Yeah, yeah, Michelle Wie WDed from the Safeway International because she sprained her wrist practicing out of heavy rough. I say, more power to her for avoiding last year's mistakes. Turning to real women's golf news, the top JLPGA and the top KLPGA golfer are neck-and-neck at -6 with the final six holes being played right now at the Yokohama PRGR Ladies Cup. Sakura Yokomine birdied 2 of her first 5 holes to extend her lead to 2 over Ji-Yai Shin, but bogeyed the 8th and 12th to fall back into a tie with her. Shin has responded with a birdie on the first and 11 straight pars. Even though the leaders are struggling by their standards, there is only one other person under par in the entire field, and time is running out on Kaori Higo, who is 4 back with 5 left to play.
While we wait for the JLPGA site to update, here are highlights of Yokomine's first and second rounds. Along with Shin's first two. Sorry for the dripping rather than streaming video from TV Tokyo--I've found it's better to let it drag on for awhile then go back a bit to make it run more smoothly. No such fix for their taste in highlight reel music, though, unless you just mute it.
Gotta love Yokomine sporting the dark knee-high socks. Combined with the intensity of her expression, I'm reminded of the killer schoolgirl from Kill Bill. Her finish in the first round was even better than I previously noted: not only did it include great birdies on 16 and 18 but a fantastic up-and-down from the back left of the par-3 17th green. She finished strong again on Saturday, as she lagged what looks like an 80-footer to 3 inches on the 17th, keeping her bogey-free round going, and nailed a sliding, slicing 14-foot birdie putt on the 18th for her 5th birdie of the day.
Shin, meanwhile, is swinging great. If she had putted better down the stretch on Friday, she'd be running away with this thing. Although she made what looks like a 6-footer to end her day with a birdie, she missed a tap-in on the 16th for par after sticking a wedge and squandered a great approach shot on the 17th by failing to convert a 10-footer. A missed 7-foot par save on the 17th was the only blemish on her 4-birdie round Saturday, but it allowed Yokomine to take the lead heading into the final round.
Although Shin has only bogeyed 4 of her first 47 holes, two of them have come on the 16th and 17th, so she'd better build a lead before she gets to the final 3 holes...although 17 hasn't been kind to Yokomine either, with two pulls off the tee. I'd say Yokomine has the slight edge coming down the stretch--she's been playing the final holes great, has been putting well all tournament, and has the home-field advantage over Shin. But Shin's swing is more compact and more likely to hold up under pressure than Yokomine's, so could easily match Bo-Bae Song's feat in denying her another victory. We'll have to just wait and (eventually) see what happens!
[Update 1 (4:19 am): It's playoff time! Yokomine birdied 13 to take a 1-shot lead over Shin, but then gave it back on the 14th with a bogey. It looked to be Yokomine's tournament when Shin doubled the 16th, but Yokomine responded with a double of her own on the final hole.]
[Update 2 (4:27 am): It's Shin for the win!]
[Update 3 (4:32 am): Just for Hound Dog, who's promised a JLPGA ranking if he can get the right stats, here's the top of the leaderboard:
T1/-4 Ji-Yai Shin (70-69-73) [won in playoff], Sakura Yokomine (71-67-74)
#3/-1 Kaori Higo (73-70-72)
T4/+1 Miho Koga (73-73-71), Ji-Hee Lee (71-69-77)
T6/+2 Hiromi Mogi (71-76-71), Hiroko Yamaguchi (74-69-75), Yukari Baba (73-70-75)
T9/+3 Shinobu Moromizato (74-74-71), Akiko Fukushima (68-77-74), So-Hee Kim (70-73-76)]
[Update 4 (4:44 am): And for the JLPGA otaku in the house, other notables' finishes:
T15/+5 Bo-Bae Song, Akane Iijima, Yuri Fudoh
T21/+6 Erina Hara, Na Zhang
T33/+8 Hyun-Ju Shin, Shiho Ohyama
T49/+12 Chie Arimura]
[Update 5 (1:34 pm): Amaebirah comes through again with loads of final round video, including clips for each of the 4 playoff holes!]
[Update 6 (3:47 pm): Yokomine missed a short birdie putt on 6 to go 3 up and the air slowly fwooshed out of her game over the next 11 holes, but things went from bad to worse when she missed a tap-in for the win on the 18th--she followed up with a missed 4-footer for birdie to win on the first playoff hole (the 18th), a slightly longer miss on the second (again, on the 18th), and a bit longer one on the third (yup, the 18th again). After lagging her putt on (yes) the 18th 10 feet short, she looked relieved when Shin smashed in a 15-footer for the birdie to win. They played in the rain from the 15th or 16th on, which definitely affected both players' putting. As onechan put it to me, "It's hard to putt in the rain!" True of Yokomine and Shin as well as Tiger....]