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Friday, April 1, 2011

The LPGA Is HOT... Literally!

First, let's get April Fool's Day out of the way. Here's Soul Asylum performing -- you guessed it -- "April Fool":



Now on to the golf... ;-D

When I say the LPGA was hot Thursday, I mean it -- local firefighters treated over 30 people for heat exhaustion. The temperature reached 101°F and the tour gave caddies permission in the middle of the round to take their caddy bibs off! It certainly appeared the morning wave had the best of it, but the eventual leaders came from the afternoon.

Conditions were right on the edge of playability in the first round. Jerry Foltz said in the first broadcast that officials told him they were shooting for a stimp of 13, but they already appeared to be that fast to him. By the time the second wave hit the course, the greens were downright hard. Foltz said he heard one ball land on the green from 200 yards out. (That shot was televised, and it was loud when it hit.) By the end of the day, they were already doing some light watering to the greens.

Here's the Top 9 at the end of play, complete with their Rolex Ranking:
  • T1 (-6): Brittany Lincicome (18), Stacy Lewis (28)
  • T3 (-5): Sandra Gal (44), Mika Miyazato (21)
  • T5 (-4): Chie Arimura (16), Jane Park (207)
  • T7 (-3): Reilley Rankin (216), Karrie Webb (8), Anna Nordqvist (19)
As you can see, most of these players aren't really surprises except Jane Park and Reilley Rankin. (I'm not even sure how they qualified to play with those world rankings. Money list, perhaps?) Gal is still playing well off her win at the Kia last week, and Stacy Lewis has a record of playing well in majors. Rankin has been struggling for the last few years (I don't know if that's injury-related or not), so her showing is definitely unexpected.

But Jane Park's play was a pleasant surprise. Park has struggled with back issues, and it looks to me as if she has reduced her shoulder turn to ease the pain. She certainly played as if she felt ok. The baked-out conditions on the course also made it easier to hit a decent-length drive. And while she only hit 10 greens, the only player capable of stopping shots on any of the greens seemed to be Brittany Lincicome... and she was swinging really hard to do it!

Gal was paired with defending champ Yani Tseng, who's at T10 (-2) along with Morgan Pressel. Ai Miyazato finished at T18 (-1); Jiyai Shin, Paula Creamer, Juli Inkster, and Na Yeon Choi ended up at T41 (+1); and Michelle Wie's at T54 (+2). Three-putts appeared to be the biggest culprit; several of these players were well under par until the greens hardened up.

The big shocker was Cristie Kerr's T101 (+6) finish. For whatever reason, she just seemed out-of-sorts. Kerr has a habit of putting too much pressure on herself and, barring an incredible round today, she may have shot herself out of this major.

Overall, I have to give Golf Channel high marks for the coverage. They've set up cameras on the front nine this year, so we got to see a lot of play on both sides for a change. They're providing 20 hours of live coverage, and the crew they assembled for it is pretty good. ESPN has used Terry Gannon and Judy Rankin a lot, so GC kept the two as their main team, and the on-course commentators are ones who cover the LPGA regularly and the players talk freely to them. My one complaint would be that Rich Lerner is not as good doing after-round interviews; he's much better doing special segments a la Jimmy Roberts.

For a change, GC cut the European and PGA coverage in favor of the LPGA. That in itself is worth a shout-out!

In addition, players went off in twosomes on both sides, so play moved along fairly well.

If you didn't catch any of the coverage, there's another 6 hours today... ALL LIVE. The first three hours start at noon, and the second three at 6:30pm on GC.

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