so she could be more competitive on tour. A quick check of her stats show her averaging 242.3 yards (T96 on tour) this year; in 2008, she averaged 229.8 yards (158 on tour) -- almost 15 yards longer! She said what she's been doing is complicated to explain, that it has something to do with synching up her arms and her lower body. I found this clip that HoundDog uploaded to YouTube a couple of years ago which actually addresses this very problem. It might help you to understand how Morgan has managed to gain some distance, just in case you're curious:

Ironically, he cut the clip off just as Terry Gannon was asking what Morgan could do to gain more yardage. I guess she figured it out! One thing I noticed during the broadcast is that Morgan seems to be moving her head less than she did in this video; I assume this is because her arms aren't so far behind her now. I'll be interested to see some good footage of her current swing taken from a face-on view, just to see how much her hand and arm position has changed.

At any rate, Morgan hit the 18th green with a driver and a hybrid on a wet fairway. I'm not sure she could have reached the green last year under any circumstances, yet on Saturday she landed her 2nd shot in almost the same spot as Lexi Thompson, who's averaging 36 yards longer off the tee this week.

Yes, I'm impressed... and I think this just may be Morgan's week. (But I won't bet on it. See, I'm a little short right now...)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

After the Cut

Perhaps it's just me, but the Senior Open Championship doesn't seem all that interesting. Perhaps it's because Tom Watson missed the cut; although I'm interested in how the other guys are playing, Tom's is the score I always check first. As it stands, Corey Pavin and Bernhard Langer are tied for the lead at the halfway point -- an interesting pair, but "a little young" to be legends yet.

More interesting to me is the European Tour. Can Louis Oosthuizen become the first man ever to win the Open Championship and the European tournament the following week? After a disappointing 70 on Friday -- don't you wish your disappointing scores were 70s? -- Shrek sits in a tie for 3rd, 2 strokes behind K.J. Choi. After a (thankfully) brief dalliance with Sam Snead's sidesaddle putting technique, Choi is back to his old putting style and playing pretty well. I understand that putting woes are frustrating, but if I was having problems with a segment of my game I don't think I'd copy the techniques of someone who never really figured that segment out. While Snead is a great model from tee to green, I'd look to someone like Crenshaw for a putting model!

But the most interesting tournament to me this week is the ladies event at Evian, simply because all of the Top 10 players are playing and the world rankings are so tight. Let me bring you up-to-date with where the current Top 11 stand in the tournament after the cut (forgive my poor excuse for a table -- it's my first attempt in this new template):

---------- Player ------------- Ranking -------- Position ----
Ai Miyazato10.27-3 (T16)
Cristie Kerr10.27+1 (T46)
Suzann Pettersen9.86-5 (T8)
Jiyai Shin9.56-5 (T8)
Yani Tseng8.32-3 (T16)
Na Yeon Choi7.74-6 (T4)
Paula Creamer7.59E (T38)
Anna Nordqvist7.37-1 (T25)
Song-Hee Kim6.99-2 (T21
Karrie Webb6.79+2 (T54)
In-Kyung Kim6.52E (T38)

Na Yeon Choi's been highlighted because she's doing the best so far.

How many points could a player expect to make up this week? Although this is an LET major, I'm not expecting it to get the same points as an LPGA major. To get an idea of what a player could conceivably expect, I looked back a few weeks to Choi's victory at the Jamie Farr on July 4, to see how many points she picked up. (You many remember that she jumped from #11 to #8 with that win.) Choi has had a consistent 52 tournaments counted during the ranking period for the last few weeks, and her ranking average jumped .86 points with the Farr win. When it's all said and done, that works out to around 45 extra points -- roughly half what Kerr got for her major. Here are the extremes of likely points: If Nordqvist won (only 35 tournaments), she could get roughly 1.25 points; and Shin (with 60) could expect around .75 points.

As things stand, there will be some serious shake-ups in the rankings this week! Cristie Kerr will drop, perhaps several spots. Both Suzann Pettersen and Jiyai Shin, less than .5 and .75 points behind Miyazato, could conceivably jump to #1 and #2. (Because she has fewer tournaments during the ranking period -- only 44 -- Suzann has the best chance to make up ground with a good finish.) Na Yeon Choi's continued good play could leap her into the Top 5, as she's only about .5 point out and my rough figures give her .85 extra points for the win. Creamer could drop to #9, and I added #11 In-Kyung Kim because, at only .28 points behind Webb, she could knock Karrie out of the Top 10 this week.

And remember -- the last major of the year, the Women's British Open, is next week. You don't want to be dropping points this week.

So this looks to be the most interesting tournament of the week to me. Of course, the cut doesn't determine who wins the tournament -- only who doesn't. But with leader Mika Miyazato (yes, I have to say it -- no relation to Ai) leading at -9 and showing no signs of backing up, it looks like Cristie Kerr has the most to lose and Suzann Pettersen the most to gain.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Bunched Leaderboards & Recent Leaders

I thought today I'd take a quick look at the various tournaments going on this week -- not just the majors -- and see how our recent winners are fairing.

Louis Oosthuizen (the new Open Champion) headed to Stockholm this week to play in the Nordia Scandinavian Masters... and promptly got himself into a 3-way lead at 5-under with Richard Green and Dustin Johnson. Like he did at the Open, he played a very steady round. Also of note, Dustin posted a bogey-free round; it's good to see him continuing his good play after the bad day at Pebble.

Also, the European Tour totally surprised Tom Watson by giving him honorary lifetime membership on the ET. Only three other players have been given the honor -- Arnold Palmer, Bob Charles, and Gary Player -- and the ET vote was unanimous. You can read about it here at the European Tour site. (The pic showing Watson receiving his card from ET Chief Executive George O'Grady is from that article.)

Watson gets European Tour card

Speaking of Tom, he had a rough day at the Senior Open Championship. He actually chunked a pitch shot into the burn from a bad lie. Now that's something you don't see everyday! He finished the day at 3-over (T45), while the leaders at 4-under are Jay Don Blake, Carl Mason, and Bernhard Langer. (And no, there was no live coverage Thursday.)

Over at the Evian Masters, newly-minted U.S. Open Champion (and #7 in the world rankings) Paula Creamer said her thumb was so sore after her victory that she didn't hit any balls last week. She finished her first round at 1-under (T37), while the leaders at 6-under are Sun-Ju Ahn, Melissa Reid, and Morgan Pressel. Morgan only had 1 bogey and 7 birdies, which bodes well for her this week. As the Constructivist notes, the Evian course doesn't favor one type of player, so a relatively short player like Morgan can really take it to the field if she plays well.

Among the other notable players:
  • #9 Song-Hee Kim is T4 at 5-under;
  • #5 Yani Tseng, #6 Na Yeon Choi, and #12 Michelle Wie are T6 at 4-under:
  • #1 Ai Miyazato and #3 Suzann Pettersen are T13 at 3-under;
  • #8 Anna Nordqvist, #4 Jiyai Shin, and ROY leader Azahara Munoz are T26 at 2-under;
  • #2 Cristie Kerr is T52 at even; and
  • #10 Karrie Webb, #11 In-Kyung Kim, and Amanda Blumenherst (chasing Munoz) are T61 at 1-over.
As you can see, the rankings could get shaken up quite a bit this week... and the Women's British Open is next week.

BTW, I checked out a little of the Evian web coverage and it appears that it only covers the 18th hole... plus I couldn't get any sound. Still, each player's name was shown with their score, so it was better than nothing.

Last week's Nationwide winner Tommy "Two Gloves" Gainey struggled a bit at the Nationwide Children's Hospital Invitational. He opened with a 1-over round (T77), while Jonathan Kaye blitzed the field with an 8-under! If Kaye's name sounds familiar, that's because he's a regular PGA player who's been struggling some this season. Obviously he's off to a good start this week.

And the official PGA Tour event this week is the RBC Canadian Open, where Fred Couples is playing instead of the Senior Open Championship. He's 3-over after his first round (T130). Local favorite Mike Weir, at 2-over (T119), isn't faring much better; he had to withdraw from the Wednesday pro-am after 15 holes with tendonitis, and I don't know how much that affected him. The leader at 8-under is Brent Delahoussaye, who just came over from the Nationwide this year and has been struggling -- only 3 made cuts out of 12 tournaments, and just shy of $29k in winnings. He really needs a good week, and maybe this is it.

And for those of you who are wondering, John Daly is T51 at 1-under. It's good to see JD finally starting to get some decent rounds under his belt. Low American at the Open, Sean O'Hair is T75, at even, perhaps struggling with a little jet lag. And Paul Casey is at T37 (2-under) after his struggles in the Open last week -- apparently experiencing no jet lag at all.

So there you have it. It appears our last PGA tournament winner, Justin Rose, isn't playing this week, and the Top 7 on the men's rankings are all MIA as well. They better watch out -- if Louis Oosthuizen has started to believe in himself, they may find him waiting for them in the Top 10 when they finally get back!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Two for the Price of One

Yes, there are two -- count them, two -- majors this week.

Senior British Open logoThe first (and most likely the one you knew about) is the Senior Open Championship, which is one of the 5 Champions Tour majors. It's being played at Carnoustie (Scotland) this year, which you will remember was the site of Jean van de Velde's debacle back in 1999. The Championship Course is 7421 yards long (that's 6765 meters, for my readers familiar with the metric system), although I'll be surprised if they play it that long. It looks as if the weather will be damp and fairly windy, and the temperatures will be around the mid-60s -- pretty good weather for a British Open. Loren Roberts is the defending champion, but we'll all be watching to see what Tom Watson does, won't we? Fred Couples won't be there, as he decided to play the RBC Canadian Open instead.

Like the Open Championship, the Senior Open Championship is going to be broadcast completely by ESPN and ESPN2. Here's the schedule:
  • Thursday: ESPN2 12:00-2:00pm ET
  • Friday: ESPN2 12:00-2:00pm ET
  • Saturday: ESPN 2:00-3:30pm ET
  • Sunday: ESPN2 1:00-3:00pm ET
As you can see, there won't be as much coverage as the Open got... but some of it may be live.

Evian Masters logoYou can be forgiven if you didn't know what the other major was. When we talk women's golf we generally think only about the four LPGA majors, and most of the world follows suit. (For example, although Morgan Pressel won the first JLPGA major this year, it simply shows up as a worldwide win in her stats.) Of those 4, only the Women's British Open is "shared" by the Ladies European Tour (LET) and the LPGA -- that is, co-sponsored and counted toward meeting minimum tournament play requirements on both tours.

However, the LET has two majors -- the aforementioned Women's British Open and the Evian Masters. And while it isn't recognized as a major by the LPGA, Evian is co-sponsored by them and counts as an LPGA tournament. If you ask them, the LPGA players tend to refer to Evian as "the fifth major" and consider it a plum tournament to win, so it has considerable stature even over here.

I won't go into detail about the tournament since HoundDog and the Constructivist have already done so. (The Constructivist has also done a really good post on how this tournament may affect both the LPGA and LET rookie races, so check that out as well.) I will simply mention that Ai Miyazato is the defending champion, and it just so happens that Ai and Cristie Kerr switched places in the Rolex Rankings this week; they had to take the averages to 4 decimal points to determine who was #1! Needless to say, this could be a very interesting week.

As an added bonus -- if I'm reading things right -- you can go to this website and watch the Thursday Evian broadcast live on your computer starting around 6:50am ET. The site will be running all day long, showing some press conferences and even giving you the ability to follow the players of your choice. (That's what it says!) You'll note that this page is called "Evian Masters TV Live," but there's also a choice on the menu bar simply called "Evian Masters TV" where you can watch pre-recorded interviews and such.

As you might expect, TGC will be our window on the Evian Masters. Here's the schedule:
  • Thursday: TGC 6:30-8:30pm ET
  • Friday: TGC 6:30-8:30pm ET
  • Saturday: TGC 1:00-4:00pm ET
  • Sunday: TGC 1:00-4:00pm ET
The first two days will not be live coverage, although I'm hopeful about the Saturday and Sunday broadcasts. But we've gotten used to that when it comes to the ladies, aren't we? Hopefully TGC will eventually realize that more live coverage (and repeats in prime time, as they sometimes do with the other tours) would help promote the LPGA.

In the meantime, we've got us two majors to watch this weekend!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Smooth Moves of Shrek

Ok, first let's get his name straight. Monday night, Michael Breed on The Golf Fix put together some media clips of various South Africans saying Louis Oosthuizen's name, as well as asking Ernie Els and Gary Player on air. Here's how his name is pronounced:

The people who have been pronouncing the first syllable so it sounds like wust (rhymes with rust) are pretty close. It's actually two sounds run together -- oo-ust, which creates a kind of "w" sound in the middle, just as the vowels in Louis do:  Loo-wie. I see two possible solutions if you have problems getting that oo-ust to sound like one syllable -- either say wust, as many of the announcers are doing, or (and this is the closest English equivalent I've found so far) is saying oost so it sounds like the "oo" in hook.

As for that second syllable, Gary Player was very clear about that. "It's hay, like hay in the field" is what he told Michael Breed. And Player should know -- he not only knows Louis, but Louis's caddy came through Player's caddy school and looped for him some on the Champions Tour.

So if you say wust-hay-zen, oo-ust-hay-zen (oo-ust is one syllable), or oost-hay-zen (oo hook), you'll be pretty darn close to the correct pronunciation.

Or you can just say "Shrek." ;-)

Of course, the swing's the thing... and it was much simpler over at YouTube on Sunday when I started planning this post. There were maybe 4 videos of Louis's swing, most of them several months old -- and now everybody's posting a slo-mo of it. The irony is that Louis's swing is best appreciated at full speed. I've picked three (two slo-mos and a regular speed) that should give you a good overview of what he does.

Or rather, what he doesn't do. This full-speed shot is from the Wentworth tournament earlier this year. It's beautiful just to watch, isn't it?

I was surprised when Michael Breed focused on the one thing I decided to focus on, and even used the same word to describe it: balance. I don't just mean that he looks like he's solidly anchored during his swing; no, Louis is balanced no matter what angle you view his swing from. He doesn't move too far forward or too far back, too far up or too far down, and no part of his body seems to move more than it absolutely has to. This down-the-line slo-mo really lets you see how relaxed he seems to be... and that relaxation causes his body to be quiet, since he isn't fighting himself.

One thing you can see clearly from this angle is that he hasn't twisted his forearms on the backswing, which you all know by now is one of my pet peeves. If you stop the clip at the 5-second mark, you can see what I'm talking about; if he was to uncock his wrists, so the shaft was in line with his left arm, it would almost duplicate his setup position. Michael Breed also pointed this out, because it allows him to keep his arms and chest moving together. That's why his hands don't get stuck behind him on the downswing, as well as why he's so accurate.

One last video, this one a face-on slo-mo from the Open Championship. Again, notice how quiet and centered his body is.

There have been a lot of questions about why a guy with this swing hasn't made more noise on the world golf scene. Although he had 5 victories on the Sunshine Tour (I may have to start tracking their results on this blog, since the South African players are becoming such a force), Louis only got his first Euro Tour win back in March. After listening to some of his interviews, I think he's only begun to see himself as a real contender this year. If his performance so far is any indication, Louis's swing may become the one everybody wants to copy.

And I'm all for that. Simplicity never goes out of style.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Why Tiger Can't Putt

Ok, maybe that's a bit harsh, but you know what I mean. Before the rumors start circulating about Tiger dallying with over 100 putters, I want to tell you what I think is causing the problem. While Tiger has a reputation as a good putter, we've also seen him have days (and tournaments) in the past when he couldn't buy a putt. His current woes are just that problem grown big, and hopefully this will help those of you struggling with similar problems. (The pic is from an article at You can read it here.)

Tiger staring at putterFirst, I want to gloat a bit because it's relevant to this discussion. (That's my story and I'm sticking to it!) Back in December I wrote a post about Tiger's fall from grace where I said:
...Many of these players who have stood in awe of Tiger are going to see him in an entirely different light. Come on, if he can make mistakes this bad off the course… These players will get a boost of confidence from this newfound revelation that perhaps the beast can be slain. It will elevate their play.

I also suspect some of the players will start to see themselves as better than Tiger – not a superiority in skills, but in morals. They won’t say so in as many words… but they will think it, just the same...
Isn't that exactly what's happened? Besides the unnamed 25% of a group of Tour players who said they now believe Tiger has used PEDs and the media people who now bash Tiger regularly, this weekend we heard repeatedly how Tiger has lost his swagger, how a new breed of player with no fear is coming out, and how we must now doubt that Tiger will match -- let alone pass -- Jack's record.

Personally, I think this is all overblown hyperbole EXCEPT for the bit about Tiger losing some swagger. Confidence comes from knowing you can rise to the challenge, and Tiger no longer believes that... primarily because of his putting. I picked Tiger to win at St. Andrews because I thought he would have his long game back in shape, and I was right; even his swing critics remarked about how much better he looked this week.

But that putter... ! Why has it deserted him?

The problem (which he's always had) is that Tiger hits his putts, rather than swinging the putter. I devoted an entire chapter in Ruthless Putting to swinging -- it's called "The Gravity of the Situation," for those of you who are interested -- and added a short routine (on pages 121-122) on how to use that swing to get a quick grasp of green speed. I'm not going over all that material again here (the post would be a few thousand words long if I did) but I want you to understand why swinging is superior to hitting when you putt.

First, you all know that you want to keep a light grip when you putt. Using gravity to "power" your swing rather than using your muscles to hit the ball is what makes this possible. Why? Because gravity always pulls the same way, so you don't "wiggle" your stroke as much, and your "soft hands" can absorb any excess movement; think of this as a passive dampening of excess movement.

By comparision, when you try to hit the ball by adding muscle power, you increase the amount of "wiggle" that your grip must absorb to make a smooth stroke. In addition, this extra movement created by your muscles isn't always "going in the same direction," so the dampening movements are active and must be a little different each time. This causes the small muscles in your hands and wrists to become more involved in the stroke.

Second, by using a gravity-powered swing, the power source is always consistent. Anywhere you might play golf -- even if you're 8000 feet up in the Rockies -- the speed of a "gravity swing" remains virtually the same. And because of this, your speed control remains consistent... and you can control it totally by the length of the backswing. Compare this with a muscle-powered hit, where a short backswing might send the ball farther than a long one, depending on how you use your muscles... and you will use them differently each time. Count on it.

Third, the gravity swing is freeflowing, which means you naturally accelerate the putter through the hitting area (gravity is a constant acceleration, for those of you who didn't take physics) and the free swinging motion eliminates the tendency to decelerate the putter at contact. All of this must be consciously controlled with a muscle-powered hit... which appeals to control freaks like El Tigre, but can desert you at the worst possible moment (such as when you're mounting a charge at the Open).

Fourth, hitting just takes too much practice. We talk about Jack's putting, but many consider Billy Casper one of the best putters who ever played the game. Casper began as a "hitter" and racked up a great record doing it -- 3 majors, 51 PGA Tour wins (7th all-time), and 5 Vardon (scoring) trophies, among other accomplishments -- and he did so during Jack's heyday. Yet Casper changed his putting style during that time because, as he said, it just took too much time to keep it working properly. Now, how many hours does Tiger spend on his putting...?

Finally, hitting leads to yips. Although most teachers don't ever tell you what yips are, they're really nothing more than micromanagement of your putting stroke. It works like this: The stroke doesn't do what you want, so you try to change things during the stroke. Ultimately you must use your finger and wrist muscles to get the fine control you want but the stroke happens too fast, so you have to use more force and the movements become bigger. Eventually you end up trying to speed up and slow down repeatedly during the stroke, resulting in jerky motions. Here's a big tip: If you use a light grip and make a gravity-powered swing, it is virtually impossible to yip.

And that's why Tiger can't putt. He's trying to hit the ball with the putter, when he ought to let the putter swing freely through the ball. With all the stress he must be feeling these days, his muscles are just getting too involved. To put it simply, to regain control of his putting he's going to have to learn to let go and just swing.

It's not going to be easy for golf's ultimate control freak.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Limerick Summary: 2010 Open Championship

Winner: Louis Oosthuizen

Around the greater world of golf: Matt Bettencourt won the Reno-Tahoe Open, the PGA's alternate-field event this week; Tommy "Two Gloves" Gainey won the Nationwide's inaugural Chiquita Classic for his second win of the year; and Sun-Ju Ahn won the Stanley Ladies on the JLPGA in a playoff. The Constructivist has that update here.

Louis Oosthuizen with the Claret JugSo the fairy tale is complete. Despite the questions raised about his ability to complete the quest, Shrek has indeed written his own little version of "happily ever after." The fact that this was the 150th Open even adds its own sheen to the victory. Why is it that "years that end in 0" seem so different from the rest, anyway? (The pic comes from the UK Press Association; their short article is here.)

What really struck me about his win that he did it from Day 1. Unlike the other players, most of whom had a good round followed by a bad round, Louis played four good rounds. Posting 65-67-69-71 as the weather and pressure became tougher is solid play in anybody's book -- especially when you take the lead during the second round and never give it up. He won by 7 strokes (and was up by 9 halfway through the last round), so anything under par was going to be good!

His closest competitor, Paul Casey, simply couldn't close the 4-stroke gap between them and finished at -8 (T3). Lee Westwood finished solo second, nabbing his fourth straight Top 3 in a major. Rory McIlroy, snakebit by an 80 on Friday, staged a "major" comeback to finish T3 himself. Low American honors went to Sean O'Hair and Nick Watney at -6 (T7). And Jin Jeong, this year's winner of the British Am, won the silver medal for low amateur at -4 (T14).

In related news, Tiger's "Old Faithful," the Scotty Cameron putter that he has won all his majors with, was back in his bag for Sunday. However, his relationship problems continued as his jilted putter refused to play nice, and rumors are already circulating that it has obtained a lawyer and is suing for emotional distress. Rumors are also circulating that Phil is buying property in the gorse just off the 12th fairway for a vacation home, so he can relax with his family between shots.

Perhaps the biggest shock of the week for me was the lack of network coverage for the Open. When was the last time ABC didn't carry the final two rounds? I'm not complaining -- ESPN gave the Open way more coverage than any two networks in the past. Still, this may portend economic stormclouds on golf's horizon.

Of course, Oosthuizen's name itself has been a story this week. I suspect the problem is simply that we don't have a direct equivalent in English for the sounds they use in Africaans. For example, when I was taking Tae Kwon Do, I discovered that Koreans have no equivalent for the "i" in Mike. When they wrote my name in Korean, they actually used two syllables that sounded like "mah-eek."

I suspect it's something similar for Louis's last name. The "ooh" is probably "oo-eh" run together, which could make the first syllable sound like "woost" or "west," but should probably be something like "ooh-west" run together. And that second syllable should probably be something like "hah-ee," which when run together could sound like "hay" or "hy." Try saying "ooh-west-(hah-ee)-zen" as 3 syllables and you'll probably be pretty close.

Just for the record, my attempt sounds like "Oowist-high-zen." (Imagine the word "twist" starting with "oo" instead of "t." It does sound like one syllable.)

In time I suppose the media will discover the true pronunciation of Louis's name. For today, it just becomes grist for the Limerick Summary mill:
West-hay-zen? Woost-hy-zen? Oost-hay-zen?
Whatever… his play was amazin'!
The guy nicknamed Shrek
Grabbed this win by the neck
To choke off much worse paraphrasin'.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

He's Nicknamed "Shrek," Not "Donkey"

ShrekIf there was any question that Louis Oosthuizen had the stomach to handle a lead in the Open Championship, he pretty well put that to sleep on Saturday. A full 24 hours after his last shot in the 2nd round, the guy nicknamed "Shrek" by his friends put on a heroic show in the 3rd. Except for a little adrenaline (that's to be expected, I think) he showed no nervousness at all. His swing stayed long and rhythmic as he posted a 3-under 69, losing only one stroke to his nearest competitors. (I don't know for sure where this pic came from, although I'm pretty sure it ultimately belongs to DreamWorks LLC. I hope they don't mind me using it.)

And that "nearest competitor" is Paul Casey, almost missing in action since the rib injury he sustained last year after he reached #3 in the world rankings. His 67 rocketed him out of the pack and put him 3 beyond his closest chaser Martin Kaymer, who in turn posted a 68 to get himself into contention. Well, 7 back in an Open -- especially when there's only one guy between you and the leader -- isn't too far back if the leader falters.

But there's the rub, isn't it? Louis looks as rock-solid as Shrek ever did. I don't think the other players really expect him to fall back, despite his relative inexperience in this position.

The real shock was the failure of the "big names" to mount successful charges. Phil got things going until a double-bogey at 16 derailed him. (Did I mention that Louis stole a BIRDIE there? Amazing!) Likewise, Tiger struggled on the greens, leading to speculation that the Nike Method he put into play this week will be put into mothballs next week. (Or, to continue the fairy tale metaphor, "Off with its high-tech head!") At -2 and -3 respectively, they're unlikely to factor on Sunday; even a 62 by either would require some help from the leaders.

Equally shocking was Lee Westwood's inability to get things going. A 71 just wasn't enough, although at -7 overall he might have a chance if he "goes nuts" in the 4th round and the leaders stumble. Unlikely but possible; the 54-hole leader in the last 3 Opens has NOT won the tournament... and we have a leaderboard full of guys looking for their first major.

But this isn't the last 3 years. No, it looks like Shrek is about to rewrite the fairy tale books again... and what better place to do it than a course that existed when those fairy tales were written?

I'm not gonna bet against him. You see, I'm not a donkey either.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

She's Not Naked Anymore, Tom

So much for the old girl and modesty. After Tom Watson's remark that "the old lady was naked" on Thursday, St. Andrews showed her bitchier side Friday. Play was delayed for just over an hour as winds gusting to 42mph blew balls across the greens out near the turn. I don't think anybody shot better than 1-under in the afternoon wave... and one of those rounds came from amateur Jin Jeong, the South Korean who will end up as low amateur simply because he's the only one to make the cut. Congrats to Jin! (He still had one hole to play when I wrote this, but I think the worst he'll finish even for the round.)

Louis Oosthuizen at the OpenLouis Oosthuizen (I believe the official pronunciation has been settled by Trevor Immelman as oohst'-hay-zen) has a 5-stroke lead over Mark Calcavecchia (another unexpected story). I suspect most of the players are looking at Calc's -7 instead of "Shrek's" -12, as our leader is in uncharted territory and no one knows how he will hold up. Still, he seems to have broken through this year (you may remember that I mentioned his first win on the Euro Tour a few months ago) and he just may surprise everybody. (The pic comes from this article at and it gives a different pronunciation than Trevor. Forgive me for going with the South African rather than the PGA.)

Yesterday's stories certainly played out today. Rory McIlroy followed his record-tying round with a record flip-flop -- 63-80 is just a roller coaster! He did make the cut at -1 (T38), however. John Daly shot 4-over to finish at -2 (T28); he didn't stop to talk with the media, but I suspect he'll feel better Saturday morning simply because he's still playing! Tom Watson missed the cut, but Tiger waved his group through so Tom could have some daylight to say goodbye to St. Andrews. And Tiger held on, shooting 1-over to finish at -4 (T15) and definitely in the hunt. Mickelson did at least make the cut, finishing even par (T46)  for the two rounds.

Of my five picks (besides Tiger, that is) -- Tim Clark, Ian Poulter, Tom Watson, Chris Wood, and Steve Stricker -- only Poulter and Stricker look like they'll make the cut, which could slide to +2 but looks like it will be +1.

Can "Shrek" really make things turn out "Happily Ever After"? That remains to be seen.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Well, We Wanted It Interesting

The first day of a major always packs a few surprises. One we expected is the luck of the draw -- it's rare that the morning wave and the afternoon wave get the same kind of weather, and we saw that Thursday. The morning wave got a 4mph breeze (Tom Watson said "the old lady was naked") while the late starters got 17mph winds. (And more wind is predicted for Friday, so the short end of the draw may not get a chance to even things out. That's Open golf for you!)

John Daly at the OpenHowever, did we really expect John Daly to be the low American in the field with a 66 (T3)? (And it could have been lower, as some well-struck putts lipped out. As it is, I understand that it's his lowest round in an Open.) I'm going out on a limb and say "No." But it's a good story to get this tournament underway, and it gives it a little extra "buzz" the way the Watson story did in 2009. I feel like I should mention that Rocco Mediate is helping ESPN this week, and he says he's played with JD several times this year and has been expecting him to win, that JD really has improved that much. It's something to watch, for sure. (The pic is from a story posted at ESPN's website. Click here to read their summary. Don't you just love the pants?)

Likewise, did we expect Rory McIlroy to tie the Open course record of 63 and nab the first-round lead? (Of course, since they said they're tossing out all the old records since they lengthened the course, that's not saying much, is it? ;-) He admitted that he realized that sinking his putt on 18 would have beat the record... and that the knowledge may have helped him miss. (At least he's honest.) As with JD, the 21-year-old's bid for the Championship adds another storyline.

Tiger is also in the mix, posting a 67 (T8) for his best showing in the first round for some time. Granted, he had the advantage of being in the morning wave (as did JD and Rory), but this is a good sign that Tiger may be finding his way back into form.

And while I hate to say it, it's no surprise that Phil finished at +1 (T96), making a single birdie, a double bogey, and 16 pars. He didn't even stop to talk to the media guys when he finished, which I take as a measure of his disappointment since he always talks to them. Maybe Phil just tries too hard, but we've come to expect him to have trouble at the Open. I'll cut him a bit of slack because he was in the afternoon wave.

But so was Lee Westwood... and he matched Tiger's 67 while playing in the wind, including a 5-birdie run on holes 5-9. He's definitely in the hunt.

Good rounds were also posted by Y.E. Yang, Vijay, Ryo Ishikawa, Ricky Barnes, Ernie Els, and Dustin Johnson (nice bounceback!), to name a few. All-in-all, there were 44 rounds in the 60s Thursday.

We won't be seeing that the rest of the way. That's one surprise from which I think we're safe.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

And the Rains Came...

Yeah, everybody knows by now. It's all over all the other golf blogs (just pick one from my blogroll -- almost any blog will do!) as well as the TV pregame shows.

This is not just going to be the Open Championship. We are in for a genuine British Open -- as in stereotypical British wind and rain. It's already rained out the Past Champion's Tournament that was scheduled for Wednesday, and some reports are calling for it to last the entire weekend.

I'm not going to attempt any sort of analysis as to how this may affect the outcome, and we'll have to see how everything plays out, but I will say that two words may have just become very important...

Tom Watson.

Can you say magic again?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Quick Open Preview

After three weeks of following the LPGA (two of which were majors), it feels a bit odd to focus on the PGA again. Unlike the women, who have been jockeying back and forth for the top spots in the rankings, the men's rankings don't really change very much. Graeme McDowell is now at #11 so a good finish at St. Andrews could move him into the Top 10, but he'll need some help to get there.

Ironically, viewed through the same criteria I use for the women, Tiger has the most to gain from a win this week. All of the players have played about the same number of tournaments during the ranking period, but Tiger has the fewest at 40 and his last good tournament, the 2008 U.S. Open, has already dropped from the calculations. (In fact, that was his last tournament in 2008, so his point gains the rest of this year will be based totally on his play... which may or may not be good. We'll see.) He's only gained about 60 points this year -- by comparison, Ian Poulter has more than doubled that total. A good finish at the Open could literally open his lead on Mickelson. (If you want to take a look at the current ratings, here's the PDF from the World Ranking site. The neat thing here is that it shows both how many points have been gained and how many have been lost. It'll give you a good idea why the rankings are so hard to keep up with. Tiger has lost over 239 points, which offsets that 60-point gain, don't you think?)

By comparison, Ernie Els has the most tourneys in the period at 57, so he'll pretty much need a win if he wants to move up much in the rankings. (His T7 in the 2008 Open will drop off next week, so he may need a good finish just to hold his position.)

I think Luke Donald has the most to gain with a win this week. He won't lose any points (he didn't play the last half of 2008, and many of his 2009 results were mediocre) and has made the most of his play so far this year (63.560 points lost vs 173.587 gained). I believe a win might kick him into the Top 5 in the rankings.

I am on record as picking Tiger to win this week; I picked him back before he played at Pebble. His last tourney showed some serious improvement in getting his swing back (we all expected that, didn't we?) and he's proven he doesn't need a driver to win at St. Andrews, so that's certainly to his advantage. And Shane Bacon is reporting that Tiger has switched putters this week in an effort to help that part of his game. But I have to say I'm a little concerned after the tabloids managed to get under Tiger's skin last week; if they find a way to do it again during the tournament, he might not play well. So that -- and not his game -- is the question mark for me.

While St. Andrews is hardly an "easy" course -- again, Shane is doing some posts for Devil Ball about the holes he thinks may be critical (he's already posted about #1, #5, and #17) -- it is a course that doesn't rule out any player who controls his emotions. So I'm picking 5 players other than Tiger who I think have good chances this week. These are all gut feelings, rather than being based on any stats, and are in no particular order:
  • Tim Clark: The Penguin never gets any respect. Has everybody forgotten that he nearly won the Masters a few years ago? Having broken through at the Players, I think he may be able to get over the hump if he gets in contention.
  • Ian Poulter: Another player who gets no respect. Not only has Ian broken through at the Match Play earlier this year, he's proven that he can handle Open pressure.
  • Tom Watson: You thought there was magic at Turnberry? If there is any magic in golf, I suspect we'll see it here.
  • Chris Wood: Not a well-known player on our side of the pond, but Wood has played well in his Open appearances and just might be due.
  • Steve Stricker: I know this one goes against all logic. He had a T52 last year... but a T7 and T8 the two years before. The win at John Deere tells me his injury is healed... and hey, the guy's won twice this year already. Stricker's my dark horse pick.
ESPN will carry the first couple of rounds starting at 4 AM Thursday morning. Regardless of what the odds-makers' say, Tiger is NOT the favorite this year... and while they don't say so, you can be sure quite a few of the players believe this Open is theirs for the taking. This could be the most fun Open we've seen in years!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Before We Move on to the Open Championship...

We should assess where the women stand after the U.S. Women's Open. First, we look at the new Top 10 -- beside each name is the number of tournaments included in the ranking period, the points average that determines the ranking, and the total points accumulated during the ranking period (obviously, total points divided by number of tournaments gives you the average):
  1. Cristie Kerr, 46, 10.38, 477.59
  2. Ai Miyazato, 56, 10.19, 570.39
  3. Suzann Pettersen, 44, 9.97, 438.60
  4. Jiyai Shin, 60, 9.69, 581.33
  5. Yani Tseng, 56, 8.32, 465.72
  6. Na Yeon Choi, 53, 7.69, 407.68
  7. Paula Creamer, 39, 7.68, 299.66
  8. Anna Nordqvist, 35, 7.46, 260.98
  9. Song-Hee Kim, 52, 7.06, 367.38
  10. Karrie Webb, 43, 6.88, 295.65
The extra numbers should help you understand some of the weird things that happened this week. Bear in mind that some players could have gained or lost extra points, depending on whether they lost a good or bad tournament off the "back end" of the 2-year-long ranking period.

For example, Pettersen gained nearly 1 ranking point with a T2 finish, while Shin only gained .06 points with a T5. This disparity in points is largely about how many tournaments they've played -- Pettersen has only played 44, while Shin has a whopping 60 during the ranking period. In essence, Pettersen's points were worth more -- roughly 33% more -- plus she gained over 3 times as many (44 vs 13), which allowed her to leapfrog over Shin into 3rd place.

Na Yeon Choi also gained just under a point and moved up a couple of places by virtue of her T2 finish (and an awesome -5 last round). This should give you some idea how difficult it is to move up when you play a lot of tournaments; Anna Nordqvist would have picked up over 1.25 points for the same finish.

But while Paula Creamer leaped all the way from 13 to 7 and picked up around 90 total points (92.48 points to be exact -- predictably the largest gain of the week, according to the Rolex site), she's only played 39 tournaments during the ranking period. (Only Nordqvist has fewer, and she missed the cut so she actually lost 3 points from her total.) Paula also benefits by losing a T63 finish at the 2008 P&G Beauty NW Arkansas Championship off the back end of the ranking period, which was far and away her worst finish in the last half of that year. All of this contributed to her improved average from 5.31 last week to 7.68 this week -- nearly 2.5 points.

As for the rookies... well, I don't like to say I told you so (ok -- I do like saying it!) :
  1. Azahara Munoz, 423.00
  2. Amanda Blumenherst, 242.00
  3. Gwladys Nocera, 124.00
  4. Beatriz Recari, 108.00
  5. Mariajo Uribe, 63.00
  6. Misun Cho, 44.00
  7. Marianne Skarpnord, 33.00
  8. Pernilla Lindberg, 32.00
  9. Yoo Kyeong Kim, 25.00
    Mina Harigae, 25.00
Munoz was the only rookie to make the cut, and her T19 finish got her quite a few points (64, to be exact). With only one more major (two if you count Evian) presenting an opportunity to get a lot of points, I just don't see the other rookies playing consistently enough to catch her. Blumenherst is nearly 200 points back; that's a lot of ground to make up, and I don't think she's played well enough so far this year to pull it off. Even if her game improves, she's going to need help from Munoz. (And it's not that she's had a bad rookie year; Munoz has just been that good.)

So that's where the women stand now. We'll come back to them soon enough... but this week we'll be watching the men as they mount their assault on St. Andrews.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Limerick Summary: 2010 John Deere Classic

Winner: Steve Stricker

Around the wider world of golf: Edoardo Molinari got his first win at the Barclays Scottish Open; Peter Tomasulo won the Ford Wayne Gretzky Classic on the Nationwide Tour; Yuri Fudoh won the JLPGA's Meiji Chocolate Cup (I LOVE that tournament name! The Constructivist has the details); and Paula Creamer got her first major win at the U.S. Women's Open, at Oakmont Country Club. Not only did she do it shortly after thumb surgery -- and as the only player under par, at that! -- but Johnny Miller actually compared her driving to Ben Hogan, not something you hear from him very often.

In the past I've posted a couple of teaching clips from that great sportsman Goofy, including his awesome "How to Golf" video. (If you somehow missed it, you can find it here.) Of course, while I was at Disneyworld last week, I had hoped to interview "the Great One" in person but, as is typical of gifted people, he was deeply involved in one of his other passions and his time was limited. However, we did get to speak for a few moments and, as you can see, he was kind enough to pose for a quick pic with one of his biggest fans.

Me and GoofyBut things got a little goofy up in Silvis IL as well. It wasn't enough that Paul Goydos shot a first-round 59 and Steve Stricker rode in on his coattails with a 60. (As Charlie Rymer at TGC said, you don't expect to see two rounds like that in one tournament, let alone one round.) They say it's hard to follow one good round with another, but both men did -- Goydos with a 68, Stricker with a 66. And if that wasn't enough, they did it again -- Goydos with a 67, Stricker with a 62! It's true that others tried to keep up, like Jeff Maggart with a 66-65-63 to catch Goydos, but at the end of the day Stricker had ripped up the field with the lowest 54-hole score in PGA history.

All that remained was to see who could survive Sunday's madness best. And while Paul Goydos gave the Dirtbag Nation something to cheer about with his -5 final round (it gave him a berth in next week's Open Championship), he fell just short. Steve Stricker could only turn a -1 for his last round, but it was enough to bury the field and take his second win of the year to the barn... er, bank.

Ironically, I think the sponsor summed up Steve's performance best, so I've borrowed a little from them as inspiration for this week's limerick:
For divine help with rain, call a vicar;
When the harvest is due, hire a picker.
But to plow the field under
You don’t need to wonder,
It’s true—nothing runs like a Stricker.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A Long Day for the Ladies

After many hours of travel, my friends and I ended our day in Hilton Head, drenched in a thunderstorm... but we dried out in a room with unlimited wireless internet! I miss the Disney parks (Minnie Mouse kissed me goodbye this morning, though I suspect she was just getting back at Mickey for flirting with all the women at the Chef Mickey restaurant), but I'm thrilled to be able to surf the net again.

Paula CreamerImagine my shock when I caught the last few minutes of NBC's broadcast and found out that the Pink Panther had the lead! I'm not disappointed, not by any stretch of the imagination -- Creamer is certainly overdue to win a major -- but I didn't expect her to be in contention this soon after surgery. And to be the only player under par (as of this writing) is nothing short of amazing. (The pic is from

The whole leaderboard looks about as good as we could have hoped for. Wendy Ward's surprise run up the board, along with the mass of great players at +7 or better... if Creamer's hand starts to bother her Sunday, this tournament is wide open. While I'm surprised that Cristie Kerr has slipped to +6, I suspect that she would have taken +4 at the beginning of the tournament, and since she has a few holes left in her 3rd round she could get some back. I think Natalie Gulbis predicted +5 or +6 to be the winning score, so we'll have to see what happens in the final round.

In addition, the rookie race at the Open turned out to be even more one-sided than I expected. If I've read the scoreboard correctly, only Azahara Munoz made the cut, meaning that she will pad her lead considerably. (Although I didn't expect Harigae to make the cut -- she seems to have been struggling a bit much lately to do well on a tough Open venue -- I did expect Blumenherst and Nocera to play the weekend.) This is going to make it really tough for the other rookies, as there is only one more major left (the Women's British) where a large number of points will be available. It Aza does well there, I don't think the other rookies even have a chance; they simply have not played well enough and consistently enough to make up the points at regular tournaments.

So what will happen Sunday? It all depends on Creamer. I skimmed through the scores so far and found only one round in the 60s -- a 69, posted Thursday by Brittany Lang. (Who's still hanging in there, BTW. That long high fade of hers could be a force to be reckoned with!) Creamer had one going Saturday until she bogeyed 13, which could have been a simple matter of having no daylight left. If she can par out her 3rd round and shoot another -1 in her 4th, I think she gets her first major.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

What? Play Was Suspended?

Well, so much for any guesses I might make about the weekend. (And of course, I can now go on with my life and feel no remorse over having hit 4 Disney parks in one day rather than staying in the hotel watching golf... which wasn't played, after all. Not that I would have felt any guilt, but I'm just saying...)

The wild card in my book is Cristie Kerr's even-par round, which she finished before the round was suspended. Whether the course has (a) softened up and allowed more aggressive play or (b) become slow and harder to play still remains to be seen. Still, +1 would have been a winning score at Oakmont in many past years, so we'll have to wait and see what happens.

As you read this, I'll probably be on the road headed home. Goodbye to Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, and Pluto (what the Disney animators here call "the Big 5"), goodbye to massive nightly fireworks displays, and especially... goodbye to my internet limitations. I don't know what Saturday night's motel will be like, but I look forward to the old (reasonably) trustworthy cable connections of NC.

Now it's time to pay one last visit to the Magic Kingdom and have a little more fun!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Madness Takes Its Toll

...please have correct change. Or so the old saying goes.

I don't know whether this refers to my current mental state or the leaderboard at the Women's U.S. Open. Who would have expected Brittany Lang to lead the field after round one, given her recent struggles? Or the logjam at eighth place?

Obviously Oakmont is up to its old tricks. The players at +4 are all T50, which sounds like what we've come to expect when the USGA plays here.

I don't have any great insights at this point, so I'm waiting to find out what the cut looks like. Hopefully no one will go mad before they make the cut.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Rookies at the Women's U.S. Open

My internet setup here at Disney continues to be something of a problem, but I'm trying to soldier on with a look at the rookies at the Open. Thanks to the Constructivist for the help finding the rookie points list. Asterisks mean the rookie is playing this week:
Azahara Munoz*: 359.00
Amanda Blumenherst*: 242.00
Gwladys Nocera*: 124.00
Beatriz Recari: 108.00
Mariajo Uribe: 63.00
Misun Cho: 44.00
Marianne Skarpnord*: 33.00
Pernilla Lindberg: 32.00
Yoo Kyeong Kim: 25.00
Mina Harigae: 25.00
Recari was, as expected, the big mover last week... but Skarpnord is the real wild card this week. Since she is the only rookie outside the "Big 3" who's playing, this could be her chance to make some serious noise. I don't know how many rookie points are at stake this week, but her opportunity to get to #4 looks pretty good.

As for the 3 main contenders at this point, I'm expecting a bit of a battle -- the course looks to be a real bear -- but I expect Munoz to pad her lead some. As well as she's been playing lately, she might even have a shot Sunday afternoon. We'll just have to see.

I don't know how much of the Open I'll get to see, but I'll try to drop you a few of my invaluable observations as I get the chance. *sigh* I never thought I'd miss an unlimited internet connection so much...

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Quick Overview of the Women's U.S. Open

My internet problems continue, so I'll have to make this overview brief.

Here are the Top 10 in the Rolex Rankings after the Jamie Farr, showing their point average and how many tournaments that average is figured against:
Cristie Kerr: 10.55, 45
Ai Miyazato: 10.39, 55
Jiyai Shin: 9.63, 59
Suzann Pettersen: 8.98, 44
Yani Tseng: 8.35, 55
Anna Nordqvist: 7.54, 34
Song-Hee Kim: 7.06, 51
Na Yeon Choi: 6.96, 52
Karrie Webb: 6.79, 43
Michelle Wie: 6.55, 34
Important to note: Kerr and Miyazato improved their positions without playing, as each "lost" a tournament off the back end of their rankings from 2 years ago. Shin improved because of her solid play at the Farr, although not as much as we might have expected because she has played so many events. Kim also improved her position, and Choi jumped 3 positions back into the Top 10.

Here's what I think you need to watch for among the Top 10 this week: Kerr gained almost 2 points with her win at the Wegmans LPGA to grab #1; she had 45-46 tournaments counting that week. That means Pettersen and Webb could both probably pick up that many points with a win as well. Miyazato, Shin, Kim, and Choi have nearly 10 more tournaments in that count, which means they will likely gain maybe 1.5 points. And Nordqvist and Wie, with 10 or more less tournaments than Kerr, might be able to get as many as 3 points.

What this means is that any of the Top 6 -- except for Tseng -- could conceivably be #1 after this week if they play well and the others don't. I think #1 will need an average above 10.00 to have a shot at the top. And numbers 6-10 could possibly make the Top 5 with great finishes.

That's about all I have time for today, but at least that should give you an idea of what we're looking at. This could be a memorable Open for quite a few ladies... and with the British only 3 weeks later... !

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Internet Is NOT a Fan of Ruthless Golf

My friends and I arrived at Disney just fine Monday, but ran into some problems with the internet connection. As a result, I had limited time on our hookup today and couldn't prepare my stunningly insightful analysis of this week's U.S. Women's Open. Hopefully I'll be able to get some of it up for Wednesday.

In the meantime, if any of you out there happen to have found an updated listing of the Top 10 rookies and how many points they have after the Jamie Farr, I'd appreciate it if you'd leave the link in the comments to this post. I can't seem to find it.

Hope you guys have a great day. I'm going to spend mine at the Magic Kingdom... maybe I can con Tinkerbell into using some pixie dust on the internet hookups around here.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Limerick Summary: 2010 AT&T National

Winner: Justin Rose

Around the wider world of golf: Miguel Angel Jiménez won the Alstom Open de France, making him the oldest-ever winner of Europe's oldest-ever Parisian golf title; Na Yeon Choi won the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic in a 4-way playoff (against 3 Kims, no less!) on the LPGA; Trish Johnson won the LET's Tenerife Ladies Open (thanks to Patricia Hannigan for the scoreboard link); Hyun-Ju Shin won the JLPGA's JMA Engineering Women's Open in a playoff against Chieko Amanuma (the Constructivist has the details); and Larry Mize won the Montreal Championship on the Champions Tour.

Greetings from sunny Savannah! Although I'll be winding my way toward Disneyworld as most of you read this, I posted this while in Georgia after the first leg of our trip straight from North Carolina through South Carolina to the Peach State. (Hmmm... would that be Carolinear motion?)

At any rate, Justin Rose seems to have the linear motion thing figured out -- just go straight for the win from Day One (appropriately capitalized and boldfaced to illustrate its significance). Although I got to see a little of the golf, my friends on this trip don't care for golf at all so I kept up mostly over the Internet. I do know that Rose only needed an even par round to withstand charges by Ryan Moore, Jeff Overton, and Charlie Wi. I also know that Rose had a real up-and-down round, including a bogey-eagle-bogey-bogey stretch at the turn. But a win is a win, pretty or not, and he has now won 2 of his last 3 tournaments... and 2 big tournaments (Memorial and AT&T) at that. Just think... it could have been 3 out of 3 if not for one bad round.

In any case, Justin Rose has to be considered the hottest player on the planet right now... so it's entirely appropriate that this little performance gets him a berth in the Open Championship

I didn't expect Rose to lose his way on the greens this time, so I actually wrote this limerick somewhere on the road in South Carolina:
Rose got his first win, then imploded
The next week—but now he’s reloaded
And thrilled all his backers.
Like July firecrackers,
His sizzling potential’s exploded.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Rookies on the Rise

First of all, Happy 4th of July! I'm leaving today for a week-long vacation with friends... but we're driving. We'll be on the road today and tomorrow, and I don't know if we've got an internet connection tonight, so you may not see the Limerick Summary until Tuesday.

However, golf will go on as planned, and while we're seeing some good play out of the regulars -- the leaders Na Yeon Choi, Christina Kim, Katherine Hull, and Kristy McPherson being the prime examples -- it seems to me that this week is the LPGA rookies' week to shine.

Here, from yesterday's post, are the top point-getters in the 2010 Rookie of the Year race so far. I've added their Priority List category in bold after their point totals:
  1. Azahara Munoz, 309, 8
  2. Amanda Blumenherst, 237, 8
  3. Gwaldys Nocera, 119, 8
  4. Mariajo Uribe, 63, 11
  5. Beatriz Recari, 58, 11
  6. Marianne Skarpnord, 28, 11
  7. Pernilla Lindberg, 27, 11
  8. Misun Cho, 26, 9
  9. Yoo Kyeong Kim, 25, 11
  10. Mina Harigae, 20, 9
Kim and Uribe both missed the cut, leaving the others with a chance to drop them in the dust. Munoz (my pick for Rookie of the Year) is now T6 at -9 (up from T19 after her -5 round); only a bad day today can stop her from stretching her lead, as Blumenherst is still all the way back at T46 (-2), up from T57 after a -1 round. Here's a quick look at where the other rookies are after Saturday's round:
  • Gwaldys Nocera, T75 (+2) down from T67 Friday
  • Beatriz Recari, T23 (-5) down from T5
  • Marianne Skarpnord, T61 (-1) down from T32
  • Pernilla Lindberg, T23 (-5) down from T11
  • Misun Cho, T29 (-4) up from T32
  • Mina Harigae, T75 (+2) down from T43
This shows how competitive it is this week. Recari only lost one stroke (from -6 to -5) yet dropped 18 spots, and Skarpnord lost only 2 strokes (-3 to -1) yet fell 29 spots. Lindberg dropped 12 spots with an even par round! By comparison, the farther back you were, the less difference it made -- Cho gained one stroke, but only moved up 4 spots, while Harigae's +4 round didn't hurt her much more than Skarpnord's +2.

If things hold, Munoz will go into the Open next week with a chance to blow the ROY race wide open. Currently, Blumenherst will get only a few (if any) points, with Recari, Lindberg, and Cho possibly leapfrogging a few names. After this week, there are only 13 LPGA tournaments (2 majors) left and if any of those are limited-field events (I don't know the answer to that question right now), at least half of these struggling rookies may be unable to play, pushing them even further down the list. They need to play well now. Perhaps the Constructivist or HoundDog will shed some light on this in the comments section, as they understand the Priority List much better than I do.

It may not be a big week for the rank-and-file of the LPGA, but the rookies may feel otherwise.