Sunday, November 17, 2013

Ito-En Ladies Sunday: Sakura Yokomine Wins, Takes Top Spot on JLPGA Money List

Sakura Yokomine won the Ito-En Ladies today with a bogey-free 68 from the penultimate pairing.  She birdied 3 holes in a row as she made the turn and stayed there at -10 the rest of her round.  But despite the lack of fireworks coming home, Yokomine's closing par train turned out to be just good enough to vault her to the top of the JLPGA money list.

Let's rewind to see how.  Da-Ye Na had been making an early charge, with 4 birdies in her 1st 8 holes and and another 4 in her last 6, but she dropped back to -8 thanks to a walkoff bogey.  She was the leader in the clubhouse until Yumiko Yoshida came through in the group ahead of Yokomine's.  Yoshida had opened with a bogey-free 32 and joined Yokomine at -10 when she birdied the 541-yard par-5 15th, but she bogeyed the 197-yard par-3 17th coming home and had to settle for -9.  That was all the more painful, as her playing partner Mayu Hattori birdied 18 to tie Na at -8, offsetting one of her 2 costly bogeys in a row early on the back after opening with a bogey-free 32.

Then Yokomine and Na-Ri Kim came through; the former parred her 8th hole in a row on the back to finish at -10, while the latter finished at -8 when she failed to build on her birdies on 15 and 16.

So the tournament came down to the final threesome.  Well, not quite.  Among yesterday's co-leaders, Miki Saiki was the 1st to falter, with a triple bogey on the long par-3 2nd.  She fought hard the rest of the way, but a double on another long par 3, the 17th, dropped her all the way to T14 at -3 (with Ritsuko Ryu [68], Sun-Ju Ahn [70], Ji-Hee Lee [70], and Mamiko Higa [71]).  One down.

Next up was 20-year-old Ayaka Watanabe, who got it to -9 for the week when she birdied the 546-yard par-5 3rd and the 389-yard par-4 8th.  But she couldn't keep it going, as bogeys on 9 and 17 dropped her into T7 with Kumiko Kaneda (70) and Yayoi Arasaki (69).

So in fact it all came down to Shiho Oyama.  The ex-LPGAer offset every single one of her 3 birdies in her 1st 11 holes with bogeys, but she got it to -10 for the week when she birdied the 2 long par 5s on the back, 13 and 15.  All she needed to do to beat her longtime rival was make one more birdie.  But she parred 16 and 17...and bogeyed 18!

In the end, then, Yokomine got a little help on the way to her 4th win of 2013 and 22nd of her JLPGA career.  But you can't win that often without a little help from your friends and rivals.

Speaking of which, former money-list leader Rikako Morita also helped Yokomine out.  She had started well back in the pack, but had birdied 5 of her 1st 10 holes to climb the leaderboard so high she had a chance to win.  She was still -8 until she reached the 12th hole, but a 3-hole bogey train dropped her to -5.  A birdie on the tough 17th did get her into T10 at -6 with Phoebe Yao, but her back 9 allowed Yokomine to extend her lead on the money list, as did Teresa Lu's T21 finish.

More on that after I bring onechan to skating!  But in the meantime here's the new top 10:

1. Sakura Yokomine ¥119.01M
2. Rikako Morita ¥107.32M
3. Yumiko Yoshida ¥85.40M
4. Miki Saiki ¥83.10M

5. Teresa Lu ¥79.32M
6. Sun-Ju Ahn ¥79.32M

7. Mamiko Higa ¥72.61M
8. Bo-Mee Lee ¥70.34M

9. Natsuka Hori ¥64.74M

10. Mi-Jeong Jeon ¥61.15M

[Update 1 (10:32 am):  Here's the rest of the money list:

11. Na-Ri Lee ¥58.34M
12. Yuki Ichinose ¥53.41M
13. Ritsuko Ryu ¥53.37M
14. Da-Ye Na ¥47.23M
15. Shiho Oyama ¥45.07M
16. Onnarin Sattayabanphot ¥44.74M
17. Misuzu Narita ¥44.72M
18. Erika Kikuchi ¥44.69M
19. Yukari Baba ¥43.27M
20. Soo-Yun Kang ¥42.94M
21. Junko Omote ¥42.58M
22. Asako Fujimoto ¥42.42M
23. Mayu Hattori ¥41.79M
24. Kumiko Kaneda ¥41.48M
25. Esther Lee ¥40.73M
26. Na-Ri Kim ¥37.94M
27. Hiromi Mogi ¥36.88M
28. Harukyo Nomura ¥35.97M
29. Miki Sakai ¥35.36M
30. Ji-Hee Lee ¥33.99M
31. Yuri Fudoh ¥33.07M
32. Erina Hara ¥31.80M
33. Rui Kitada ¥31.78M
34. Maiko Wakabayashi ¥31.15M
35. Kaori Ohe ¥28.24M
36. Lala Anai ¥27.15M
37. Kaori Nakamura ¥26.18M
38. Megumi Kido ¥25.58M
39. Eun-Bi Jang ¥24.45M
40. Young Kim ¥24.18M
41. Yuko Fukuda ¥23.49M
42. Ah-Reum Hwang ¥23.23M
43. Shanshan Feng ¥23.06M
44. Akane Iijima ¥22.40M
45. Phoebe Yao ¥21.27M
46. Ayaka Watanabe ¥20.25M
47. Yuki Sakurai ¥18.94M
48. Kaori Aoyama ¥18.81M
49. Yun-Jye Wei ¥17.80M
50. Ayako Uehara ¥17.30M

More on the implications in a bit!]

[Update 2 (11:30 am):  So with one open-field tournament and one limited-field tournament left on the JLPGA schedule, Rikako Morita is going to have to really outplay Sakura Yokomine to even have a chance of regaining the top spot on the money list.  We're talking one win in her next 2 starts and some help from Yokomine, as well.  Everyone else in the top 6 or so will need to win both events to have a chance to pass Yokomine.

But Ayako Uehara is not going to be able to affect her fate, unless she chooses to enter next week's Daio Paper Elleair Ladies, because #51 Saiki Fujita, who's only ¥.33M behind her, is definitely in the field.  If Fujita passes Uehara, she gets her JLPGA card renewed for 2014; if not, Uehara will be able to maintain dual membership on the LPGA and JLPGA without having to go to JLPGA Q-School for a 2014 card.  (In addition, Momoko Ueda, who has won ¥13.76M in 8 starts this season on the JLPGA, is getting into the field on a sponsor exemption, so I don't think any money she wins this week will be counted toward the money list--but if it is, she, too, is a threat to knock Uehara into Q-School or off the JLPGA.)  There will be cuts after each of the 1st two rounds, as well, so Fujita (and perhaps Ueda) will need to bring it on Thursday and Friday even to get a paycheck next week.

If Uehara takes these threats seriously, and values a JLPGA card more than a chance to win the CME Titleholders and become the LPGA's 2013 Rookie of the Year, then she may take her name off the Titlehiolders field list and enter the DPE Ladies late, as she did this week's JLPGA event.  After all, 75 players are listed on the current field list, but the tournament site says the full field will consist of 96 players.  There's another reason Uehara may choose the JLPGA over the LPGA next week.  To get into the Ricoh Cup, the final JLPGA major of the season, she needs to either win on the JLPGA, be in the top 25 on the JLPGA money list, or be ranked in the top 25 of the Rolex Rankings.  Since the latter 2 aren't in the realm of possibility, she'll need to win the DPE Ladies next week to join the rest of the JLPGA winners this season who have already qualified for the Ricoh Cup the week after.

So I guess it comes down to which event Uehara feels she has a better chance of winning.  And which win would matter more to her.

The race for the top 25 is also going to be interesting next week, as everyone from Hiromi Mogi at #27 to Yuri Fudoh at #31 can imagine finishing high enough on the DPE Ladies leaderboard to leapfrog their way into the Ricoh Cup.  In addition, if Ueda were to win, she would qualify for the Ricoh Cup even if her winnings didn't count on the money list, so she would then be able to knock Uehara out of the top 50 on the money list during the Ricoh Cup.

One final twist:  Ji-Yai Shin, who has won ¥14.31M in 7 JLPGA starts this season, can get into the Ricoh Cup via her top-25 position in the Rolex Rankings.  With the size of the purse in the tour's final major, she, too, could knock Uehara out of the top 50 and into JLPGA Q-School.

In short, Uehara's going to have to roll the dice one way or another.  Let's see what she decides.]

[Update 3 (11:31 am):  Here's bangkokbobby's take!]

No comments: