Mika Miyazato, the co-leader of the Japan Women's Open after 18 holes, now holds a 5-shot lead on her nearest competitor after 36. A 5-hole birdie train on the back 9 turned a solid round into a fantastic 67, bringing her to -9 heading into the weekend--exactly where she stood at this stage of Japan's biggest women's tournament last year. With only 9 other players under par, and only Chie Arimura within 5 shots of her, Mikan has a great opportunity to make up for her Sunday disappointment at last year's JWO and get her 1st win as a professional.
But to do that, she's going to have to have a great moving day. Although some of the LPGA's top golfers fell off the pace today--Ya Ni Tseng's 76 dropped her to +3 overall and Song-Hee Kim's 77 to +5--Mikan's closest pursuers include world #1 Ai Miyazato (70, -2), world #6 Na Yeon Choi (69, -3), and Hee Young Park (66, -2), the former KLPGA star known as The Rocket for her ability to blow up (in both a good and a bad way). And lurking at even par are former JLPGA money-list champions Yuri Fudoh, Momoko Ueda, and Sakura Yokomine, not to mention former U.S. Women's Open champion Eun-Hee Ji and former JWO champion Ji-Hee Lee.
Still, Mikan's gotten lots of help from the rest of the JLPGA's finest. Defending champion Bo-Bae Song missed the cut, as did Mi-Jeong Jeon, Miho Koga, and Yuko Mitsuka. Current JLPGA money list leader Sun-Ju Ahn is 10 shots back and Shinobu Moromizato, who almost won last year's money list title, is 12 behind Mikan. In fact, the only "name" JLPGAers even close to the lead are Arimura, 1st-round co-leader Ayako Uehara (who recovered from an opening 39 to salvage a 73 and stay within 6 shots of the lead), and Miki Saiki (who shot her 2nd-straight 71 to join Ai-sama and The Rocket at -2).
So here's how the leaders and notables stand heading into the weekend:
1st/-9 Mika Miyazato (68-67)
2nd/-4 Chie Arimura (70-70)
T3/-3 Na Yeon Choi (72-69), Ayako Uehara (68-73)
T5/-2 Hee Young Park (76-66), Ai Miyazato (72-70), Miki Saiki (71-71)
T8/-1 Natsuka Hori [a] (73-70), Tomomi Hirose (73-70), Ah-Reum Hwang (72-71)
T11/E Momoko Ueda (74-70), Eun-Hee Ji (74-70), Nikki Campbell (72-72), Sakura Yokomine (73-71), Yuri Fudoh (70-74), Ji-Hee Lee (69-75)
T17/+1 Hyun-Ju Shin (77-68), Sun-Ju Ahn (73-72)
T19/+2 Kaori Aoyama (77-69), Asako Fujimoto (75-71)
T22/+3 Shinobu Moromizato (73-74), Mamiko Higa [a] (73-74), Ya Ni Tseng (71-76)
T26/+4 Rikako Morita (76-72), Harukyo Nomura [a] (75-73), Yukari Baba (73-75)
T29/+5 Ritsuko Ryu (78-71), Saiki Fujita (75-74), Young Kim (75-74), Eun-A Lim (75-74), Asuka Kashiwabara [a] (73-76), Song-Hee Kim (72-77)
T37/+6 Ji-Woo Lee (77-73), Danielle Kang [a] (75-75), Hiromi Takesue (73-77), Na-Ri Lee (71-79)
T44/+7 Mayu Hattori (77-74), Serena Aoki [a] (76-75), Akane Iijima (74-77), Na-Ri Kim (74-77), Mie Nakata (73-78)
T56/+8 Miho Mori [a] (77-75), Mami Fukuda [a] (75-77)
T60/+9 Rui Kitada (79-74), Onnarin Sattayabanphot (77-76), Yuki Ichinose (75-78)
MC: Miho Koga (77-77), Mi-Jeong Jeon (76-78), Yuko Mitsuka (76-78), Bo-Bae Song (75-79), Yun-Jye Wei (80-76), Chieko Amanuma (81-77), Akiko Fukushima (80-78), Jae-Hee Bae (78-80), Mai Arai (78-80), Erina Hara (77-81), Woo-Soon Ko (84-84)
The way Ai-sama has been playing on Sundays this year, Mikan had better hold or extend her lead tomorrow!
[Update 1 (8:03 pm): Always fun to see where the JLPGAers are from, via places like the 3rd-round pairings sheet. Hoping to see al all-Okinawan final pairing for Sunday!]
[Update 2 (10/3/10, 9:28 am): Here are the highlights from Ai Miyazato's round:
Missed a short putt on Saturday, too. Just not her week!]