Yesterday, Yuko Mitsuka went out early and joined Yuri Fudoh in posting a bogey-free 67 in the 1st round of the JLPGA's 2nd major, the Konica Minolta Cup. Today, she was in the last group off the back, so she knew full well that defending champion Saiki Fujita had matched her opening score, thanks to 6 birdies in her 1st 8 holes, to move to -4 through 36 holes. And she must have known that the LPGA's Soo-Yun Kang was making a big move of her own in the afternoon groups, even as her former co-leader Fudoh was falling apart. Unfazed, she fired a 4-birdie 71 to take the solo lead by 1 shot over Kang and Sakura Yokomine and by 2 over Fujita.
As you can see from this rundown of the leaders and notables, Mitsuka kept her cool while many big names faltered today:
1st/-6 Yuko Mitsuka (67-71)
T2/-5 Soo-Yun Kang (72-67), Sakura Yokomine (69-70)
4th/-4 Saiki Fujita (73-67)
5th/-2 Akiko Fukushima (68-74)
T6/-1 Eun-Bi Jang (74-69), Shanshan Feng (71-72), Ritsuko Ryu (70-73), Rikako Morita (70-73)
T10/E Mayu Hattori (71-73), Toshimi Kimura (71-73), Yuri Fudoh (67-77)
T13/+1 Erina Hara (75-70), Hiromi Mogi (72-73), Miki Sakai (72-73), Rui Kitada (71-74), Asako Fujimoto (71-74), Bo-Mee Lee (70-75)
T20/+2 Mi-Jeong Jeon (74-72), Shinobu Moromizato (73-73), Bo-Bae Song (73-73), Li-Ying Ye (73-73), Young Kim (72-74), Miho Koga (71-75), Kaori Aoyama (70-76)
T30/+3 Momoko Ueda (75-72), Hyun-Ju Shin (75-72), Yuki Ichinose (74-73), Na-Ri Kim (72-75), Mika Takushima (72-75), Maiko Wakabayashi (71-76), Ah-Reum Hwang (71-76)
T37/+4 Erika Kikuchi (78-70), Ji-Woo Lee (77-71), Junko Omote (75-73), Eun-A Lim (75-73), Sun-Ju Ahn (73-75), Yumiko Yoshida (72-76)
T46/+5 Ji-Na Lim (78-71), Miki Saiki (76-73), So-Hee Kim (76-73), Megumi Kido (76-73), Miki Uehara (76-73), Tamie Durdin (75-74), Esther Lee (75-74), Ji-Hee Lee (74-75), Yukari Baba (74-75)
T58/+6 Yun-Jye Wei (74-76), Na-Ri Lee (75-75), Da Ye Na (75-75), Kumiko Kaneda (73-77)
MC: Shiho Oyama (76-75), Ayako Uehara (77-75), Teresa Lu (75-77), Aiko Ueno (75-77), Tao-Li Yang (75-77), Kaori Ohe (74-78), Onnarin Sattayabanphot (74-79), Akane Iijima (76-78), Jae-Hee Bae (76-78), Mie Nakata (77-78), Lala Anai (77-78), Woo-Soon Ko (77-81), Yuki Sakurai (81-80)
It would be a huge deal if Mitsuka can keep it going over the weekend. She's had only 1 top 20 in 17 starts this season (at the Nitori Ladies a couple of weeks ago), has failed to play the final round 10 times already this year (8 MCs, a WD, and a DQ), has done the same in 17 of her 32 starts since her self-imposed suspension after last year's Salonpas Cup embarrassment, and hasn't had a top 10 since she finished T6 in her 2nd tournament back in action since that mini-exile was completed last August. Don't get me wrong; a lot can happen over 36 holes. But I'll be rooting for the 26-year-old to prevail. This is someone who never finished outside the top 15 on the JLPGA money list in her 1st 3 seasons on tour with 1 win coming in each of those years. She had 2 top 10s in a row and cracked the top 5 for the 1st time in 2009, the year before things fell apart. Now she's fighting to keep her card; currently stuck at 75th on this year's money list, she needs a strong weekend to set the tone for the rest of the season. Can she do it? Stay tuned!