Momoko Ueda birdied 6 of her last 8 holes, including her last 4 in a row, to fire a bogey-free 64 on moving day and take the lead at -13 in the Mizuno Classic, but she didn't shoot the low round of the day. That honor belonged to the golfer sitting in 2nd place 3 shots behind her, the 2009 JLPGA money-list title holder Sakura Yokomine, who birdied half the holes she played today for a bogey-free 63. Call it a blast from the past but don't call it a comeback: all of a sudden the two biggest names on the JLPGA besides Ai Miyazato (who's in the cellar this week and will need a good Sunday just to get back to even par) are going to be in a dogfight for their 9th (Ueda) and 19th (Yokomine) wins on tour--and 1st in what feels like forever.
That's not to say Sunday's final round will definitely come down to a 2-player shootout. Shanshan Feng's 7-birdie 67 brought her to -9, tied with Mayu Hattori, who 1-upped her with a bogey-free 66. Both youngsters are looking for their 3rd career JLPGA wins tomorrow. [Correction: Hattori has 3 already--thanks, John!] LPGA super-soph Mina Harigae, who's playing on the JLPGA for the 1st time that I know of, matched Feng's 7-birdie 65 to make it a trio 4 behind Ueda. How big a deal would it be for a Japanese-American golfer to win the Mizuno? Just a little further down the leaderboard are In-Kyung Kim, Catriona Matthew, and 1st-round co-leader Teresa Lu at -8, Na Yeon Choi, Chie Arimura, Hee Kyung Seo, Akane Iijima, and Na-Ri Kim at -7, and Azahara Munoz, Ayako Uehara, Ryann O'Toole, and Asako Fujimoto at -6. Sure, they'd need to put together final rounds as momentous as Yokomine's and Ueda's moving day feats and get some help from those ahead of them on the leaderboard to get into contention on the back 9, but stranger things have happened.
What's really surprised me is how low the scoring has been. If you had told me Thursday that Stacy Lewis would be at -5, Ji-Yai Shin, Karrie Webb, Mika Miyazato, and Hee Young Park at -4, Sun-Ju Ahn at -3, and Mi-Jeong Jeon at -2, I would have expected them to be among the leaders on a bunched leaderboard. Instead, Lewis is the only player in the top 20 from this illustrious group after 36 holes. With Yukari Baba at -1, Inbee Park at E, Kumiko Kaneda at +1, Miki Saiki at +2, and Ai Miyazato at +4, I would have expected the weather and scoring conditions to be forbidding. Instead, Momoko Ueda has a real chance to break Ji-Yai Shin's 54-hole scoring record at Kintetsu Kashikojima Country Club of -18 tomorrow. Heck, she's already matched her own winning total from 2007! And the only thing Yokomine did was tie the 18-hole tournament record--oh yeah, and put the lowest round ever in competition at KKCC into the record books.
So let's see what feats the leading pair of 25-year-olds can perform tomorrow. It's an adage that it's hard to play well after going super-low, but given right now I wouldn't put anything past Momoko and Sakura!
[Update 1 (4:00 am): The AP is in the house, beating me to the punch on 2nd-round coverage! Reading around at Seoul Sisters.com, I saw that dual JLPGA-KLPGA member Bo-Mee Lee is in contention on the KLPGA this week. Also, if I'm understanding correctly from other sources, Ji-Yai Shin and Ai Miyazato seem to believe that 6 events on the JLPGA this year is enough to secure their cards for 2012 (whether or not they make the top 50 on the money list??).]
[Update 2 (9:11 pm): Nice catches by bangkokbobby!]