Strange day at Kingsmill, with more weirdness on tap

Poor close spoils potential epic round for Laura Davies

JAMES CITY — Golf's status as our most peculiar and cruel sporting endeavor was on full display Friday at the Kingsmill Championship. And buckle up, my friends, because the craziness may shift into overdrive Saturday.

Remember Laura Davies? Less than a year removed from World Golf Hall of Fame induction, she hasn't won a LPGA Tour event in 15 years and is an irrelevant 246th in the world rankings. Yet there she was late in her round at 7-under-par for the day, 6-under for the tournament and a stroke off the lead.

Davies, 52, Dame Laura in her native England, had birdied four consecutive holes, eight on her round. She was dusting players less than half her age, including the teenagers who rule the sport these days.

Envisioning senior moments such as Tom Watson contending at the 2009 British Open at age 59, Golf Channel cameras shadowed Davies, as did several of us keyboard jockeys. Alas …

Davies, who looked to be en route to her best Tour score since a 65 in 2009, finished bogey, par, bogey, double-bogey for a 3-under 68. She's five back of So Yeon Ryu's 7-under lead and after signing her scorecard headed directly to the parking lot adjacent to the ninth green, which she'd just 3-jacked.

Remember Alison Lee? She led this tournament after 36 holes last season and finished third at 12-under-par, the highlight of an outstanding rookie year that included six top 10s.

Friday she shot a 12-over 83 that included three double-bogeys and a triple. Her 20-over aggregate for two rounds was the worst among the 144 competitors.

Not to pick on Lee and Davies. Golf humbles all who tee it up. The only questions are how often and to what degree.

Remember Yani Tseng? She was the LPGA's Player of the Year in 2010 and '11 and spent 109 consecutive weeks atop the world rankings. Friday her approach to the par-4 ninth hole not only flew the green but also landed in the bleachers — on the top row, no less.

A Kingsmill runner-up in 2014, Tseng missed the cut here for the second straight season.

Arguably the most surprising casualty was Angela Stanford. Yes, she'd missed three previous cuts this season and ranks a modest 61st in the world. But Stanford was the only player to have competed and made the cut in the previous 11 LPGA tournaments at Kingsmill.

Also unusual was the sight of sisters on a River Course leaderboard. Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn are attempting to join the Sorenstams, Charlotta and Hall of Famer Annika, as the only siblings to win LPGA Tour events, and both are within striking distance.

Two weeks after earning her first Tour victory, the first by a player from Thailand, Ariya is three shots back. Moriya, a year older at 21, is four behind, despite a late double-bogey.

Both Jutanugarns, leaders of a promising group of Thai golfers on Tour, finished among the top 15 at last month's Lotte Championship, but they'll have to go some to approach the drama the Sorenstams provided at the 2000 Standard Register Ping.

The sisters were tied with Karrie Webb entering the final round, and Charlotta prevailed by two shots for her first, and only, LPGA victory. Annika, the older by two years, cried tears of joy, and listening to Ariya, you sense she'd do the same if Moriya won.

This wouldn't be Serena and Venus dueling on Centre Court, mind you, but sibling rivalries are always intriguing.

"It's going to be so much fun if we have a chance to play together (on the weekend)," Ariya said.

Ah, the weekend. Last year's final round included a two-hour rain delay, and if Saturday's forecast is remotely accurate, we're in for much longer interruptions.

So there's no telling what kind of weather-induced weirdness awaits.

"It's just going to be a long weekend," Stacy Lewis said after a 66 propelled her to within a shot of the lead. "You get ready for that. You get ready for delays and playing in the wet, and this golf course is going to get even harder. You just kind of mentally prepare for it and know it's going to happen, and if it doesn't, that's a great thing."

Lewis won 11 tournaments from 2011-14, including two majors, and views trying conditions as an advantage.

"It's going to separate the field," she said. "Some people are going to see the rain and be frustrated by it and they're not going to play well. But if you see it as a challenge and see it as an opportunity to move up the leaderboard, then you're going to play well in it. …

"I look at a couple years ago in Atlantic City, it was super windy, just horrible conditions, and Karrie Webb was up on the leaderboard, and I wasn't in there, I was playing earlier, and I said, 'Karrie is going to win, because she's mentally better than anybody else on that leaderboard.' And she did. It's just more of a mental test than anything."

David Teel can be reached at 757-247-4636 or by email at dteel@dailypress.com. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/teeltime and follow him at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP.

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