Chie Arimura had once been one of the hottest golfers on the JLPGA, following up on her win at the Promise Ladies over Yuri Fudoh and Shiho Oyama with 2 more top 5s in an early-summer run of 8 straight top 20s. But since then she's been one of the coldest on tour, not finishing as many tournaments as she's finished (1 WD and 5 missed cuts in her last 12 starts) and not getting a top 10 in her last 9 tries, a top 20 (or top 30) in her last 8, a top 40 in her last 5, or even a made cut in her last 3.
So today's 66, which was jumpstarted by an eagle on the 385-yard par-4 7th hole and capped off by 3 birdies between the 13th and 16th holes, was the biggest surprise of the Hisako Higuchi IDC Otsuka Ladies event, hands down. Thanks to several other smaller-order surprises--namely the bad to indifferent play of the JLPGA's finest--the 20-year-old Arimura is in great position to notch her 2nd career win. All she needs to do is maintain her 2-shot lead on 22-year-old Esther Lee, who's looking for her 1st JLPGA victory, and veteran Michie Ohba, who hasn't won on tour since 2001; hold off a host of hungry peers 3 shots back, including fellow 20-year-olds Mayu Hattori, who's also looking for her 1st win on tour, and Maiko Wakabayashi, who's looking for her 2nd win in the last 4 weeks; and hope that big names like Shinobu Moromizato (4 back) and Sakura Yokomine (5 back) don't make big Sunday charges.
Here are the top 10 and notables:
1st/-6 Arimura (72-66)
T2/-4 Lee (73-67), Ohba (71-69)
T4/-3 Wakabayashi (72-69), Mie Nakata (72-69), Ji-Woo Lee (72-69), Rui Kitada (71-70), Hattori (70-71)
T9/-2 Natsu Nagai (72-70), Moromizato (71-71), Yayoi Arasaki (70-72)
Ohba made a great recovery from a 3-bogey-in-5-hole stretch on the front with 4 birdies in her last 10 holes, while Esther Lee made 7 birdies on the day. Hattori recovered nicely from a double bogey and 2 bogeys in her 1st 6 holes on the back with birdies in 2 of her last 3 holes, while Wakabayashi made 4 birdies in her 1st 14 holes. Nakata was actually -4 at the turn, but back-to-back bogeys on the 14th and 15th holes dropped her back in the pack.
T12/-1 Yokomine (71-72)
T15/E Yuko Mitsuka (69-75)
T20/+1 Mi-Jeong Jeon (73-72), Ayako Uehara (72-73), Hiromi Mogi (72-73)
T26/+2 Nikki Campbell (73-73), Yun-Jye Wei (71-75), Erina Hara (70-76)
T35/+3 Midori Yoneyama (76-71)
T38/+4 Saiki Fujita (74-74), Tamie Durdin (72-76), Miho Koga (71-77)
T49/+5 Yuki Ichinose (72-77)
Yokomine had gotten to -3 at the turn, but 3 bogeys in her 1st 6 holes on the back sabotaged her chances for her 1st win of 2008.
T59/+6 Hiroko Yamaguchi (74-76)
T67/+8 Yukari Baba (76-76)
T84/+12 Ritsuko Ryu (78-78)
WD Akane Iijima (77)
It was a double bogey on the 14th that did Yamaguchi in--that, and her inability to find 1 birdie in her last 4 holes.
So, with the JLPGA's stars either sitting this one out or perhaps wishing they had, it's a great opportunity for the tour's B-listers and young guns to make a name for themselves in a tournament named after a legend in Japanese golf.