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Thursday, March 16, 2006


LPGA Safeway International - Thursday

This week, Mr. Science is scoring at the Safeway Open at Superstition Mountain Golf Club. . . just what exactly that entails we shall see . . .


I was walking scorer today for Hee Jung Park (formerly known as Gloria), current British Open Champion Karen Stupples, and Karine Icher. Hee Jung is Korean, Karen is from the UK, and Karine is Swiss. Truly an International group. 50 of the top 50 on the 2005 LPGA money list are in the field.

Karine spoke French to her caddy (I think it was her husband) and they kept to themselves most of the time. Karen was very chatty and friendly, and shot 67. Maybe that helped. She hits the ball a mile, consistently 40 yards past the other two, and was on 3 of the par 5's in two. After making a pit stop, she told my standard-bearer she had seen her "nip off" and was glad to see that there was a restroom. Karine asked her if she was looking for a cactus, and Karen said "there are no cactus big enough to hide my backside". Actually, of all the people I know who can hit a golf ball 300 yards, she has one of the smallest backsides.

There was one time that Karine drove it past Karen, by about 5 yards. When Karen hit hers 260 right down the middle, she complained that she had "throated" it. Her caddy assured her it was OK, but she still didn't like it. I said the only thing wrong was that it was too close to the center of the fairway. She laughed.

Hee Jung's family was following the group, and on one tee Karen was eating a snack bar, and, looking at Hee's relatives, pointed to the snack bar, to Hee, and to her biceps. Walking down the fairway, I asked her what the bar was (then forgot the name of it -- it has lots of fiber, she said, and chocolate chips) and if I ate them would I be able to hit 280-yard drives, and she assured me that was her secret, and it would work for me, too. And I always thought it had something to do with gyms and weights, or hitting the ball in the middle of the clubface. Now I know the secret, if I coul
d only remember the name of the thing...

Hee Jung was first to arrive on the tee, and came over and introduced herself. When Karine arrived, she pointed at the standard-bearer's sign, looked at Hee Jung, and asked her "Is that you?" She had been going by Gloria all these years just because it is easier in English, and just now is switching to her Korean name. The LPGA computer still showed her on the leader board (she was -3 for a while, but shot 71) as Park, Gl (Park, Gr is Grace). There are three Parks in the field, 4 Lees and 6 Kims. Sarah Lee (I kid you not) had an ace on 17, and is tied for first at -7.

Annika was 3 groups behind us, so I didn't see her at all. Karrie Webb was in the group right behind us. We played in the morning, and in the afternoon, in consecutive groups, were Paula Creamer, Natalie Gulbis, Brittany Lang, and Morgan Pressel. I watched them play 8, 12, and 15, and watched Natalie on 18. One of the girls in Brittany's group had an 8 on 15, hit her drive in the desert (lateral hazard) and had to go back to the tee. It looked like she had made a 6, but she must have done something wrong in the desert for 2 more. So, their group was not on the 18th tee (a par 5) when Natalie finished, so that was when I headed home.

What they say is true, "These Girls Rock". They don't have the short game that the men do, though. We had 2 chip-ins in our group, but I saw a lot of putts from inside 10 feet that missed, and some from inside 3 feet. Lots of 4-foot par putts, too, but they made most of those. They make lots of pars. I saw 14 pars on the first 5 holes.

They had lots of trouble reading the greens, I think. I sure did. I saw a lot of putts that I thought broke uphill, uphill putts that kept rolling, and downhill putts that were hit hard but stopped quickly. People were talking about grain, and the mountains. I think it was the mountains, everything broke away from the Superstition Mountains.

On the PGA Tour now they have lasers that pinpoint every shot, and the walking scorers have palm pilots to enter the scores and stats. The LPGA does it with pencil and paper, like the PGA did before Shotlink. They record driving distance on only two holes, measured with yardage markers on the edge of the fairway. It's more fun the old way, I think.

They do stats differently, too. If your first putt rolls off the green, the next stroke is not a putt. On the PGA Tour, once you're on the green, all the rest are putts no matter where you hit from. If you get up and down from a greenside bunker it's a sand save, no matter what your score is. That may be the same on the PGA Tour, I don't know, but you don't get 50 cents for it in a $2 nassau unless it's par or better.

Tomorrow afternoon I have Mikaela Parmlid and Karin Sjodin, both from Gothenburg, Sweden, and Becky Morgan from Monmouth, Wales.

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