Thursday, November 26, 2009

Ricoh Cup Thursday: Ueda and Yokomine Alone Under 70

Well, well, well! It appears the LPGA's Momoko Ueda doesn't want to be knocked out of 2nd place in the list of JLPGA players with the largest winnings in a single season. She's the co-leader after the 1st round of the Ricoh Cup, tied at -3 with none other than Sakura Yokomine, who could set a new record in that category with a win this week. Yokomine was -4 through 12 holes, but limped home without another birdie, bogeying the 383-yard par-4 14th to add insult to injury. Ueda, by contrast, made 5 birdies over her final 10 holes to become the 1st player in the elite 23-player field to break 70.

In fact, only 3 other players shot sub-par rounds the rest of the day--and even they had disappointments to deal with. Eun-A Lim made 5 birdies and an eagle over her 1st 14 holes, but bogeyed 3 of her last 4 to settle for a 70. She was joined by Erina Hara, who lost her bid for a bogey-free round on the final hole. And defending champion and last year's money-list queen Miho Koga offset her 3 birdies with a bogey on a long par 4 on the front and another on a short par 3 on the back.

Birdies were few and far between for everyone else, including the 2 other players with a chance to end up on top of the the money-list. Current leader Shinobu Moromizato bogeyed 2 of her 1st 3 holes and parred out from there, except for a lone birdie on the 490-yard par-5 9th. Last week's winner Chie Arimura, who got to -20 on her birthday, also had to settle for a 73 after making 4 more bogeys today than she did in her previous 54 holes (yup, she didn't make a single bogey in putting herself into position to take the money-list title with another win this week!).

But hey, even one of the hottest players in the world, Ai Miyazato, found it tough going out there. After starting out birdie-par-par-eagle, she played her last 12 holes in +5, including a double bogey on the par-5 9th that well over a third of the field birdied today. How do you say "jet lag" in Japanese?

Here's where everyone stands with 54 holes to go:

T1/-3 Momoko Ueda, Sakura Yokomine (69)
T3/-2 Eun-A Lim, Erina Hara (70)
5th/-1 Miho Koga (71)
T6/E Mi-Jeong Jeon, Ji-Hee Lee, Yukari Baba, Ayako Uehara, Ah-Reum Hwang, Tamie Durdin (72)

T12/+1 Shinobu Moromizato, Chie Arimura, Bo-Bae Song, Nikki Campbell (73)
T16/+2 Ai Miyazato, Miki Saiki, Akane Iijima (74)
19th/+3 Mayu Hattori (75)
T20/+4 Akiko Fukushima, Rui Kitada (76)
22nd/+5 Yuko Saitoh (77)
23rd/+6 Yuri Fudoh (78)

Not a great confidence-builder for Team Japan heading into the Kyoraku Cup next week. With Yuko Mitsuka competing in the LPGA's Q-School, Hara joins Miyazato, Ueda, Moromizato, Yokomine, Arimura, Koga, Baba, Uehara, Fudoh, Fukushima, Saitoh, and Saiki in the 2-day 1-on-1 stroke play competition with Team Korea on December 4th and 5th.

But the focus for the players tomorrow is making up ground on Ueda and Yokomine. Like Iijima today, Fudoh gets to be the solo pace-setter tomorrow. Can't wait to see what Ueda and Yokomine do playing in the same pairing!

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