The final threesome in tomorrow's final round of the JLPGA's 2nd major of 2013, the Konica Minolta Cup, provides a revealing glimpse into the state of the tour. On the strength of a trio of 68s today, KLPGA transplant Bo-Mee Lee (-11), Okinawan teenager Mamiko Higa (-11), and living legend Yuri Fudoh (-7) will battle it out for the title. Will the South Korean resurgence on the JLPGA strengthen further? Will the tour's youth movement return to center stage? Or will the tour's veteran contingent strike back?
If any of the leaders falter, Erina Hara (71, -6) and Rui Kitada (70, -4) will have an outside chance of getting into the mix, but more likely they'll be battling to stay in the top 5, ahead of the likes of Sakura Yokomine, Na-Ri Kim, and Onnarin Sattayabanphot at -3, Yuki Ichinose and Miki Sakai at -2, Yukari Baba and Kumiko Kaneda at -1, and Sun-Ju Ahn, Ji-Hee Lee, Yumiko Yoshida, and Teresa Lu at E. The volatility on the back 9 of the players in this bunch suggests that Lee's and Higa's 4-shot lead on Fudoh and 5-shot lead on Hara is not insurmountable. Baba fired a bogey-free 32, while Ahn finished with a walk-off double bogey and Yoshida with 2 bogeys in her last 3 holes.
On the other hand, Lee is taking a 21-hole-and-counting bogey-free run into the final round, while Higa's is 17 and counting. In a week when no other player has broken 70 even twice, they've both done it 3 rounds in a row. With defending champion Chie Arimura and money-list leader Rikako Morita languishing 14 shots off their pace, Lee and Higa are really putting on a clinic. Lee, who won 3 times on the JLPGA last season (including in the final major and event of the year, the Ricoh Cup) and finished 2nd behind Mi-Jeong Jeon on the 2012 money list, has also won 4 times on the KLPGA (including in the final major of the 2010 season, the KB Star Tour Grand Finale), so she definitely has a lot of experience to draw on, not least beating Inbee Park in a playoff on the KLPGA and Sun-Ju Ahn in a playoff on the JLPGA. Higa, meanwhile, has two gutsy wins this season to draw on, although in both she emerged as the winner from a huge crowd of players who had great chances to win, as well. Tomorrow is going to be the 1st time all season that she will essentially be in a match-play situation with her co-leader in the final round. I don't think Higa can count on Lee to get stuck on the bogey train tomorrow, as she did during Higa's 1st-ever JLPGA victory. I'm looking forward to a great duel tomorrow!