Friday, September 12, 2008

Konica Minolta Cup Friday: Can Shin Extend Her Lead?

There have been a lot of eagles and doubles out there today in the JLPGA's 2nd major, the Konica Minolta Cup. Hyun-Ju Shin is playing solid golf, with 1 birdie in her 1st 8 holes on the back, to extend her 1st-round lead to 2 over Erina Hara and 3 over Esther Lee (who shot a roller-coaster 71). Momoko Ueda just doubled the 18th to fall back to -2 and a tie with Ji-Yai Shin, who birdied holes 2 through 4 but bogeyed the 18th to fall back to a 70 today--still one of the best rounds of the day, as nobody has yet scored in the 60s and most scores are well over par. The next couple of hours will tell, but it looks like the lead pack is achieving some separation from the field and the cut could be as high as +8. More later!

[Update 1 (2:52 am): Just noticed that Sakura Yokomine shot a bogey-free 32 on the front but followed it up with a birdieless 39 on the back. Still, at E for the tournament, she's now tied for 7th with Ueda, who's bogeyed the 3rd and 4th holes, and only 5 behind leader Hyun-Ju Shin, who bogeyed the 18th. Ayako Uehara also faltered down the stretch, going 32-38 to only get back to +3 for the tournament. The way other leaders are faltering, Ai Miyazato, who shot an indifferent 73 today, may find herself in the top 20 with Uehara at +3. The cut could be as high as +9....]

[Update 2 (4:32 am): As the number of players under par kept shrinking, Hyun-Ju Shin's solid play kept looking better and better. She closed with a bogey-free 35 on the front to answer my title question in the affirmative. Shin did get some help from her closest pursuers. Hiroko Yamaguchi was cruising on her last 9 on that same side until she came to the final 2 holes, when she proceeded to finish double bogey-bogey. Not too long after that, Erina Hara bogeyed 2 of her last 5 holes on the front to fall off the pace, as well. If they could only have had Yuko Mitsuka's birdie-birdie finish on those tough 8th and 9th holes....

Here are the top 10 and notables:

1st/-6 Hyun-Ju Shin (67-71)
2nd/-3 Esther Lee (70-71)
T3/-2 Ji-Yai Shin (72-70), Erina Hara (69-73)
5th/-1 Itsumi Okada (71-72)
T6/E Sakura Yokomine (73-71), Namika Omata (73-71), Hiroko Yamaguchi (70-74)
T9/+1 Junko Omote (74-71), Ji-Woo Lee (73-72), Nikki Campbell (73-72), Yuko Mitsuka (72-73), Ah-Reum Hwang (72-73)

Only 4 players have shot par or better both opening rounds--this course and the scoring conditions are tough!

T14/+2 Rui Kitada (73-73), Tamie Durdin (73-73), Midori Yoneyama (72-74), Hiromi Mogi (71-75), Momoko Ueda (68-78)
T21/+3 Ayako Uehara (77-70), Akane Iijima (75-72), Ai Miyazato (74-73)
T29/+4 Mayu Hattori (75-73), Miho Koga (73-75), Maiko Wakabayashi (73-75), Chie Arimura (72-76)
T34/+5 Ritsuko Ryu (78-71), Bo-Bae Song (77-72), Mi-Jeong Jeon (74-75)
T46/+6 Kaori Higo (74-76)
T49/+7 Yuri Fudoh (76-75), Yun-Jye Wei (74-77)
T55/+8 Akiko Fukushima (78-74), Mie Nakata (76-76)
T63/+9 Yuki Ichinose (77-76), Yukari Baba (75-78)

Huge final-hole birdie on the 9th by Ichinose to make the cut on the dot, along with an impressive comeback by Ryu to move up the leaderboard.

T69/+10 Eun-A Lim (77-77)
T80/+11 Ai-Yu Tu (76-79)
T93/+12 Shinobu Moromizato (80-76)
WD/-- Saiki Fujita (76-WD)

Here's the crazy thing: the way scores have been trending, career money-list leader Fudoh and 2008 money-list leader Fukushima could shoot 69s tomorrow and find themselves in the top 15. When a player of Ueda's caliber can do 10 shots worse from Thursday to Friday, nobody's out of this thing just yet (except those who missed the cut or WDed). Tomorrow's moving day should be quite a sight!]

[Update 2 (5:18 am): I thought it was top 65 and ties who made the cut, but it's only top 60. So scratch what I wrote above about how awesome Ichinose's birdie was. With the cut line at +8, that birdie is now officially "too little too late!"]

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