Ji-Hee Lee got it to -6 at the halfway point of the Life Card Ladies, but a terrible stretch on the back (bogey-bogey-double bogey on the 12th through 14th holes) let many players back into the tournament. The chief beneficiaries were Sakura Yokomine, who went birdie-birdie-par-birdie on the 13th through 16th just as Lee was struggling, and Ji-Yai Shin, who responded with back-to-back birdies on the 14th and 15th. Just when it seemed we'd have a logjam at the top of the leaderboard, Yokomine birdied the 18th to get to -3. But then Lee battled back with a birdie on the 17th to tie her. And Shin birdied the 18th to tie them. But then Lee birdied the 18th to regain the lead. So even though Momoko Ueda had earlier birdied 3 of her 5 closing holes, she still trailed Lee by 4 when all was said and done. The only other player with a very good shot at victory tomorrow, Yuko Mitsuka, also birdied the defenseless 18th to get back under par for the tournament.
Here's how the top 10 and notables stand as we head into Sunday:
1st/-4 Ji-Hee Lee (68-72)
T2/-3 Sakura Yokomine (73-68), Ji-Yai Shin (72-69)
4th/-1 Yuko Mitsuka (73-70)
5th/E Momoko Ueda (74-70)
T6/+1 Li-Ying Ye (80-65), Erina Hara (76-69), Yuri Fudoh (73-72), Hiroko Yamaguchi (73-72)
T10/+2 Itsumi Okada (75-71), Ji-Woo Lee (73-73)
Pretty awesome move by Ye there. If she could replicate it tomorrow, my guess is she'd win the tournament! I suppose I shouldn't count out Fudoh or Hara, either, but the 5 players ahead of them are going to be tough to pass.
T12/+3 Mie Nakata (73-74)
T20/+4 Miho Koga (75-71), Yuko Saitoh (75-71), Kaori Higo (72-76)
T26/+5 Akiko Fukushima (80-69), Rui Kitada (77-72), Midori Yoneyama (76-73), Chie Arimura (73-76), Yukari Baba (71-78)
T33/+6 Akane Iijima (76-74), Mayu Hattori (75-75), Miki Saiki (73-77), Maiko Wakabayashi (73-77), Julie Lu (68-82)
T42/+7 Ayako Uehara (77-74), Tamie Durdin (77-74)
T46/+8 Kumiko Kaneda (76-76), Sakurako Mori (76-76), Shinobu Moromizato (73-79)
Nice to see Kaneda making her 1st JLPGA cut and most of the other young guns following suit. But so many players moved backward today, led by 1st-round co-leader Lu and defending champion Baba. Even Fukushima, who got to -6 on her round through her first 14 bogey-free holes, stumbled with a double and a bogey as she closed out the front.
T51/+9 Rikako Morita (81-72)
T64/+11 Shiho Oyama (78-77), Woo-Soon Ko (78-77), Nikki Campbell (78-77)
T72/+12 Ai-Yu Tu (77-81), Rui Yokomine (77-81)
T98/+19 Yuki Ichinose (80-83)
The most painful stumble probably belongs to Morita, who doubled her last hole, the 9th, to miss the cut by a shot. The only real big surprises among others who missed the cut were Campbell, who had been playing fairly solidly coming into this week, and Oyama, who cements her status as one of the coldest players on the planet with yet another MC. But perhaps the biggest surprise was the number of withdrawals today:
Saiki Fujita (76-WD)
Ah-Reum Hwang (77-WD)
Mi-Jeong Jeon (81-WD)
Esther Lee (85-WD)
Except for Fujita, all of them simply disappeared from the leaderboard. Odd.
What's not odd is the fact that 5 of the top golfers from Asia will be battling it out tomorrow. Should be a classic showdown!
[Update 1 (9:30 am): Speaking of classic showdowns, congratulations to Hee Kyung Seo for winning hers on the KLPGA. That makes 7 wins in less than a year there for Seo!]
[Update 2 (4/19/09, 11:12 am): The Japan Times was getting excited abut Yokomine's chances for her 2nd-straight and 11th-career JLPGA victry, but no such luck.]