Jim W. checks in from the Hana Bank • KOLON Championship.
What a great battle for the championship by three excellent players. Only one bogey on the day for any of the three, and that was Yani on the really difficult par 3 No. 12. A strong afternoon wind was blowing left to right on the hole and several players had their shots pushed way to the right side of the green, either into the rough or into a steep-sided bunker. That hole sealed Yani's fate as did No. 18 for Maria. Oddly enough, today the wind was toward the 18th green. On both Friday and Saturday, it was blowing toward the tee box, and players were well short of the green on their second shots, some as far as 100 yards from the front of the green. So, what a difference a day makes.
The day started out really cold. Overcast skies and a blustery wind greeted us all at the beginning of play. As I stated above, the wind direction was reversed from the previous two days, so all the lessons learned during that time was of no help today. At about noon, the sun started to peek through the overcast, and it began to warm up. By the end of play, it wasn't bad out at all.
There were really a lot of spectators today. I wanted to follow Jiyai and her group, but she is so popular that the size of the crowds changed my mind for me. I did watch her group tee off, and as I was walking toward the tee box I could hear all this cheering going on. When I got up close, I could see Jiyai tossing signed golf balls out to the gallery. What a crowd pleaser. I ended up following Se Ri's group. Se Ri is really striking the ball well these days. Always straight and true of the tee, and with her irons. She wasn't getting the ball close to the pin on her approach shots, and was constantly having to make real long putts. Once she starts being able to get closer, I believe she'll be back to her winning ways.
Crowd control was a problem today. Here in Korea, Marshals are not assigned to every hole. The pairings with the popular players have Marshals accompanying the group all along the course. Even so, spectators pay little attention to quiet signs, and not much attention to the ropes. Near the greens, fans go over, under, and around the ropes - especially if there are big rocks to stand on to get a better view. There are boulders all over the Ocean course, so it was a problem at times.
All in all, this was a great trip for me--in spite of the cold wind and all the rain yesterday. I made some new friends, saw another golf course, and watched a very competitive tournament as it happened. After a good experience such as this was, it makes me hope all the more that the new guy at the LPGA helm can get things back on track so we can all have more of these kinds of enjoyable times. Let's all wish him luck and hope for the best.
First thing I have to do is correct an error. I mentioned the rules lady the other day and gave the wrong name. She's Janet. Sorry for that gaff.
I checked the weather report for the area last night, so I was pretty certain today would be stormy. But, this morning, things didn't look too bad. For the first three hours there was just quite a bit of wind. The rain didn't start until about after the fourth group had finished the front nine. After that, it was really miserable.
The wind was causing problems because of the carry it gave the balls, or the drag it caused when hitting square into it. All in all, the players and caddies had a hard day. Scores tell the story, and if anyone had a chance to watch any of the coverage, things were at least as bad as they looked.
After I'd finished walking the front nine, I was going to just slowly walk the back, letting groups pass so I could get a look at more of the players. Just about halfway up No. 10, the rain started coming down harder and harder. At that time, the wind had almost stopped, but I still thought there might be a rain delay. In just a few minutes my shoes were all soggy and my pants legs were wet, so I headed back to where the vendors and display tents were set up. I had some Kim Bap while I waited. It was only about 11:00 AM at that time. About 13:00 the rain seemed to be stopping, so I went out again to see who was on 18. The respite only lasted about 10 minutes and things got all sloppy again.
So, I only saw about nine holes on the course, but there was TV coverage inside the display tent. I can't really report much on who did what from a personal angle, but looking at some of the scores from yesterday's leaders just hurts.
One thing I can say is that the sponsors have really taken care to make this tournament a success. Things are very well set up for spectators, and I can't even complain about there not being adequate bathroom facilities. There are porta potties here and there, but more than enough real bathrooms.
In the display tent, there is a charity operation going on called "Save the Children". You get tickets for drinks or food and then pay what you want, and all the money collected goes to this charity. Food and beverages are donated by local merchants. So, good job by the organizers.
I also have to comment on the Korean spectators. Even through all that rain, they were out on the course following their favorites. I was only amongst them a few times for a few minutes, and it was kind of a challenge. Umbrellas galore, and since nobody could see where they were going, lots of thumps from said umbrellas to the side of the head was pretty common. A lot of those people were soaked, but still having a great time. I wimped out as I said, and spent most of the afternoon under cover.
Tomorrow is supposed to be cloudy after morning showers, and cooler. Tee times have been set back to later in the day, so I take that to mean the weather will be better as the day goes on. The wind will still be a factor all day long, so we'll see who can hold on the best during the final round.
Day one from Incheon
You couldn't have asked for a better day for golf than today. No wind and warm temperatures made for a very pleasant day.
It takes me three different busses to get to the course, but the last one is the players' bus that loads up where players are staying. From there, it's about 10 minutes to the course. This morning, Sophie Gustafson was sitting in the front seat, and as I got on board, I was able to thank her for giving my granddaughter one of her golf balls last month at the Samsung World Championship. Sophie's got one of the nicest smiles you'll ever want to see.
Today my first stop was the driving range. After picking up a pairing sheet, I headed over to watch the action. Tee times were not until 8:49 this morning, with players going off both No. 1 and No. 10. Only 12 teams on both sides, so things went pretty fast today.
I watched the first group tee off, then went back to the practice area until Angela Park, Vicky Hurst, and Sun Young Yoo started. I hadn't followed Vicky before, and I wanted to see how Angela is coming along, so I got to do both with the one group. Angela's been having troubles of late, but today wasn't that bad. She was striking the ball well, but putts just wouldn't fall for her. Vicky had a great day, so I'm glad I got to see that.
I didn't follow any one group for more than a hole or two. I had a chance to watch Stacy Lewis today for the first time, and enjoyed watching Patty Hurst, Catriona Matthew, and Morgan Pressel. The next group to come along was Se Ri Pak, Juli Inkster, and Candie Kung. A great pairing with two HOF'ers and last year's champ. Candie was another player who had trouble with her putts, and had a long face at the end of the day.
Another pairing I was interested in was Jiyai Shin, Cristie Kerr, and Lorena Ochoa. These are the three who are contending for all sorts of annual awards this year. Jiyai was outstanding all day long, and Cristie was not bad either. On No. 7 Cristie made bogey, but it could have been far worse. Seven is a long par five with the tee box well above the green. The fairway falls away at a rapid clip with the landing area for the first shot a tier a little more than a third of the way down the hill. After that is another steep slope. Everybody has to lay up since the green is guarded on the right by a neck of water that runs midway through the fairway. The flag was tucked just back of the water close to the left edge of the green. Cristie flew the green on her third shot and landed in a deep green side bunker. Her fourth shot just cleared the bunker's edge and her chip from there rolled 20 feet past the cup. She holed that putt for bogey to limit the damage.
As I said in my last entry, this is a good course for spectators. Access to and good views of every hole. What was not so apparent to me was that this course is really steep in some places, and I wore out both knees and both feet today. Even so, I'm loving every minute of it.
One thing that isn't so convenient is that there are only a few standard bearers, so it's not easy to keep up with scores of even the group you're following. I don't know how it's decided who to give standard bearers to, but it seems they go to the more popular players. Today that included Paula Creamer's group, and Lorena, Cristie, and Jiyai's group. The latter group had by far the biggest gallery, but Paula is very popular in Korea, so there were many people trying to get a glimpse of her, too.
Wednesday, Oct. 28th, Incheon, South Korea
After a very long trip from San Diego to Los Angeles, from LA to Incheon, and from Incheon to downtown Seoul, I finally arrived at my hotel at 10:30 PM Korea time--something like 22 hours of travel time, total.
Got up today in time to make the 8:30 AM shuttle back out to the SKY72 Ocean course, which is just off the runway back at the International Air Terminal at Incheon. My plan for today was just to check out the course, chat with any players or caddies willing to do so, and see how tough things are going to be to walk along following this or that group once play begins.
This is a fairly new course, but aside from the hills, not a bad course to walk. The course itself is in pretty decent shape. There is more than one hole where players have to be shuttled between holes due to the steepness of the hills and distance from green to tee box. Greens are huge! Players shouldn't have trouble hitting them, but might be looking at a putt of 100 feet or so if they land on the fringe. Today was quite breezy, with prevailing winds coming from the southwest. I think this is the norm, and will make quite a difference on at least one par three (#17) and a par 5 (#6). On both holes the wind will be blowing right into the players' faces and will require some deliberation on how much more club to use. As the tournament goes on, I'll be giving more detail on the course and individual holes. One other thought about the weather. It's supposed to turn cold and rainy by the final day. I hope anyone who reads this will try hard to envision sunshine and calm conditions in Korea for the rest of the week. The power of positive thinking is what I'm hoping for.
Today was a very low-key day. I think I was the only non-official guy there. On the driving range there was no barrier set up, so I was able to walk out to right behind the players and talk to the ones I know and to a bunch of the caddies. There are only 71 players, so that makes quite a difference on how many are going through a practice round or are on the practice green and driving range. Talked to Christina Kim a little and of course had to mention Dave (cougar2). Everybody knows and appreciates Dave.
During practice rounds, I try to locate the rules people and today I found Janice on the job going about with some of the Korean Officials. Don't know what they were discussing, but I'm sure she's got every thing in ship shape and ready for the start.
I'm taking the day off tomorrow. It's the Pro-Am, and spectators are not really encouraged to attend. Because of the smaller field, when play begins, tee times are a little later than usual, which makes it nice for me because it takes me about two hours to get to the course. I'll be there as early as I can and send back more fan entries starting with Friday's play. I think this is going to be a fun event. It's my fourth trip over here, and I'm always excited and filled with expectations of a very enjoyable experience whenever I come here. On my other trips, the winner has been a Korean, Shi Hyun Ahn, Grace Park, and then Jin Joo Hong. So, maybe that trend will follow again this year. Can't wait to find out.