Chie Arimura missed the cut at the Wegmans LPGA Championship, where onechan and I saw her on the range grinding away on the weekend, and she elected not to play in the U.S. Women's Open, but judging by her results today in the 1st round of the Stanley Ladies, it doesn't appear that her game is at all rusty. Yes, she was only even par through her 1st 7 holes, with a birdie on a short par 5 and a bogey on a longish par 4. But 2 shots later she was 3 under par! That's right, she got an albatross (or double eagle) on the 503-yard par-5 8th hole. After keeping it rolling with a birdie on the 1st par 5 she played on the back and stalling a bit with an offsetting bogey and birdie on 2 consecutive longish par 4s, she followed up her front-side fireworks with a hole in 1 on the 135-yard par-3 16th. A birdie on the medium-length par 4 17th capped off a 65 that gave Arimura a 2-shot lead on a host of golfers.
One of them was her playing partner, Junko Omote, who birdied her last 4 holes in a row. (How good were Arimura and Omote playing? Well, their other playing partner, Hiromi Mogi, had to settle for a 74!) Still, there are bigger names for Arimura to worry about over the weekend than the resurgent veteran. Sakura Yokomine, fresh off her rather disappointing USWO appearance, fired a bogey-free 67, as did former LPGAer Soo-Yun Kang, while recent JLPGA money-list leader Miki Saiki had a 7-birdie 68, matching the always dangerous Bo-Bae Song, who got there with "only" 5 birdies. With current money-list leader Sun-Ju Ahn electing not to defend her title, the door is also open for lesser-known players to slide through. Will it be veteran Midori Yoneyama or youngster Rikako Morita--both of whom fired bogey-free 67s--to chase down Arimura? Or former LPGAers Onnarin Sattayabanphot (68) or Young Kim (69)? Or will current LPGAer Harukyo Nomura (69) make it 2-for-2 in JLPGA starts as a professional?
Here's the full list of contenders and notables:
1st/-7 Chie Arimura (65)
T2/-5 Sakura Yokomine, Soo-Yun Kang, Rikako Morita, Junko Omote, Midori Yoneyama, Miki Sakai (67)
T8/-4 Miki Saiki, Bo-Bae Song, Asako Fujimoto, Maiko Wakabayashi, Onnarin Sattayabanphot, Chiharu Tsunekawa (68)
T14/-3 Young Kim, Harukyo Nomura, Saiki Fujita, Eun-A Lim, Ji-Woo Lee, Ritsuko Ryu, Yuki Ichinose, Li-Ying Ye (69)
T24/-2 Ji-Hee Lee, Mi-Jeong Jeon, Ayako Uehara, Na-Ri Lee, Nikki Campbell, Mamiko Higa [a] (70)
T35/-1 Kaori Aoyama, Yumiko Yoshida, Jae-Hee Bae, Lala Anai, Miki Uehara, Aiko Ueno (71)
T47/E Akane Iijima, Na-Ri Kim, Ah-Reum Hwang, Megumi Kido, Megumi Takahashi [a], Sakura Kito [a] (72)
T57/+1 Miho Koga, Shiho Oyama, Bo-Mee Lee, Shinobu Moromizato, Kumiko Kaneda, So-Hee Kim, Esther Lee, Mika Takushima, Kaori Ohe, Erika Kikuchi, Mai Arai, Pei-Ying Tsai (73)
T77/+2 Rui Kitada, Hyun-Ju Shin, Hiromi Mogi, Mayu Hattori, Tamie Durdin, Tao-Li Yang (74)
T85/+3 Yuko Mitsuka, Mie Nakata, Erina Hara, Julie Lu (75)
T95/+4 Sakurako Mori, Ji-Na Lim, Eun-Bi Jang (76)
T105/+7 Teresa Lu (79)
The par-5 8th gave up eagles to Sattayabanphot, Wakabayashi, Ye, and Hwang, while veteran Mikiyo Nishizuka eagled the par-5 3rd, but they can't compete with Arimura's improbable feat, much less Tom Watson's hole in 1 at the British Open. Still, I'm sure they'll take what they got!
All joking aside, it looks like the 6500-yard Tomei Country Club in Shizuoka is vulnerable this week, so the 34 golfers within 5 shots of the lead and 56 at even par or better are definitely still in this. Arimura will need to keep going low to secure her 8th career JLPGA victory. She won here in 2-and-a-half rounds in 2009, so she has some positive experience to draw on. I'd love to see her do it!