Erina Hara has been shooting up the JLPGA money list this season and her opening 66 at the Golf 5 Ladies suggests that she's not satisfied with simply being in the top 10. Sure, Kuniko Maeda started out hotter, making 6 birdies in her 1st 11 holes, but as she lost steam, parring out the rest of her round, Hara got hot, making birdies on the 13th, 16th, and 18th holes. With the quality of the chase pack--which includes KLPGA star and Women's British Open champion Ji-Yai Shin--it's way too soon to suggest this tournament is Hara's to lose. But she's certainly the player to beat. Here are the top 10 and notables trying to do just that:
T1/-6 Hara, Maeda (66)
T3/-4 Hiromi Mogi, Tomoko Kusakabe, Megumi Simokawa (68)
T6/-3 Akane Iijima, Midori Yoneyama, Ji-Woo Lee, Mayu Hattori, and 5 others (69)
T15/-2 Ji-Yai Shin, Shinobu Moromizato, Shiho Oyama, Bo-Bae Song, Na Zhang (70)
T25/-1 Miho Koga, Eun-A Lim, Maiko Wakabayashi (71)
T37/E Yukari Baba, Rui Kitada, Michiko Hattori, Ritsuko Ryu (72)
With Sakura Yokomine, Yuri Fudoh, Ayako Uehara, Yuko Mitsuka, Chie Arimura, Hiroko Yamaguchi, Miki Saiki, and Mie Nakata apparently deciding that rest was more important than a final tune-up before the JLPGA's second major (the Konica Minolta Cup or JLPGA Championship), it's a golden opportunity for Shin, Oyama, or Koga to make a real statement if Hara should falter. And Mogi, Iijima, Song, Zhang, Moromizato, Lim, and Kitada could separate themselves from the pack of 1-time winners by chasing down the hottest player on the JLPGA. If anyone else is due to break through, it's Lee, but that 1 bad round has torpedoed her hopes in recent weeks. Still her 32 on the back was beat only by Kaori Harada, who went 39-31 (recovering from a snow man on the front!).
Fighting just to make the cut are a number of very talented players, including 3 of the 4 leading money winners on tour:
T51/+1 Mi-Jeong Jeon, Akiko Fukushima, Hyun-Ju Shin, Yun-Jye Wei (73)
T69/+2 Ji-Hee Lee, Kaori Higo, Tamie Durdin, Kumiko Kaneda (74)
T80/+3 Nikki Campbell (75)
T86/+4 Esther Lee (76)
T103/+6 Yuki Ichinose (78)
We'll see what kind of charge Jeon, Fukushima, and Ji-Hee Lee can mount over the weekend. And how Hara handles being the frontrunner--again.