Friday, November 7, 2008

Mizuno Classic Friday: The JLPGA Kids Are All Right

Mayu Hattori picked up where she left off last week with a bogey-free 67 in the 1st round of the Mizuno Classic, but winning 2 JLPGA events in a row is going to be quite the challenge for this 20-year-old. Two of her peers are in a great position to tear up their Q-School tickets: Miki Saiki made 6 birdies on her way to her own 67, while a final-hole bogey dropped Shiho Oyama into a tie for 5th, 2 shots behind the co-leaders. But watch out for a couple of Korean standouts on the JLPGA who shot matching 68s: Eun-A Lim has already won this season on tour, while Ji-Yai Shin has won on every tour.

The LPGA stars had better pick up their game if they want to be in contention on the back 9 Sunday. Sure, 7 of them joined Yuko Mitsuka in matching Oyama's 69--among them Jee Young Lee, Shanshan Feng, and Ji Young Oh--but Jin Joo Hong failed to capitalize on an eagle and only Jimin Kang avoided making a bogey or worse. Defending champion Momoko Ueda and Rookie of the Year contender Na Yeon Choi each made 5 birdies, but could only manage 70s (1 behind fellow rookies Feng and Sandra Gal), while Mi Hyun Kim got matched by the JLPGA's Bo-Bae Song and Teresa Lu by Yuko Saitoh.

Still, with the leaderboard as bunched as it is--40 players are under par, while 54 are within 5 shots of the lead--only a few players really hurt their chances for victory today. But what disappointments for Morgan Pressel (75), Ji-Hee Lee, Akiko Fukushima, and Inbee Park (74), and Ya Ni Tseng, Miho Koga, Candie Kung, and Mi-Jeong Jeon (73)! Fortunately, with no cut, anyone can still finish respectably with a good weekend. And a great weekend can launch someone from back in the pack to victory if the lead pack falters. That means it's too soon to count out Karrie Webb, Christina Kim, In-Kyung Kim, Esther Lee, and Ji-Woo Lee at E, or Yuri Fudoh, Ai Miyazato, Sakura Yokomine, Hee Young Park, Erina Hara, or Ayako Uehara at -1. Still, while it's great that Ai-chan and Christina made eagles on an otherwise dreary day, they and their peers have to get it in gear if they don't want to be left in the dust.

[Update 1 (9:42 am): Hound Dog is even more optimistic than I am about the chances of the people at the bottom of the leaderboard to storm back. He also has a good catch from the post-round interviews.]

[Update 2 (9:52 am): Here are the 2nd-round pairings. Shanshan Feng said in interviews she hoped to be paired with a Japanese player, but the way the scores broke down, she's playing with Jee Young Lee and Lindsey Wright. Nice to Momoko Ueda, Na Yeon Choi, and Teresa Lu paired, as well as Ai Miyazato, Sakura Yokomine, and Becky Morgan. The final 2 pairings aren't half bad, either:

Start Time: 10:35 AM
Ji-Yai Shin
Shiho Oyama
Yuko Mitsuka

Start Time: 10:45 AM
Mayu Hattori
Miki Saiki
Eun-A Lim

On the back, Christina Kim and In-Kyung Kim join Kristy McPherson, while some of the top JLPGA players will be finishing about the same time as the leaders--not quite what Ji-Hee Lee, Akiko Fukushima, Miho Koga, and Mi-Jeong Jeon envisioned, I'm sure.]

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