Monday, April 9, 2012

Studio Alice Ladies Open Overview: Miki Saiki Makes up 5 Shots on Ji-Yai Shin over Last 3 Holes to Capture 4th Career JLPGA Victory

For 52 holes at the Studio Alice Ladies Open, Ji-Yai Shin seemed to be cruising toward her 6th career JLPGA victory and 1st since 2010, but a late charge from playing partner Miki Saiki--2 birdies in her last 3 holes and 3 in her last 10 holes of bogey-free golf--turned up the pressure on the Final Round Queen...and she responded with a double bogey-bogey finish to hand Saiki her 4th victory on tour.

Shin was -9 with 8 holes to play and maintained a 4-shot lead over Saiki with 3 holes to go.  A Saiki birdie on the par-5 16th cut the lead to 3, but even after Shin's double on the 383-yard par-4 17th, which ended a 26-hole bogey-free run extending all the way back to the front 9 on Saturday, she still was clinging to a 1-shot lead.  However, a 2-shot swing on the final hole--a Saiki birdie and a Shin bogey--sealed Shin's fate and vaulted the 27-year-old Saiki back into the top 10 on the JLPGA money list, where she's been a regular over the last 2 seasons.

Defending champion Chie Arimura snagged a top-5 finish in her 2012 JLPGA debut, while Sun-Ju Ahn posted her 2nd-best finish of the season, a solo 4th, right behind amateur standout Mamiko Higa.  A final-round 69 vaulted Sakura Yokomine into the top 10 from the mid-30s, where she was languishing most of the tournament.  Meanwhile, Inbee Park stumbled home with a 75, but stayed tied for 10th thanks to difficult conditions that lead to only 4 players finishing the tournament under par.

Sure, Tiger's and Rory's Masters meltdowns, coupled with Mickelson's and Westwood's inability to chase down Oosthuizen and Watson--and capped off by Bubba's awe-inspiring curveball from the trees on the 2nd playoff hole to secure his 1st major title--will all serve to eclipse Shin's inability to finish off her final round.  But for fans of women's golf, this is yet another sign that Ya Ni Tseng's chief challengers are not quite ready yet to topple the Tseng Dynasty!

[Update 1 (11:52 am):  Check out bangkokbobby's post for great photos and the full leaderboard in English.  I'm still swamped at work and about to head out from my parents' place with the girls to get back to Hamburg, so will provide my money-list update later!]  

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