Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Konica Minolta Cup Finale: Chie Arimura Holds Off Charging Inbee Park for 1st JLPGA Major, 3rd Win of 2012, and 13th Career Victory

Chie Arimura won the Konica Minolta Cup on Sunday for her 1st JLPGA major, 3rd win of 2012, and 13th career victory.  But she had to withstand a furious charge from then-LPGA money-list leader Inbee Park, who nearly stole her 5th career JLPGA victory out of Arimura's hands. 

Park was 8 shots behind 1st-round leader Yumiko Yoshida Thursday after opening with an even-par 72.  She was still 6 shots behind 2nd-round leader Arimura, whose 65 overshadowed her 68.  And Park fell 8 shots behind Arimura by the end of the 3rd round, when her 71 was simply outclassed by Arimura's 3rd-straight round in the 60s and 2nd 69 of the week.  The gap between them was epitomized--and extended--by Arimura's birdieing her last 2 holes while Park finished bogey-par for a flat finish after having birdied 4 of her previous 7 holes.  In fact, Park actually fell 9 shots behind Arimura after 4 holes of the 4th round, when she negated her opening birdie with a bogey on the 536-yard par 5.

It would have been easy for Park to give up at that point or give in to frustration.  After all, the Women's British Open is this week and nobody would have blamed her if she coasted in, conserving her energy in the JLPGA major for the LPGA/LET major to come.  Instead, Park responded with 2 birdies in her next 4 holes.  But when she cooled off with 5 pars in a row, she was still 7 shots behind Arimura, who was locked in a duel with playing partner Yoshida.  The 1st-round leader twice got to -12 on the front to keep the pressure on Arimura.  Still, when Arimura birdied the 533-yard par-5 10th to return to -14 and Yoshida responded with a bogey there and on the 396-yard par-4 11th to drop back to -10, it was most definitely Arimura's tournament to lose.  Even as Yoshida birdied the 167-yard par-3 12th and kept making par after par afterwards, Arimura held steady with 4 pars in a row.  But maybe she started hearing roars from 2 groups ahead of her, because Park was embarking on an amazing birdie barrage with just 5 holes left to play.  She birdied the 406-yard par-4 14th to get to -8.  She birdied the 382-yard par-4 15th to get to -9.  She birdied the 500-yard-par-5 16th to get to -10.  She birdied the 185-yard par-3 17th to get to -11 (and catch Yoshida).  When Arimura bogeyed the 15th, her once-9-shot lead on Park had dwindled to 2.  And then Park birdied the 400-yard par-4 18th to finish at -12 and pull within a single shot of Arimura.

But Arimura held steady over her final 3 holes, parring out to post a -13 total for the week and secure her 13th career JLPGA victory.  It was a great win for a player who admitted after her round she was so worried by the wrist injury that delayed the start of her 2012 season that she wondered whether she'd have to give up the game.  She didn't, and now she's 3rd on the JLPGA money list, only about 20 million yen behind leader Mi-Jeong Jeon, who had a tough week, and about 10 million yen behind Sun-Ju Ahn, who couldn't come closing to making it 3 wins in a row on the JLPGA.  Nobody else is very close to the JLPGA's Big 3 of 2012, although Park moved up to #12 in only 8 JLPGA starts this season (passing Shanshan Feng, who must have decided not to play this week after all), Yoshida bumped Sakura Yokomine out of the top 10, Ritsuko Ryu dropped Mayu Hattori to the #5 spot, and Kumiko Kaneda jumped 20 spots and Na-Ri Kim 10 thanks to their strong finishes.

1. Mi-Jeong Jeon ¥101.02M
2. Sun-Ju Ahn ¥92.89M
3. Chie Arimura ¥81.18M
4. Ritsuko Ryu ¥60.88M
5. Mayu Hattori ¥60.01M
6. Ji-Hee Lee ¥51.91M
7. Miki Saiki ¥51.66M
8. Rikako Morita ¥49.54M
9. Bo-Mee Lee ¥49.52M
10. Yumiko Yoshida ¥43.30M
11. Sakura Yokomine ¥43.26M
12. Inbee Park ¥41.94M
13. Shanshan Feng ¥40.48M
14. Soo-Yun Kang ¥35.14M
15. Hiromi Mogi ¥32.06M
16. Maiko Wakabayashi ¥29.64M
17. Mihoko Iseri ¥28.43M
18. Yuri Fudoh ¥28.27M
19. Kaori Ohe ¥28.01M
20. Esther Lee ¥27.38M
21. Megumi Kido ¥25.86M
22. Hyun-Ju Shin ¥22.41M
23. Yuki Ichinose ¥22.00M
24. Kumiko Kaneda ¥21.83M
25. So-Hee Kim ¥21.05M
26. Yukari Baba ¥20.58M
27. Shinobu Moromizato ¥20.35M
28. Miki Sakai ¥19.78M
29. Yeo-Jin Kang ¥19.67M
30. Ayako Uehara ¥19.51M
31. Na-Ri Kim ¥19.30M
32. Rui Kitada ¥18.89M
33. Erina Hara ¥18.68M
34. Airi Saitoh ¥18.35M
35. Na-Ri Lee¥18.29M
36. Akane Iijima ¥18.25
37. Young Kim¥18.05M
38. Junko Omote ¥17.83M
39. Ji-Yai Shin ¥17.78M
40. Erika Kikuchi ¥17.12M
41. Teresa Lu ¥16.95M
42. Eun-Bi Jang ¥16.03M
43. Bo-Bae Song ¥15.63M
44. Harukyo Nomura ¥14.48M
45. Yuko Fukuda ¥13.72M
46. Saiki Fujita¥12.20M
47. Da-Ye Na ¥11.29M
48. Lala Anai ¥11.08M
49. Natsu Nagai ¥11.01M
50. Nikki Campbell ¥10.85M

Arimura is in the field list for the 43rd Munsingwear Ladies Tokai Classic, where Mayu Hattori will attempt to defend her title, but it's looking like Ahn and Jeon will be competing in the KLPGA major across the pond instead (even as lower-tier Japanese players like Wakabayashi, Ohe, Kido, Ichinose, Hara, and even Aiko Ueno will be playing at Royal Liverpool).  With So Yeon Ryu coming off her 8th career KLPGA victory on Sunday and Na Yeon Choi finishing 4th there, Park will be the hottest player from the JLPGA but maybe not the hottest Korean in the field--although we'll have to see how Ji-Yai Shin handles getting to Hoylake late after her 81-hole victory at Kingsmill!  With all that moving around, the JLPGA might actually end up having the weakest field of any of the 4 major women's tours competing this week--very rare for a tour that usually has the 2nd-strongest behind the LPGA.  Let's see if Arimura can take advantage of it or if Yokomine can jump-start her season.

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