Chie Arimura (-10) has jumped out to a 3-shot lead on first-round leader Yuko Mitsuka at the Promise Ladies JLPGA event, thanks to her own bogey-free 67 and Mitsuka's final-hole double bogey, which dropped her back to 72, the worst score of anyone in the top 10. Arimura has been playing solidly in recent weeks--5 top 20s in the last 6 events, including 2 top 10s, her only under-par finishes of the season--so the odds are against Mitsuka in her bid to become the JLPGA's first repeat winner of 2008. Even more formidable is the resurgence of slumping legend Yuri Fudoh, who eagled the par-4 3rd hole on her way to a 69 that also brought her to -7. And don't count out Esther Lee, who's been one of the hottest players on tour lately, with 3 top 5s in the last 4 events, and who shot the best round of the day Saturday, a bogey-free 66. She's also at -7, 3 shots behind Arimura.
Here's how the leaderboard stands heading into Sunday's decisive round:
1st/-10 Arimura (67-67)
T2/-7 Lee (71-66), Fudoh (68-69), Mitsuka (65-72)
T5/-6 Kuniko Maeda (71-67), Maiko Wakabayashi (69-69), Tomoko Kusakabe (68-70)
T8/-5 Shiho Oyama (70-69), Erina Hara (70-69), Shinobu Moromizato (69-70)
Maeda's 32 on the back, in which she made an eagle and 2 birdies, was tied for the lowest of the day on that side, while Wakabayashi had missed 7 of her last 10 cuts, the only bright spot in tht stretch being a single 2nd-place finish, and Kusakabe had missed 6 of her last 8 cuts heading into this tournament. So the odds are against them making a run at Arimura. So realistically there are 6 players in the field with a decent chance to take advantage if she opens the door at all. The rest of the JLPGA's best haven't shown the ability to really go low on this course thus far, althugh Iijima and Koga have shot the 2 lowest rounds of the season on tour, so I suppose you can't completely count them out:
T13/-3 Miho Koga (73-68), Yuki Ichinose (72-69), Akane Iijima (70-71), Ji-Hee Lee (69-72)
T22/-2 Ayako Uehara (71-71)
T28/-1 Kaori Higo (70-73), Midori Yoneyama (71-72)
T36/E Hiroko Yamaguchi (74-70), Yun-Jye Wei (74-70)
T43/+1 Eun-A Lim (73-72), Bo-Bae Song (72-73), Hyun-Ju Shin (72-73), Hiromi Mogi (72-73), Mayu Hattori (71-75), Ritsuko Ryu (69-76)
MC Yukari Baba (75-71), Miki Saiki (75-75), Michiko Hattori (77-74)
This is Saiki's 3rd missed cut in a row, a stretch in which she's broken 75 only once in 6 rounds.
But in the end we have several players going for their 1st win of 2008 while Yuko Mitsuka and Yuri Fudoh are racing to see who can be the 1st to get her 2nd.