It's going to come down to the wire over the last 18 holes of the JLPGA's Final Qualifying Tournament to determine membership on tour in 2010. 2nd-round leader Inbee Park was cruising after a bogey-free 34 on the front, but a double and 3 bogeys later, she found herself unable to break 40 on the back. Meanwhile, Young Kim engineered a bogey-free 69 and JLPGA veteran Kaori Higo a 6-birdie 67 to move right into contention. But generally, scoring was high, as players tightened up on "moving day" of this 72-hole tournament and, mostly likely, conditions toughened up.
Here's how the players I'm following did today:
1st/-5 Young Kim (74-68-69)
2nd/-4 Inbee Park (73-65-74)
T3/-3 Kaori Higo (73-73-67), Seon Hwa Lee (70-70-73)
5th/-2 Sun Ju Ahn (71-73-70)
T6/-1 Candie Kung (70-72-73)
I wouldn't be surprised if any one of these players took medalist honors tomorrow.
T11/+1 Na Ri Kim (72-69-76), Jae Bae (71-70-76), Esther Lee (69-72-76)
T15/+2 Bong Su Tseng (73-74-71)
T18/+3 Chieko Amanuma (70-72-77)
T23/+4 Teresa Lu (73-75-72), Eun Hye Lee (73-75-72)
This group is probably no longer in contention, but one more solid round will give them JLPGA membership next season.
T45/+8 Yuki Sakurai (72-74-78)
T57/+10 Onnarin Sattayabanphot (72-79-75), Michiko Hattori (75-73-78)
T63/+11 Ritsuko Ryu (75-79-73)
T78/+13 Kumiko Kaneda (77-77-75)
T92/+17 Sakurako Mori (76-77-80)
On the other hand, it's do-or-die time for this group of mostly young players (except for Michiko Hattori, who I believe is Mayu Hattori's mom). Even barely breaking 70 isn't going to do much more than make them feel a little better. The lower down the leaderboard they are, the lower they'll have to go tomorrow. But Mori has made 1 birdie all week, Kaneda 2, and Ryu has only made 3 in her last 36 holes after making 4 in her 1st 18.
Me, I'm hopeful that Sattayabanphot will turn it around. It would be a devastating result to come up short in her bid for JLPGA membership, particularly if compatriots Virada Nirapathpongporn, Nontaya Srisawang, and Pornanong Phatlum turn it on in LPGA Q-School this week. On the other hand, anyone who can't get through the JLPGA's has no chance anyway at the LPGA's. I guess there's always the Futures Tour next season if tomorrow doesn't go well for Moo--at #51 on their money list this season, she should have some status there in 2010.
Mostly, though, I'm rooting for Seon Hwa Lee's comeback to start tomorrow. She's too good a player not to break 70 once this week. And while winning JLPGA Q-School wouldn't make up for not winning on the LPGA, it would give her a much-needed boost nevertheless.
[Update 1 (8:55 am): With imoto slowly eating breakfast next to me, I have time to mention that 25-year-old Ikue Asama (55th on the JLPGA money list this season) and 26-year-old Yoshimi Koda are also in the hunt, only 4 shots behind Kim. 5 shots off the pace are JLPGA veteran Mikiyo Nishizuka and 22-year-old Yui Mukaiyama. I wish them luck tomorrow!]