Monday, October 3, 2011

Japan Women's Open Sunday: Yukari Baba Bounces Back

Despite finishing in the top 10 on the JLPGA's year-end money list the past 2 seasons, Yukari Baba had been struggling for much of this one.  She had missed the cut in 5 of her previous 19 starts, had twice failed to crack the top 45 when she did make the cut, and had 2 other finishes outside the top 25.  Sure, her other 10 starts had all been within the top 20, but it was a long time since the start of the season when she finished 2nd in her 2nd start and 5th in her 3rd.  Even when she momentarily pulled herself into contention last Sunday, she stumbled down the home stretch and barely got her 6th top 10 of the season, which only moved her to 22nd on the 2011 money list. 

So it wasn't that much of a surprise when the 54-hole leader of the Japan Women's Open started the final round with 4 bogeys in her 1st 6 holes and topped off that run with a double on the 8th to drop from +6 to +12.  After all, she had only gotten the lead on Saturday because of Mika Miyazato's moving-day collapse, and now she was 4 shots behind playing partner Ritsuko Ryu, 3 shots behind money-list leader Sun-Ju Ahn, and 2 shots behind Ai Miyazato.  What was surprising, however, was what happened next.  Baba engineered a 2-shot swing on Ryu on the very next hole, a 374-yard par 4, then pulled within 1 of the lead when Ryu made her 3rd-straight bogey of the day on the 366-yard par-4 10th.  By then, Ahn had bogeyed the 11th and doubled the 13th, just as Miyazato, playing in the group between Ahn and Baba/Ryu, bogeyed the 12th.  At this point, then, Ryu was +10, Baba and Miyazato were +11, and Ahn was +12.  Even after Baba matched Miyazato's bogey on the 12th to fall to +12, things seemed to be going her way when 1st Miyazato and then Ryu made back-to-back bogeys on 14 and 15 and Ahn offset her birdie on the long par-5 15th with a bogey on the 376-yard par-4 16th.  So Ryu, Baba, and Ahn were tied for the lead at +12 and Miyazato was 1 back as they entered the home stretch.  Ahn was the 1st to crack with a bogey on the 413-yard par-4 18th that brought her to +13.  Miyazato bogeyed her last 2 holes in a row to finish at +15.  It all came down to the final pairing, Ryu and Baba, who were tied for the lead at +12 as they teed off on the tough 18th.  When the dust settled, Ryu had bogeyed it and Baba had parred it, giving the 28-year-old her 3rd JLPGA victory and 1st major of her 9-year career.  Yes, Ryu had made 6 bogeys over her last 11 holes, Ahn had bogeyed 2 of her last 3 after fighting back from a double on each side with her 4th birdie in her 1st 15 holes, and Miyazato had bogeyed 5 of her last 7 holes and played her last 12 in +6, but Baba still played her final 10 holes in even par.

1st/+12 Yukari Baba (73-69-74-76)
T2/+13 Sun-Ju Ahn (72-74-74-73), Ritsuko Ryu (74-73-71-75)
T4/+14 Nachiyo Ohtani (75-72-74-73), Ji-Hee Lee (70-74-74-76)
6th/+15 Ai Miyazato (72-73-74-76)
T7/+16 Young Kim (71-71-81-73), Bo-Bae Song (76-73-73-74)
T9/+17 Sakura Yokomine (76-74-76-71), Mi-Jeong Jeon (70-76-76-77)

T11/+18 Rui Kitada (75-74-81-68), Chie Arimura (71-76-77-74), Na-Ri Lee (73-73-78-74)
T14/+19 Onnarin Sattayabanphot (76-70-79-74), Hyun-Ju Shin (77-70-77-75), Ayako Uehara (72-71-81-75), Ji-Woo Lee (75-68-80-76)
T18/+20 Shanshan Feng (75-72-75-78), Akane Iijima (73-71-78-78)
T20/+21 Eun-A Lim (73-73-79-76), Mika Miyazato (70-71-79-81)
T22/+22 Ah-Reum Hwang (73-75-82-72), Eun-Hee Ji (72-79-77-74)
T25/+23 Eun-Bi Jang (76-74-79-74), Soo-Yun Kang (80-72-76-75), Yuki Ichinose (74-71-79-79)
T29/+24 Miki Saiki (82-72-75-75), Na-Ri Kim (71-78-76-79), Yuri Fudoh (73-73-76-82)
T33/+25 Mayu Hattori (73-77-78-77), Shinobu Moromizato (77-75-75-78)
T35/+26 Mamiko Higa [a] (73-73-84-76), Teresa Lu (70-76-80-80)
T37/+27 Tamie Durdin (76-76-78-77), Rikako Morita (74-79-76-78), Miki Uehara (74-72-75-86)
T40/+28 Harukyo Nomura (72-77-80-79)
42nd/+29 Akiko Fukushima (72-79-81-77)
T43/+30 Sakura Kito [a] (76-78-79-77), Bo-Mee Lee (75-77-80-78), Asako Fujimoto (75-74-82-79), Kumiko Kaneda (70-79-81-80), Momoko Ueda (75-74-80-81)
T50/+31 Yuko Mitsuka (79-73-80-79), Rui Yokomine (79-72-81-79), Erika Kikuchi (72-77-81-81)
53rd/+32 Kaori Aoyama (77-76-80-79)
T54/+33 Kaori Ohe (81-73-83-76)
T60/+39 Hinako Yamauchi [a] (75-79-87-78)
WD Saiki Fujita (71-74-78-WD)

Besides Baba, the only other player who's probably satisfied with her finish may well be Ji-Hee Lee, who played her last 7 holes in -1 to snag a share of 4th place and move to 3rd on the JLPGA money list:

1. Sun-Ju Ahn ¥85.64M
2. Sakura Yokomine ¥71.10M
3. Ji-Hee Lee ¥69.06M
4. Chie Arimura ¥66.12M
5. Miki Saiki ¥61.44M
6. Yukari Baba ¥51.55M
7. Ritsuko Ryu ¥50.07M
8. Yuri Fudoh ¥48.67M
9. Shanshan Feng ¥45.79M
10. Mayu Hattori ¥41.44M
11. Kumiko Kaneda ¥35.19M
12. Hiromi Mogi ¥33.45M
13. Ayako Uehara ¥32.72M
14. Rui Kitada ¥32.51M
15. Mi-Jeong Jeon ¥31.42M
16. Bo-Bae Song ¥30.49M
17. Yuko Mitsuka ¥29.37M
18. Junko Omote ¥28.36M
19. Rikako Morita ¥26.20M
20. Na-Ri Kim ¥25.78M
21. Li-Ying Ye ¥24.74M
22. Inbee Park ¥24.33M
23. Ah-Reum Hwang ¥23.51M
24. Asako Fujimoto ¥23.31M
25. Saiki Fujita ¥21.97M
26. Eun-Bi Jang ¥20.82M
27. Akiko Fukushima ¥20.61M
28. Soo-Yun Kang ¥20.01M
29. Ji-Woo Lee ¥19.31M
30. Hyun-Ju Shin ¥18.87M
31. Shiho Oyama ¥18.86M
32. Eun-A Lim ¥18.62M
33. Teresa Lu ¥18.40M
34. Young Kim ¥17.58M
35. Shinobu Moromizato ¥17.30M
36. Bo-Mee Lee ¥17.07M
37. Na-Ri Lee ¥17.04M
38. Esther Lee ¥16.62M
39. Kaori Aoyama ¥16.23M
40. Momoko Ueda ¥15.53M
41. Akane Iijima ¥14.63M
42. Nikki Campbell ¥14.03M
43. So-Hee Kim ¥13.81M
44. Nachiyo Ohtani ¥13.68M
45. Yumiko Yoshida ¥12.99M
46. Maiko Wakabayashi ¥12.11M
47. Miho Koga ¥11.95M
48. Ji-Yai Shin ¥11.91M
49. Megumi Kido ¥11.75M
50. Yuki Ichinose ¥11.33M

With her 1st top 10 of the year on the JLPGA, Ai Miyazato moves up to #60 on the money list, but she's over 3.5 million yen out of 50th and still only has 5 starts on tour this season.  I assume she'll play at least 1 other in addition to the Mizuno Classic, but her name isn't showing up on the next 2 field lists.  With both Momoko Ueda and Ji-Yai Shin listed for the Hana Bank Classic this coming week on the LPGA, they, too, may find themselves fighting to keep their JLPGA cards for 2012 by the time they return to the tour (assuming Shin's back injury permits her to play again this year).

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