Last week, Ritsuko Ryu came from behind for her 1st career JLPGA victory. This week, her 2nd-straight 69 launched her into a tie for the lead at the Golf5 Ladies with Miki Saiki, Li-Ying Ye, and Hiromi Takesue. A 3-birdie run in a 4-hole stretch midway through the back that allowed her to close with a 34 (tied with many for best score on that side of the day) enabled Ryu to catch her co-leaders and pass 1st-round leader Na-Ri Kim, who stumbled with a couple of bogeys both early and late in her round but is still only 1 behind Ryu, just like the biggest dark horse in the entire field. Naoko Oshitani turns 40 in November but certainly isn't a JLPGA veteran, as she has made money on tour only in 2008 and 2010. Never having broken into the top 30 in a single start on the big tour and 0-for-1 in made cuts there this year, she recently graduated from the Step-Up Tour and will be facing off against the likes of Shanshan Feng and Mi-Jeong Jeon at -4 and Bo-Bae Song, Saiki Fujita, and Nikki Campbell at -3.
As I was looking over player bios among the leaders, I was expecting that Takesue, who won in her rookie year in 2003 and enjoyed her next-best year as a pro in 2010 but hadn't done anything positive this year until she finished in 6th the past 2 weeks in a row, or Ye, who joined the JLPGA in 2009 but has never improved on her silver medal at the Suntory Ladies Open from that year and has never cracked the top 35 on the money list--or perhaps Rie Murata, whose best career finish on tour (4th) came all the way back in 2002--would be the biggest underdogs heading into the final round. But Oshitani takes the cake. Let's see if she's eating it this time tomorrow! With Sun-Ju Ahn, Chie Arimura, and Yuri Fudoh sitting this one out and Sakura Yokomine and Akiko Fukushima barely making the cut--and with Jeon having trouble closing the deal throughout her great JLPGA career, Feng bogeying her last 2 holes in a row to make her 2nd career JLPGA win all that more difficult to attain, Ryu and Kim also looking for only their 2nd wins on tour, and Saiki playing great this year but only having 3 career JLPGA victories to her name--this may be the best opportunity in Oshitani's life to apply Marie Antoinette's dictum to herself.
Here are the players with the best shot of sending Oshitani to the figurative guillotine. Can Ryu play executioner to the field for the 2nd week in a row?
T1/-6 Ritsuko Ryu (69-69), Li-Ying Ye (68-70), Miki Saiki (67-71), Hiromi Takesue (67-71)
T5/-5 Naoko Oshitani (68-71), Na-Ri Kim (66-73)
T7/-4 Mi-Jeong Jeon (70-70), Shanshan Feng (69-71)
T9/-3 Junko Omote (71-70), Nikki Campbell (71-70), Saiki Fujita (70-71), Bo-Bae Song (69-72), Rie Murata (69-72)
T14/-2 Eun-A Lim (72-70), Maiko Wakabayashi (72-70), So-Hee Kim (71-71), Yuki Ichinose (70-72), Young Kim (68-74), Rikako Morita (68-74), Miki Sakai (68-74)
T21/-1 Hiromi Mogi (74-69), Kumiko Kaneda (71-72), Erika Kikuchi (71-72), Miki Uehara (69-74)
T26/E Onnarin Sattayabanphot (73-71), Esther Lee (72-72), Mayu Hattori (69-75)
T34/+1 Megumi Kido (75-70), Shinobu Moromizato (73-72), Maria Iida (73-72)
T42/+2 Akiko Fukushima (77-69), Akane Iijima (72-74), Mika Takushima (71-75), Sakura Yokomine (70-76), Sakurako Mori (69-77)
MC: Kaori Ohe (75-72), Yukari Baba (74-73), Ayako Uehara (74-73), Na-Ri Lee (73-74), Rui Kitada (72-75), Miho Koga (71-76), Yun-Jye Wei (76-72), Yuko Mitsuka (75-73), Tao-Li Yang (73-75), Asako Fujimoto (75-74), Erina Hara (78-74), Yuki Sakurai (75-79), Lala Anai (74-80), Erina Yamato (80-76), Aiko Ueno (77-80)
Sure, with 25 players within 5 shots of the lead, virtually anything can happen tomorrow. But wouldn't it be cool if Ryu got her 2nd win in a row or Oshitani came out of nowhere for her 1st?