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Monday, March 31, 2008

 

Safeway International 2008 - Sunday

scored for 2 young women I hadn't heard of, Meredith Duncan ("Dunk" to her caddy) and Angela Park -- I think the scorer's worst nightmare would be to have two Parks or two kims - oh, you would know the difference, but you'd be prone to scoring errors if the names were the same -- or, at least I would, but I'm not that good at scoring, which is a rather mundane activity once you get past the learning curve -- and then again I was on allergy medicine all weekend -- all week, too, if you want to know the truth. Sometimes I was so dizzy I tho't I'd stumble over my own feet, but at least I didn't have a sneezing fit near one of the greens . . . I guess that'd really be the scorer's worst nightmare, wouldn't it?

both young women were long off the tee, but inconsistently . . . I think in the end, that they were both longer than average, but not than each other . . . just depended on what hole . . . they were very accurate, if they did miss the fairway, it was in the short rough and in a good place . . . their iron shots were good, and their short games, too . . . but they just couldn't get in the hole -- in some ways, I think that's always the difference between the leaders and the also-rans, and not, necessarily, something anyone can control -- except maybe Tiger & Lorena, if you know what I mean . . .

in the scoring attempt, they bemusedly contemplated their rounds . . . "Well, at least I broke 80!" said Angela. "I don't know why I play so poorly on this course."

"I tho't you were unlucky," I said, "I've never seen so many lip-outs as today!"

"I've seen 'em all week," said Dunk, "there's something about this course, like a lack of gravity, or something. If you don't hit the hole pure, it ain't goin' in!"

"Well," I said, rubbing my chin, "it could be the Superstitions . . . "

They shrugged and left . . .

I'd love to play this course, now that I've walked it 4 times -- like to match my game against the girls' -- I love how subtle the change in elevations are from tee to green, and then in the green . . . unless you can really stand back and look at the grade, it all looks flat . . . well, #9 is a definite uphill hole and there are some severely elevated greens you'd notice, but even then you might misjudge them . . . sitting on one hole, say, #7, watching player after player miss short putts below the hole, they're clearly mis-reading it by 5 or 6 inches, even after seeing another putt on their line . . .even the 3-tiered greens have no definite levels . . . the back 9 seems definitely easier than the front 9, based on what I've seen, which is weird, because I think the back 9 is also more interesting . . . #1 & #2 heading straight towards the western edge of the Superstitions make an awe-full opening, very dramatic . . . but the series of holes beginning at #13 are really interesting, challenging, and unique . . . both Inkster Saturday and Lorena Sunday birdied #13, 14, 15 . . .

Mrs Cactus came out sunday with Mrs Science. We met up after my round, about noon, and hit the Safeway 19th hole for some free drinks (they'd already been to all the gimme tents by the 1st hole), then we walked out the front nine, backwards, to meet Mr Science walking with Annika. We waited for them at the 7th green. What a great par 5 that is . . . 90% of the players can't reach it in 2, but laying up and trying to get a wedge close is no given, because the green is so tough, sloping hard right-to-left and gently front-to-back . . . and, as I say, the undulations are so gentle & subtle, they are difficult to read . . . in the Sunday position, I didn't see anybody make a putt there more than 4 ft, and saw a bunch of missed 6 & 8 fters.

Mrs Science walked on with Mr Science & Annika, but we waited for Lorena in the last group. What a big crowd it was. Lorena was still only 1 shot in the lead, and she kinda pooched a layup well back from the arroyo, but Jee Young Lee reached the green in 2, leaving an uphill 30ft putt for eagle, but that huge swale from the middle to the front of the green fooled her and she 3 putted. . . Lorena had laid back far enough that she could hit the ball hard enough to really spin it and she was only 8 ft downhill from the hole, but she missed it on the low side like everybody else.

So we tried to follow Lorena in the crowd but it was hard for me -- brings out my agoraphobia, if you see what I mean . . . we did see her tee shot on the par 3 # 8 to the back of the green, above the back pin placement, which she was able to baby in for a birdie while Jee narrowly missed it from 2 feet further on the same line. That hole looks like nothing to me, just barely uphill & flat-looking, even tho' it's long and against the wind, but there were a lot of bogies on that hole both days, that green must be really tough.

We couldn't get into position to see her tee shot on #9, the crowd was too big and the course has a severe bottleneck for spectators there, so we were kinda blowing it off, looking instead for the freebie tents by #1, but we wound up by #9 green with just enough room to see Lorena putting -- babying an almost identical putt as #8 into the hole -- that ball didn't have enough impetus to make another half-turn when it fell into the hole . . . "well," says I, "turn out the lights, the party's over." so we left.

Took an hour to get home, and we flipped on the tv to watch the end of the tournament, just in time to see Lorena baby the putt in on #8, again . . . the video was tape-delayed an hour, so we got to see the whole back 9, which was like a tutorial in front-running . . .I have to believe if anybody had been pressing Lorena, she would have made the 4 birdie putts on the back she missed. . . as it was I was surprised Petterson got within 2, she musta been tearing it up, too . . .

I see in the AZCentral article that a young woman named Allison Fouch made 2 eagles Saturday. C'est Incroyable!



Mr Science Reports:



Another major milestone today, but one that I thought would have been much better than it was: I kept score for Annika.

On Thursday, I had been scheduled to have Annika's group, but the person who drew Lorena and has been scoring at this tournament for 15 years asked to switch, the volunteer coordinator was ordered from above to do it, and I got Lorena instead. I didn't say so before, but I was a little bit disappointed. If I had my choice at the time ... but now, I'm happy it turned out the way it did. No way would I have gotten the final group on Sunday, so this was the only way to get both of them in the same week. They moved my tee time today from 11:21 to 12:01, and I think that must have been because of what happened Thursday.

Annika is shorter and much more petite in person than she looks on TV. The swing is the same, though, very compact, rhythmic, and effortless. She says she never swings more than 60%, and I believe it. No matter what the situation, where other players might have tried to turn it up a notch, she had the same smooth tempo every time.

Annika shot 70 and finished T9, but never really got untracked. She was leaving putts short all day, and hit several irons over the greens, mainly on downwind shots.

The other player in the group was Minea "Minni" Blomqvist, of Finland. This is her third season on the LPGA Tour, and she played two years on the European Tour before that. Prior to today, her career earnings were $162,000, and in her best year, 2007, she made $87,783. Today she shot 67 playing with Annika and about 1,000 of her closest friends, not to mention TV, finished third and made $98,031. Playing the 18th in front of 20,000 or so, she was a nervous wreck. She striped her drive down the middle, drop-kicked a fairway wood to about 50 yards short of the green, then hit a pitch to 4 feet and made the birdie putt. In the scoring tent, she was smiling, crying, and seemed ready to burst.

[I saw her television interview Sunday afternoon, and I have to say she has a great TV presence . . . very endearing and personable - Cactus]

Lorena started with a 1-shot lead, and was even par through 7 (2 birdies 2 bogies), but then birdied 8, 9, 13,14,15 and 18 to shoot 66 today, -22 for a Tournament record, and win by 7. Angela Stanford, who shot 62 on Thursday, had 74 today and finished T4. Brittany Lang had 67 and finished T6. Juli Inkster shot 65, T15. Good comeback. Shanshan shot another 72, T39 and made $7,113.

I watched Natalie tee off on 1 today, and as she walked onto the tee, when the applause subsided, I told her "Be careful reaching into your golf bag today". She turned and laughed.

As Lorena was pulling away from the field, and Minni pulled away from Annika, it occurred to me that I was watching the changing of the guard. Annika will still be competitive, but I don't think she'll be #1 again. When Lorena is done, it will be Shanshan and Minni's cohort who will take over. Still, I thought, I will put Annika's ball in the center of my ball rack, and clear out the space around it. She has been my favorite golfer since the 1995 US Open, her first LPGA Tour win.

But, she didn't give me a ball. Shanshan didn't give me a ball either, but she's a rookie, probably has no sponsors, and has to buy her own balls out of that $7,113 of career earnings. When Annika left the scoring tent it was my biggest disappointment in all the years volunteering on the PGA and LPGA Tours. When one of your heroes doesn't live up to what you think they should be ... not quite "Say it ain't so, Joe", but you expect the best player to have the most class.




Minni's ball will have a place of honor in my ball rack. She signed it "Kiitosy", Finnish for "thank you". Today was truly a coming of age for her.

[I got one ball from Alena Sharp Saturday, during the round, when she was finished with it. It wasn't signed. I don't care. I don't collect them. I don't expect them . . . I gave it to a little girl. Inkster's caddy gave me one also, on 18, just like last year, not signed. I was gonna keep it and play with it, like last year, but Mrs Cactus wants it -- she thinks it will be fun to play with the same ball as a pro, and she's right! If I had gotten a ball from Angela or Dunk Sunday, I just would have given it to Mrs Cactus, too . . . ]

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