One of our loyal fan diary writers, Fred, checks in from the first round of the Kia Classic.
Fan Diary Kia Classic 3/27/11
WOW! What a day at the Kia Classic! After having to miss Friday and Saturday due to family stuff (my son isn’t into golf and he and his lady were visiting), Joni and I finally made it back out to the tournament. We got there early with the intention of following one of the first groups out to the only par 3 on the front side (#8). For those of you who have read my fan diaries you know that we believe the best way to watch a tournament is to find a spot to sit and watch everyone come through. We were not familiar with the golf course, so we were looking for a place to park and watch.
We followed the third group off the first tee (Christina Kim and Sara Jane Smith of Australia). As usual, Christina was laughing and joking on the tee, and down the fairway. The first hole is a par 5, steeply downhill (about 100’ drop in elevation), with a lake guarding the front. Sara Jane made a great two putt par. The greens at the Pacific Palms Resort are extremely tricky and fast. The greens reminded me a bit of Augusta. Not quite so fast, but every bit as subtle in their breaks and subtleties. Christina three-putted for a bogey, and because she wears her emotions on her sleeve for everyone to see marched to the next tee with a “Don’t mess with me” look on her face. I LOVE THAT. She is so dynamic, and so fan-friendly. You always know how she is playing. Typical of her, by the time she was headed down the second fairway, she and Sara Jane were joking and laughing again.
When we got to the second green we realized we need go no further to have a great view of the action on the front nine. The 7th green was right behind us. So we parked on the hill and settled down to watch the action.
The second hole has to be rated as one of the toughest on the course. 409 yards, slightly downhill, dogleg left into a small bunkered green with multiple levels and tricky spots. The right side of the green, from the fairway viewpoint is no bargain, as there are transverse swales in the green that make any putt across the green very tricky. The left side (where the pin was) was even nastier. Missing left would put the player in a deep grass swale with no green to work with, downhill into the pin. I don’t know who on the tournament committee chose the pin placement, but they must have been angry or hung over when they did because it was NASTY. Any putt of more than 1 foot had at least three different breaks in it.
There were only five ladies in the entire field who solved the riddle and made birdie there. Marcy Hart, who started the day at even and was 8 under at the end of the day, Ai and Mika Miyazato, Cristie Kerr, who I contend is the best putter on the LPGA Tour, and Michelle Wie who hit a brilliant short iron to about 6’ below the hole.
Along with those five birdies there were several brilliant par saves including Silvia Cavalleri and Becky Morgan. Three putts were commonplace and pars were at a premium.
As the ladies came through, those of us who were parked there became more and more appreciative of par as a great score on the hole. It was fun to watch the longer hitters use short irons into the green. This is such an advantage on a hole like this. Brittany (Bam-Bam) Lincicome had nothing more than a 9 iron or wedge into this green, as did Michelle Wie. The accuracy generated by having the length was an obvious advantage. When it was Cristie Kerr’s turn to putt, Joni turned to some folks next to us and said, “No one has made this putt yet, but if I had to bet on someone making, it would be Cristie.” Sure enough, she dropped the putt for one of only two birdies made from outside 10 feet. Michelle Wie, from directly below the hole read the triple wiggle perfectly and made her three.
The finish to the tournament was thrilling to say the least. Na Yeon Choi, last year’s leading money winner made a late charge but fell just short. Jiyai Shin and Sandra Gal battled it out in the final group with Sandra Gal holing a birdie putt on 18 to win by a stroke. We love Jiyai who is one of the most cheerful and fun people on tour and a fierce competitor, but Sandra posted her first ever LPGA tour win. CONGRATULATIONS SANDRA!!!!! Sandra is from Germany, but is not a member of the LET so she will not be competing against the USA team for the Solheim Cup in Ireland this year. Considering how well she played this week, that is probably a good thing for us J…..
A couple of extra shouts out to Marcy Hart who shot 8 under par for the final round to vault into a tie for 5th place. Our friend Katie Futcher played very well all week and notched her first top 20 of the season. Marcy was one of 10 final qualifiers for the Kraft Nabisco Championship in Rancho Mirage next week.
Speaking of the KNC we will see you all there next week!!!!!!
Fairways and Greens,
Fred and Joni
Fan Diary – Kia Classic 3/24/11
The LPGA is in town!!! Kia Classic on the NCGOA Golf Course of the Year at The Pacific Palms Resort. What could be better?
For the first time in a long time, Joni and I had the day off to go to the opening day of a local LPGA event. We normally only make it for the weekend rounds. The fun part of going on the first day is that everyone is there, whereas on the weekend you are only going to see the ladies who made the cut. While we all like to see those who are playing well, getting to see everyone means that you are treated to some great shots even from those who might not make it to the weekend.
In spite of dire predictions from the weatherman, Thursday, while chilly and sometimes a bit windy was not the rainy mess it was predicted to be. However, because of the unseasonable rains throughout the previous week, the ladies were playing “lift, clean and place” in the fairways. While this usually leads to some really low scores, the small greens, extreme elevation changes in the golf course, and the subtlety of the greens themselves kept scores from getting out of hand.
Of course, that didn’t stop Amanda Blumenherst from shooting a 7-under 66 to start the tournament, or Sandra Gal from only trailing by one stroke when the round was over. However, for the vast majority, the combination of weather and course conditions kept everyone at 3-under or less. Amanda hit 15 greens, had 24 putts and basically made everything she looked at, including a birdie on the VERY difficult finishing par 5.
As usual in a full field event, there was a morning and afternoon wave off both the front and back nines. This allowed Joni and me to park ourselves in the stands at # 13 soon after our arrival and get to see the majority of the ladies come through without having to wait for everyone to finish the front nine first.
The 13th is a relatively short downhill par 3 with a subtle green with a false front. The green slopes back to front with several ridges in it. As usual, watching the Golf Channel Telecast after we got home, the camera flattens out the contours on the greens and the subtleties are not apparent. However, sitting next to the green the undulations were obvious. After we had watched several threesomes come through, we could tell from where a tee shot was left whether anyone had any chance at all of making a birdie putt. I don’t know where the hole ranked for the day, but we never saw a birdie there although several ladies managed to get the ball all the way back to the pin and have a run at a deuce.
The most common shot was left short of the flag by about 10 feet and consequently would roll back down into the front of the green leaving a nasty uphill putt with about 18-24” of break. Three feet right of the hole and the putt would die left at the cup. Three feet left of the hole at the same distance below the cup, the putt would die to the right as it slowed. Nasty and hard to read.
There were several great par saves from players going left of the pin into the rough surrounding the green. Anna Nordqvist and Katie Futcher both got up and down from about 8 feet off the green pin high, left.
Katie, of course, has been a friend of ours since we played together in the KNC Pro-Am in 2009. We waited for her at 13 and got a quick hello and followed her through 18. On 15, which is another par 3, this time over a lake, she pulled her tee shot into tall rough left of the green and made a brilliant up and down, sinking a 8 foot putt to save her par.
While Katie is not the only one who does this, it is a pleasure to see her interact with both the fans and the course workers and volunteers. She always says “Thank you” out loud when she is applauded by the fans, and always says “Hello and Thank you” to the course workers, volunteers and marshals on her way around the course. It doesn’t matter if she is playing well or has just come off a double, she is ALWAYS friendly and polite.
As I said, she is not the only one who does this, and this is one of the reasons we are such huge fans of the LPGA. Were I required to list every player on tour who has been gracious, friendly and approachable during my time as an LPGA fan, I would have to include about 98% of the ladies I have ever seen play the game.
As we were standing between the 18th and 14th fairways, we saw Jane Crafter come walking up the other side of 14. We knew then that some of the bigger stars of the tour were on their way up 14. Sure enough, the next group off 14 was Juli Inkster (not only an icon but a really nice lady), Paula Creamer (Juli’s good buddy and a genuine sweetheart in her own right) and Mika Miyazato who was two-under at the time, and has to be playing with a heavy heart considering the horrendous mess that is ongoing in her native Japan. In spite of what she must be feeling, she too, in true LPGA spirit, was smiling and interacting with the fans.
Work is keeping us away from the tournament today, but we are pulling for everyone to play well in spite of the weather. We are looking forward to the weekend, and will report back soon.
Fairways and Greens,
Fred Brattain, Corona, CA