With a 1-shot lead on Mayu Hattori and a 3-shot lead on Yuko Fukuda heading into the final round of the Munsingwear Ladies Tokai Classic, Shiho Oyama has put herself in position to engineer a career comeback that may be even bigger than Yuko Mitsuka's last week on the JLPGA.
Oyama collected 11 JLPGA victories between 2003 and 2008, dethroned Billion Yen Woman Yuri Fudoh in 2006 (interrupting her streak of 6-straight money-list titles), and became an LPGA member in 2009 on the strength of a December '08 Q-School performance in which only Stacy Lewis, Amy Yang, and Anna Grzebien finished ahead of her and she beat the likes of Michelle Wie, Mika Miyazato, Anna Nordqvist, Melissa Reid, Miki Saiki, and Sun-Ju Ahn (who WDed due to injury). But ever since then Oyama's been plagued by elbow injuries so severe she needed surgery last summer, so she's focused her return to competitive golf almost exclusively on the JLPGA as she's been struggling to get back to full strength and get her game into shape. Her results in the 26 starts she's made on tour since coming back from surgery have been about what you'd expect: 1 top 5, 6 top 10s, and 10 top 20s to go with 2 missed cuts (including last week). At #41 on the money list in 2011, she needs a strong fall to secure her card for 2012. A win this week would jumpstart her comeback big-time.
It was a 5-birdie flurry in her last 8 holes on moving day that vaulted Oyama ahead of Hattori (who birdied 3 of her last 4), not to mention the rest of the field, including Chie Arimura, whose bogey-free 67 in her 1st competitive round since she had to rest her wrists for 2 weeks made her the 1st-round co-leader with Tomomi Hirose. However, with 16 players within 5 shots of the lead--including Sakura Yokomine, Miki Saiki, and Kumiko Kaneda at -4 and Arimura, Ahn, Hee Young Park, Mi-Jeong Jeon, Soo-Yun Kang, and the red-hot Ritsuko Ryu at -3--Oyama's going to have to keep making birdies in bunches to hold onto her lead.
Take a look at who'll be pursuing her tomorrow:
1st/-8 Shiho Oyama (69-67)
2nd/-7 Mayu Hattori (69-68)
3rd/-5 Yuko Fukuda (68-71)
T4/-4 Sakura Yokomine (72-68), Miki Saiki (72-68), Kumiko Kaneda (70-70), Kaori Aoyama (68-72)
T8/-3 Ayako Uehara (72-69), Ritsuko Ryu (72-69), Sun-Ju Ahn (71-70), Mi-Jeong Jeon (71-70), Hee Young Park (71-70), Hiromi Mogi (71-70), Soo-Yun Kang (69-72), Asako Fujimoto (69-72), Chie Arimura (67-74)
T17/-2 Akane Iijima (72-70), Eun-A Lim (70-72), Hyun-Ju Shin (69-73), Ji-Na Lim (69-73), Yun-Jye Wei (68-74), Megumi Kido (68-74)
T24/-1 Li-Ying Ye (71-72), Onnarin Sattayabanphot (71-72)
T26/E Erika Kikuchi (75-69), Erina Hara (75-70), Mika Takushima (74-70), Shinobu Moromizato (72-72), Nikki Campbell (72-72), Tamie Durdin (72-72), Na-Ri Kim (71-73), Yumiko Yoshida (71-73)
T38/+1 Ji-Hee Lee (74-71), Maiko Wakabayashi (71-74)
T42/+2 Teresa Lu (73-73), Yuki Ichinose (73-73), Saiki Fujita (72-74)
T46/+3 Esther Lee (74-73), So-Hee Kim (73-74)
MC: Jae-Hee Bae (76-72), Young Kim (75-73), Miki Uehara (73-75), Rui Kitada (75-74), Pei-Ying Tsai (75-74), Momoko Ueda (71-78), Junko Omote (71-78), Miki Sakai (78-72), Ji-Woo Lee (76-75), Aiko Ueno (76-75), Rikako Morita (75-76), Ah-Reum Hwang (74-78), Lala Anai (74-78), Na-Ri Lee (78-75), Mie Nakata (76-79), Tao-Li Yang (76-81), Akiko Fukushima (78-80)
Although Momoko Ueda has 4 top 10s in 10 JLPGA starts this year, this week marks her 4th missed cut of 2011, to go with 2 toward the end of last season, and she's gone winless on tour since 2009 when she posted her 8th win in a 3-season span. Here's hoping she pulls out of her own slump soon. At #35 on the money list, she's safely within the top 50, but her recent results since returning to the JLPGA full-time for the 2nd half of the season haven't been encouraging: MC-T25-MC. Still, Mitsuka and hopefully Oyama can teach her a thing or two about turning things around on a dime.