Not so long ago, Hyun-Ju Shin was one of the young stars of the JLPGA. Finishing no worse than 12th on the money list in each of her 1st 4 seasons, she seemed poised for JLPGA greatness. And then she got hurt. Even though she's back playing regularly again this season, she's missed as many cuts as made top 10s (twice each) and her scoring average is higher than it's ever been in any of her previous 5 seasons on tour. So her 6-birdie 67 today at the JMA Engineering Women's Open not only puts her in a tie for the lead with Ah-Reum Hwang and Hiroko Ayada, it's also her best round of the season and only her 4th below 70. You have to go back to the Golf5 event last September for a round that good.
Shin isn't the only player enjoying a resurgence thus far this week. Ji-Hee Lee, who's been one of the best of the JLPGA over 5 of the last 7 seasons but hasn't been the same since suffering a back injury at the end of last season, shot a bogey-free 69 to sit 2 shots off the lead. Lee, who captained the victorious Korean team in the international Korea vs. Japan competition known as the Pinx Cup (when set in Korea) and the Kyoraku Cup (when staged in Japan), was celebrating with her team in the traditional "captain toss" when they failed to catch her. Since then, her scoring and putting averages have gone up and her birdie rate has gone way down and she's been barely hanging onto a spot in the top 30 on the money list.
By now, Shin and Lee are the old guard among the Koreans on the JLPGA. LPGA transplant Na-Ri Kim represents the new blood and she sits only 1 off the pace after a 7-birdie 68.
Of course, there are a lot of other players to keep an eye on this weekend; here are the top 10 and notables.
T1/-5 Hyun-Ju Shin, Ah-Reum Hwang, Hiroko Ayada (67)
T4/-4 Akane Iijima, Na-Ri Kim, Chieko Amanuma, Midori Yoneyama, Mihoko Iseri (68)
9th/-3 Ji-Hee Lee (69)
T10/-2 Ayako Uehara, Yukari Baba, Saiki Fujita, Ji-Woo Lee, Na-Ri Lee, Yuko Saitoh, Kaori Ohe (70)
T17/-1 Yuri Fudoh, Akiko Fukushima, Mayu Hattori (71)
T25/E Mi-Jeong Jeon, Miho Koga (72)
T36/+1 Sun-Ju Ahn, Rui Kitada, Hiromi Mogi, Mie Nakata, Li-Ying Ye, Yuki Ichinose, Esther Lee (73)
T53/+2 Nikki Campbell, Asako Fujimoto, Miki Saiki, Rikako Morita, Ritsuko Ryu, Erina Hara (74)
T78/+3 Yun-Jye Wei, So-Hee Kim, Jae-Hee Bae (75)
T88/+4 Maiko Wakabayashi (76)
T95/+5 Eun-A Lim (77)
Should be a good weekend in Toyama!