Hurricane Bill made life difficult for the players continuing their long, hard slog through the 2009 Futures Tour season in Harrisburg this week. In a Monday finish, Samantha Richdale clinched an LPGA tour card by beating Amanda Mathis in a playoff after both golfers ended the morning at -10, the former by making birdies on 3 of her last 4 holes and the latter by doing the same on 3 of her last 7.
The top 5 golfers on the FT money list get full status on the LPGA, while the next 5 get very low status but a bye into the finals of Q-School to try to improve upon it. #5 Whitney Wade's +2/T34 finish only got her $790, which means that she can be passed for the final assured spot by anyone from #6 to #14 on the money list if she were to miss the cut in Albany the 1st week of September and one or more of them were to win or finish high enough to displace her. But #8 Alison Walshe, #9 Dewi Claire Schreefel, and #10 Pernilla Lindberg will be looking over their shoulders, as well. At under $30K for the season, they're vulnerable to being passed by multiple people, dropping out of the top 10, and having to go through sectional qualifying for Q-School in mid-September or late-September through early-October. If Lindberg were to miss the cut in Albany, a win could vault everyone from #11 through #41 on the money list into the 10th spot or better. But there are so many permutations, it's impossible to predict who will end up in the top 10.
For me, though, the biggest story coming out of Harrisburg today is Mina Harigae losing another lead down the stretch. After birdies on 5 of her 1st 6 holes yesterday vaulted her to -12, she looked like a lock for her 4th win of the season, but a bogey on the 8th before play was stopped due to darkness brought her momentum to a screeching halt. She just didn't have it today, bogeying 14 and 15 to settle for a 38 on the back and a 70 on the round that left her 1 shot out of the playoff. That's gotta hurt. The big question for Harigae fans like me is whether she'll be more like Vicky Hurst or M.J. Hur next year on the LPGA. Hur infamously had trouble on Sundays in contention, while Hurst had one of the most dominant seasons in FT history. This year on the LPGA, Hurst is having a respectable but not breakout campaign thus far; at #53 on the money list and 6th in the Rookie of the Year race, she's doing all right, but her missed cut in Korea this week shows how far she has to go to join the game's elite. Hur is fighting to get into the top 80 (she's about $4500 behind Allison Fouch at #80 right now) and is a non-factor in the ROY race at #10. Since winning her historic battlefield promotion, Harigae's had chances to match Hurst's FT win total. Even though she hasn't done it, she still has improved her scoring average (to 71.03), birdie rate (to 3.38 birdies per round), and percentage of rounds under par (to 56.8%). Bottom line, I'm still not sure what to make of her potential and ability to compete on the global stage that is the LPGA.
[Update 1 (8/26/09, 2:04 am): Check out the very funny on-course observations from Seoul Sisters.com's Carl Spackler. I wouldn't put too much stock in the putting woes he witnessed; getting the speed (and hence line) right on wet greens on a course you don't know very well is one of the toughest challenges in golf.]