Sunday, May 6, 2012

Salonpas Cup Sunday: Sun-Ju Ahn Beats Morgan Pressel and Inbee Park in Playoff

For 43 holes, Morgan Pressel was making the Salonpas Cup look as easy as she did when she won the JLPGA's 1st major of 2010.  Standing on the 8th tee, she was -12 and bogey-free in the weather-shortened event and things were looking up for her, as her playing partners were running into trouble on the front.  The golfer-formerly-known-as-The Final Round Queen, Ji-Yai Shin, had gifted her with a 2-shot swing, thanks to a double bogey on the 392-yard par-4 7th, to fall 4 shots behind Pressel, while 17-time JLPGA winner Mi-Jeong Jeon was +1 over her 1st 7 holes to also fall 4 back.  Sure, fellow LPGAer Inbee Park put together a sizzling bogey-free 32 from several groups ahead of them to join them at -8 and defending champion Sun-Ju Ahn had gotten within 2 shots of Pressel from the group ahead of theirs with a birdie on the 8th.  But it seemed like Pressel was cruising.

Then, much like the SHIELD flying fortress as the mind-controlled Hawkeye's strike force started its attack in the Avengers movie, Pressel started losing altitude fast.  She bogeyed the 173-yard par-3 8th.  She bogeyed the 391-yard par-4 11th.  She bogeyed the 512-yard par-5 12th.  She bogeyed the 401-yard par-4 14th.  Meanwhile, Ahn, the JLPGA's money-list leader for the past 2 seasons, was going through some turbulence of her own, with bogeys on the long par 4s 9 and 14.  Pressel and Ahn left the door wide open for Park, and for a while it looked like she was going to bust through it and never look back.  The 3-time JLPGA winner looking for her 2nd major on tour birdied the 188-yard par-3 13th and the 163-yard par-3 15th to get to -6 on the day and -10 for the week.  But then she, too, stumbled badly down the stretch, with back-to-back bogeys on the 16th and 17th.  When she parred the 408-yard 18th to become leader in the clubhouse at -8, it looked like anything could happen.  Pressel and Ahn were starting to make pars again, Ahn's playing partner Shanshan Feng had climbed to -8 after making 4 birdies and 3 bogeys in her 1st 10 holes and was hanging steady in a tie for the lead, and even Pressel's playing partner Shin wasn't out of it at -6, despite her bogeys on 11 and 14.  Heck, until Park stumbled through the finish line with a surprisingly disappointing 68, it looked as if Mika Miyazato's early-morning 69 that brought her to -5 for the week might be good enough to put her into the mix!

To make a long story short, Feng bogeyed 16 and Ahn bogeyed 17 to fall to -7.  Pressel and Shin kept making pars on their heels.  When Ahn made an amazing walkoff birdie on 18 to join Park at -8, it was up to Pressel to beat them, join them, or leave the playoff to them.  She closed with her 4th straight par, but Ahn made quick work of both LPGA major winners with a 6-foot birdie putt on the 1st playoff hole.  With her 2nd Salonpas Cup title in a row, Ahn now has 9 JLPGA career victories and is back on top the 2012 money list.  Funny how 1 win, the result of back-to-back birdies, can erase what had been a lackluster start to the season for a player of Ahn's caliber.

As for the other big names in the field, this was a very disappointing weekend.  KLPGA star Bo-Mee Lee, who's focusing her efforts on the JLPGA this year, went 72-73 to finish 4 out of the playoff, Ai Miyazato went 73-73 to miss the playoff by 5 shots, displaced money-list leader Ritsuko Ryu went 71-76 to finish 8 back, Sakura Yokomine went 72-75 to fall 9 behind, last week's winner Chie Arimura went 74-79 to end up 11 off the pace, and KLPGAer Ha-Neul Kim went 75-79 to finish next-to-last among those who made the cut (just ahead of the #2 player on the JLPGA career money list, Akiko Fukushima).  Even amateur sensation Moriya Jutanugarn had trouble on Sunday, barely hanging onto a tie for low amateur despite finishing with a 74.  At least they made it to the weekend:  Michelle Wie, Momoko Ueda, Teresa Lu, Harukyo Nomura, Bo-Bae Song, and Nikki Campbell all missed the cut, while Soo-Yun Kang had to withdraw, even though she opened with a solid 70.

So here's how the money list looks after the end of the JLPGA's 1st major:

1. Sun-Ju Ahn ¥33.60M
2. Mi-Jeong Jeon ¥27.93M
3. Ritsuko Ryu ¥24.99M
4. Bo-Mee Lee ¥22.60M
5. Hiromi Mogi ¥21.29M
6. Ji-Hee Lee ¥20.75M
7. Sakura Yokomine ¥20.39M
8. Kaori Ohe ¥18.82M
9. Mayu Hattori ¥17.70M
10. Chie Arimura ¥17.61M
11. Miki Saiki ¥17.31M
12. Maiko Wakabayashi ¥17.29M
13. Airi Saitoh ¥15.02M
14. Ji-Yai Shin ¥13.88M
15. Inbee Park ¥13.87M
16. Soo-Yun Kang ¥13.54M
17. Akane Iijima ¥13.45M
18. Ayako Uehara ¥12.10M
19. Rikako Morita ¥10.53M
20. Yuki Ichinose ¥9.02M
21. Rikako Morita ¥8.40M
22. Kumiko Kaneda ¥8.37M
23. Esther Lee ¥8.06M
24. Shinobu Moromizato ¥7.95M
25. Erika Kikuchi ¥7.91M
26. Yuko Fukuda ¥7.80M
27. Miki Sakai ¥7.71M
28. Teresa Lu ¥7.65M
29. Na-Ri Lee¥7.02M
30. Shanshan Feng ¥6.44M
31. Yuko Mitsuka ¥6.32M
32. Li-Ying Ye ¥6.32M
33. Erina Hara ¥6.31M
34. So-Hee Kim ¥6.18M
35. Yuri Fudoh ¥6.07M
36. Rui Kitada ¥5.72M
37. Young Kim¥5.64M
38. Eun-Bi Jang¥5.42M
39. Da-Ye Na ¥5.16M
40. Yumiko Yoshida ¥5.06M
41. Yukari Baba ¥4.75M
42. Harukyo Nomura ¥4.70M
43. Na-Ri Kim ¥4.69M
44. Saiki Fujita ¥4.10M
45. Nikki Campbell ¥3.95M

Shiho Oyama rejoins the tour next week at the Fundokin Ladies.  The only dual LPGA-JLPGA members to stay in Japan will be Shanshan Feng and Momoko Ueda (#89 on the money list).

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