The JLPGA's 1st major of 2013 is shaping up to be a showdown between the top 2 players on tour this season. Former money-list leader Rikako Morita's bogey-free 68 today at the Salonpas Cup brought her to -7 for the week, good enough for a 2-shot lead on So Yeon Ryu, Hiromi Mogi, and current money-list leader Miki Saiki, who's shooting for her 3rd win in as many starts. Saiki bounced back from an opening bogey with an eagle on the 505-yard par-5 5th and returned to -6 with a birdie on the 391-yard par-4 11th, but as Morita was birdieing the 13th and 14th to get to -7, Saiki bogeyed the long par-3 13th and couldn't make another birdie the rest of the way.
There are several golfers hoping to keep this from being a 2-player race in addition to Ryu and Mogi, however. 2nd-round leader Saiki Fujita was sitting pretty at -7 with 4 holes left to play, but bogeyed the next 3 of them to drop 3 shots off the pace. Even as the "other" Saiki was moving backwards, Ji-Woo Lee made a huge leap forwards with a bogey-free 29 on the front (her back) that leapfrogged her 1 shot ahead of last week's winner Sakura Yokomine.
Except for Ryu, the visitors to the JLPGA haven't played to expectations. Shanshan Feng is the only player within 5 shots of the lead, while Lydia Ko is tied with Yuri Fudoh and Sun-Ju Ahn 6 shots off the pace. Even further back are Mika Miyazato (+1) and Morgan Pressel (+2), but they shouldn't feel too bad, as Mi-Jeong Jeon's 78 dropped her back to T38 and Shiho Oyama's 76 brought her to T47.
Basically, it's playing like a major should. A round in the 60s on Sunday will count for even more than usual. With only 9 players within 5 shots of the lead, it's unlikely someone will make as big a move tomorrow as Ji-Woo Lee did on her back 9 today. But wouldn't it be cool if someone did?