Lorena Ochoa Match Play: Who’s in, who’s out?

Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /

The Lorena Ochoa Match Play advances to the Round of 16 – who’s still standing?

The Lorena Ochoa Match Play Round of 32 had a few more surprises – it’s match play, after all, a format revival on the LPGA Tour. The power conventions that govern stroke play – who’s longest and straightest off the tee, who gets out of trouble and back into position with the least drama, who’s able to take control of the putting surface – often take a back seat to more nuanced considerations.

Knowing when to play the safe shot and when to take the risk, based as much on your opponent’s position as your own self-assessment of skill, can take a match in a decisive direction, particularly between players who are more or less equal in standard golf skill stats.

The best match play competitors come to the game with a lust for blood, a killer instinct that can overwhelm their opponent.  Yet, as Suzann Pettersen would likely explain, even a player well-equipped with a sharply honed killer instinct and deep match play tactical experience, cannot counter the vagaries of the game. Pettersen lost a 20-hole battle against MJ Hur when Hur eagled the par-5 playoff hole that Pettersen birdied.

The Pettersen-Hur match wasn’t the only one that went into overtime during the Round of 32. American Sydney Clanton, who’s ranked No. 218, prevailed over 50th ranked Caroline Masson, who played brilliantly for the Europeans at the 2015 Solheim Cup. The pair went to the par-4 19th hole all square. Clanton made par, Masson bogeyed, uncharacteristically for the cool-handed, experienced German match player.

Nothing in the Round of 32, however, could equal the marathon battle between China’s Shanshan Feng and Aussie Sarah Jane Smith that went on, and on, and on for 24 holes before Feng was able to claim victory.  On the surface is was a very unbalanced match. Rolex ranked no. 7 Feng has earned 19 pro victories worldwide, including the 2012 Women’s PGA Championship. Smith, who’s ranked 50th by Rolex and has very little experience competing in match play, is still on the hunt for her first LPGA win. But today Sarah Jane Smith did battle with a titian and almost won!

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Captain Inkster probably groaned as Pernilla Lindberg bested Brittany Lang 4 and 3 and Captain Sorenstam probably grinned and enjoyed the 21 hole battle between two of Team Europe’s brightest Solheim Cup stars, Carlota Cignada and Karine Icher, who claimed victory with a birdie putt at the end.

Angela Stanford, Michelle Wie, and Charley Hull all sharpened their match play skills on their opponents today. Stanford bested Inbee Park 3 and 2 and Wie finished off Laura Gonzalez Escallon with the same score. Pornanong Phatlum gave Charley Hull a good fight but in the end Hull claimed a 2 and 1 win.

It’s absolutely no surprise that Cristie Kerr, Ariya Jutanugarn, and Lydia Ko are advancing to the Round of 16 but keep your eye on American rookie Angel Yin, who dispensed rather handily with Japan’s Ayako Uehara 4 and 3. Yin will now face Germany’s Sandra Gal, another of Team Europe’s likely Solheim Cup stars this year, at 8:30 am CT Saturday morning.

Next: Lorena Ochoa Match Play round of 64 surprises and disappointments

On to the Round of 16. Lydia Ko and MJ Hur will lead off at 7:30am CT.  The bracket quarterfinals will follow after lunch.