Not long after Ya Ni Tseng and Stacy Lewis finished with flourishes in Walmart country over on this side of the globe on the LPGA, Sakura Yokomine made up 5 shots over the final 7 holes on 2nd-round leader Yuko Mitsuka to take a 3-shot lead over her and defending champion Saiki Fujita into the final round of the JLPGA's 2nd major of 2011, the Konica Minolta Cup.
Yokomine bounced back from bogeys on 7 and 9 with a bogey-free 34 on the back that included birdies on 12 and 16, just as Mitsuka, who made 3 birdies and 3 bogeys in her 1st 10 holes, bogeyed 12, 13, and 17. A bogey-double finish dropped 21-year-old Rikako Morita 5 shots behind Yokomine, tied with JLPGA legend Akiko Fukushima (who opened with 4 bogeys in her 1st 12 holes of birdieless golf, but closed with 3 birdies in her last 6 holes of bogey-free play), the LPGA's Shanshan Feng (who started slow but finished with back-to-back birdies), and 23-year-old Maiko Wakayabashi (who fired the low round of the day, a 68, on the strength of an opening 31, but couldn't pull any closer to the leaders on the back).
Here's how the leaders and notables stand heading into tomorrow's final round:
1st/-6 Sakura Yokomine (69-70-71)
T2/-3 Saiki Fujita (73-67-73), Yuko Mitsuka (67-71-74)
T4/-1 Maiko Wakabayashi (71-76-68), Shanshan Feng (71-72-72), Rikako Morita (70-73-72), Akiko Fukushima (68-74-73)
T8/E Ah-Reum Hwang (71-76-69), Mayu Hattori (71-73-72), Yuri Fudoh (67-77-72)
T11/+1 Junko Omote (75-73-69), Li-Ying Ye (73-73-71), Miho Koga (71-75-71), Eun-Bi Jang (74-69-74)
T16/+2 Hiromi Mogi (72-73-73), Ritsuko Ryu (70-73-75)
T20/+3 Kumiko Kaneda (73-77-69), Erika Kikuchi (78-70-71), Erina Hara (75-70-74)
T25/+4 Ji-Woo Lee (77-71-72), Hyun-Ju Shin (75-72-73), Mi-Jeong Jeon (74-72-74), Shinobu Moromizato (73-73-74), Bo-Bae Song (73-73-74), Nikki Campbell (73-73-74), Kaori Aoyama (70-76-74), Bo-Mee Lee (70-75-75), Soo-Yun Kang (72-67-81)
T35/+5 Tamie Durdin (75-74-72), Yukari Baba (74-75-72), Mika Takushima (72-75-74), Young Kim (72-74-75), Rui Kitada (71-74-76), Asako Fujimoto (71-74-76)
T43/+6 Miki Saiki (76-73-73), Megumi Kido (76-73-73), Eun-A Lim (75-73-74), Momoko Ueda (75-72-75), Miki Sakai (72-73-77)
T48/+7 So-Hee Kim (76-73-74), Yumiko Yoshida (72-76-75), Na-Ri Kim (72-75-76)
T52/+8 Yun-Jye Wei (74-76-74), Na-Ri Lee (75-75-74), Esther Lee (75-74-75), Ji-Hee Lee (74-75-75)
T56/+9 Ji-Na Lim (78-71-76), Sun-Ju Ahn (73-75-77)
T61/+11 Da Ye Na (75-75-77)
63rd/+12 Miki Uehara (76-73-79)
With Sun-Ju Ahn, Miki Saiki, and Ji-Hee Lee inexplicably near the bottom of the leaderboard and with Chie Arimura unexpectedly sitting this one out, Yokomine has a great chance to vault to the top of the JLPGA money list with a good round tomorrow. As the only player in the field to break par every round this week, she has great momentum going, but with all the high scores from high-quality players we've seen, she can't let her guard down, even with only 6 players within 5 shots of her lead. Even though this is her 1st time sleeping on a lead heading into the final round all season, over the course of her long career, she's gotten 10 wins in the 17 times she's been in this situation, so she has a lot of positive experience to draw on. I'd love to see her get JLPGA win #19 and add to her 2 Ricoh Cup titles with a 3rd JLPGA major tomorrow!