Can We Still Have a Shootout at the LPGA Lotte?
When we got into the third round of the LPGA Lotte Championship today, I got the feeling that we were going to be treated to a photo finish tomorrow, but Angela Stanfordâ€™s game just wouldnâ€™t come apart at the seams, and no one could go on a crazed birdie string to catch up.
Angela Stanford is one of the names on the tour who has been there a while. Iâ€™ve seen it a thousand times and said â€œOh yeah, I know who that is,â€ but I really didnâ€™t. Born in â€™77, sheâ€™s in that perfect age for having game to spare and the experience and maturity to stay disciplined. Sheâ€™s in the sweet spot of her career, and this week, sheâ€™s putting it all together.
Stanfordâ€™s also from Texas, and there have been an awful lot of Texans winning things lately. If she has another day like today, we should probably count her as the next one. I didnâ€™t know that, as a junior, she won about everything itâ€™s possible to win, a lot of them several times. I didnâ€™t know that she won nine college tournaments for the Horned Frogs of Texas Christian University, or that she was a Curtis Cup competitor in 2000. Likewise, I didnâ€™t remember that she had won the Shop-Rite Classic in â€™03, won the Bell Micro, the Lorena Ochoa Invitational and the HSBC Womenâ€™s Championship. So, where have I been all this time â€“ my bad, wonâ€™t happen again.
The way it was shaping up this afternoon, I was sure that Stanford and Michelle Wie would be neck and neck heading into the final round, but Michelle let one slip on the final hole, and Stanford had some breaks fall the right way. In short, the putts were falling.
Michelle, I thought, was in a perfect position to take this tournament. Sheâ€™s been playing extremely well and consistently for weeks and weeks, but sheâ€™s putting together four excellent rounds, and apparently, thatâ€™s not enough. She needs to put in three excellent rounds, and one great one with this field. I believe that, sooner or later, sheâ€™ll do just that, but in letting Stanford get some distance, she has a four-stroke deficit to make up. Sheâ€™ll have to contend with some other challengers a well. It would be a good time for one of those mid or low 60s kind of days. I know they donâ€™t just hand rounds like that out, but just sayingâ€¦
Stanford knows that the entire state of Hawaii will be in the native daughterâ€™s corner tomorrow, but I donâ€™t get the idea that it bothers her very much. The two have played together quite a bit, and even at the top of the leaderboard and a huge check at stake, they seem comfortable with that.
The only thing about this particular tournament is that the winner typically demonstrates some sort of improvisational hula dance after putting out on eighteen. The hula just doesnâ€™t seem like a Texan thing to do, but maybe Stanfordâ€™s been working on it with the rest of her game. If it comes down to a draw, I suspect that Wie has the greater experience, and probably can hula with anyone on the tour. But, sheâ€™ll have to sink some putts first.
A propos to that, Stanford set the strategy for tomorrow in â€œstaying patient and cashing in on some putts.â€ I have no doubt that Michelle Wie is thinking the very same thing. Her whole recent strategy to golf and life seems to have included an adoption of patience, and itâ€™s going to pay off big one of these weeks.
For tomorrow at the LPGA Lotte, though, I wish the distance between the leader and the immediate challengers could have been narrower. I havenâ€™t seen a really great shoot-out for a while.