Momoko Ueda of Japan has attracted a gallery of photographers and has merited the attention. Her 67 yesterday left her in a tie for second with three other golfers.
Kerr in position to challenge Sorenstam for SBS title
Annika Sorenstam might be the logical choice to win today's SBS Open. After all, she's tied for the lead with little-known Erica Blasberg, has already won twice in Hawaii and has closed the deal 66.67 percent of the time in tournaments where she had or shared the lead going into the final 18 holes.
But if you want to take a shot on somebody else in today's final round of the first full-field event on the LPGA Tour, you might put a little change on Cristie Kerr. Paired with Sorenstam yesterday, Kerr shot a 3-under 69 to finish one shot off the lead at 6-under 138.
While she missed the cut last year with a second-round 78, she tied for second with Michelle Wie in 2005, finishing two shots behind Jennifer Rosales, and tied for eighth in 2006. After her close finish in 2005, Kerr feels like the Arnold Palmer-designed course owes her one.
"I've always liked Turtle Bay very much -- the golf course and the area," Kerr said. "A couple of years ago, I had a putt lip out at the 17th hole and that would have tied it. So I still have that taste in my mouth and I want to try to win tomorrow if everything goes my way."
Although not a lot of things went Kerr's way last year, she did make the most of her only win. She captured the 2007 U.S. Women's Open, the first major of her career. Was it life changing?
"It changed it dramatically," Kerr said. "Last year I really didn't play all that well. I had a lot of stuff going on. I just got married, I bought a house. I got a dog. A lot of stuff going on around that. My one goal last year was to win a major and win the U.S. Open because that's a tournament I always wanted to win.
"Its kind of weird. It's like you wished for it. You asked for it. And then you get it. And then you have to sacrifice so much to be able to get it. You know, I'm just going to fill the tank slow this year. My goal is to play a little more consistently. And I've gotten off to a good start so far."
Having 21-year-old Japanese star Momoko Ueda in the field this week isn't quite as big as Ai Miyazato's debut in 2006, but she still has two dozen or so photographers following her every swing.
So far, it's been a very good first tour of duty for Ueda, who earned her tour card by winning the Mizuno Classic on the LPGA Tour of Japan last year, becoming the 16th non-LPGA member to capture an LPGA event.
This week, she opened with a 71 on Thursday and came back with a stellar 67 yesterday to find herself in a tie for second with Kerr, Laura Diaz and Jane Park. How did she account for her 5-under second round?
"I think the thing was that I was able to switch my gears quite quickly," Ueda said with the help of a translator. "And the other thing was that I think my course management worked out really well."
Ueda turned pro in 2005. She has played in five LPGA events, making the cut in all of them. She has earned $326,992 on tour and is comfortable competing at this level. How does she compare herself to Miyazato?
"I have very high respect for Ai," Ueda said. "Of course, she inspires me. When I was still a student, she had already been playing professional golf. She had started playing on the LPGA two years earlier than I did. And, of course, she's improved on her English and she's studied really hard and in that sense, not only is she good at the golf course, but she's also giving her best to study English."
Inside the numbers
Two golfers went in opposite directions yesterday.
Angela Park was tied for 88th at the end of the first round with a 75. She improved by 10 shots yesterday with eight birdies and one bogey to shoot a blistering 7-under 65 and move up 80 spots to a tie for eighth at 4-under 140 for the tournament.
First-round leader Kelli Kuehne wasn't as fortunate. She opened with a five-under 67 on Thursday, but dropped to a tie for 57th with a seven-over 79 yesterday, barely making the cut at plus-2 146.
The hardest hole yesterday was the par-4 17th. There were 13 birdies, 76 pars, 40 bogeys, nine double bogeys and one triple by Caroline Llano. The easiest hole was the par-5 third at 4.784. There was one eagle by Na Yeon, and 41 birdies, 86 pars, nine bogeys and two double bogeys.