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!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

"How Strong Will the Navistar Classic Field Be?" Redux

One week ago today, I argued that the Navistar Classic field would be pretty strong, based on my survey of the preliminary field list. But with Ya Ni Tseng, Suzann Pettersen, Michelle Wie, and Shiho Oyama now joining Ji-Yai Shin, Song-Hee Kim, Inbee Park, and Momoko Ueda in skipping the event, it's not going to be as strong as I thought!

But Hound Dog's post on those fighting to keep their cards shows that the absence of top-ranked players is an opportunity for more of the LPGA's rank-and-file to avoid Q-School. Speaking of which, here are the 2nd-round results for the Florida sectional qualifier!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Recommended Reading: Hound Dog and Lisa Mickey on Florida Sectional Qualifier for LPGA Q-School

Hound Dog and Lisa Mickey remind us that the Florida sectional qualifier for LPGA Q-School starts today. Here's the field list and 1st-round pairings. In addition to the players Mickey highlights and the ones from the California sectional qualifier who didn't make the top 30 earlier this month, I'm curious to see how Japanese pros Junko Nakada, Yukiko Nishiki, and Yukari Nishiyama do. But I'm guessing that LETers Lee-Anne Pace, Becky Brewerton, Emma Cabrera-Bello, Mollie Fankhauser, and Stephanie Na will be the players to beat this week.

[Update 1 (9/29/10, 8:00 am): Here are the 1st-round results.]

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Miyagi TV Cup Dunlop Ladies Open Sunday: Eun-A Lim Takes the Crown

2nd-round leader Rui Kitada was looking for her 7th JLPGA victory and 1st since 2008 today in the Miyagi TV Cup Dunlop Ladies Open, but she started bogey-par-triple bogey and needed a late charge to get back to -2 for the week. She was joined there by Momoko Ueda, who had opened with a 69 and her best chance for a win in 2010, but squandered it with a 2nd-round 75. Still, because just about everyone else played worse (Mika Miyazato, for instance, who had gotten to -3 for the tournament with a birdie on the par-3 4th hole, failed to make another birdie the rest of the way and ended her week on a 3-hole bogey train), the title came down to 3 Korean players, Inbee Park, Na-Ri Lee, and Eun-A Lim.

Park, playing 2 groups ahead of Lee and Lim, tied Junko Omote for the best round of the day, but even though she made 4 birdies in her 1st 7 holes, she also made 2 bogeys, so she was still 1 shot behind Lee and Lim as she made the turn. She fell further behind when Lee and Lim both birdied the par-3. But Park responded with birdies on the par-5 14th and the par-4 17th to get to -5 for the tournament. At that point, she was tied with Lee, who was playing bogey-free golf but had managed only 2 birdies, and 1 behind Lim, who had brought her birdie total for the day to 4 with 1 of her own on the par-5 14th. But a walkoff bogey took a lot of pressure off Lee and Lim, who matched cards on the way home: par-par-bogey-par. When all the dust had settled, Lim, who had been in contention at the Golf5 Ladies just a couple of events ago but blew up with a final-round 78, had won her 3rd career JLPGA event. Park, meanwhile, had to settle for her 5th silver medal in 9 starts as a JLPGA member this season.

Here are the final results for the leaders and notables:

1st/-5 Eun-A Lim (70-71-70)
T2/-4 Inbee Park (72-71-69), Na-Ri Lee (71-70-71)
T4/-2 Momoko Ueda (69-75-70), Rui Kitada (70-70-74)
T6/+1 Shiho Oyama (71-73-73), Mika Miyazato (72-70-75), Li-Ying Ye (69-73-75)
T9/+2 Teresa Lu (73-72-73), Asako Fujimoto (73-72-73), Yuki Ichinose (73-72-73), Ya Ni Tseng (72-73-73), Natsu Nagai (72-73-73), Erika Kikuchi (73-70-75), Shinobu Moromizato (72-71-75)

T16/+3 Mayu Hattori (72-76-71), Chie Arimura (73-72-74), Ji-Hee Lee (72-73-74), Akane Iijima (71-74-74)
T24/+4 Nikki Campbell (75-75-70), Ji-Yai Shin (75-72-73), Mi-Jeong Jeon (75-71-74), Saiki Fujita (74-70-76)
T28/+5 Tamie Durdin (76-74-71), Miki Saiki (72-77-72)
T32/+6 Rikako Morita (76-73-73), Esther Lee (76-72-74)
T34/+7 Hiromi Takesue (73-76-74), Ayako Uehara (75-73-75)
T42/+8 Sakura Yokomine (75-75-74), Mie Nakata (73-77-74), Kaori Aoyama (74-75-75)
T48/+9 So-Hee Kim (76-74-75)
T51/+10 Erina Hara (74-75-77)
T54/+11 Maiko Wakabayashi (70-73-84)
T56/+12 Kyung-Min Lin (76-73-79)

Here's how the JLPGA money list now stands:

1. Sun-Ju Ahn ¥79.17M
2. Sakura Yokomine ¥63.09M
3. Mi-Jeong Jeon ¥62.66M
4. Akane Iijima ¥53.76M
5. Saiki Fujita ¥53.74M
6. Yuri Fudoh ¥53.18M
7. Yukari Baba ¥52.44M
8. Nikki Campbell ¥49.03M
9. Rui Kitada ¥48.91M
10. Chie Arimura ¥45.65M
11. Ji-Hee Lee ¥44.31M
12. Inbee Park ¥44.23M
13. Shinobu Moromizato ¥36.92M
14. Young Kim ¥35.70M
15. Miho Koga ¥34.53M
16. Eun-A Lim ¥34.28M
17. Mayu Hattori ¥34.24M
18. Mie Nakata ¥33.28M
19. Ayako Uehara ¥31.97M
20. Na-Ri Kim ¥30.70M
21. Hyun-Ju Shin ¥29.04M
22. Hiromi Mogi ¥28.63M
23. Hiromi Takesue ¥28.23M
24. Akiko Fukushima ¥28.21M
25. Ji-Woo Lee ¥27.66M
26. Ji-Yai Shin ¥26.34M
27. Bo-Bae Song ¥25.63M
28. Asako Fujimoto ¥24.68M
29. Yun-Jye Wei ¥21.92M
30. Maiko Wakabayashi ¥21.66M

Ueda's 3rd top 5 in 12 JLPGA starts moves her up to #39 on the money list, while Ai Miyazato drops to #48 and Teresa Lu to #55. They'll all need to play well in next week's Japan Women's Open to improve their odds of ending up in the top 50 and keeping their JLPGA cards for 2011.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Miyagi TV Cup Dunlop Ladies Open Saturday: Rui Kitada Takes Over the Lead

Rui Kitada shot her 2nd-straight 70 at the Miyagi TV Cup Dunlop Ladies Open today to take a 1-shot lead over Eun-A Lim and Na-Ri Lee into tomorrow's final round. The secret to Kitada's success thus far has been limiting her mistakes to 4 bogeys over her 1st 36 holes. By contrast, everyone who broke 70 yesterday went over par today, none worse than Momoko Ueda, who stumbled to a 75 that drops her 4 shots off the pace. Still, she's doing better than some of the other huge names in the tournament. Sakura Yokomine just missed missing the cut, while her playing partner Ji-Yai Shin is stuck in the middle of the pack after failing to mount an early move on moving day. Ya Ni Tseng is in a big group 5 shots behind Kitada, courtesy of a triple bogey on the medium-length par-4 17th hole. The only player from among the JLPGA's irregulars to make a serious move today was Mika Miyazato, but she, too, got derailed after going on a 3-hole birdie train midway through the front and had to settle for a 70. Even Inbee Park is 3 shots off the pace after offsetting her 5 birdies with 4 bogeys today.

Here's how the leaders and notables stand after round 2:

1st/-4 Rui Kitada (70-70)
T2/-3 Na-Ri Lee (71-70), Eun-A Lim (70-71)
T4/-2 Mika Miyazato (72-70), Li-Ying Ye (69-73), Yoko Inoue (68-74)
T7/-1 Erika Kikuchi (73-70), Inbee Park (72-71), Shinobu Moromizato (72-71), Maiko Wakabayashi (70-73)

T11/E Saiki Fujita (74-70), Shiho Oyama (71-73), Momoko Ueda (69-75)
T14/+1 Chie Arimura (73-72), Teresa Lu (73-72), Asako Fujimoto (73-72), Yuki Ichinose (73-72), Ya Ni Tseng (72-73), Ji-Hee Lee (72-73), Akane Iijima (71-74)
T23/+2 Mi-Jeong Jeon (75-71)
T28/+3 Ji-Yai Shin (75-72)
T32/+4 Esther Lee (76-72), Ayako Uehara (75-73), Mayu Hattori (72-76)
T39/+5 Rikako Morita (76-73), Kyung-Min Lin (76-73), Kaori Aoyama (74-75), Erina Hara (74-75), Hiromi Takesue (73-76), Miki Saiki (72-77)
T47/+6 Tamie Durdin (76-74), So-Hee Kim (76-74), Sakura Yokomine (75-75), Nikki Campbell (75-75), Mie Nakata (73-77)

MC: Yuko Mitsuka (75-76), Ritsuko Ryu (75-77), Akiko Fukushima (76-77), Hyun-Ju Shin (75-78)

As you can see, there are 22 players within 5 shots of the lead and only the 3 leading players who have managed to stay under par both rounds. If they falter tomorrow, this could be anyone's tournament. Even with so many pursuers, however, the ball's still in Kitada's court heading into the final round. The 6-time winner on the JLPGA could put her 2010 in the running for her best season ever with a win tomorrow. Back in 2004, she won 3 times and ended up 3rd on the money list. If she's able to hold off her challengers, she'd join the ranks of this season's repeat winners, guarantee that she'll earn more than in any other season in her career, and put herself in position to challenge the Big 3 atop the JLPGA's 2010 money-list. Let's see if she can do it!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Miyagi TV Cup Dunlop Ladies Open Friday: Veteran Inoue Takes 1 Shot Lead over Ueda

Despite making a double bogey on the long par-4 5th hole at the Miyagi TV Cup Dunlop Ladies Open, veteran Yoko Inoue ended up with a 68 that was good enough for a 1-shot lead over Momoko Ueda and Li-Ying Ye. With visitors Ya Ni Tseng, Inbee Park, and Mika Miyazato opening with even-par 72s, defending champion Chie Arimura settling for a 73, and world #2 Ji-Yai Shin and JLPGA top gun Sakura Yokomine stumbling to 75s, Ueda has a great opportunity to turn her 2010 around.

Here are the leaders and notables heading into the weekend:

1st/-4 Yoko Inoue (68)
T2/-3 Momoko Ueda, Li-Ying Ye (69)
T4/-2 Rui Kitada, Maiko Wakabayashi, Eun-A Lim, Chiharu Tsunekawa (70)
T8/-1 Akane Iijima, Shiho Oyama, Na-Ri Lee (71)

T11/E Ya Ni Tseng, Inbee Park, Shinobu Moromizato, Ji-Hee Lee, Mika Miyazato, Mayu Hattori, Miki Saiki (72)
T22/+1 Chie Arimura, Teresa Lu, Mie Nakata, Asako Fujimoto, Hiromi Takesue, Yuki Ichinose (73)
T33/+2 Saiki Fujita, Kaori Aoyama, Erina Hara (74)
T41/+3 Ji-Yai Shin, Sakura Yokomine, Mi-Jeong Jeon, Nikki Campbell, Hyun-Ju Shin, Yuko Mitsuka, Ritsuko Ryu (75)
T58/+4 Akiko Fukushima, Tamie Durdin, So-Hee Kim, Rikako Morita, Esther Lee, Kyung-Min Lin (76)

Ji-Yai Shin needed to birdie her last 2 holes to salvage her 75, while a walkoff bogey was all that kept Ueda out of a share of the lead. It looks like Ueda's planned playing partner Miho Koga didn't tee it up. Hope to find out why. Tomorrow, Shin and Yokomine are the 1st off the 1st, while Ueda plays in the final pairing 2 and a half hours later. It'll be interesting if they make an early move on moving day and put some pressure on Momo-chan.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

How Strong Will the Navistar Classic Field Be?

Even without Ji-Yai Shin, Song-Hee Kim, Inbee Park, and Momoko Ueda, the Navistar Classic field is looking quite strong. Ai Miyazato, Ya Ni Tseng, Na Yeon Choi, Eun-Hee Ji, Hee Young Park, and Mika Miyazato will be flying straight from the biggest tournament on the JLPGA schedule, the Japan Women's Open, to Alabama's Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. Moreover, Shiho Oyama will play her 1st LPGA event of the season after coming back from elbow surgery a little while ago on the JLPGA, Michelle Wie will be taking some time off from classes at Stanford, and Lexi Thompson will be seeing if she can earn enough in her sponsor exemptions to force the LPGA to decide whether it would waive its age requirements to grant her membership. And with Laura Davies, Christina Kim, Julieta Granada, and Maria Hernandez coming off strong performances on the LET recently, not to mention Sophie Gustafson, Azahara Munoz, Pernilla Lindberg, and Alison Walshe, there will be plenty of dual LPGA-LET members with momentum heading into October's 1st LPGA event. Finally, with walking wounded Paula Creamer, Suzann Pettersen, and Jeong Jang having had plenty of recovery time, we should see them roll into Prattsville ready to roll. In fact, Shin, Kim, Park, and Ueda look to be the only members of the Rolex Rankings top 50 not to be competing (even though Shin apparently hasn't officially notified tournament officials of this). The field list isn't final, so we may see some late drop-outs, but right now I'd characterize the field as very strong.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Uh Oh! Is Ji-Yai OK?

Just saw this Beth Ann Baldry piece on the possibility that Ji-Yai Shin might need to skip the last 2 events of the season on the LPGA. I'm going to do a little digging and see if I can't find out more about the state of her health and her schedule planning process....

[Update 1 (9/22/10, 8:54 am): Just checked my email and saw that I got permission from Shin's caddie, Dean Herden, to quote the following about her tentative schedule for the rest of the season:

Miyagi TV (JLPGA)
week off
Hi Mart (KLPGA) [home town Gwangju area]
Fujitsu (JLPGA)
Malaysia (LPGA)
Hana Bank (LPGA/KLPGA)

What follows is my own interpretation of what I'm hearing from people in Ji-Yai's camp and observations on the LPGA's and JLPGA's schedules.

Given how burned out she was at the end of last season and the health issues she's faced this season--sadly ironic given how much attention she paid in the off season to both her physical conditioning and to developing a sustainable schedule, but no amount of preparation and planning can stop life's vicissitudes--it makes sense that she'd minimize her travel in the next few weeks. What makes the stretch run of the worldwide women's golf schedule so difficult for players with dual membership in an Asian tour and the LPGA is the sheer amount of shuttling back and forth in such a short time. For instance, if you wanted to play every JLPGA and LPGA event from mid-September on, you'd be flying from NW Arkansas to Japan, stay there for 3 weeks, then fly to Alabama, California, Malaysia, Korea, Japan, Mexico, back to Japan for 2 weeks (Ji-Yai's JLPGA win this season has already qualified her for their season-ending major, the Ricoh Cup), and then have to decide whether to fly back to the states for the LPGA Tour Championship or stay in East Asia for the Kyoraku/Pinx Cup (the team Japan v. Korea showdown). What's more, Lorena Ochoa's invitational is played at high altitude, which can't make dealing with pre- and post-event jet lag any easier.

In the face of all that travel, nobody's going to play 12 events in a row, of course. So the question becomes where to skip so as to maximize one's odds of playing well, finishing high, and doing as well as possible on both the LPGA and JLPGA money lists. That's a tough decision for the healthiest of golfers. Looks to me like there's been a decision made to go public on key aspects of Ji-Yai's decision-making process, so that the places she's skipping understand why it's playing out this way. And so that the LPGA understands the repercussions of its approach to fall scheduling on its players who are most instrumental in helping them expand into Asia.

Now I'm wondering if we'll be hearing soon from Ai Miyazato, Ya Ni Tseng, Na Yeon Choi, In-Kyung Kim, and other global stars as to their own scheduling processes.]

Monday, September 20, 2010

Who's Having the Best 2010 in the World of Women's Golf?

Last season, 15 players garnered multiple wins, either on their home tour alone or across 2 or more tours, with Ji-Yai Shin beating out Lorena Ochoa, Sakura Yokomine, and Hee Kyung Seo for 2009 Mostly Harmless Player of the Year. So who are the front-runners for this year's award?

5-time Winners (1): Ai Miyazato (all LPGA--Thailand, Singapore, Tres Marias, ShopRite, Safeway)

4-time Winners (2): Ya Ni Tseng (3 LPGA--Kraft Nabisco, British, NW Arkansas--and 2 LET--Australian, British); Laura Davies (all LET--New Zealand, Germany, Austria, Spain)

3-time Winners (3): Ji-Yai Shin (1 LPGA--Evian--1 JLPGA--Cyber Agent--1 KLPGA--KLPGA Championship--and 1 LET--Evian); Mi-Jeong Jeon (all JLPGA--Yonex, Nichirei, Munsingwear); Lee-Anne Pace (all LET--Switzerland, Wales, Finland)

2-time Winners (7): Cristie Kerr (both LPGA--State Farm, LPGA Championship); Yuri Fudoh (both JLPGA--Bridgestone, Meiji); Sun-Ju Ahn (both JLPGA--Daikin Orchid, Stanley); Akane Iijima (both JLPGA--Suntory, Golf5); Bo Mee Lee (both KLPGA--Kim Young Joo, Daewoo); Shin Ae Ahn (both KLPGA--Hidden Valley, High1 Resort); Trish Johnson (both LET--Tenerife, France)

Who do you expect to join these 13 nominees during the LPGA's, JLPGA's, KLPGA's, and LET's stretch runs?

[Update 1 (9/21/10, 8:31 pm): Shin's KLPGA major brought her within .18 points of Ai Miyazato in the Rolex Rankings! She could pass her with a win in Japan this week....]

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Munsingwear Ladies Tokai Classic Sunday: Mi-Jeong Jeon Wins with 64

Mi-Jeong Jeon opened with a 33 and closed with 4 straight birdies for a 64 that stole the Munsingwear Ladies Tokai Classic from Sun-Ju Ahn, who shot a 65 of her own to pass 2nd-round co-leaders Na-Ri Kim (70) and Sakura Yokomine (71). On a day when Ji-Yai Shin cruised in the KLPGA Championship to her 21st career KLPGA victory, Jeon denied Shin's top competitor from that tour a chance to significantly extend her lead on the 2010 JLPGA money list, not to mention the JLPGA's top gun a chance to make up ground on her. In so doing, she became the 1st 3-time winner on the JLPGA this season and moved her own career JLPGA victory total to 16. And she completely overshadowed Momoko Ueda's best finish of the year (on or off the JLPGA), Yuri Fudoh's 3 sub-70 rounds in a row, and Na-Ri Kim's 3rd top 3 on the JLPGA. Kim, in fact, had a chance to win at the turn, but couldn't manage a birdie on the back 9 and got passed 1st by Ahn, then by Jeon.

1st/-14 Mi-Jeong Jeon (70-68-64)
2nd/-12 Sun-Ju Ahn (72-67-65)
3rd/-11 Na-Ri Kim (67-68-70)
T4/-10 Momoko Ueda (69-70-67), Yuri Fudoh (68-69-69), Yui Kawahara (71-65-70), Sakura Yokomine (66-69-71)
T8/-8 Inbee Park (71-69-68), Shinobu Moromizato (69-70-69)
T10/-7 Chie Arimura (72-71-66), Yuko Saitoh (74-66-69), Ji-Woo Lee (71-66-72), Mayu Hattori (69-68-72)

T14/-6 Na-Ri Lee (69-72-69), Esther Lee (73-67-70), Shiho Oyama (70-69-71), Miki Saiki (70-69-71)
T19/-5 Hyun-Ju Shin (75-68-68), Akiko Fukushima (74-68-69), Li-Ying Ye (69-72-70)
T24/-4 Ah-Reum Hwang (74-68-70), Yukari Baba (73-68-71)
T28/-3 Akane Iijima (71-73-69), Young Kim (69-75-69), Rui Kitada (70-73-70), Bo-Bae Song (67-75-71)
T39/-1 Maiko Wakabayashi (73-69-73), Ayako Uehara (72-69-74)
T44/E Mie Nakata (71-73-72)
T46/+1 Yun-Jye Wei (76-69-72), Yuko Mitsuka (74-70-73), Ritsuko Ryu (71-71-75)

Perhaps most important, Jeon put herself within striking range of Ahn's money-list lead:

1. Sun-Ju Ahn ¥79.17M
2. Sakura Yokomine ¥62.77M
3. Mi-Jeong Jeon ¥62.09M
4. Yuri Fudoh ¥53.18M
5. Saiki Fujita ¥53.17M
6. Akane Iijima ¥53.03M
7. Yukari Baba ¥52.44M
8. Nikki Campbell ¥48.46M
9. Rui Kitada ¥45.06M
10. Chie Arimura ¥44.92M
11. Ji-Hee Lee ¥43.58M
12. Inbee Park ¥38.70M
13. Young Kim ¥35.70M
14. Shinobu Moromizato ¥35.65M
15. Miho Koga ¥34.53M
16. Mayu Hattori ¥33.52M
17. Mie Nakata ¥32.96M
18. Ayako Uehara ¥31.57M
19. Na-Ri Kim ¥30.70M
20. Hyun-Ju Shin ¥29.04M
21. Hiromi Mogi ¥28.63M
22. Akiko Fukushima ¥28.21M
23. Hiromi Takesue ¥27.82M
24. Ji-Woo Lee ¥27.66M
25. Ji-Yai Shin ¥25.76M
26. Bo-Bae Song ¥25.63M
27. Asako Fujimoto ¥23.41M
28. Yun-Jye Wei ¥21.92M
29. Eun-A Lim ¥21.68M
30. Maiko Wakabayashi ¥21.41M

With Momoko Ueda, Tamie Durdin, Ai Miyazato, and Yuko Mitsuka barely hanging onto their spots in the top 50, look for everyone but Miyazato to concentrate on the JLPGA for the next few weeks. Next week in the Miyagi TV Cup Dunlop Ladies Open, Ji-Yai Shin, Ya Ni Tseng, and Mika Miyazato will see how their games stack up against the JLPGA's finest. Should be pretty cool!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Check This Out! Ai Miyazato/Brittany Lincicome Swing Comparison

Turns out it's Brittany Lincicome's birthday. Check out where Ai Miyazato's swing is at when Brittany's hit the ball....

Wow! Who has 5 wins this season?

Ai-sama puts her style of play and swing tempo in context before the Canadian Women's Open:

Munsingwear Ladies Tokai Classic Saturday: Sakura Yokomine and Na-Ri Kim Share the Lead

As Ji-Yai Shin was building a 3-shot lead in the KLPGA's 2nd major of 2010, the JLPGA's top gun, Sakura Yokomine, was finding it harder to distance herself from the star-studded field in the Munsingwear Ladies Tokai Classic. Even with 4 straight birdies to conclude her round, Yokomine found herself in a large group of 8 players within 3 shots of the lead, tied with ex-LPGAer Na-Ri Kim at the top of the heap at -9. Tomorrow's final round should be a treat, as no less than Yuri Fudoh, Momoko Ueda, Sun-Ju Ahn, Mi-Jeong Jeon, Inbee Park, Shinobu Moromizato, and Shiho Oyama remain within 5 shots of the lead.

Here's how the leaders and notables fared after round 2 was complete:

T1/-9 Na-Ri Kim (67-68), Sakura Yokomine (66-69)
3rd/-8 Yui Kawahara (71-65)
T4/-7 Ji-Woo Lee (71-66), Mayumi Shimomura (70-67), Mayu Hattori (69-68), Yuri Fudoh (68-69), Midori Yoneyama (66-71)
T9/-6 Mi-Jeong Jeon (70-68), Kuniko Maeda (69-69)

T11/-5 Sun-Ju Ahn (72-67), Shiho Oyama (70-69), Miki Saiki (70-69), Momoko Ueda (69-70), Shinobu Moromizato (69-70)
T17/-4 Esther Lee (73-67), Inbee Park (71-69)
T20/-3 Yukari Baba (73-68), Ayako Uehara (72-69), Li-Ying Ye (69-72), Na-Ri Lee (69-72)
T25/-2 Akiko Fukushima (74-68), Ah-Reum Hwang (74-68), Maiko Wakabayashi (73-69), Ritsuko Ryu (71-71), Bo-Bae Song (67-75)
T34/-1 Hyun-Ju Shin (75-68), Chie Arimura (72-71), Rui Kitada (70-73)
T40/E Yuko Mitsuka (74-70), Akane Iijima (71-73), Mie Nakata (71-73), Young Kim (69-75)
T49/+1 Yun-Jye Wei (76-69)

MC: Kaori Aoyama (76-70), Jae-Hee Bae (72-74), Asako Fujimoto (77-70), Yuki Ichinose (75-72), Teresa Lu (75-73), Rikako Morita (78-71), So-Hee Kim (76-74), Tamie Durdin (75-75), Erina Hara (74-76)

Veteran Yui Kawahara snagged the low round of the day and the tournament and she did it despite making 2 bogeys on the front 9. Ji-Woo Lee's 66, by contrast, was bogey-free, while both Mi-Jeong Jeon and Na-Ri Kim suffered double bogeys late on the front. Big numbers also hurt Bo-Bae Song, Ayako Uehara, and Li-Ying Ye, while Ueda, Moromizato, and Saiki played bogey-free golf.

Can't wait to see who minimizes their mistakes and takes advantage of their opportunities tomorrow!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Congrats to the 30 Golfers Moving on from Rancho Mirage to Daytona Beach in LPGA Q-School

Pepperdine's Eileen Vargas got her 1st professional "win" today when she led 29 other golfers moving on from the California sectional qualifier at Mission Hills to the final qualifying tournament of LPGA Q-School. The outcome wasn't decided, however, until she made a walkoff birdie from a fairway bunker and UCLA's Sydnee Michaels ended her final round with a 3-putt bogey.

Erica Moston, who had lead the 1st 2 rounds, ended up with the best finish of her professional career, 2 shots off the pace at -8. 1 shot further back were Kathleen Ekey and Sarah Brown, who also outdid all their previous professional efforts and like Vargas moved up from the lower half of the Futures Tour money list to compete with the FT's #6 through #20 players and those who fall outside the top 100 on this year's LPGA money list. Among the bigger names joining them, newcomers Jessica Korda (-6), Caroline Hedwall (-3), Jaclyn Sweeney (-2), and Jennifer Johnson (E) stand out, along with former LPGAers Sophia Sheridan (-1) and Virada Nirapathpongporn (E) and LETers Belen Mozo (-5) and Christel Boeljon (-4). I'm particularly psyched to see Ayaka Kaneko (-6), Harukyo Nomura (+3), and Rebecca Kim (+5) exceed my expectations by moving on this week. (BTW, I have no complaint with Blair O'Neal being chosen to represent the qualifiers on Golf Babes.)

With the cut line coming in at +5, lots of good players will have to perform better in the Florida sectional qualifier at the end of the month, among them Kimberly Kim and Jenny Suh at +6, Charlotte Mayorkas and Stephanie Na at +8, Briana Vega at +11, and Candace Schepperle at +16. Japanese amateur Ai Miyazawa, who missed the cut badly this week, will have to give up a spot in the Japan Women's Open to give herself a chance to realize her LPGA dreams this year. Me, I'd take the JWO in a heartbeat and either go for FT Q-School in early November or compete as an amateur in Japan in 2011, getting sponsor exemptions into JLPGA events as the opportunities arise....

Munsingwear Ladies Tokai Classic Friday: Sakura Yokomine Shares 1st-Round Lead

While Ji-Yai Shin and Na Yeon Choi are neck-and-neck at the halfway point of the KLPGA's 2nd major of 2010, the JLPGA is right in between its 2nd and 3rd majors. And its stars are out in force at the Munsingwear Ladies Tokai Classic. The JLPGA's top gun over the past several seasons, Sakura Yokomine, went out in 31, thanks to a stretch where she went eagle-par-birdie-birdie-birdie and ended up in a share of the lead at -6 with veteran Midori Yoneyama, whose own 31 came on the back. But right behind them are a score of tough competitors, including Bo-Bae Song (-5), Yuri Fudoh (-4), and Momoko Ueda, Shinobu Moromizato, and Young Kim (all at -3). And don't count out Mi-Jeong Jeon and Shiho Oyama at -2, Inbee Park and Akane Iijima at -1, and Sun-Ju Ahn and Chie Arimura at E yet, either. Unfortunately, Miho Koga WDed, Teresa Lu and Hyun-Ju Shin opened with 75s, and Akiko Fukushima and Yuko Mitsuka could only manage 74s, but it still should be an exciting weekend. I'm rooting for LPGA Class of '06er Na-Ri Kim to walk away with her 1st JLPGA win this week. She's only 1 off the lead right now after opening with a bogey-free 67.

Here are the leaders and notables:

T1/-6 Sakura Yokomine, Midori Yoneyama (66)
T3/-5 Bo-Bae Song, Na-Ri Kim, Yoshimi Koda (67)
6th/-4 Yuri Fudoh (68)
T7/-3 Momoko Ueda, Shinobu Moromizato, Young Kim, Mayu Hattori, Li-Ying Ye, Na-Ri Lee, Kuniko Maeda, Kaori Nakamura (69)

T15/-2 Mi-Jeong Jeon, Shiho Oyama, Rui Kitada, Miki Saiki (70)
T23/-1 Inbee Park, Akane Iijima, Mie Nakata, Ji-Woo Lee, Ritsuko Ryu (71)
T34/E Sun-Ju Ahn, Chie Arimura, Ayako Uehara, Jae-Hee Bae (72)
T46/+1 Yukari Baba, Maiko Wakabayashi, Esther Lee (73)
T56/+2 Akiko Fukushima, Yuko Mitsuka, Ah-Reum Hwang, Erina Hara (74)
T72/+3 Teresa Lu, Hyun-Ju Shin, Tamie Durdin, Yuki Ichinose (75)
T83/+4 Kaori Aoyama, Yun-Jye Wei, So-Hee Kim (76)
T88/+5 Asako Fujimoto (77)
T96/+6 Rikako Morita (78)
WD Miho Koga

I'm seeing a lot of big numbers on the 9th and 18th (even Yokomine bogeyed the latter), so expect some interesting finishes to players' rounds over the weekend!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Why the Japan Women's Open Is the Most Important Women's Tournament of September

There are 3 events on the JLPGA schedule before the LPGA returns to action the 2nd week of October in the Navistar Classic:  the Munsingwear Ladies Tokai Classic, the Miyagi TV Cup Dunlop Ladies Open, and the Japan Women's Open.

This week, in addition to the JLPGA's regulars and recent returnees Yuko Mitsuka and Shiho Oyama, dual members Momoko Ueda, Inbee Park, and Teresa Lu will be teeing it up. Next week, Ji-Yai Shin and Mika Miyazato join in the fun. But it's the most prestigious tournament in women's golf in Japan the following week that ups the ante the most. Not only is its purse larger than the LPGA-co-sponsored Mizuno Classic, it's tied for the highest on the JLPGA schedule, as well, with last week's Konica Minolta Cup. But its field is even more impressive than the JLPGA's 2nd major's. In addition to all the top JLPGA regulars (except for Shiho Oyama) and dual members (except for Ji-Yai Shin and Inbee Park), it also includes Ai Miyazato, Ya Ni Tseng, Na Yeon Choi, Song-Hee Kim, Eun-Hee Ji, Hee Young Park, Onnarin Sattayabanphot, and U.S. Women's Amateur champion Danielle Kang.  But that's not all. The JWO is traditionally the coming-out party for top teenage amateurs in Japan and this year is no exception. Ai Miyazawa, Harukyo Nomura, Serena Aoki, Miho Mori, Mamiko Higa, Mami Fukuda, Natsuka Hori, and 14-year-olds Asuka Kashiwabara, Mio Kono, Haruka Morita, Shoko Sasaki, and Miyu Shinkai are some of the players to watch from this group. (I'm pretty sure that Miho-chan is Sakurako Mori's little sister and that Haruka-chan is Rikako Morita's little sister.)

It is a little strange to me that Ai Miyazato and Ji-Yai Shin are limiting themselves to 1 JLPGA event each this month and I'm frankly shocked that Seon Hwa Lee is skipping all of them. And it's true that the only LPGA event of the month, the NW Arkansas Classic, had a stronger field than the JWO.  But just like the U.S. Women's Open's only competition for top tournament in July is the Women's British Open, so, too, the JWO's only real competition for most important women's event in September is the KLPGA Championship (which takes place this week).  My vote is for the JWO (just like I'd vote for the U.S. Women's Open over the WBO), even if Ji-Yai Shin seems to have chosen the latter over the former.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Recommended Reading: Beth Ann Baldry and Brent Kelley on Going Pro and LPGA Q-School

Brent Kelley reminds us that the 4-round California sectional qualifier for LPGA Q-School begins today (at the site of the Kraft Nabisco Championship, no less) and points us toward Beth Ann Baldry's well-researched "Dollars or Degrees?" article on the decision to turn pro for top female amateur golfers.

Here are the 1st-round pairings at Mission Hills. In addition to the notables Kelley and Baldry mention, I'm curious to see how Japanese amateurs Ai Miyazawa (who lost in the 1st round of match play at the U.S. Women's Amateur this year) and Harukyo Nomura (who made it to the quarterfinals in the Japan Women's Amateur last year and made the cut at the Golf5 Ladies on the JLPGA this month) do relative to Tokyo-born and Hawaii-residing Ayaka Kaneko, Kyoto-born and University of Wisconsin-educated Lilly Kobayashi, and Maui's own Shayna Miyajima. My guess is that none of them will move on from this sectional qualifier (despite Miyazawa's and Nomura's achievements as junior golfers in Japan), but we'll see!

[Update 1 (1:43 pm): By the way, both Miyazawa and Nomura are entered in what's probably the biggest tournament in women's golf in September, the Japan Women's Open. I'll explain that comment in tomorrow's post!]

[Update 2 (11:33 pm): Here are the 1st-round results.]

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Best on the LPGA: 3-to-6-Time Winners, September 2010 Edition

With both Ai Miyazato and Ya Ni Tseng winning since my August assessment of the top players with 3 to 6 LPGA victories, it's about time to recalibrate my take on who among them are most likely to add to their totals in 2010's stretch run.

Most Likely to Win (a Lot) in 2010

1. Ya Ni Tseng (5 wins/3 majors): With 3 LPGA wins (including 2 majors) and 1 LET/ALPG win in 2010, she's very close to putting together a history-making season.
2. Ai Miyazato (6/0): The only 5-time winner in the world of women's golf in 2010 won't graduate from my "best without a major" list until next season at the earliest, but I'd say her odds are pretty darn great of graduating from this list this season.
3. Na Yeon Choi (3/0): I don't see any reason that she won't add to her growing victory total in the LPGA's home stretch. She's the most consistent contender of anyone on this list, after all. [Update (11/7/10): I forgot to mention that win #4 for Choi may not have moved her past Miyazato in my "most likely to win next" ranking, but it did put her in a position to win all 3 major season-long races on the LPGA.]
4. Suzann Pettersen (6/1): Ji-Yai Shin beat her to exiting this list and Miyazato might well be next. But given that she has time to rest her hip and spend some quality time with her putter, I wouldn't be surprised to see her take the money-list title and the Vare Trophy.

The Contenders

5. Angela Stanford (4/0): It's not like 2010 has been a bad season for her, but with the tour's hottest players in a feeding frenzy when it comes to winning, she's going to have to rest her shoulder and come back stronger than before to start getting in contention again. It's amazing to me that she hasn't even entered the top 10 since the ShopRite!
6. Brittany Lincicome (3/1): She's pretty much convinced me she's for real this time around, but until she overcomes her "onebadrounditis," she won't be contending with any regularity on the LPGA.
7. Seon Hwa Lee (4/0): This has been a real "1 step forward, 2 steps back" season thus far. Here's hoping her great finish in NW Arkansas gives her some momentum for the rest of the year.

Quantum Leap Candidates

8. Sophie Gustafson (5/0): It's amazing to me that her best LPGA finish this season was a T10 at the Kraft Nabisco Championship!
9. Maria Hjorth (3/0): She got 2 top 10s in her 1st 4 LPGA starts this season but hasn't done anything special since.
10. Hee-Won Han (6/0): Yikes, she's missed a lot of cuts lately!
11. Catriona Matthew (3/1): Ditto.
12. Candie Kung (4/0): Her T3 at the Kia Classic has been the only real bright spot in seriously blah season thus far, but at least she's been making a lot of cuts.
13. Pat Hurst (6/1): She got her 4th top 20 of the season at the Canadian Women's Open, but that's a far cry from graduating from this list.

On the Bottom, Looking Up

14. Wendy Ward (4/0): With only 2 top 20s all season, she's really struggling to find her game.
15. Lorie Kane (4/0): Fantastic T11 at the CWO means that maybe this season won't be her last stand on the LPGA, after all.

On the Outside, Looking In

16. Grace Park (6/1): She hasn't competed since her WD from the LPGA Championship with a back injury and missed cut (with a walkoff double) at the Farr.
17. Wendy Doolan (3/0): She hasn't played on the LPGA since mid-May. Hope she's ok.
18. Dorothy Delasin (4/0): This 2000 Rookie of the Year had been struggling to keep her card from 2006-2008, but she fell off a cliff in 2009, going 0 for 16 in made cuts and even bombing out of Q-School. Her 1st 4 years on tour when she averaged a win a year and was a consistent top 30 threat are a distant memory now. This season, she's extended her missed cut streak on the LPGA to 23 events. Is her career as a professional golfer coming to a close?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

P&G NW Arkansas Championship Sunday: Ya Ni Tseng Denies Michelle Wie Again

Wow! Must have been a great finish at the P&G NW Arkansas Championship! Ya Ni Tseng had a 1-shot lead on Michelle Wie going into the final hole, and both ended the tournament with birdies. They were the only bombers in the field to outdo all the precision players and straight shooters who came through on the weekend, and what a duel it was....

More later!

[Update 1 (6:46 pm): What a cool final round this must have been to watch. Ai Miyazato and Anna Nordqvist fired 67s that netted them top 10s in the end, bringing them to -6 with Juli Inkster, Na Yeon Choi, Song-Hee Kim, and Stacy Lewis. Ji-Yai Shin made 7 birdies on her way to a 66 that got her to -7 overall. In-Kyung Kim fired a 30 on the back that included a hole in 1 on the par-3 11th and ended up with a 65 that got her to -7, as well, tied with Shin, Kristy McPherson (68), and Seon Hwa Lee (69). Meanwhile, Inbee Park's 65 was bogey-free and got her to -8 for the tournament. Mika Miyazato trumped them all by birdieing half her holes in her final round; if it weren't for an early double, she would have put even more pressure on Wie and Tseng. But Tseng shot a 30 of her own on the back and her 65 kept her ahead of all the other chargers. And it was just good enough to pass Wie, who made 4 birdies in her last 12 holes herself, but whose bogey on the par-4 16th put her behind the 8-ball, 2-down with 2 to play. She birdied the last 2 holes, but Tseng hung tough.]

[Update 2 (7:20 pm): Here's how all the LPGA's big season-long races stand:

1. Ji-Yai Shin $1.46M (1 win in 15 starts, 128 POY points, 70.20 scoring average, 3.86 birdies per round)
2. Ya Ni Tseng $1.43M (3/15, 2 majors, 176, 70.44, 3.84)
3. Ai Miyazato $1.38M (5/16, 174, 70.46, 4.06)
4. Na Yeon Choi $1.37M (1/17, 125, 70.03, 4.24)
5. Suzann Pettersen $1.32M (0/15, 115, 70.00, 3.81)
6. Cristie Kerr $1.26M (2/15, 1 major, 148, 70.10, 4.15)
7. Song-Hee Kim $.99M (0/17, 93, 70.13, 4.05)
8. Michelle Wie $.85M (1/16, 62, 71.20, 3.65)
9. In-Kyung Kim $.84M (0/16, 83, 70.57, 3.71)
10. Inbee Park $.74M (0/16, 55, 70.86, 3.52)
11. Paula Creamer $.71M (1/9, 1 major, 64, 71.36, 3.25)

Pretty impressive stuff!]

[Update 3 (7:21 pm): Here's Hound Dog's final-round play-by-play.]

[Update 4 (9/13/10, 7:40 am): Congrats to Mika Miyazato for her 1st Golf Babes appearance!]

[Update 5 (1:06 pm): Shane Bacon writes the obligatory "Michelle Wie is taking over golf" piece. Me, I'm not convinced she's ready to dominate yet. Also, the real story is the budding Tseng-Wie rivalry. Not as interesting to me as the other big friendly rivalry on tour--Ai Miyazato and Ji-Yai Shin--but then I'm not a bomber myself.]

[Update 6 (9/15/10, 7:00 am): Mike Southern compares the race for #1 in the Rolex Rankings with the race for Player of the Year and argues that the LPGA's stretch run will be the most interesting of any tour's.]

[Update 7 (12:50 pm): Somehow I missed Hound Dog's epilogue!]

Konica Minolta Cup Sunday: Saiki Fujita Gets 1st JLPGA Major

Saiki Fujita played a flawless final round in the Konica Minolta Cup, shooting a bogey-free 69 despite a 32 on the front that her chief challenger Nikki Campbell threw at her. Fujita turned a 2-shot lead into 4 on the final hole, when she birdied the par 5 and Campbell bogeyed it. And just like that, she had won her 1st JLPGA major.

Here are the final results for the leaders and notables:

1st/-13 Saiki Fujita (67-68-71-69)
2nd/-9 Nikki Campbell (71-72-68-68)
T3/-7 Young Kim (74-70-68-69), Sun-Ju Ahn (73-71-68-69)
T5/-6 Maiko Wakabayashi (72-70-69-71), Yukari Baba (71-72-67-72)
7th/-5 Sakura Yokomine (71-68-72-72)
T8/-3 Ah-Reum Hwang (72-70-75-68), Bo-Bae Song (71-72-69-72)
T10/-2 Rui Kitada (73-67-73-73), Hiromi Takesue (72-69-71-74)

T12/-1 Mayu Hattori (70-73-74-70), Chie Arimura (69-74-73-71), Shinobu Moromizato (66-74-75-72), Hiromi Mogi (69-70-74-74)
16th/E Li-Ying Ye (73-72-73-70)
T17/+1 Akiko Fukushima (71-77-70-71), Tamie Durdin (76-68-72-73), Na-Ri Kim (74-69-72-74)
20th/+2 Mi-Jeong Jeon (73-71-73-73)
21st/+3 Yuri Fudoh (73-69-77-72)
T22/+4 Hyun-Ju Shin (72-73-73-74), Eun-A Lim (71-73-74-74), Ji-Woo Lee (71-71-75-75)
T25/+5 Miki Saiki (73-74-75-71), Miho Koga (76-73-72-72), Na-Ri Lee (73-70-74-76)
T30/+6 Yun-Jye Wei (72-76-73-73)
T35/+7 Shiho Oyama (79-72-75-69), Yuko Mitsuka (75-76-75-69), Ayako Uehara (78-73-73-71)
T39/+8 Kaori Aoyama (74-70-76-76)
T40/+9 Akane Iijima (74-71-74-78)
T42/+10 Mie Nakata (73-69-80-76)
T47/+11 Chieko Amanuma (74-76-75-74)
T52/+13 Yuki Ichinose (72-74-79-76)
58th/+14 Jae-Hee Bae (76-75-75-76)
T59/+15 Momoko Ueda (76-72-76-79)
68th/+27 Ok-Hee Ku (74-77-78-86)

Thanks to a sizzling weekend, money-list leader Sun-Ju Ahn extended her lead on Sakura Yokomine, while Fujita ascended from 17th to 3rd with her win:

1. Sun-Ju Ahn ¥72.13M
2. Sakura Yokomine ¥59.07M
3. Saiki Fujita ¥53.17M
4. Akane Iijima ¥52.46M
5. Yukari Baba ¥51.78M
6. Yuri Fudoh ¥49.48M
7. Nikki Campbell ¥48.46M
8. Mi-Jeong Jeon ¥47.69M
9. Rui Kitada ¥44.49M
10. Ji-Hee Lee ¥43.58M
11. Chie Arimura ¥43.48M
12. Inbee Park ¥36.50M
13. Young Kim ¥35.13M
14. Miho Koga ¥34.53M
15. Shinobu Moromizato ¥33.45M
16. Mie Nakata ¥32.58M
17. Mayu Hattori ¥32.07M
18. Ayako Uehara ¥31.41M
19. Hiromi Mogi ¥28.63M
20. Hyun-Ju Shin ¥28.29M
21. Hiromi Takesue ¥27.82M
22. Akiko Fukushima ¥27.46M
23. Ji-Woo Lee ¥26.21M
24. Ji-Yai Shin ¥25.76M
25. Na-Ri Kim ¥25.10M
26. Bo-Bae Song ¥25.07M
27. Asako Fujimoto ¥23.41M
28. Eun-A Lim ¥21.68M
29. Yun-Jye Wei ¥21.58M
30. Maiko Wakabayashi ¥20.99M

2010 is now Fujita's best chance to break into the top 20 (and higher) on the season-ending money list for the 1st time in her 6-year JLPGA career. She's already earned more than at any other season in her life. In addition, Nikki Campbell moved up 4 spots into the top 10 and Young Kim 8 to the top 15. Meanwhile, Momoko Ueda stayed in the top 50 by the skin of her teeth, despite suffering her worst finish on the JLPGA since she missed 4 cuts early in her rookie season in 2006. It's not quite time to push the panic button for Momo-chan, but consider that she has 1 top 10 in 10 starts on tour--and that was when she kicked away the chance for a wire-to-wire win with a final-round 76 at the Nishijin Ladies Classic back in April. If this keeps up, we may not see her on the LPGA until they come to Japan!

P&G NW Arkansas Championship Saturday: Can Michelle Wie Make It 2 in a Row?

1st-round leader Morgan Pressel stumbled to a 1-over 72 today at the P&G NW Arkansas Championship, opening the door for none other than Canadian Women's Open winner Michelle Wie, who blew by her with an opening 28 on Pinnacle Country Club's back 9 and remained the only player double digits under par by the end of her 64. Only 5 other players broke 70 each of the 1st 2 days and 3 of them--Juli Inkster (66), Ya Ni Tseng (68), and Na Yeon Choi (68)--are only 3 behind Wie heading into today's final round. The former pair will be paired with Wie (Tseng for the 3rd-straight round), while Choi will be playing with '08 champion Seon Hwa Lee and Paige Mackenzie, who fired matching 65s to catch Janice Moodie at -5 (with a little help from the veteran, who bogeyed her last 2 holes). With Stacy Lewis, Kristy McPherson, and Brittany Lincicome joining Pressel another shot back, Golf Channel should have plenty of Americans to follow in the final groups:

Start Time: 11:07 AM
Stacy Lewis
Morgan Pressel
Beth Bader

Start Time: 11:18 AM
Janice Moodie
Kristy McPherson
Brittany Lincicome

Start Time: 11:29 AM
Na Yeon Choi
Seon Hwa Lee
Paige Mackenzie

Start Time: 11:40 AM
Michelle Wie
Juli Inkster
Ya Ni Tseng

Me, I'm psyched to see that Ai Miyazato and Ji-Yai Shin are tied at -2, along with Moira Dunn (who'll be playing with Shin and Anna Nordqvist) and Jane Park (who'll be playing with Miyazato and Sarah Kemp). I'll be interested in seeing who among them can climb into the top 10, along with Song-Hee Kim, Mika Miyazato, and Jee Young Lee at -3 and In-Kyung Kim and Amy Yang at -1.

Unfortunately, even though a host of players squeaked in at +2 to swell Sunday's field to 81, Hee-Won Han, Jeong Jang, Mi Hyun Kim, Mina Harigae, Mariajo Uribe, Karrie Webb, Katherine Hull, Natalie Gulbis, Brittany Lang, and Amanda Blumenherst won't be in it. Still, it was nice to see that Julieta Granada shot a 66, Vicky Hurst a 67, Na On Min a 68, and Cindy LaCrosse a 69 yesterday to make the cut. I still think a lower round than a 64 is waiting for someone who can put 2 great 9s together today. Let's see who gets it! If Wie breaks 70 for the 3rd straight day, she's going to be tough to catch....

[Update 1 (9:49 am): Here are Hound Dog and Stephanie Wei on the 2nd round.]

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Konica Minolta Cup Saturday: Fujita Maintains Large Lead

Saiki Fujita couldn't manage to break 70 for the 3rd-straight round in the JLPGA's 2nd major, the Konica Minolta Cup, but today's 4-birdie, 3-bogey 71 was good enough for her to maintain her 4-shot lead on her nearest pursuers. Great rounds by Yukari Baba (67, -6), Nikki Campbell (68, -5), and Maiko Wakabayashi (69, -5) brought them into the lead chase pack. But even though Sakura Yokomine birdied 3 holes in a row to close out the front, 8 pars and a walkoff double bogey later, she had fallen another stroke off the pace and joined Campbell and Wakabayashi 5 shots behind Fujita. And fine 68s by former KLPGAer Sun-Ju Ahn and former LPGAer Young Kim still left them 6 back with only 18 holes left to play.

Meanwhile, the struggles of prominent JLPGAers continued and even intensified. Defending champion Shinobu Moromizato's 75 made her opening 66 even more of a distant memory. Career money-list leader and the JLPGA's only billion-yen woman Yuri Fudoh's 77 dropped her back to the middle of the pack. Momoko Ueda's 76 raised the specter of 2010 being the worst season of her professional career. And Miho Koga's 72 left her 15 shots off the pace.

Here's how the leaders and notables stand heading into the final round:

1st/-10 Saiki Fujita (67-68-71)
2nd/-6 Yukari Baba (71-72-67)
T3/-5 Nikki Campbell (71-72-68), Maiko Wakabayashi (72-70-69), Sakura Yokomine (71-68-72)
T6/-4 Young Kim (74-70-68), Sun-Ju Ahn (73-71-68), Hiromi Takesue (72-69-71)
T9/-3 Bo-Bae Song (71-72-69), Rui Kitada (73-67-73), Hiromi Mogi (69-70-74)

T12/-1 Na-Ri Kim (74-69-72), Shinobu Moromizato (66-74-75)
T14/E Tamie Durdin (76-68-72), Chie Arimura (69-74-73)
T16/+1 Mi-Jeong Jeon (73-71-73), Na-Ri Lee (73-70-74), Mayu Hattori (70-73-74), Ah-Reum Hwang (72-70-75), Ji-Woo Lee (71-71-75)
T21/+2 Akiko Fukushima (71-77-70), Li-Ying Ye (73-72-73), Hyun-Ju Shin (72-73-73), Eun-A Lim (71-73-74)
T25/+3 Akane Iijima (74-71-74), Yuri Fudoh (73-69-77)
T28/+4 Kaori Aoyama (74-70-76)
T31/+5 Miho Koga (76-73-72), Yun-Jye Wei (72-76-73)
T35/+6 Miki Saiki (73-74-75), Mie Nakata (73-69-80)
T42/+8 Ayako Uehara (78-73-73), Momoko Ueda (76-72-76)
T52/+9 Chieko Amanuma (74-76-75), Yuki Ichinose (72-74-79)
T55/+10 Shiho Oyama (79-72-75), Jae-Hee Bae (76-75-75), Yuko Mitsuka (75-76-75)
T66/+13 Ok-Hee Ku (74-77-78)

If Fujita can make it 4-straight under-par rounds, her 4th career JLPGA victory and 1st major will be hers. Even if she opens the door tomorrow, I wonder if anyone else will be able to step through it?

P&G NW Arkansas Championship Friday: Pressel Takes the Lead with a 66

Pinnacle Country Club was soft and lift, clean, and place rules were in place for the 1st round of the 1st round of the P&G NW Arkansas Championship, which might help explain that except for precision players Morgan Pressel (66), Gloria Park (67), and Janice Moodie (68), most of the rest of the top of the leaderboard was dominated by bombers--Ya Ni Tseng (67), Suzann Pettersen (68), Michelle Wie (68), and Jee Young Lee--or by straight shooters--Na Yeon Choi and Danielle Downey.

What is probably much more surprising is how nobody went super-low. Pressel hit 15 greens but had 30 putts. Moodie suffered a late triple to turn a great round into a good one. Choi was -5 with 5 to play but could only manage 4 pars and a bogey down the stretch on the front. Diana D'Alessio had a bogey-free 33 on the front but made 3 bogeys and only 2 birdies coming home. What's more, even though 62 players shot par or better, there were some surprisingly prominent high scores: 76s by Brittany Lang, Vicky Hurst, and Cindy LaCrosse, 75s by Karrie Webb, Mi Hyun Kim, and Amanda Blumenherst, 74s by In-Kyung Kim, Katherine Hull, and Mina Harigae, and 73s by Jeong Jang, Catriona Matthew, and Natalie Gulbis. Even players who have found magic here before had varying degrees of trouble yesterday: Jane Park shot a 73, Seon Hwa Lee a 72, Ji-Yai Shin a 71. When they're joined by Cristie Kerr (72) and Ai Miyazato (71), you know that Pinnacle is no pushover.

Which means that those who can break 70 for the 2nd-straight day today will have a huge advantage on those who failed to do it yesterday. But also that anyone who does go super-low on at least 1 round over the weekend will likely make up a lot of ground on a lot of people. Should be interesting!

[Update 1 (9/12/10, 12:38 am): Here's Hound Dog's 1st-round overview.]

Friday, September 10, 2010

Konica Minolta Cup Update: Saiki Fujita Lapping the Field

Saiki Fujita followed up Thursday's bogey-free 67 in the JLPGA's 2nd major, the Konica Minolta Cup, with a near-flawless 68 today that was marred only by her 1st bogey of the tournament on its 36th hole. At -9, she's opened up a 4-shot lead on Sakura Yokomine and Hiromi Mogi and a 5-shot lead on Rui Kitada (whose 67 was the low round of the day) and 1st-round leader and defending champion Shinobu Moromizato (who made 4 bogeys in an 8-hole stretch midway through her round today to shoot a 74 and squander her opening 66).

But even with Moromizato's hiccup, it seems like the leaders are playing a different course than everyone else. Former money-list leaders Momoko Ueda and Miho Koga opened with 76s yesterday, while #2 on the career money list Akiko Fukushima stumbled to a 77 today. All will survive to play the weekend, as will Shiho Oyama, Yuko Mitsuka, Ayako Uehara, and living legend Ok-Hee Ku, who also blew up in a bad way in 1 of their 1st 2 rounds, but when Teresa Lu goes 75-81 and Erina Hara goes 81-81, and when shooting +7 will still get you into the weekend, you know this course is tough. FYI, Fujita missed the cut last year and Kitada finished DFL.

So here's where the leaders and notables stand heading into the weekend:

1st/-9 Saiki Fujita (67-68)
T2/-5 Sakura Yokomine (71-68), Hiromi Mogi (69-70)
T4/-4 Rui Kitada (73-67), Shinobu Moromizato (66-74)
6th/-3 Hiromi Takesue (72-69)
T7/-2 Yuri Fudoh (73-69), Mie Nakata (73-69), Maiko Wakabayashi (72-70), Ah-Reum Hwang (72-70), Ji-Woo Lee (71-71), Mayu Hattori (70-72)

T13/-1 Na-Ri Kim (74-69), Na-Ri Lee (73-70), Yukari Baba (71-72), Nikki Campbell (71-72), Bo-Bae Song (71-72), Chie Arimura (69-74)
T19/E Tamie Durdin (76-68), Young Kim (74-70), Kaori Aoyama (74-70), Sun-Ju Ahn (73-71), Mi-Jeong Jeon (73-71), Eun-A Lim (71-73)
T25/+1 Akane Iijima (74-71), Li-Ying Ye (73-72), Hyun-Ju Shin (72-73)
T28/+2 Yuki Ichinose (72-74)
T34/+3 Miki Saiki (73-74)
T38/+4 Momoko Ueda (76-72), Yun-Jye Wei (72-76), Akiko Fukushima (71-77)
T42/+5 Miho Koga (76-73)
T47/+6 Chieko Amanuma (74-76)
T57/+7 Shiho Oyama (79-72), Ayako Uehara (78-73), Jae-Hee Bae (76-75), Yuko Mitsuka (75-76), Ok-Hee Ku (74-77)

T69/+8 Julie Lu (78-74)
T74/+9 Esther Lee (80-73), Ritsuko Ryu (75-78)
T85/+10 Asako Fujimoto (76-78)
T93/+11 So-Hee Kim (79-76)
T98/+12 Rikako Morita (80-76), Teresa Lu (75-81)
T121/+17 Woo-Soon Ko (81-80)
T124/+18 Erina Hara (81-81)

Everyone more than 5 back of Fujita will need to go low on moving day to have a chance to be in contention, as it's unlikely that all the leaders will lose their games on the same day. If any of them happen to make a move tomorrow, the number of players with a chance to win the JLPGA's 2nd major on Sunday will be a small one.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

When T-Joh Gets Bored, the World Is a Better Place

Tiffany Joh is making more music. Enjoy!


For an encore, here's the new version of her LPGA Christmas song.

[Update 1 (8:14 am): And for more on the Futures Tour grads, check out Happy Fan's overview.]

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

P&G NW Arkansas Championship Preview, Predictions, Pairings

Ji-Yai Shin is passing up the JLPGA's 2nd major, the Konica Minolta Cup, to defend her title at the P&G NW Arkansas Championship, the only tournament on the LPGA's schedule this month. The 2008 champion, Seon Hwa Lee, who also has dual LPGA-JLPGA membership this season, will be trying to jumpstart her year on a Pinnacle Country Club course that seems to favor the precision players on tour. Also headlining the field are Ai Miyazato, Inbee Park, and Mika Miyazato, who like Shin and Lee and unlike Momoko Ueda and Teresa Lu have skipped a JLPGA major to play in the heart of Walmart country. The biggest no-show is Paula Creamer, who's resting her thumb, but Jeong Jang is back and hopefully healthy again, Michelle Wie is playing her last event before the start of Stanford's fall quarter, Lexi Thompson is in on a sponsor exemption, and Futures Tour money-list winner and 3-time champion Cindy LaCrosse is in via a 69 in Monday qualifying. notes that rookie Mina Harigae is coming off her 2 best finishes of the year, as well.

In addition to past results, Hound Dog's Hot 20 list is a good place to start when thinking about who will play Pinnacle Country Club well this week. Time to get back on track in Seoul's PakPicker competition! It's a 54-hole event, so I'm giving the nod to my favorite golfer, who's won her share of such events in Japan!

1. Miyazato Ai
2. Shin Ji-Yai
3. Choi Na Yeon
4. Kim In-Kyung
5. Kim Song-Hee
6. Pressel
7. Kerr
8. Pettersen
9. Miyazato Mika
10. Lewis
11. McPherson
12. Lee Seon Hwa

Alts: Yoo; Park, Jane; Jang

I'll have more on the pairings when they're out.

[Update 1 (1:21 pm): Hound Dog rightly asks in his preview why Cindy LaCrosse had to Monday qualify when she had earned a "battlefield promotion" with her 3rd Futures Tour win last week in Albany.]

[Update 2 (9/10/10, 11:36 am): Interesting thing about the pairings: looks like they intentionally created 12 twosomes in a sea of threesomes. That's too many for late drop-outs to have caused them, right? They're last 3 groups on each side in each prime-time quadrant, after all. Is this some kind of made-for-tv thing?]

Monday, September 6, 2010

Ryo-kun, Omedetou Gozaimasu!

Ryo Ishikawa just won the Fujisankei Classic, his 2nd tournament in 11 starts on the Japan Golf Tour, and jumped to 4th place on the 2010 JGTO money list with 11 events to go. No 58s this time, and it took a playoff, but a win's a win for a golfer who won't turn 19 until the 17th!

Futures Tour Finale Sunday: Cindy LaCrosse Takes Down Jennifer Song in Playoff

Congratulations to the top 5 on the 2010 Futures Tour money list, and especially Cindy LaCrosse and Jennifer Song, who finished 1-2 for the season and in the Price Chopper Tour Championship after the Player of the Year beat the Rookie of the Year in a playoff. Check out Lisa Mickey's final-round report to find out how it happened, as well as her run-down of the new and returning LPGA members. Oh, and news flash to Tim Finchem: don't be fooled by the names, 9 of the 10 players who earned 2011 LPGA cards this season are American. In fact, you have to go down to #25 on the money list until you will find as many international players as Californians on it--and the 7 California girls are all in the top 13.

So now we know who the 1st members of the LPGA Class of 2011 are: Jennifer Song, Jenny Shin, Ryann O'Toole, and Tiffany Joh. The latter pair still need to do well in LPGA Q-School to secure a priority status for next season that means much of anything, but this means that all in this year's FT top 10 except Hannah Jun (an '08er) are members of the LPGA's New Blood generation. All of them have pretty impressive stats, some of them really impressive....

J. Song: 69.15 scoring average, .815 sub-par rounds rate
Shin: 70.76 scoring average, .488 sub-par rounds rate
O'Toole: 71.05 scoring average, .488 sub-par rounds rate, 258.1 yards average driving distance, .717 GIR, 3.49 birdies per round rate; led tour with 8 eagles
Joh: 71.07 scoring average, .543 sub-par rounds rate, 3.24 birdies per round rate

And that's only the stats where they ended up in the top 15 on tour! I have a feeling the Class of 2011 is going to stack up well against those in its generation and the one preceding it!

By way of comparison, here are '10er LaCrosse's stats: 69.51 scoring average, .791 sub-par rounds rate, .757 greens in regulation rate, 4.02 birdies per round rate; earned more than Mina Harigae and Vicky Hurst in their money-list leading (and, for Hurst, record-breaking) seasons in '09 and '08, respectively. And here are '09er Oh's: 71.31 scoring average, .813 fairways rate, .786 GIR, 3.13 birdies per round rate.

[Update 1 (12:24 am): Forgot to congratulate LaCrosse for being about.commed and Golf Babed on the same day!]

[Update 2 (11:40 am): Nice catch by Hound Dog on the fact that LaCrosse's win (her 3rd of the season) earns her a battlefield promotion for the remaining full-field events on the LPGA schedule this season.]

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Golf5 Ladies Overview: Akane Iijima Takes Down Ayako Uehara in Playoff

Akane Iijima is now a 6-time winner on the JLPGA, thanks to her playoff win over Ayako Uehara in the Golf5 Ladies. She did it despite suffering a 2-shot swing on the 53rd hole of the tournament, a long par 4 that she bogeyed and Uehara birdied. Unfortunately, reports in English don't reveal how the playoff played out, so I'll just note that Shiho Oyama and Teresa Lu, the only players in the top 10 with dual LPGA-JLPGA membership, were also the only ones to fail to go under par. As a result, they got passed by a passel of full-time JLPGAers--and 1 teenage amateur:

1st/-12 Akane Iijima (67-69-68) [won in playoff]
2nd/-12 Ayako Uehara (72-63-69)
T3/-11 Maiko Wakabayashi (70-68-67), Yukari Baba (67-70-68)
T5/-10 Nikki Campbell (71-70-65), Midori Yoneyama (69-71-66)
T7/-8 Serena Aoki [a] (70-69-69), Shinobu Moromizato (70-67-71)
T9/-7 Asako Fujimoto (71-71-67), Li-Ying Ye (69-72-68), Saiki Fujita (71-69-69), Teresa Lu (70-67-72), Shiho Oyama (68-69-72)

T14/-6 Ji-Hee Lee (69-71-70), Na-Ri Lee (70-68-72)
T17/-5 Jae-Hee Bae (73-70-68), Erika Kikuchi (71-69-71), Yumiko Yoshida (68-72-71), Mayu Hattori (70-68-73), Rikako Morita (68-70-73)
T26/-4 Rui Kitada (71-72-69), Kaori Aoyama (71-72-69), Ji-Woo Lee (70-73-69), Kumiko Kaneda (69-74-69), Hiromi Mogi (73-69-70)
T31/-3 Kyung-Min Lin (73-70-70)
T35/-2 So-Hee Kim (70-73-71), Na-Ri Kim (73-67-74), Eun-A Lim (68-68-78)
T41/-1 Hyun-Ju Shin (71-70-74)
T43/E Tamie Durdin (73-71-72)
T48/+1 Ritsuko Ryu (73-71-73)

MC: Mika Takushima (76-69), Erina Hara (74-71), Onnarin Sattayabanphot (72-73), Ah-Reum Hwang (73-73), Sakurako Mori (72-75), Yuko Mitsuka (77-72), Esther Lee (73-76),
WD: Yuki Ichinose (75-WD)

Here's how the JLPGA money list now stands, now that 2-time winner Iijima has leaped to #3!

1. Sun-Ju Ahn ¥63.03M
2. Sakura Yokomine ¥54.17M
3. Akane Iijima ¥51.77M
4. Yuri Fudoh ¥48.36M
5. Mi-Jeong Jeon ¥46.54M
6. Yukari Baba ¥45.48M
7. Ji-Hee Lee ¥43.58M
8. Rui Kitada ¥41.89M
9. Chie Arimura ¥41.42M
10. Inbee Park ¥36.50M
11. Nikki Campbell ¥36.14M
12. Miho Koga ¥33.58M
13. Mie Nakata ¥31.94M
14. Shinobu Moromizato ¥31.39M
15. Ayako Uehara ¥30.39M
16. Mayu Hattori ¥30.01M
17. Saiki Fujita ¥27.97M
18. Hyun-Ju Shin ¥27.22M
19. Hiromi Mogi ¥26.57M
20. Akiko Fukushima ¥26.03M
21. Young Kim ¥26.03M
22. Ji-Yai Shin ¥25.76M
23. Hiromi Takesue ¥25.22M
24. Ji-Woo Lee ¥25.15M
25. Na-Ri Kim ¥23.67M
26. Asako Fujimoto ¥23.41M
27. Bo-Bae Song ¥21.22M
28. Yun-Jye Wei ¥20.76M
29. Eun-A Lim ¥20.61M
30. Rikako Morita ¥19.40M

#49 Momoko Ueda is skipping the LPGA's NW Arkansas event this coming week, presumably to compete in the JLPGA's 2nd major, the Konica Minolta Cup, but except for Teresa Lu (who moved up to #55 on the money list) she's the only one of the tours' dual members who will be doing so. It'll be interesting to see who among Ai Miyazato, Ji-Yai Shin, Inbee Park, and Seon Hwa Lee rejoin the JLPGA for part of September. Miyazato needs to shore up her position on the money list to keep her cards for next season, while Lee needs to move up it fast; moreover, both need to win an event to qualify for the season-ending major, the Tour Championship, so there's more pressure on them to make the long trip.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Futures Tour Finale Saturday: Earl Strikes Back!

Hurricane Earl may have been leaving the eastern seaboard today, but he left a gift of high winds in the Albany region, wreaking havoc on most players' scores in the 2nd round of the Price Chopper Tour Championship. When all was said and done, 30 players ended up within 5 shots of co-leaders Jenny Shin, Dori Carter, and Jodi Ewart--and the gap between the leaders and those blown to the other side of the cut line was only 9 shots. LPGAers Reilley Rankin and Danielle Downey won't be playing tomorrow, nor will a trio of players who broke 70 yesterday (Melissa Eaton-Jackson, Veronica Felibert, and Kathleen Ekey), so those who put themselves behind the 8-ball today shouldn't feel too bad: Kelly Nakashima (68-77), Nontaya Srisawang (69-76), Tiffany Joh and Sofie Andersson (69-75), Sarah Kemp, Stephanie Na, and Caroline Westrup (69-74), Pornanong Phatlum (68-73), and Esther Choe (66-75). I recited the dishonor roll so that the players who stayed or leaped into serious contention get the respect they deserve for their rounds, particularly Ryann O'Toole (69, -2, T9), Jennifer Song and Michelle Jarman (69, -3, T4), and Jenny Suh (68, -3, T4). Nobody this season has won 3 times, but Cindy LaCrosse (70, -3, T4), Song, and O'Toole have a great shot at it. And with 6 of the top 10 within 5 shots of the lead, the race for the 5 valuable 2011 LPGA cards is still pretty wide open. Stay tuned!

Storylines Abound on the JLPGA This Weekend

Ayako Uehara fired a bogey-free 63 today to take a 1-shot lead on Akane Iijima and Eun-A Lim into the final round of the Golf5 Ladies, but that's not even the biggest story of the weekend on the JLPGA. Shiho Oyama, who's been out due to elbow injuries she sustained last season on the LPGA, is only 2 shots off the lead after breaking 70 in each of her 1st 2 competitive rounds in many months! She's tied with Shinobu Moromizato, who's still looking for her 1st win of 2010. With the top 4 on the money list--Sun-Ju Ahn, Sakura Yokomine, Yuri Fudoh, and Mi-Jeong Jeon--sitting this one out, an Oyama-Moromizato battle tomorrow would be awesome!

Other recent returnees to the JLPGA didn't fare so well this week. Yuko Mitsuka missed the cut by a mile after opening with a 77 Friday and Sakurako Mori couldn't come much closer, but Onnarin Sattayabanphot, who like Mori has been paying her dues on the StepUp Tour, missed it by only a single shot. And Kumiko Kaneda, who's also spent some time on the StepUp Tour the last couple of months, followed up her opening 69 with a disappointing 74.

But many of the JLPGA's young guns are right in the hunt. Sure, 21-year-old Yuki Ichinose withdrew after an opening 75, 24-year-old Mika Takushima missed the cut by a single shot, and 22-year-old Ritsuko Ryu and 20-year-olds Kyung-Min Lin and Asako Fujimoto are well back in the pack. But 20-year-old Rikako Morita and 22-year-olds Mayu Hattori, Maiko Wakabayashi, and Na-Ri Lee are only 3 behind Uehara. And only 2 shots further back are 22-year-old Erika Kikuchi and 23-year-old Yumiko Yoshida. Meanwhile, 2 young LPGA-JLPGA dual members put themselves into contention with matching 67s today. Teresa Lu, who won't turn 23 until next month, is only 2 shots behind Uehara, while Na-Ri Kim, who won't turn 25 until December, pulled within 5 of the lead. Finally, 17-year-old amateur Serena Aoki has gone 70-69 to lurk 4 off the pace.

Lots of interesting things can happen tomorrow, in short. Stay tuned!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Futures Tour Finale Friday: Jenny Shin Takes the Lead with a 65

Hurricane Earl appears to have spared the Albany area and the 1st round of the last event on the 2010 Futures Tour schedule was completed today with no delays. 17-year-old former U.S. Girls Junior champion Jenny Shin took advantage of a soft, short, hilly course to post an opening bogey-free 65 in the Price Chopper Tour Championship, giving herself a 1-shot lead on Esther Choe and a 2-shot lead on Dori Carter and Tiffany Tavee heading into moving day tomorrow. Where Choe and Carter are looking to break into the top 10 on the Futures Tour money list, Shin is trying to hold onto her #5 position or improve on it, which would give her full status on the LPGA in 2011.

On a day when 58 players shot par or better on the par-71 Capital Hills course, everyone in the top 10 on the FT money list went under par except for #8 Ryann O'Toole (71), #2 Christine Song (73), and #10 Jane Rah (74). Those scores are nothing to be ashamed of, as LPGAers fairly high on the current priority status list like Libby Smith (72), Danielle Downey (73), Cathryn Bristow (73), and Reilley Rankin (74) fared little better, but they will need to make big moves on the weekend to preserve or enhance their standing. With #9 Pornanong Phatlum only 3 shots off the lead, #7 Tiffany Joh 4 back (along with #1 Cindy LaCrosse), and #3 Gerina Mendoza, #4 Jennifer Song, #6 Angela Oh 5 back--and a host of similarly talented players in the mix, including Aussies Sarah Kemp and Stephanie Na (who both joined Dewi Claire Schreefel in shooting 69s), Swedes Sofie Andersson and Caroline Westrup, and Colombia's Carolina Llano and Mexico's Sophia Sheridan (who both joined Samantha Richdale in shooting 70s)--anything can happen over the next 36 holes. Stay tuned!

"uewo muite arukou" modern style

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Recommended Reading: On the Futures Tour's Grand Finale

Check out the LPGA's set-up of the Futures Tour's grand finale in Albany this week. Their run-downs of the race for the top 5 on the money list and full LPGA status for 2011 and for 2010 Rookie of the Year should get everyone up to speed. And their reminder of the numerous ways to tune in online is timely. I'm bringing the girls to my folks' place to hook up with my brother's family for Labor Day weekend, so no Albany trip for me. But I'll try to cover what I can from afar!

[Update 1 (9/2/10, 5:19 pm): One of the above articles was by the Futures Tour's Lisa Mickey. Can you guess which one? Another of hers on Cindy LaCrosse was featured on today, but I linked to the FT archive. Some real great golf writing there.]