Saturday, August 8, 2009

AXA Ladies Saturday: The Plot Thickens

Only a final-hole bogey to follow up her eagle on the par-5 17th kept Sakura Yokomine out of the solo lead at the AXA Ladies today. As it is, though, her 66 vaulted her into a tie with Hyun-Ju Shin (70) and So-Hee Kim (67) at -8 through 36 holes. But right behind them--only a shot back--are JLPGA regulars Ji-Hee Lee (71) and Miho Koga (68), running neck-and-neck with the LPGA's Ji-Yai Shin (68), Momoko Ueda (69), and Shiho Oyama (69). And that's not all. #2-on-the-money-list Shinobu Moromizato was in danger of missing the cut after her opening 75, but a 30 on the back pulled her within shouting distance of the leaders, 5 shots back. Akiko Fukushima's 67, Rikako Morita's 69, and Chie Arimura's 70 got them within whispering distance, 2 shots back. So this is anyone's ballgame heading into the final round! Here's how the top 10 stand and other notables look after an eventutful moving day:

T1/-8 Sakura Yokomine (70-66), So-Hee Kim (69-67), Hyun-Ju Shin (66-70)
T4/-7 Ji-Yai Shin (69-68), Miho Koga (69-68), Momoko Ueda (68-69), Shiho Oyama (68-69), Ji-Hee Lee (66-71)
T9/-6 Akiko Fukushima (71-67), Rikako Morita (69-69), Chie Arimura (68-70)

T12/-5 Eun-A Lim (72-67), Hiromi Mogi (71-68), Ji-Woo Lee (68-71)
T17/-4 Yuko Mitsuka (66-74)
T24/-3 Shinobu Moromizato (75-66), Esther Lee (71-70), Rui Kitada (70-71)
T30/-2 Nikki Campbell (71-71), Riko Higashio (70-72), Akane Iijima (69-73)
T39/-1 Yun-Jye Wei (73-70)
T43/E Woo-Soon Ko (76-68), Bo-Bae Song (73-71), Saiki Fujita (72-72), Miki Saiki (72-72), Erina Hara (71-73), Yukari Baba (71-73), Kumiko Kaneda (69-75)
T50/+1 Mie Nakata (73-72), Ah-Reum Hwang (72-73)

Nice moves by Lim and Mogi to move into contention and by the veteran Ko to make the cut, but disappointing rounds for Mitsuka, Hara, and rookie Kaneda. Not as disappointing, of course, as for those few notables who missed the cut:

T66/+3 Ayako Uehara (72-75), Mai Arai (72-75), Mayu Hattori (72-75), Tamie Durdin (70-77)
T76/+4 Midori Yoneyama (75-73), Sakurako Mori (72-76), Da-Ye Na (72-76)
T86/+5 Maiko Wakabayashi (74-75)

To return to the top of the leaderboard, a win would mean so much for any of the golfers within 3 shots of the lead. So-Hee Kim is the dark horse. Morita could take control of the Rookie of the Year race. Arimura could become the 3rd 3-time winner on tour this season with a win. Fukushima, Koga, and Hyun-Ju Shin could announce their return to the JLPGA's elite. Ueda and Oyama could get some much-needed confidence. Ji-Yai Shin could consolidate her position in the world rankings. And Ji-Hee Lee and Sakura Yokomine could make a statement about the quality of their play over the last year. The only way it could get better than this were if Ai Miyazato, Mi-Jeong Jeon, and Yuri Fudoh were in the mix, too. We'll have to wait till next week for that--but only till tomorrow to find out who can prevail against such tough competition.

[Update 1 (9:44 am): Brian Heard has a great feature on Momoko Ueda--helps you understand how big a win this week would be for her.]

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