Sunday, April 24, 2011

Fujisankei Ladies Classic Sunday: Kumiko Kaneda's 66 Vaults Her to 1st JLPGA Victory

After 2 days of difficult scoring conditions, a shootout broke out in the final round of the Fujisankei Ladies Classic. 21-year-old Kumiko Kaneda, whose best finish ever on the JLPGA was 6th in her rookie year 2 seasons ago, charged out of the gates with a bogey-free 31 and took the lead at -4 when LPGA transplant Young Kim bogeyed the 10th and 11th holes. But when Kaneda's playing partner Saiki Fujita made her 4th birdie of the day in her 1st 10 holes and Yukari Nishiyama her 3rd in 11, Kim had some company 1 shot off the lead. One group ahead of Kaneda and Fujita, Mi-Jeong Jeon, too, had put on a charge with 4-straight birdies mid-way through the front, but dropped 5 off the pace with bogeys on the 13th and 14th. Inbee Park and Akane Iijima, who started the day at E and stayed there through 12 holes of grinding, must have been shocked to find themselves behind 8 other golfers!

What of 1st- and 2nd-round leader Sun-Ju Ahn? Despite a rough start, last year's money-list title-holder was right in the thick of things until a double bogey on the par-4 10th dropped her to +3 on the day, 3 shots behind Kaneda and tied with Akiko Fukushima, Ji-Hee Lee, and Megumi Shimokawa.

With 4 holes to play, then, Kaneda was on the verge of her 1st JLPGA win. But those holes had done in many players before her. 20-year-old Asako Fujimoto had to settle for a 69 after a walkoff bogey made it 2 in her last 5 holes. 21-year-old Megumi Kido bogeyed 2 of her last 4 on the way to her 71. Imagine how awesome Miki Saiki's 72 would have been if she hadn't finished par-double-bogey-bogey. And Julie Lu bogeyed her last 4 holes in a row to turn a 68 into a 72. So how would the much-ballyhooed Kaneda fare down the home stretch? Would she hold off her playing partner, whose 4th-career JLPGA win came last year in the Konica Minolta Cup? Would she beat back the challenge of Kim, whose only career victory since leaving the KLPGA in 2003 came in the 2007 LPGA Corning Classic? Or would she fall to the unheralded Nishiyama, who had made only 2 cuts in her 6 previous JLPGA starts since the 2008 season, her best, a T5, coming only the week before?

Well, she responded to the pressure with birdies on the par-4 15th and par-5 16th to get to -7 on the day and -6 for the tournament, opening up a 2-shot lead on Fujita, who could only birdie the 16th. Despite bogeying the par-3 17th, she extended that lead on her playing partner when Fujita bogeyed the 17th and 18th to finish with a 69 that left her stranded at -2. The next contender to finish was Ji-Hee Lee, but although she passed Fujita to take 2nd place with birdies at 15 and 16 and got to -3 for the week, she couldn't birdie either of the last 2 holes and ended up 2 shots behind Kaneda. Surprisingly, nobody else put up much of a fight down the stretch. Nishiyama imploded with 2 bogeys and a double over her last 5 holes, while Kim made a string of pars until a walkoff bogey dropped her back into a tie for 3rd with Fujita. Ahn followed up her double on the 10th with a bogey on the 13th and a double on the 17th to drop from 1st to T11 with Fukushima, who bogeyed 4 of her last 7 holes to drop from -2 to +2.

So the kid did it! After barely holding onto her card at last year's Q-School, Kumiko Kaneda has her 1st JLPGA victory! Here's how the leaders and notables ended up:

1st/-5 Kumiko Kaneda (70-75-66)
2nd/-3 Ji-Hee Lee (73-72-68)
T3/-2 Saiki Fujita (71-74-69), Young Kim (72-69-73)
T5/+1 Asako Fujimoto (73-75-69), Shiho Oyama (73-73-71), Yukari Baba (72-74-71), Mi-Jeong Jeon (69-76-72), Megumi Shimokawa (70-75-72), Yukari Nishiyama (69-75-73)

T11/+2 Akiko Fukushima (74-71-73), Bo-Bae Song (71-73-74), Sun-Ju Ahn (68-72-78)
T14/+3 Megumi Kido (71-77-71), Miki Saiki (71-76-72), Inbee Park (72-72-75)
T17/+4 Esther Lee (75-75-70), Ayako Uehara (74-74-72), Na-Ri Kim (74-74-72), Julie Lu (73-75-72), Chie Arimura (74-73-73), Akane Iijima (71-73-76)
T27/+5 Sakura Yokomine (76-71-74), Eun-A Lim (76-70-75), Hiromi Mogi (75-71-75), Shinobu Moromizato (70-75-76)
T31/+6 Lala Anai (74-75-73)
T33/+7 Maiko Wakabayashi (71-77-75)
T36/+8 Teresa Lu (75-75-74), Hyun-Ju Shin (71-79-74), Mie Nakata (76-72-76), Yumiko Yoshida (75-71-78), Miho Mori [a] (75-73-76)
T44/+9 Miki Sakai (74-76-75), Ritsuko Ryu (73-77-75), Hee Young Park (72-75-76)
T49/+10 Rui Kitada (76-74-76), Ah-Reum Hwang (74-76-76)
51st/ +11 Ji-Woo Lee (74-76-77)

With everyone previously ahead of her on the JLPGA money list either outplayed, struggling, or idle, Kaneda vaults from 13th to 1st!

1. Kumiko Kaneda ¥17.99M
2. Inbee Park ¥16.51M
3. Yuri Fudoh ¥13.88M
4. Ji-Hee Lee ¥10.93M
5. Yukari Baba ¥8.82M
6. Miki Saiki ¥8.24M
7. Bo-Bae Song ¥7.26M
8. Saiki Fujita ¥6.88M
9. Ji-Woo Lee ¥6.66M
10. Young Kim ¥5.64M
11. Sun-Ju Ahn ¥5.30M
12. Bo-Mee Lee ¥5.20M
13. Mi-Jeong Jeon ¥4.93M
14. Asako Fujimoto ¥4.77M
15. Ji-Yai Shin ¥4.51M
16. Shinobu Moromizato ¥4.50M
17. Rikako Morita ¥4.17M
18. Akiko Fukushima ¥3.84M
19. Shiho Oyama ¥3.75M
20. Chie Arimura ¥3.71M
21. Megumi Shimokawa ¥2.97M
22. Yukari Nishiyama ¥2.67M
23. Akane Iijima ¥2.66M
24. Rui Kitada ¥2.64M
25. Hiromi Mogi ¥2.61M
26. Lala Anai ¥2.57M
27. Sakura Yokomine ¥2.57M
28. Momoko Ueda ¥2.40M
29. Na-Rim Kim ¥2.34M
30. Mie Nakata ¥2.16M

The JLPGA moves on to Chiba Prefecture with the CyberAgent Ladies next week. Ji-Yai Shin is the defending champion, but with no field list on the JLPGA or CyberAgent sites, I can't verify who's in it. More when I know!

[Update 1 (5:40 am): Kaneda has already blogged about her win!]

[Update 2< (4/25/11, 2:02 pm): Here's bangkokbobby's tournament overview!]

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