After opening with 73s yesterday at the Hoken No Madoguchi Ladies, Bo-Mee Lee and Momoko Ueda were paired together in the 4th group off the 1st tee today. They responded with a little game of "anything you can do I can do better": Ueda birdied her 1st 5 holes in a row; Lee 2 of her 1st 3; Ueda bogeyed 7 and 8 but posted a 32 on the front when she birdied 9; Lee cruised to a bogey-free 33 when she birdied the 9th, too; Ueda birdied the 12th; Lee did, too; Ueda sandwiched a bogey between birdies on 16 and 18 to post a 66 and move to -5; Lee birdied 3 of her last 5 holes to post a bogey-free 65 and move to -6.
The rest of the field seemed to move into spectator mode in response to these early fireworks. Sure, Onnarin Sattayabanphot, Na-Ri Lee, and Hyun-Ju Shin, who started on the back a few minutes after Lee and Ueda teed off on the front, each put together great 68s, while Shanshan Feng and Kaori Yamamoto, who started on the back a few minutes before them, notched a 5-birdie 69 and a 4-birdie 69 from separate groups. And Megumi Shimokawa and Porani Chutichai, who began their rounds on the front just a few minutes before Lee and Ueda, fired a bogey-free 67 and a 5-birdie 68, respectively, while Shiho Toyonaga, playing in the group right behind Lee and Ueda, posted a 5-birdie 68 to join them at -3. But many of the leaders after 18 holes plunged down the leaderboard over the next 18 holes. Yumiko Yoshida (75) fell to E and T27; Miki Saiki (74) dropped to +1 and T32; Kumiko Kaneda (75) barely made the cut at +2; Hiroko Fukushima (77) missed it by a shot; Ji-Hee Lee (78) and Akari Yamamoto (79) by 3. And many other players simply stalled. Just as Sakura Yokomine fired her 2nd-straight 71 to inch to -2, so many of the golfers tied with Feng, Sattayabanphot, Na-Ri Lee, and Yamamoto at -1 posted 71s or 72s.
Yet through it all a teenage amateur playing in the final group played great golf. 18-year-old Asuka Kashiwabara fired a bogey-free 33 of her own on the front to move to -6, then responded to her only bogey of the day, on the long par-5 11th, with back-to-back birdies for a 68 that moved her to -7 and alone in the lead through 36 holes. And she did this while a JLPGA legend was making a move of her own from a couple of groups ahead of her. Mi-Jeong Jeon fired a 7-birdie 68 to join Lee at -6. That means that Kashiwabara will be playing with 2 of the top Korean golfers in the world tomorrow. Let's see how she handles the Sunday pressure!
[Update 1 (7:39 am): I forgot to mention that Ji-Yai Shin, perhaps the biggest name in the field, posted a birdie-less 77 to miss the cut by a mile. Or that 19-year-old Hikari Fujita bounced back from yesterday's 77 to shoot a 69 that put her just on the right side of the cut line. Or that Ayako Uehara extended her visit to Japan from the LPGA with a 71 that brought her to +1. Finally, there are 11 players within 5 shots of the teenager heading into the final round!]