Sunday, November 16, 2008

Ito-En Ladies Sunday: Can Anyone Catch Koga?

Miho Koga is on fire in the final round of the Ito-En Ladies. Riding a 6-hole birdie train between the 5th and the 10th, she's gotten to -14 as she heads to the 14th tee and has opened up a 4-shot lead on Ai Miyazato, Ji-Hee Lee, Yuko Mitsuka, and Bo-Bae Song. Lee and Miyazato have bogey-free rounds going and enough holes to make some more birdies, while Mitsuka has as many birdies (7) and bogeys (1) as the leader but only has the par-4 18th left to play and Song has made 5 birdies and no bogeys since the 8th hole but only has 2 holes to go. Shiho Oyama and Mayu Hattori are 5 back with about as many holes remaining, so could still put on the kind of charge that Miki Saiki made to finish at -9--a 31 on the back that featured 6 birdies in her last 8 holes.

All this will be moot, of course, if Koga keeps up her hot play. I wouldn't be sad to see her get her 3rd win of the season, but I would love to see Ai-chan chase her down. Stay tuned!

[Update 1 (1:37 am): Here's a neat little factoid on Koga's season thus far: she hasn't broken 67 all year, except for her very 1st round, a 63, and her latest one. So she's got a great chance to set a season scoring and career winning mark today: a 66 or better would pretty much assure her of her 1st 3-win season.]

[Update 2 (1:59 am): By the way, the guys are lighting up the course, too, with Ryo Ishikawka, Ryuji Imada, and Shingo Katayama, among many others, trying to chase down Shintaro Kai, who's -8 through 14 and -15 overall. Meanwhile, it's a free-for-all on the Asian Tour in the Singapore Masters, where Padraig Harrington and Jeev Milkha Singh have caught Chapchai Nirat at -8 and 7 other players are within 3 shots of the lead as they make the turn, including Ernie Els and Thomas Bjorn.]

[Update 3 (2:31 am): Still waiting for the scoreboard to update, so I'll just note that the 15th has given up an eagle already today and the 17th and 18th have seen a lot of bogeys and doubles, so anything can still happen (if it hasn't already!).]

[Update 4 (4:11 am): Koga did it! After what turned out to be her last birdie of the day on the 10th hole, she made 8 straight pars before bogeying the final hole. As Ai-chan was unable to continue her 2-hole birdie streak on the 14th and 15th that got her to -11 and Yuko Mitsuka's final-hole birdie that had earlier made her leader in the clubhouse at -11 was not enough to put all that much pressure on Koga and nobody else stepped up down the stretch, Koga was able to get her 3rd win of the season without breaking 67 for the 3rd time.

Here are the top 10 and notables:

T1/-13 Koga (70-66-67)
T2/-11 Mitsuka (72-68-65), Miyazato (70-67-68)
T4/-10 Song (69-69-68), Hattori (66-71-69), Oyama (64-72-70)
T7/-9 Saiki (72-69-66), Yuki Ichinose (72-66-69), Yun-Jye Wei (70-68-69)
T10/-8 Midori Yoneyama (75-66-67), Mie Nakata (70-69-69), Ji-Hee Lee (69-67-72)

T14/-7 Kaori Higo (69-71-69), Maiko Wakabayashi (68-72-69), Momoko Ueda (68-70-71), Yuri Fudoh (69-68-72)
T19/-6 Ayako Uehara (70-70-70), Erina Hara (68-70-72), Rui Kitada (73-64-73), Sakura Yokomine (68-69-73)
T24/-5 Akane Iijima (72-69-70), Hiroko Yamaguchi (71-68-72)
T27/-3 Ji-Woo Lee (70-72-71)
T33/-1 Hiromi Mogi (73-71-71), Esther Lee (73-70-72), Yukari Baba (72-71-72), Akiko Fukishima (69-69-77)
T37/E Mi-Jeong Jeon (74-69-73), Tamie Durdin (73-70-73), Chie Arimura (72-69-75), Eun-A Lim (71-70-75)
T41/+1 Yuki Sakurai (70-68-78)
T43/+2 Nikki Campbell (69-72-77)

Here's where the money list stands, heading into the final 2 events of the JLPGA season:

1. Ji-Hee Lee ¥114.26M
2. Miho Koga ¥95.85M
3. Akiko Fukushima ¥88.94M
4. Sakura Yokomine ¥85.50M
5. Yuri Fudoh ¥79.61M
6. Mi-Jeong Jeon ¥78.60M
7. Shiho Oyama ¥75.04M
8. Yuko Mitsuka ¥73.17M
9. Eun-A Lim ¥68.89M
10. Ji-Yai Shin ¥65.41M [should be #23, ¥44.80M--see below]
11. Erina Hara ¥64.34M
12. Hyun-Ju Shin ¥64.20M
13. Ayako Uehara ¥61.42M
14. Shinobu Moromizato ¥58.39M
15. Bo-Bae Song ¥58.31M
16. Mayu Hattori ¥57.66M
17. Esther Lee ¥53.62M
18. Hiromi Mogi ¥51.52M
19. Akane Iijima ¥49.45M
20. Miki Saiki ¥49.09M
21. Maiko Wakabayashi ¥48.81M
22. Momoko Ueda ¥47.30M
23. Chie Arimura ¥46.16M
24. Ji-Woo Lee ¥43.33M
25. Hiroko Yamaguchi ¥42.40M
26. Yukari Baba ¥42.52M
27. Midori Yoneyama ¥36.59M
28. Rui Kitada ¥35.42M
29. Saiki Fujita ¥31.27M
30. Yun-Jye Wei ¥27.87M
31. Mie Nakata ¥27.85M
32. Nikki Campbell ¥27.04M
33. Yuko Saitoh ¥25.28M
34. So-Hee Kim ¥24.89M
35. Ai Miyazato ¥21.59M

The biggest leap up the list was not Koga's but Ji-Yai Shin's--apparently the JLPGA is counting her non-member win in her season winnings--don't tell me they're nt recruiting her for 2009!]

[Update 5 (4:15 am): By the way, Katayama won on the JGTO and Singh on the Asian Tour.]

[Update 6 (4:30 am): May as well complete my early-am Asian update: Hee Kyung Seo took the KLPGA/LET win away from Sun-Ju Ahn with a closing 66. The LPGA's H.J. Choi took T13, Veronica Zorzi was the best LET finisher at T15, while Anna Rawson (T17), Johanna Head (T24), Gwladys Nocera and Amy Yang (T28) were among the relatively few foreigners to crack the top 30. Looks like it's official: ranking the strength of women's tours in 2008 results in LPGA, JLPGA, KLPGA, and LET.]

[Update 7 (11/17/08, 2:27 am): Hmmm, Shin is back to #23 on the JLPGA money list at ¥44.80M--looks like some staffer got a little imaginative over in the home office!]

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