Saturday, June 20, 2009

Nichirei PGM Ladies Saturday: Yokomine Has a Great Chance for a Hat Trick

Sakura Yokomine is poised for her 3rd win of 2009 on the JLPGA after a sweet 67 on moving day at the Nichirei PGM Ladies. Even a +1 finish over her final 5 holes didn't hurt her all that much, as her closest challengers also lost momentum down the stretch. Chie Arimura went 34-37 to stay 2 back, but she missed a great birdie chance on the final hole, a short, downhill par 5 that she hit in 2. Miho Koga squandered some great momentum down the stretch with a bogey on the 18th after she had made a great birdie on the tough 17th (thanks to a curling 9-foot downhiller) and a nice par save on the short par-4 16th, so she fell 3 back. Mi-Jeong Jeon went 34-37 and Rikako Morita 34-38 (and her back could have been worse) to join Koga, while 1st-round co-leader Mai Arai shot a birdie-less 39 on the back to drop 5 back. I'm beginning to think that Yokomine's biggest challenge tomorrow may well be Ji-Hee Lee, who roared back from an opening 74 with a bogey-free 66 today to pull within 4 of the lead.

Here are the top 10 and notables:

1st/-8 Sakura Yokomine (69-67)
2nd/-6 Chie Arimura (67-71)
T3/-5 Miho Koga (69-70), Mi-Jeong Jeon (68-71), Rikako Morita (67-72)
T6/-4 Ji-Hee Lee (74-66), Natsu Nagai (72-68), Li-Ying Ye (71-69)
T9/-3 Chiharu Yamaguchi (73-68), Tomomi Hirose (73-68), Yuriko Ohtsuka (70-71), Mai Arai (67-74)

Yuko Mitsuka has her work cut out for her to continue her 5-event top-10 streak, but her 9-event top-20 streak will be safe with an under-par round tomorrow. But Maiko Wakabayashi, who's been almost as hot lately, took a 40 on the back to come close to missing the cut. 3 straight bogeys down the home stretch hurt Bo-Bae Song's chances for her 1st top 10 in a while, although a walkoff birdie kept hope alive.

T13/-2 Yukari Baba (73-69), Saiki Fujita (72-70), Yuki Ichinose (71-71), Bo-Bae Song (70-72)
T17/-1 Midori Yoneyama (72-71)
T25/+1 Shinobu Moromizato (75-70), Miki Saiki (75-70), Nikki Campbell (74-71), Sakurako Mori (74-71), Yuko Mitsuka (73-72), Eun-A Lim (73-72), Akane Iijima (72-73), Ayako Uehara (71-74)
T35/+2 Julie Lu (72-74), Maiko Wakabayashi (71-75), Hyun-Ju Shin (69-77)
T41/+3 Rui Kitada (76-71), Mie Nakata (76-71)

A lot of good players missed the cut on this Robert Trent Jones, Jr., layout:

T52/+4 Esther Lee (77-71), Ah-Reum Hwang (75-73), Yuko Saitoh (75-73), Ritsuko Ryu (74-74), Tamie Durdin (73-75)
T59/+5 Kumiko Kaneda (76-73)
T70/+7 Yun-Jye Wei (76-77)
T76/+8 Erina Hara (75-77)
T84/+9 Akiko Fukushima (78-75)
T87/+10 Woo-Soon Ko (80-74)
T90/+11 Da-Ye Na (80-75)
T95/+12 Ji-Woo Lee (81-75)

Hara made a triple, double, and 2 bogeys on the back to miss her 5th cut of the young season. Ouch!

Here's hoping I'll be able to watch the final round--we may take the girls to Tokyo Dome City tomorrow if we have the energy. The pairings are awesome, with Yokomine and Arimura paired with Koga and Ji-Hee Lee joining Morita and Jeon. It sure would be nice to see more of Lee and Jeon on screen; the only time I saw Jeon today was a missed birdie putt on the 17th. In fact, the only other non-Japanese golfer I saw (and just for a second) was Li-Ying Ye, who also missed a birdie putt. The closing holes certainly offer plenty of opportunity for final-round drama--there's plenty of water and bunkers, elevated and undulating greens, and birdie holes sandwiching the long par-4 17th. If Yokomine gets her 3rd win of the season tomorrow, she'll certainly have earned it.

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