Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Looking Ahead to the Mizuno Classic

I'm really pumped up for next week's Mizuno Classic, where everyone on the top 40 of the JLPGA money list except Yuri Fudoh will be teeing it up against most of the LPGA's finest.

Unfortunately, Cristie Kerr, Suzann Pettersen, In-Kyung Kim, Michelle Wie, Paula Creamer, Juli Inkster, Se Ri Pak, Shanshan Feng, Jeong Jang, Brittany Lang, Beatriz Recari, and Karen Stupples are taking the week off, while dual LPGA-JLPGA members Shiho Oyama, Teresa Lu, and Tamie Durdin failed to qualify for this elite event. But it'll be interesting to see if Inbee Park, who's played better in Japan than outside it this season, can continue to outshine fellow dual members Ji-Yai Shin, Ai Miyazato, and Momoko Ueda when they compete together on the JLPGA--and outplay Morgan Pressel, and Ya Ni Tseng, who hasve each won a JLPGA major this season [thanks, John!]. I wonder whether any of the top Koreans on the JLPGA like Sun-Ju Ahn, Mi-Jeong Jeon, Ji-Hee Lee, Young Kim, Eun-A Lim, Na-Ri Kim, Hyun-Ju Shin, Ji-Woo Lee, and Na-Ri Lee can accomplish what defending champion Bo-Bae Song did last year. And above all, I wonder if any of the top Japanese golfers--particularly Sakura Yokomine and Chie Arimura--will be able to follow in Ueda's footsteps and gain LPGA membership via a win next week.

Of course, all eyes will be on the battle between Shin, Miyazato, and Na Yeon Choi for worldwide supremacy in women's golf. Shin and Choi have done just about everything well this year but win in bunches. For Ai-sama, who's skipping the Hana Bank Championship to rest before what's looking like a 5-tournament run--Japan to Mexico to Japan to Florida--to end the 2010 season, a hot start in the Mizuno is particularly important. 5 of the 6 times she's broken 70 in the 1st round of an LPGA event this season, she's gone on to win (a T19 when she was defending last year's Evian Masters title was the only exception). She hasn't broken 67 on the LPGA since her win at the Safeway in late August and has broken 70 only twice in 17 rounds on the JLPGA, so she's probably due to start going low again, particularly given how well she's been putting on both tours. Plus she'll have the added incentive of needing to make up ground on her top competitors, who are all playing in Korea this week. Ai-sama was clearly the best player in the world in the 1st half of this season, but she'll need a spark at the Mizuno and a great stretch run to end the season that way.

Golf Channel did a cute profile on Ai-sama and Mikan:

Can't wait to see what the Japanese media comes up with--and what makes it onto youtube....

[Update 1 (11/1/10, 1:57 pm): Here's how the LPGA's key season-long races look following Na Yeon Choi's great win in Korea!]

[Update 2 (11/3/10, 3:13 am): With Nikki Campbell out, Teresa Lu is in. It's Lu's last chance to make the top 50 on the JLPGA money list and avoid a return to their Q-School to keep her card now, just as it is for Seon Hwa Lee. Let's see if they can rise to the challenge this week!]

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