The 2nd-hottest golfer among the JLPGA's finest was one of only 4 players to go under par today at the Life Card Ladies event in Kumamoto. In fact, the only other player in the entire field to join Ji-Hee Lee in breaking 70 was Julie Lu, and she needed to make 4 birdies in her last 7 holes to do it. A lot of big names have a lot of ground to make up this weekend. Ji-Yai Shin is 4 behind the leaders, Sakura Yokomine and Yuri Fudoh are 5 back, Momoko Ueda is 6 back, and Miho Koga is 7 back. Yup, scoring was high, but you know conditions were brutal when neither Akiko Fukushima nor Mi-Jeong Jeon could even break 80--and Fukushima even eagled the 18th!
Here's how the top 10 and notables stand after round 1:
T1/-4 Ji-Hee Lee, Julie Lu (68)
T3/-1 Yukari Baba, Michie Ohba (71)
T5/E Ji-Yai Shin, Kaori Higo (72)
T7/+1 Sakura Yokomine, Yuri Fudoh, Yuko Mitsuka, Shinobu Moromizato, Ji-Woo Lee, Chie Arimura, Miki Saiki, Maiko Wakabayashi, Mie Nakata, Hiroko Yamaguchi, Kuniko Maeda, Kurumi Dohi, Na-Ri Lee (73)
T20/+2 Momoko Ueda (74)
T28/+3 Miho Koga, Yuko Saitoh, Mayu Hattori (75)
T42/+4 Erina Hara, Akane Iijima, Saiki Fujita, Midori Yoneyama, Kumiko Kaneda, Sakurako Mori (76)
T57/+5 Ayako Uehara, Ah-Reum Hwang, Ai-Yu Tu, Tamie Durdin, Rui Kitada, Rui Yokomine (77)
T76/+6 Shiho Oyama, Woo-Soon Ko, Nikki Campbell (78)
T88/+8 Akiko Fukushima, Yuki Ichinose, Li-Ying Ye (80)
T96/+9 Mi-Jeong Jeon, Rikako Morita (81)
107th Esther Lee (85)
What makes Lu's round particularly impressive is that she only birdied 1 par 5, saving it for her final hole; most of those who kept it near par birdied 2 or more of them. The other thing that distinguished the leaders from the field was the ability to avoid big numbers. Except for a double bogey by Arimura on the 7th hole, a double bogey by Saiki on the 14th, and a triple bogey by Dohi on the 10th--all fairly long par 4s--nobody at +1 or better did worse than a bogey.
With only Hyun-Ju Shin, Bo-Bae Song, Eun-A Lim, Hiromi Mogi, and Na Zhang among the JLPGA's finest sitting this one out, and with so many top players so far behind, this weekend represents a great opportunity for Ji-Hee Lee to get her 1st win of 2009 and protect her #1 ranking from Sakura Yokomine. It'll be interesting to see if anyone take a big run at her on moving day.