The LPGA's (and now JLPGA's) Harukyo Nomura, who won her 1st JLPGA event as a professional this May and was in position to win her 2nd before fading in the heat of a July Sunday, jumped out to the 1st-round lead in the Sankyo Ladies Open yesterday on the strength of a 5-birdie 68, but was passed today by 2011 money-list leader Sun-Ju Ahn, who dropped a bogey-free 66 on the field to tie 22-year-old Satsuki Oshiro for the lead at -7.
Ahn, who's won 3 times on tour already this year and just missed taking the Japan Women's Open last week, is the heavy favorite to pick up her 8th career JLPGA victory in less than 2 full seasons on tour. But she's going to have to contend with the likes of Nomura and Hyun-Ju Shin 3 shot behind her, Yuri Fudoh, Mi-Jeong Jeon, and Mayu Hattori 4 back, and Akiko Fukushima, Shiho Oyama, and JWO winner Yukari Baba 5 off the pace.
Here's how the leaders and notables look after 36 holes in Gunma prefecture:
T1/-7 Sun-Ju Ahn (71-66), Satsuki Oshiro (71-66)
T3/-4 Hyun-Ju Shin (69-71), Harukyo Nomura (68-72)
T5/-3 Yuri Fudoh (72-69), Mi-Jeong Jeon (71-70), Erika Kikuchi (71-70), Mayu Hattori (70-71)
T9/-2 Ji-Woo Lee (73-69), Akiko Fukushima (72-70), Yukari Baba (72-70), Maiko Wakabayashi (72-70), Kuniko Maeda (72-70), Onnarin Sattayabanphot (70-72), Mihoko Iseri (70-72), Shiho Oyama (69-73)
T17/-1 Rikako Morita (74-69), Chie Arimura (73-70), Na-Ri Kim (73-70), Junko Omote (73-70), Kaori Ohe (73-70), Young Kim (72-71)
T26/E Rui Kitada (76-68), Miho Koga (75-69), Sakura Yokomine (74-70), Aiko Ueno (74-70), Ah-Reum Hwang (73-71), Akane Iijima (73-71), Megumi Kido (72-72), Ji-Hee Lee (70-74), Mika Takushima (70-74)
T37/+1 Yuki Ichinose (76-69), Kaori Aoyama (75-70), Ayako Uehara (74-71), Kumiko Kaneda (74-71), Hiromi Mogi (73-72), Esther Lee (71-74)
T45/+2 Tamie Durdin (75-71), Tao-Li Yang (75-71), Yumiko Yoshida (74-72), Rui Yokomine (73-73)
MC: Asako Fujimoto (77-70), Na-Ri Lee (77-70), Miki Saiki (76-71), Julie Lu (75-72), Ritsuko Ryu (77-71), Nikki Campbell (76-72), Shinobu Moromizato (75-73), Lala Anai (75-73), Ji-Na Lim (78-72), Erina Hara (74-76), Pei-Ying Tsai (78-73), Soo-Yun Kang (76-75), Miki Sakai (81-74), Erina Yamato (82-74), Li-Ying Ye (79-77), Miki Uehara (78-78)
I'm wondering if Nomura, who got it to -7 early in her round today but played her last 13 holes in birdieless +3, can make a move on Ahn, whom she defeated in the final round of the Chukyo TV Bridgestone Ladies Open (thanks in part to an early and uncharacteristic quad from the South Korean sensation). Nomura gets to try to put some pressure on Ahn from the next-to-last pairing in tomorrow's final round. Meanwhile, Oyama, who made 5 birdies in a row on the back to start her Friday round (and ended up with 7 in her 1st 8 holes) but stumbled over her last 10 holes with 3 bogeys and a walkoff double, started fast Saturday on the front, getting back to -5 overall through 5 holes, but finished exactly as weakly as Nomura did. I wonder if she has another early run in her arsenal tomorrow--and a stronger finish. Despite all her troubles, there are still only 4 pairings between her and Ahn's. I'd love to see Nomura or Oyama make a statement tomorrow as the only dual LPGA-JLPGA members in the field!