Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sankyo Ladies Open Sunday: Maiko Wakabayashi Gets 1st Career Win!

20-year-old Maiko Wakabayashi had been having just the kind of season you'd expect from a young gun playing her 1st full season on the JLPGA tour: more missed cuts than top 10s, flashes of brilliance (like a 71-72 start at the Japan Women's Open) overshadowed by inconsistency (like an 80-74 finish over the weekend), and a rare near-miss at greatness (like losing to Miho Koga in a playoff at the Crystal Geyser Ladies in early May). Well, Wakabayashi just flipped the script today at the Sankyo Ladies.

With back-to-back birdies as she made the turn, Wakabayashi erased the back-to-back bogeys that had stalled her fast start (-2 over her 1st 4 holes) and got back to -6 for the tournament. With a 1-stroke lead on the struggling 2nd-round leader Hiromi Mogi (who was +1 through 10) and a charging money-list leader Ji-Hee Lee (who had birdied 3 of her last 6 holes), Wakabayashi played flawless golf down the stretch, going -2 over her final 8 holes. Lee fell off the pace at the par-5 13th when she failed to match Wakabayashi and Mogi's birdies. Mogi's bogey on the par-4 14th gave Wakabayashi a 2-stroke cushion, but her birdie on the par-3 13th cut the lead down to 1. But a Wakabayashi birdie on the par-4 17th and a Mogi bogey on the par-5 18th made the former's final victory margin 3 shots and allowed Lee to follow up her JWO win with a Sankyo Ladies T2.

Here are the top 10 and notables:

1st/-8 Wakabayashi (70-70-68)
T2/-5 Lee (73-68-70), Mogi (67-71-73)
T4/-3 Ayako Uehara (73-72-68), Nikki Campbell (74-69-70)
T6/-2 Mihoko Iseri (75-68-71), Miho Koga (72-70-72), Mihoko Takahashi (70-72-72), Miki Saiki (71-70-73)
T10/-1 Ji-Woo Lee (72-74-69), Bo-Bae Song (70-75-70), Erina Hara (75-69-71), Mayu Hattori (73-71-71), Sakura Yokomine (73-70-72), Mie Nakata (69-72-74)

Miho Koga had a ghost of a chance after her 3rd birdie in 4 holes on the par-4 14th brought her to -5, but she proceeded to bogey 3 of her last 4 holes. Defeating Wakabayashi in a playoff for the 2nd straight time wasn't to be for this JLPGA star.

A lot of players leaped into the top 10 thanks to good rounds on their part and serious stumbles from those who had been playing better coming into the final round.

T19/E Rui Kitada (75-68-73), Shiho Oyama (73-69-74), Eun-A Lim (69-73-74)
T26/+1 Midori Yoneyama (73-71-73)
T29/+2 Yuki Ichinose (73-71-74), Yukari Baba (71-71-76), Shinobu Moromizato (69-70-79)
T34/+3 Hiroko Yamaguchi (71-75-73), Akane Iijima (73-71-75)
T43/+4 Mi-Jeong Jeon (73-72-75)
T48/+6 Yun-Jye Wei (76-69-77)

There's plenty of disappointment to go around, but 2006 champion Moromizato must take the lion's share, along with Jeon, who got passed by Koga on the money list:

1. Ji-Hee Lee ¥105.85M
2. Akiko Fukushima ¥84.29M
3. Miho Koga ¥76.27M
4. Mi-Jeong Jeon ¥73.96M
5. Sakura Yokomine ¥73.56M
6. Hyun-Ju Shin ¥64.20M
7. Erina Hara ¥59.70M
8. Ayako Uehara ¥58.92M
9. Yuri Fudoh ¥58.82M
10. Yuko Mitsuka ¥56.01M
11. Bo-Bae Song ¥49.41M
12. Eun-A Lim ¥48.85M
13. Shinobu Moromizato ¥48.09M
14. Hiromi Mogi ¥47.25M
15. Akane Iijima ¥46.52M
16. Shiho Oyama ¥45.37M
17. Momoko Ueda ¥43.87M
18. Esther Lee ¥43.71M
19. Chie Arimura ¥40.90M
20. Yukari Baba ¥40.76M
21. Maiko Wakabayashi ¥40.73M
22. Miki Saiki ¥40.34M
23. Hiroko Yamaguchi ¥40.33M
24. Ji-Woo Lee ¥37.68M
25. Midori Yoneyama ¥33.27M
26. Rui Kitada ¥31.26M
27. Saiki Fujita ¥27.27M
28. Mayu Hattori ¥24.30M
29. Ji-Yai Shin ¥24.18M
30. Mie Nakata ¥23.68M

Congratulations to Maiko Wakabayashi for getting her 1st JLPGA victory and to Ji-Hee Lee for becoming the first JLPGA player in 2008 to pass the 100-million-yen mark!