Some of the JLPGA's biggest names have been steeping up their games of late, including Hyun-Ju Shin, Akiko Fukushima, and Yuri Fudoh. Well, you can add Ji-Hee Lee to the list of players whose scores have been dropping as the temperatures have been rising. She shot a 67 in the 1st round of the Stanley Ladies today, but her 2-shot lead would have been 3 or more if she hadn't bogeyed her final hole, a 536-yard par 5. As it is, she's being chased by a host of talented golfers, including 3 players in the top 10 of the money list: Akane Iijima (69), Rui Kitada (69), and Sun-Ju Ahn (70). With many of the JLPGA's finest either recovering from the U.S. Women's Open or preparing for the Evian Masters, this week is a great opportunity for someone to step up and challenge them.
Here are the likely candidates:
1st/-5 Ji-Hee Lee (67)
T2/-3 Akiko Fukushima, Akane Iijima, Rui Kitada, Na-Ri Lee, Ritsuko Ryu (69)
T7/-2 Sun-Ju Ahn, Young Kim, Ayako Uehara, Na-Ri Kim, Yuki Ichinose, and 3 others (70)
T15/-1 Shinobu Moromizato, Hiromi Mogi, Kaori Aoyama, Eun-A Lim, Asako Fujimoto, Ah-Reum Hwang (71)
T23/E Hyun-Ju Shin, Saiki Fujita, Yukari Baba (72)
T35/+1 Chie Arimura, Yuko Mitsuka, Bo-Bae Song, Mie Nakata, Maiko Wakabayashi (73)
T50/+2 Yun-Jye Wei, Rikako Morita, Mai Arai, Jae-Hee Bae (74)
T66/+3 Miho Koga, Ji-Woo Lee, Esther Lee (75)
T83/+4 Nikki Campbell, Erina Hara (76)
T94/+5 Li-Ying Ye (77)
T106/+9 So-Hee Kim (81)
It would be great to see Lee return to the JLPGA's elite after leading Team Korea to victory as their captain during the international team competition against Japan in the Kyoraku Cup last December, only to suffer a back injury during the post-win celebration. But lots can happen in 36 holes and Fukushima, among many others, is lurking. To secure her 13th career JLPGA victory, Lee will need to play the par 5s better (she birdied only the 487-yard 3rd hole among the 4 on the course--although, in her defense, most of the field made bogey or worse on the 18th.
You may have noticed that this is the 1st tournament back for Yuko Mitsuka since her huge slow-play fine and self-imposed exile from the JLPGA after she protested the ruling by walking off the course during the 1st round of the JLPGA's 1st major, the Salonpas Cup. Looks like she's a bit rusty; having fought back to -1 with 2 to play, she bogeyed out for her 73. Sun-Ju Ahn, who's sat out a tournament or 2 in the last few weeks on the JLPGA, also bogeyed the last 2 holes, offsetting her eagle on the 503-yard par-5 8th.
Me, I'd love to see former LPGAers Young Kim or Na-Ri Kim step it up this week. Stay tuned!