Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sankyo Ladies Open Sunday: Sun-Ju Ahn Takes Her 4th JLPGA Title of 2011

Sun-Ju Ahn weathered some early charges from golfers playing several groups ahead of her, stumbled a bit in the middle of her round, but came on strong when the chips were down at the Sankyo Ladies Open and got for her efforts her 4th JLPGA win of 2011 and 8th overall on tour since she joined in 2010.

Shiho Oyama, with 4 birdies in her 1st 6 holes, was the 1st player to take a run at Ahn.  At -6 with 12 holes to play, she was only 1 behind the 3rd-round leader, who started her round with 6 straight pars.  But others quickly joined Oyama, including Mi-Jeong Jeon, who birdied 4, 6, 7, and 8 to tie Ahn at -7, and her playing partner Ji-Woo Lee, who birdied 1, 2, and 8 to get to -5.  Ahn briefly took the solo lead back from Jeon with a birdie on the 7th hole, and extended it when Jeon bogeyed the 400-yard par-4 9th, but when she, too, bogeyed the last hole on the front, she dropped back into a tie with her playing partner, 22-year-old Satsuki Oshiro, who was hanging tough with 9 straight pars of her own.  Oyama, who had started fast twice before but faded in a big way both previous rounds, was making pars in bunches, as well.  After her opening bogey-free 32, she stayed at -6 until she birdied the 500-yard par-5 14th, which actually vaulted her ahead of both Ahn and Oshiro back in the final group when they each bogeyed the 374-yard par-4 12th.  However, a bogey on the 377-yard par-4 16th dropped Oyama back into a tie at -6 with Ahn, Oshiro, Lee, who birdied the 384-yard par-4 15th a little while later, and Jeon, who had righted the ship after her lone bogey with a long string of pars.  But when both Ahn and Oshiro responded with birdies of their own--Ahn on the 370-yard par-4 13th and Oshiro on the very next hole--Oyama knew she'd need at least 1 birdie down the stretch to have a chance for her 12th career JLPGA victory.  When she did it at the 555-yard par-5 18th, she became the sole leader in the clubhouse at -7--and she could only wait to see what those behind her would do.

Next to come in were Lee and Jeon, and they both matched Oyama's walkoff birdie to join her as co-leaders in the clubhouse.  Nobody in the penultimate group was doing anything special--living legend Yuri Fudoh was chugging along but not making any kind of move while youngsters Harukyo Nomura and Erika Kikuchi were struggling mightily--so it all came down to the final group.  Although Hyun-Ju Shin birdied 3 holes in a row down the stretch to fight back to -6 after a terrible start to her day and end up catching Oshiro in a tie for 5th after the youngster bogeyed the 15th, it was too little, too late, as Ahn refused to let her +2 run from the 8th through the 12th rattle her and followed up her 13th-hole birdie with a final 1-2-punch on the 16th and 177-yard par-3 17th.  After safely parring her last hole, Ahn ended up with a 2-shot victory and a successful title defense over Oyama, Lee, and Jeon.

So here's how the leaders and notables ended up:

1st/-9 Sun-Ju Ahn (71-66-70)
T2/-7 Ji-Woo Lee (73-69-67), Shiho Oyama (69-73-67), Mi-Jeong Jeon (71-70-68)
T5/-6 Hyun-Ju Shin (69-71-70), Satsuki Oshiro (71-66-73)
7th/-5 Yuri Fudoh (72-69-70)
T8/-4 Kaori Aoyama (75-70-67), Ikue Asama (73-70-69), Young Kim (72-71-69)

T11/-3 Sakura Yokomine (74-70-69), Akane Iijima (73-71-69), Rikako Morita (74-69-70), Chie Arimura (73-70-70), Onnarin Sattayabanphot (70-72-71)
T17/-2 Kumiko Kaneda (74-71-69), Hiromi Mogi (73-72-69), Rui Kitada (76-68-70), Junko Omote (73-70-71), Akiko Fukushima (72-70-72), Erika Kikuchi (71-70-73), Harukyo Nomura (68-72-74)
T24/-1 Miho Koga (75-69-71), Mika Takushima (70-74-71), Na-Ri Kim (73-70-72), Yukari Baba (72-70-73), Mayu Hattori (70-71-74)
T30/E Yumiko Yoshida (74-72-70), Esther Lee (71-74-71), Ji-Hee Lee (70-74-72), Maiko Wakabayashi (72-70-74)
T36/+1 Yuki Ichinose (76-69-72)
T39/+2 Ayako Uehara (74-71-73), Ah-Reum Hwang (73-71-74)
T42/+3 Tao-Li Yang (75-71-73), Megumi Kido (72-72-75)
T46/+4 Tamie Durdin (75-71-74), Aiko Ueno (74-70-76), Kaori Ohe (73-70-77) 
T51/+6 Rui Yokomine (73-73-76)

With her win, Ahn becomes the 1st player in 2011 to break the 100-million-yen barrier on the JLPGA money list:

1. Sun-Ju Ahn ¥103.64M
2. Sakura Yokomine ¥72.71M
3. Ji-Hee Lee ¥69.77M
4. Chie Arimura ¥67.73M
5. Miki Saiki ¥61.44M
6. Yukari Baba ¥52.38M
7. Yuri Fudoh ¥52.17M
8. Ritsuko Ryu ¥50.07M
9. Shanshan Feng ¥45.79M
10. Mayu Hattori ¥42.27M
11. Mi-Jeong Jeon ¥38.68M
12. Kumiko Kaneda ¥36.22M
13. Hiromi Mogi ¥34.48M
14. Rui Kitada ¥33.54M
15. Ayako Uehara ¥33.33M
16. Bo-Bae Song ¥30.49M
17. Junko Omote ¥29.39M
18. Yuko Mitsuka ¥29.37M
19. Rikako Morita ¥27.81M
20. Na-Ri Kim ¥26.61M
21. Ji-Woo Lee ¥26.58M
22. Shiho Oyama ¥26.13M
23. Li-Ying Ye ¥24.74M
24. Inbee Park ¥24.33M
25. Ah-Reum Hwang ¥24.07M
26. Hyun-Ju Shin ¥23.37M
27. Asako Fujimoto ¥23.31M
28. Saiki Fujita ¥21.97M
29. Akiko Fukushima ¥21.64M
30. Eun-Bi Jang ¥20.82M
31. Young Kim ¥20.08M
32. Soo-Yun Kang ¥20.01M
33. Kaori Aoyama ¥17.73M
34. Eun-A Lim ¥18.62M
35. Teresa Lu ¥18.40M
36. Esther Lee ¥17.33M
37. Shinobu Moromizato ¥17.30M
38. Bo-Mee Lee ¥17.07M
39. Na-Ri Lee ¥17.04M
40. Akane Iijima ¥16.24M
41. Momoko Ueda ¥15.53M
42. Nikki Campbell ¥14.03M
43. So-Hee Kim ¥13.81M
44. Yumiko Yoshida ¥13.70M
45. Nachiyo Ohtani ¥13.68M
46. Maiko Wakabayashi ¥12.82M
47. Miho Koga ¥12.78M
48. Satsuki Oshiro¥12.48M
49. Megumi Kido ¥12.24M
50. Ji-Yai Shin ¥11.91M

With Ai Miyazato now at #61 on the money list, Harukyo Nomura at #82, Hee Young Park at #87, and Meena Lee at #100, time is running out on many dual LPGA-JLPGA members to attempt to avoid JLPGA Q-School.  That's why it's interesting that the field list for the Fujitsu Ladies next week is so short right now.  Perhaps it's no surprise that Shin, both Miyazatos, Ueda, Feng, Hee Young Park, and Lee are all playing in the LPGA's Sime Darby Malaysia event instead (plus it appears that Inbee Park is taking the week off from both tours).  But it either shows how confident these players are that they'll remain in, return to, or break into the top 50 at the Mizuno--or how little they care about retaining their JLPGA membership (can you really see them going to Q-School in December?).  I'm curious to see how many choose the lucrative Masters GC Ladies over the LPGA's new Taiwan event the following week and/or enter the Hisako Higuchi Morisaga Weider Ladies the week after when the LPGA has an off week before the Mizuno Classic.  This is going to come down to the wire for a lot of international stars!

[Update 1 (8:12 am):  Looks like virtually all the dual LPGA-JLPGAers have committed to the Taiwan event, if their player profile page is to be trusted.]

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