Well, it wasn't Momoko Ueda but Sakura Yokomine who stopped Mi-Jeong Jeon's record-breaking JLPGA victory streak at 3 this weekend in the Chukyo Open. Given the terrible state of golf reporting in the U.S., there's no way to determine how Ueda finished from any of the major golf sites, but then, Ryo Ishikawa's history-making win has gotten no attention from them either, except for a brief story at CBS Sportsline. I will give them some credit, though, for knowing how to cover a two-person showdown at the Sybase Classic (not that that's such an accomplishment). But of course Ryuji Imada and Troy Matteson are getting top billing (even though there are 10 guys chasing them within 5 shots of Imada with many holes left to play) over at the AT&T Classic. For a real face-off, Clifton, NJ, is the place to be.
And after the leaders there have gotten through the 11th, Lorena Ochoa holds a two-shot lead on Sarah Lee, thanks to four birdies in her past 7 holes and Lee's first over-par 9 of the tournament, a 37 on the front. With the tough 12th ahead of them and a final 6 holes that Ochoa has played better than anyone in the field, it's looking like the Mostly Harmless Crystal Ball may be wrong again.
Brittany Lincicome and Karrie Webb are leaders in the clubhouse at -4, but the real round of the day belongs to Se Ri Pak, who's gotten to -9 and in the thick of the race for third by making 3 birdies and no bogeys on each side thus far. With three holes ahead of her, Pak has a chance to match or surpass the course record Lee set yesterday, but even that may not be good enough to hold off Kate Golden, Sherri Steinhauer, or the charging Juli Inkster, who is three-under through 14--they are all one shot behind her with more holes left to play. The rookie race is heating up, too. In-Kyung Kim is having a bad day but at -3 is one shot ahead of Jane Park and Angela Park (thanks to her double bogey-bogey run on 14 and 15), and one behind Na On Min. Hot play by Brittany Lang (-5 through 16 today, thanks in part to an eagle on 10) and steady play by Morgan Pressel (-1 through 17) has opened up a four-shot lead for Lang in the Super Soph race, with a good chance to card a top-5 finish (she is also 1 behind Pak).
[Update 1 (4:47 am): Ochoa and Lee both parred the tough 12th along with the 13th. The 14th is another difficult hole--I've seen some big numbers there this week. Laura Davies just posted the second-lowest (for now) round of the day, a 69, to garner leader-in-the-clubhouse honors at -5. But with Pak at -6 through 17, Lincicome -5 through 17, and Inkster -3 through 15 on the day, neither her lead in the tournament nor place among the best rounds of the day will stand for long. Min finished at -4, two shots ahead of Jane Park; Kim and Angela Park are both two shots behind Min and not playing well lately--looks like she'll join Lang in moral victory land.]
[Update 2 (5:14 am): Ochoa and Lee matched pars on the tough 14th. In-Kyung Kim is one behind Na On Min with the par-5 18th left to play--a birdie would not only tie her for top rookie honors but get her into a tie for 11th place a -4. Even though Pak (66) failed to follow up her bogey on the 17th with a birdie on the 18th, tie the course record, and finish at double digits under par, it looks like she has 3rd sewn up, as Lang (67) couldn't catch her and everyone else still on the course chasing her is not playing well lately. Speaking of which, there have been some huge disappointments for prominent Korean golfers this week: Jimin Kang's 79 today dropped her all the way to +5 (T43); Christina Kim's 78 was almost as costly, bringing her back to +4 (T38); Meena Lee's 73 and Seon Hwa Lee's 71 look good by comparison, though at +3 (T31) they can't be happy with their finishing behind 8 fellow golfers from the Korean diaspora this week. With the injuries recently afflicting some of the top Korean performers this year--Mi Hyun Kim and Jee Young Lee are out with injuries and Kyeong Bae played hurt (and paid for it with a +11, 63rd-place finish)--their rounds today must be especially disappointing. At least they haven't been featured in the major golf media as saying they feel a win is around the corner, as Natalie Gulbis (73, -2, T17) has. I'm glad she's feeling confident, but with the bad stretch she's playing her way through not yet over, I'd let my clubs do my talking for me until I actually get in contention a few times.]
[Update 3 (5:26 am): Time to review that 100-yen Nishijin crystal ball I bought, in terms of my top-20 predictions. OK, so Kim and Lee withdrew, Granada and Dunn missed the cut, and Francella and Matthew flamed out after good first rounds. But the other 10 people I called--even Helen Alfredsson--got top 20s this week. For the Mostly Harmless Crystal Ball, that's some fine predictin'. Sarah Lee needs to make a move on the last three holes for yesterday's prediction to come true, though--she's still two behind Ochoa.]
[Update 4 (5:36 am): Lee is two back with two to play. Kim could not catch Min in the rookie race. With the Women's British Open at St. Andrews a few months away, it looks like Suzann Pettersen, Laura Davies, and Sherri Steinhauer will be favorites. Even though they played a bit unevenly this week, they all managed top 10s. Not quite a British Invasion, but not bad, either, especially when you consider that Lee was born in England.]
[Update 5 (5:41 am): Looks like Ochoa--two up with only the par-5 18th to play, and Lee is not long enough to reach it in two, I believe. Imada has a 2-shot lead on Matteson and Zach Johnson (the only person on the top 10 in the PGA money list still in the tournament--Charles Howell missed the cut, or pulled a Granada, as we say here in LPGA land) with 5 to play. Would be a great week for young Japanese golfers if he can pull this off.]
[Update 6 (6:07 am): Ochoa it is. When you consider she never was above 68 all tournament, finished 3 strokes ahead of one of the hottest golfers of the past month having a career-best week, 9 strokes ahead of hall-of-famer-to-be Se Ri Pak, who had her best tournament of the year, 10 shots ahead of hall-of-famer Juli Inkster who played pretty damn well, and 14 shots ahead of the people at the bottom of the top 15, defending the first LPGA title since Sorenstam did it awhile back in the process, you can see why she's the world #1 and is likely to stay that way for a good long while. Wow. Meanwhile, Johnson has caught Imada, with Matteson only 1 back. He's two holes ahead of them, so he'd better get to -15 to put some pressure on them.]
[Update 7 (10:53 am): Ah, Johnson beat Imada in a playoff, putting him in Charles Howell-Vijay Singh territory on the money list. It'll be interesting to see how the Japanese media covers Ishikawa, Imada, and Yokomine (I predict it'll be in that order of emphasis).]