I'll be watching closely to see how Mika Miyazato plays this week in the Munsingwear Ladies Tokai Classic on the JLPGA. For the 1st 36 holes of the Evian Championship, she played far above my expectations, but suffered one of the worst rounds of her professional career on Sunday. And yet my curiosity about her capacity to bounce back from the disappointment and embarrassment of her last 18 competitive holes is only part of the reason I'm so interested in what looks like her 1st appearance in this event.
Mikan was the 1st female golfer from Japan to start her professional career on the LPGA (at least that I'm aware of). And a successful career it's been. In her 4th season on tour, she broke through at the 2012 Safeway Classic. Right now, she's ranked #15 among those who started their LPGA careers between 2005 and 2013 (according to my system, that is). Despite that success over here, she hasn't chosen to play much on the JLPGA as a professional. Although she came close to winning the Japan Women's Open in 2009, she ended up squandering a 5-shot lead through 54 holes. She bounced back the following year and extended a 4-shot lead through 3 rounds to a 6-shot victory, her 1st as a professional and her only win on the JLPGA to date.
Given that history, her accepting the invitation to play this week is a big deal--worth its own web page on the tournament site! Most likely, Mikan wanted to please one of her sponsors (Munsingwear) and get in some competitive rounds in Japan before the 2013 Japan Women's Open begins in 2 weeks. That probably explains why she isn't joining Ai Miyazato, Chie Arimura, Momoko Ueda, and Ayako Uehara in next week's Miyagi TV Cup Dunlop Ladies Open. After all, with Jiyai Shin and In-Kyung Kim also choosing the JLPGA's 3rd major over the LPGA's inaugural event in China, Mikan will have her work cut out for her to improve on last year's 4th-place finish, much less win the JWO again.
For that to happen, she's going to have to find a way to adjust to greens in Japan and get her putter rolling much more smoothly than it has so far this season on the LPGA. I'm rooting for her to find a way to get it done. She tees off with fellow Okinawan Mamiko Higa and JLPGA money-list leader Rikako Morita in the opening round this week. Higa will be trying to bounce back from a 6-hole playoff loss to Bo-Mee Lee last week, while Morita will be trying to fight her way through the only real rough patch of the season that she's been mired in of late. So they'll all have something to prove this Friday!
[Update 1 (11:14 pm): Turns out Ji-Yai Shin and Shanshan Feng are also playing this week on the JLPGA!]