At this time last year, Sakura Yokomine broke through for her 1st and only victory at 2008's last regular-season event, the Daio Paper ElleAir Ladies, with a convincing win over Midori Yoneyama, Ai Miyazato, Momoko Ueda, and Ji-Hee Lee that brought her into the 100 Million Yen Club for the 2nd straight season and gave her a shot at a money-list title that had been eluding her since 2005, when she finished 4th. But when Miho Koga walked away with a miraculous victory at the following week's final major of the season, the Ricoh Cup, thanks to an epic fail down the stretch by Mi-Jeong Jeon, Yokomine would once again have to settle for a top 3 finish.
Flash forward to the present, when Yokomine's wire-to-wire win last week pulled her within 4 million yen of money-list leader Shinobu Moromizato, and all the momentum seemed to be going her way. But she started her title defense with a lackluster 74 that put her 8 shots behind leaders Nikki Campbell and Yukari Baba and 6 shots behind Moromizato. Well, Yokomine bounced back today with a 70 that ensured she'd be playing tomorrow, but she's now 15 shots behind another player who can put herself in a great position to deny Yokomine yet another money title. Yes, Chie Arimura shot an amazing 10-birdie 62 to take a 4-shot lead on amateur Harukyo Nomura and a 5-shot lead on veteran Toshimi Kimura. But Yokomine is now only 5 behind Moromizato. Assuming neither of them makes a huge move tomorrow, an Arimura win would put her even with them at 5 wins on the season and give her a chance to take the money title with a victory at next week's Ricoh Cup.
But there are still 18 holes left to be played this week. Here's how the leaders and notables stand heading into the final round:
1st/-15 Chie Arimura (67-62)
2nd/-11 Harukyo Nomura (67-66)
3rd/-10 Toshimi Kimura (68-66)
4th/-8 Nikki Campbell (66-70)
T5/-7 Rui Kitada (70-67), Yuko Mitsuka (68-69), Ah-Reum Hwang (68-69), Ji-Hee Lee (67-70)
T9/-6 Mayu Hattori (72-66), Yuri Fudoh (70-68), Kuniko Maeda (70-68), Maria Iida (70-68), Tomomi Hirose (70-68), Miki Saiki (69-69), Julie Lu (69-69), Momoko Ueda (67-71), Yukari Baba (66-72)
T18/-5 Bo-Bae Song (72-67), Shinobu Moromizato (68-71)
T21/-4 Eun-A Lim (75-65)
T25/-3 Yuko Saitoh (72-69), Na-Ri Lee (72-69), Miho Koga (70-71), Hyun-Ju Shin (70-71), Ji-Woo Lee (68-73)
T31/-2 Hiromi Mogi (75-67), Esther Lee (73-69), Akane Iijima (72-70), Erina Hara (71-71)
T40/-1 Yun-Jye Wei (74-69), So-Hee Kim (73-70), Mi-Jeong Jeon (70-73), Yuki Ichinose (69-74)
T48/E Yumiko Yoshida (75-69), Sakura Yokomine (74-70), Saiki Fujita (73-71)
Some painful missed cuts for some young stars and living legends:
T57/+1 Kumiko Kaneda (75-70), Ayako Uehara (72-73)
T67/+3 Woo-Soon Ko (77-70), Rikako Morita (75-72)
T74/+4 Maiko Wakabayashi (73-75)
T84/+6 Sakurako Mori (79-71), Ai-Yu Tu (76-74), Da-Ye Na (74-76)
So Yokomine will be looking to chase down Moromizato, while Arimura will be looking to extend her lead on her nearest competitors. We'll see who achieves her goals tomorrow!
[Update 1 (2:41 pm): Hee Kyung Seo heads into the final round of the last KLPGA event of the season 2 shots back of a lesser-known player. Can she avoid getting beat like her rival So Yeon Ryu did last week?]