For the LPGA Honda Will It Be Anna or Julieta?
From week to week, the upper tier of recent leader boards reflects both recognizable players on tour who perform at a consistent level of excellence, and comparatively new faces that are leading the way in developing the game in their selective countries.
The third round of the Honda was no exception, typical but interesting. For example, there’s a Scandinavian on top at eleven under – but it’s not the Scandinavian we expected – it’s Anna Nordqvist, not Suzann Pettersen. Inbee Park is one back at ten under. That shouldn’t come as any surprise, but Michelle Wie coming in at nine under is a refreshing change, and she’s been doing a lot more of that lately than in previous years. It’s no shock to see Stacy Lewis racing up the board, but we also have Yani Tseng at minus 7. So where has she been – and welcome back.
Catriona Matthews turned in an exemplary 65, and has become part of the final day’s discussion. It always feels good to see a Scot succeeding – it reminds us that the roots are still healthy and prospering. The most interesting presence for me, however, is Julieta Granada of Paraguay, who more than amply proves the point that golf is now the world’s game.
As humans, it is a common reflex to mythologize those we do not understand, which includes mythologizing other cultures. I can see some wheels turning with thoughts of “What, they play golf in Paraguay?”
Well, of course they do, despite the fact that the country only sports eight courses. The Golf Club in Asuncion is said to be of quite good quality, and reviews from North American and European visitors are generally complimentary, although we are warned about “the wildlife, especially the caymans (wee alligators).” I was sorry to hear that, as it hits on all my tiresome “dangerous animals on golf courses” buttons.
Regardless of the reptilian presence on the home courses, this week’s leader board clearly demonstrates that Paraguay has produced a fine player. Born in 1982 in Asuncion, Granada moved to the United States with her family, where she entered a golf academy. From there, she was AJGA Player of the Year, won the U.S. Girls Championship, and turned pro at the age of eighteen. With total career earnings of over three million, it is interesting that one third of that figure came from her victory in one event, the LPGA Playoffs, in which she triumphed over Lorena Ochoa. Since turning pro in 2005, she has made approximately 65% of the cuts in the first third of her career, about a third to a half during the middle years, and back to 65% for the latter third. Her scoring average is 70.88.
So, what’s it to be? Will we have a Paraguayan champion by tomorrow evening? Will Tseng recapture her former greatness? Will Anna persevere after three excellent rounds, or will the more distinguished Norwegians and Swedes return to form in time to stop her? Is Stacy Lewis ready to quit the second place business, or will Michelle Wie put together the Sunday of a lifetime? Or, will it fall to someone else, someone from the five to six under players who seem to be out of contention, but really aren’t?
The Honda, like all tournaments on tour, can go a thousand different directions with a misguided putt, bunker mishap or birdie binge – that’s the fun part. Still, I think, Julieta Granada might be the most interesting story to watch this Sunday, and least it seems that way talking about it the night before.