Thursday, September 30, 2010

Japan Women's Open Thursday: Mika Miyazato and Ayako Uehara Set the Pace

Mika Miyazato and Ayako Uehara share the 1st-round lead at the Japan Women's Open after opening with matching 68s. Miyazato recovered from a bogey as she started the front 9 and Uehara from one as she began the back, but more significantly, each recovered from recent disappointments on the JLPGA. Uehara had been playing badly ever since she lost the Golf5 Ladies in a playoff to Akane Iijima at the start of the month, while Miyazato had put herself in contention in the final round of the Miyagi TV Cup Dunlop Ladies Open last Sunday, only to go +4 over her final 14 holes. Of course, Mikan has her own JWO demons to overcome this week. After playing 3 amazing rounds in a row last year, she stumbled down the stretch to a Sunday 78, opening the door for 5 of the JLPGA's finest to pass her.

The defending champion, Bo-Bae Song, who beat the eventual '09 money-list leader Sakura Yokomine in a playoff, dug herself quite a hole today, however. Starting on the 10th tee in the early morning with U.S. Women's Amateur champion Danielle Kang, she bogeyed her 1st hole, recovered with birdies on the long par-4 14th and 15th holes, along with the medium-length par-3 16th, but closed with 5 bogeys and no birdies over her last 10 holes to match Kang's 75. Yokomine also faltered late in her round, going +2 over her final 4 holes to settle for an opening 73. Her chief challenger last season, Shinobu Moromizato, was -3 after her 1st 6 holes on the back, but made 4 bogeys in another 6-hole stretch that started with the 18th and also ended up with a 73. The last 2 players who passed Mikan in the final round last year did better than the other 3 today, as Yuri Fudoh birdied 3 of her last 5 holes on the front to post a 70, while her playing partner Ai Miyazato bogeyed the 10th and 11th to start her day, but played bogey-free golf the rest of the way to get back to even par.

Playing with Fudoh and Ai-sama, Ya Ni Tseng, who not only has 2 LPGA majors to her name this season but also a T3 at the JLPGA's 1st major of the season, the Salonpas Cup, made 5 birdies and 4 bogeys on the way to her 71. By contrast, Saiki Fujita, the winner of the JLPGA's 2nd major of the season, the Konica Minolta Cup, opened with a 75, but she wasn't alone in struggling today. Not only did JLPGA money-list leader Sun-Ju Ahn make 3 bogeys and a double on the way to her 73, but most of the visiting LPGAers got off to similarly bad starts, as well. Momoko Ueda, who got her 3rd top 5 in her 12th JLPGA start of the season last week, started her round with 2 pairs of bogeys at the beginning and end of the back 9 but recovered with 2 birdies in her last 6 holes to salvage a 74. Eun-Hee Ji started on the front but also shot a 74. Hee Young Park, playing with Mikan, opened with 4 bogeys in her 1st 5 holes and doubled the long par-4 9th, but played bogey-free golf on the back to limit the damage to a 76. The only exceptions were Na Yeon Choi and Song-Hee Kim, who both matched Ai-sama's 72, but even they can't feel too good about their scores. Choi squandered a good start to her round--a bogey-free 34 on the back--with a double and 2 bogeys on the front, while Kim scattered 4 birdies and 4 bogeys over an up-and-down round.

So here's how the leaders and notables stand right now:

T1/-4 Mika Miyazato, Ayako Uehara (68)
3rd/-3 Ji-Hee Lee (69)
T4/-2 Yuri Fudoh, Chie Arimura (70)
T6/-1 Ya Ni Tseng, Na-Ri Lee, Miki Saiki, Izumi Narita (71)
T10/E Ai Miyazato, Na Yeon Choi, Song-Hee Kim, Nikki Campbell, Ah-Reum Hwang, Junko Omote (72)

T16/+1 Sun-Ju Ahn, Sakura Yokomine, Shinobu Moromizato, Yukari Baba, Mie Nakata, Hiromi Takesue (73)
T27/+2 Momoko Ueda, Eun-Hee Ji, Akane Iijima, Na-Ri Kim (74)
T38/+3 Saiki Fujita, Bo-Bae Song, Young Kim, Asako Fujimoto, Yuki Ichinose, Danielle Kang (75)
T50/+4 Hee Young Park, Mi-Jeong Jeon, Yuko Mitsuka, Rikako Morita (76)
T63/+5 Miho Koga, Hyun-Ju Shin, Mayu Hattori, Kaori Aoyama, Ji-Woo Lee, Erina Hara, Onnarin Sattayabanphot (77)
T76/+6 Ritsuko Ryu, Jae-Hee Bae, Mai Arai (78)
T87/+7 Rui Kitada (79)
T92/+8 Akiko Fukushima, Yun-Jye Wei (80)
T102/+9 Chieko Amanuma (81)
T116/+12 Woo-Soon Ko (84)

14-year-old amateur Asuka Kashiwabara opened with a 73, which is impressive enough on its own, but even more so when you consider that she was in a prime-time pairing with Song-Hee Kim and Chie Arimura. Let's see how she holds up tomorrow, when they're all in the 5th-to-last pairing off the 1st tee!

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