The first and second rounds of the Kosaido Ladies Cup are history, and the JLPGA's brightest star, Sakura Yokomine, is poised to become the 1st repeat winner on tour in 2009. She holds a 3-shot lead on Chie Arimura and a 4-shot lead on Maiko Wakabayashi and Hiromi Takesue heading into the final round, thanks to a sizzling 64 on a cool, damp day in Chiba Prefecture. The weather kept onechan and me from taking the JR train 5 stops away from Chiba Station down to the course, but we did get to see the leaders play the last 5 holes on television. After the scoring rundown, I'll share a few observations.
1st/-12 Sakura Yokomine (68-64)
2nd/-9 Chie Arimura (67-68)
T3/-8 Maiko Wakabayashi (70-66), Hiromi Takesue (69-67)
T5/-5 Maria Iida (72-67), Rui Kitada (71-68), Yuko Mitsuka (70-69), Ji-Woo Lee (69-70), Megumi Shimokawa (69-70)
T10/-4 Shinobu Moromizato (73-67), Kaori Nakamura (73-67), Hyun-Ju Shin (71-69), Ah-Reum Hwang (71-69), Yuki Ichinose (71-69), Miki Saiki (70-70)
T16/-3 Saiki Fujita (75-66), Akane Iijima (71-70)
T21/-2 Yuko Saitoh (75-67), Eun-A Lim (72-70), Midori Yoneyama (72-70)
T29/-1 Ayako Uehara (74-69), Ji-Hee Lee (73-70), Bo-Bae Song (72-71), Yukari Baba (72-71), Rikako Morita (70-73)
T38/E Mayu Hattori (74-70), Mie Nakata (72-72)
T45/+1 Da-Ye Na (76-69), Na Zhang (74-71), Li-Ying Ye (73-72), Namika Omata (70-75)
Missing the cut were the following players:
T51/+2 Hiromi Mogi (78-68), Mai Arai (73-73)
T64/+3 Erina Hara (73-74)
T73/+5 Kumiko Kaneda (72-77)
T80/+6 Yun-Jye Wei (77-73), Woo-Soon Ko (76-74)
T89/+10 Sakurako Mori (79-75)
99th/+13 Ai-Yu Tu (82-75)
Last week, Yokomine's top 10 streak ended at 8 straight events when she finished T11 at the Chukyo TV Bridgestone Ladies Open, in which Eun-A Lim defeated Yuko Mitsuka in a playoff to prevent her from becoming the 1st 2-time winner on the JLPGA this season (and in which both Akiko Fukushima and Na Zhang finished in the top 3 for the 1st time since the middle of last season and Miki Saiki got a top 10 for the 1st time in this one). To tell you the truth, when I got a good look at her swing today, I was amazed that she's had the success she's had in her career. She goes further past parallel than Mi Hyun Kim used to before she shortened her backswing, and, combined with the fact that her body language always looks disappointed after every swing, I was expecting the ball to be going all over the course each swing she took. But she's the JLPGA's statistical leader in scoring average (70.77), birdie rate (3.62), putts per green in regulation (1.758), and a couple of other categories I can't translate.
And she sure was locked in today. Even when Arimura was on a run where she could easily have made 7 birdies in a row on the back (she only made 4, but her attempt for her 3rd in a row stopped on the edge, then after making her 3rd birdie in 4 holes, she burned the cup on a 50-footer and spun a putt out before making her last birdie of the day on the par-5 18th), Yokomine held firm and finished strong with 3 birdies in her last 6 holes to go with her 5 in her 1st 7 holes. And it wasn't just the birdie putts she made that mattered. After missing a makeable birdie putt on the par-5 15th that would have given her a 3-shot lead on Arimura (who had just missed her own chance to make her 3rd birdie in a row), she canned a clutch par save to avoid a 2-shot swing in Arimura's favor on the very next hole, then engineered a 2-shot swing in her favor on the following hole when she made a side-door birdie and Arimura missed a 4-foot comebacker for par. Arimura's swing is a lot more classic than Yokomine's, but she wasn't making as clean contact as the leader was down the stretch, plus she was being outdriven by anywhere from 5 to 20 yards on the holes I saw.
Wakabayashi was another player who got a lot of face time during the coverage today, and she responded with adventurous par saves on the 16th and 17th, followed by a great birdie on the 18th. Her swing was all over the place on the shots I saw, but her pitching, chipping, and putting were amazing. Kitada was not so fortunate or as skillful with the flat stick on the holes I watched her play, bogeying the long par-3 17th and then wasting a great approach from deep in the woods to 5 feet on 18. I was surprised at how athletic Mitsuka was, but it seemed like she was bent over a lot at the waist and hunched over a bit with her shoulders, at least on the drive on 18 that put her in the woods to the right.
Even if the weather surprises on the upside tomorrow (the forecast is for more rain), onechan and I won't be able to go to the course, as the Full Metal Archivist takes the TOEIC test in the middle of the day, and there's no way I'm taking the 3-year-old ball of energy and trouble who goes by imoto with me to a golf tournament, much less subjecting her grandparents to her all by their lonesome. So it'll be more tv-watching tomorrow afternoon. Ain't summer vacation grand?