Saturday, November 16, 2013

Ito-En Ladies Saturday: The Vets Strike Back

If the 1st round of the Ito-En Ladies was led by Japan's youth, moving day was dominated by some of the top Japanese stars on the JLPGA.  Miki Saiki and Shiho Oyama leaped into a share of the lead with 20-year-old Ayaka Watanabe as they all shot 68s, while Sakura Yokomine caught yesterday's leader 21-year-old Akane Yoshino with a 68 of her own to move within a single shot of the lead.  With Yumiko Yoshida, Mayu Hattori, and Kaori Aoyama 2 shots back, alongside youngsters Kumiko Kaneda and Phoebe Yao, the top of the leaderboard is packed.

But the bottom of the leaderboard is also interesting.  20-year-old Rumi Yoshiba went 68-78 to miss the cut (as did the likes of Erika Kikuchi, Misuza Narita, Natsuka Hori, Yuko Mitsuka, Shinobu Moromizato, and Bo-Mee Lee), while 17-year-old amateur Shoko Sasaki went 68-77 to make it on the number, along with Lala Anai (67-78), Erina Hara (68-77), Na-Ri Lee (75-70), Ritsuko Ryu (73-72), Yuki Sakurai (70-75), Onnarin Sattayabanphot (75-70), and Ayako Uehara (74-71).

Let me focus on that last name 1st.  Uehara is only 100 points out of the lead in the LPGA's Rookie of the Year race, which means she has to win the CME Titleholders next week to have a chance of passing Caroline Masson and Moriya Jutanugarn.  But she's #51 on the JLPGA money list, when the top 50 are guaranteed cards for 2014.  So if Uehara wants to play the Titleholders instead of the Daio Paper Elleair Ladies (where she's not even on the field list), she has to make a huge move up the leaderboard tomorrow.  Otherwise, she risks having to got to JLPGA Q-School to retain her membership on both tours next year.

You'll note that I kind of buried my lede 2 paragraphs ago that recent winner Bo-Mee Lee missed the cut.  This means that she'll need to take the last 2 events of the season on the JLPGA to have a hope to winning the money-list title this year (she finished runner-up to Mi-Jeong Jeon last year).  With last week's winner Teresa Lu going in the opposite direction as Lee and catching Sun-Ju Ahn at -1 on the strength of a 7-birdie 68, 1 shot behind Mamiko Higa (69), all 3 of them will need to go super-low tomorrow to join Saiki and Yoshida in challenging the 2-player race right now between Rikako Morita (72, -3) and Yokomine.  So tomorrow's round is going to have a huge say on the fortunes of the top 8 on the JLPGA money list and their relative chances of taking the title.

In addition, we'll get to see tomorrow if Watanabe can guarantee herself a 2014 card (she's currently #49 on the money list), if Oyama can reestablish herself as one of the top players on tour, if Yoshino can go from obscurity to the winner's circle, if Na-Ri Kim can win one for the tour's Seoul Sisters, if Yao or Aoyama can break through for her 1st JLPGA victory, of it Kaneda can win for the 1st time since 2011 and 2nd time in her JLPGA career.

In short, there's a lot at stake for everyone playing tomorrow.  Let's see who can best turn pressure into performance!

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