Sunday, October 3, 2010

Japan Women's Open Sunday: Mika Miyazato Goes Wire-to-Wire for Her 1st Professional Win

Today at the Japan Women's Open, Mika Miyazato shrugged off yesterday's late collapse and put aside memories of last year's even worse one during a nearly flawless final round in which she extended her 4-shot lead to 6 and made her 1st professional win a wire-to-wire affair.

How much did Miyazato dominate the most prestigious tournament in women's golf in Japan? Out of the 12 rounds in the 60s all week, Mikan had 3 of them; nobody else in the field had more than 1. It took Mikan only 23 holes to get to -6, whereas her closest competitor, Miki Saiki, didn't get there until her 65th hole. Nobody else broke the -5 barrier all week. Even with her flurry of 4 bogeys in her last 5 holes of yesterday's round, Miyazato made only 8 bogeys all week, only 1 more than her nearest competitor, Chie Arimura--but Arimura also made 2 doubles (as did Ayako Uehara, who made only 9 bogeys all week). On the other end, Mikan owned the longest birdie trains of the week; the 5-hole run on Friday that gave her a lead she never relinquished was amazing, but perhaps even more impressive was her 3-hole run on the back 9 today that decisively closed the door on a tenacious Saiki, who had birdied 5 of her 1st 13 holes. Plenty of other players went on similar runs this week (Momoko Ueda, for instance, bounced back from yesterday's 80 by going on 1 at the start of her round and making birdies in 4 of her 1st 6 holes), but none did it with the tournament on the line.

But perhaps a simpler measure of Mikan's dominance this week is the number of strokes by which she beat some of the best in the world of women's golf:

1st/-12 Mika Miyazato (68-67-73-68)
2nd/-6 Miki Saiki (71-71-71-69)
3rd/-5 Sun-Ju Ahn (73-72-71-67)
4th/-4 Chie Arimura (70-70-75-69)
T5/-3 Na Yeon Choi (72-69-74-70), Ayako Uehara (68-73-71-73)
T7/-1 Sakura Yokomine (73-71-71-72), Hee Young Park (76-66-73-72)
9th/E Ai Miyazato (72-70-72-74)
10th/+1 Eun-Hee Ji (74-70-73-72)

T11/+2 Ah-Reum Hwang (72-71-77-70), Eun-A Lim (75-74-70-71)
T13/+3 Hyun-Ju Shin (77-68-70-76)
T15/+4 Ya Ni Tseng (71-76-74-71), Yuri Fudoh (70-74-77-71)
T17/+6 Song-Hee Kim (72-77-73-72), Shinobu Moromizato (73-74-74-73)
T19/+7 Momoko Ueda (74-70-80-71), Danielle Kang [a] (75-75-72-73), Kaori Aoyama (77-69-75-74), Natsuka Hori [a] (73-70-73-79)
T23/+8 Yuki Ichinose (75-78-72-71), Ritsuko Ryu (78-71-74-73)
T25/+9 Asako Fujimoto (75-71-75-76)
T27/+10 Young Kim (75-74-77), Ji-Woo Lee (77-73-75-73), Na-Ri Lee (71-79-74-74), Ji-Hee Lee (69-75-80-74), Mamiko Higa [a] (73-74-73-78)
T33/+11 Nikki Campbell (72-72-81-74), Hiromi Takesue (73-77-73-76)
T36/+12 Saiki Fujita (75-74-79-72), Mie Nakata (73-78-75-74), Serena Aoki [a] (76-75-73-76), Yukari Baba (73-75-73-79)
T40/+13 Mayu Hattori (77-74-74-76), Asuka Kashiwabara [a] (73-76-75-77), Na-Ri Kim (74-77-71-79), Rikako Morita (76-72-72-81)
46th/+14 Harukyo Nomura [a] (75-73-78-76)
T47/+15 Akane Iijima (74-77-77-75)
T50/+16 Rui Kitada (79-74-75-76)
61st/+21 Mami Fukuda [a] (75-77-77-80)
T64/+24 Miho Mori [a] (77-75-80-80)
66th/+25 Onnarin Sattayabanphot (77-76-79-83)

Among the non-winners, Sun-Ju Ahn padded her money-list lead by blowing by Sakura Yokomine in the final round, Ai Miyazato lost ground to Na Yeon Choi but gained it on every other player in top 10 of the Rolex Rankings, Danielle Kang did a great job to hang in there and tie for low amateur honors with Natsuka Hori, and amateur Harukyo Nomura did respectably a couple of months before the final stage of LPGA Q-School, which she qualified for a little less than a month ago.

So here's how the JLPGA money list now stands:

1. Sun-Ju Ahn ¥89.95M
2. Sakura Yokomine ¥67.01M
3. Mi-Jeong Jeon ¥62.66M
4. Yuri Fudoh ¥54.78M
5. Saiki Fujita ¥54.65M
6. Akane Iijima ¥54.56M
7. Yukari Baba ¥53.35M
8. Chie Arimura ¥52.65M
9. Nikki Campbell ¥50.00M
10. Rui Kitada ¥49.67M
11. Ji-Hee Lee ¥45.37M
12. Inbee Park ¥44.23M
13. Shinobu Moromizato ¥38.35M
14. Ayako Uehara ¥37.36M
15. Young Kim ¥36.76M
16. Eun-A Lim ¥36.61M
17. Miki Saiki ¥35.22M
18. Mayu Hattori ¥35.10M
19. Miho Koga ¥34.53M
20. Mie Nakata ¥34.19M
21. Na-Ri Kim ¥31.55M
22. Hyun-Ju Shin ¥30.88M
23. Hiromi Takesue ¥29.19M
24. Ji-Woo Lee ¥28.72M
25. Hiromi Mogi ¥28.63M
26. Akiko Fukushima ¥28.21M
27. Ji-Yai Shin ¥26.34M
28. Asako Fujimoto ¥25.83M
29. Bo-Bae Song ¥25.63M
30. Ah-Reum Hwang ¥23.43M
31. Na-Ri Lee ¥21.99M
32. Yun-Jye Wei ¥21.92M
33. Maiko Wakabayashi ¥21.66M
34. Rikako Morita ¥20.73M
35. Kaori Aoyama ¥20.34M

With non-members like Morgan Pressel and now Mika Miyazato taking the top prize in 2 of the year's 1st 3 majors, there's less money concentrated among the JLPGA's finest this season than most. Momoko Ueda, who's stuck at #37 on the money list with just under ¥20M in 13 starts, is staying on the JLPGA for a good reason--just 1 really good finish can vault her far up the money list and secure her card for 2011. Ai Miyazato, at #43 with just under ¥17M in only 5 starts, will have a lot of pressure on her in her last 2 JLPGA starts--the Mizuno Classic and the Ricoh Cup (for which she received a special invitation)--to get or stay in the top 50 and keep her JLPGA card for next season, as well. But it's off to Alabama for her, Mikan, and Na Yeon Choi. Ai-sama's got a chance to take the lead in both the LPGA money list and Player of the Year race with both Ji-Yai Shin and Ya Ni Tseng on the sidelines next week.

[Update 1 (6:54 am): At some point, Mikan will have to decide if she wants to become a dual LPGA-JLPGA member like Ai Miyazato, Ji-Yai Shin, Inbee Park, Momoko Ueda, Seon Hwa Lee, Shiho Oyama, Teresa Lu, and Tamie Durdin. For that matter, I'm wondering how many other LPGAers will seek dual membership on the JLPGA for next year. Will Salonpas Cup winner Morgan Pressel? Will anyone from the top 20 on the 2009 LPGA money list enter the last stage of the JLPGA's Q-School? With the LPGA Tour Championship taking place the 1st week of December (the same week as the team international competition known as the Pinx Cup when it's hosted by Korea and the Kyoraku Cup when it's hosted by Japan), and with the JLPGA having some wiggle room in when they schedule their Q-School's final stage, it'll be a clear indication of how eager tour officials are for Ya Ni Tseng, Na Yeon Choi, Song-Hee Kim, and Eun-Hee Ji to be dual members in 2011 by how exactly they schedule the final stage's rounds. (Actually, given how badly Seon Hwa Lee, Teresa Lu, and Tamie Durdin have done on the JLPGA thus far this season, they, too, would probably have to play the final stage to keep their cards.)]

[Update 2 (6:56 am): Sun-Ju Ahn's final-round 67 got her near the 90 million yen mark on the season and extended her lead on Sakura Yokomine to more than 20 million yen. She has a fantastic chance to become the 1st-ever Korean and 2nd-ever non-Japanese money-list leader. Ai-Yu Tu of Taiwan did it in 1982-1986, 1989, and 1991. She was as dominant back then as Yuri Fudoh was in the 2000s and Hisako Higuchi in the 1st decade of the JLPGA's existence!]

[Update 3 (7:11 am): Here's my Waggle Room version of this post.]

[Update 4 (7:27 am): You can find a different version at Hound Dog LPGA.]

[Update 5 (9:15 am): Here's the Kyodo News story.]

[Update 6 (9:19 am): BTW, Ryo Ishikawa finished 2 strokes out of a playoff in his bid to defend his title this week on the JGTO, so I'm hoping Mikan's win will be the biggest golf story in Japan today.]

[Update 7 (10/4/10, 7:44 am): Great montage from derr2000/LPGA Fan!

Check out the last few images to see how much this win meant to Mika--and Ai!]

[Update 8 (7:51 am): Here are the highlights--and hugs--from a Japanese news show:

If I understood her correctly at the end, Mikan said something like the next step is to win in America.]

[Update 9 (8:10 am): Just realized Mikan turns 21 on 10/10/10!]

[Update 10 (2:09 pm): Nice write-up by Golf Girl on Mikan's win. I appreciate the compliments, but in the spirit of honesty must point out that I get all my KLPGA news from Seoul and its founder's Seoul Sisters blog--both in my left sidebar!]

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