The leaderboard of the Nichirei PGM Ladies is packed with big names and more than a few surprises. 18th-ranked Yuko Mitsuka continues the momentum from her strong final-round 67 in the Suntory Ladies Open last week with a bogey-free 66 today, thanks in part to an eagle on the par-5 5th hole. Right behind her is young gun Ritsuko Ryu, whose 67 included 7 birdies. But they have a lot of company; with a few groups still on the course, there are 12 other players at -3 or better:
1st/-6 Mitsuka (66)
2nd/-5 Ryu (67)
T3/-4 Esther Lee, Namika Omata, Yun-Joo Jeong, Iyoko Wada, Itsumi Okada (68)
T8/-3 Shinobu Moromizato, Hyun-Ju Shin, Ya-Huei Lu, Yuka Irie, Eun-Hye Lee, Ji-Yeon Han, Noriko Aso (69)
Han birdied 4 in a row on the front while Okada birdied 3 of the 4 in that same stretch and capped it off with a birdie on her final hole, the 9th; both tied Mitsuka and Ryu for the low score of the front with their 32s.
A bevy of JLPGA stars and young guns are lurking, but with 3 experienced players and 2 young guns with hot hands in the top 10, they have a lot of ground to make up:
T15/-2 Ayako Uehara, Hiroko Yamaguchi (70)
T20/-1 Akiko Fukushima, Shiho Oyama (71)
T27/E Yukari Baba, Akane Iijima, Hiromi Mogi (72)
T36/+1 Ji-Hee Lee, Mi-Jeong Jeon, Eun-A Lim, Erina Hara, Michiko Hattori, Chie Arimura, Yun-Jye Wei (73)
T51/+2 Miki Saiki, Bo-Bae Song (74)
T66/+3 Maiko Wakabayashi (75)
T77/+4 Yuki Ichinose (76)
Clearly, it wasn't all fun and games out there today, despite the large number of sub-70 scores. Moromizato came back from a double bogey on the par-3 15th (which erased her birdies on the previous 2 holes) with a birdie on the 17th; Lu's 69 also included a late double bogey, this one on the par-4 14th, while it was the par-4 9th that got Hara (which is still better than Wei--she tripled it); Oyama came back from 2 double bogeys, first on the par-5 2nd and next on the par-5 13th (the latter of which also got Fukushima). Song finished bogey-double to cap off a disappointing back 9 on which she made 3 birdies and 2 other bogeys, while Iijima erased two back-side birdies with consecutive closing bogeys.
It'll be interesting to see if the big names can avoid the big numbers on the weekend and whether the relatively unheralded players at -4 or better can stay ahead of them if they do.