Sunday, June 8, 2014

Yonex Ladies Weekend: 21-Year-Old Misuzu Narita Does It Again!

Last month, 21-year-old Misuzu Narita outduelled Shanshan Feng and Mika Miyazato to take her 3rd JLPGA title and 1st major.  This weekend at the Yonex Ladies, she held on for her 4th victory by holding off defending champion Junko Omote and recent multiple JLPGA money-list title-holder Sun-Ju Ahn down the home stretch, and by defeating 13-time winner Shiho Oyama and 24-year-old Erina Yamato in a playoff mere minutes after bogeying the final hole.  I'm thinking she might deserve to be even higher on my ranking of the top 22 under-22 female professionals in the world!

So how did Narita do it?  Well, on Saturday she roared into the lead with 3 birdies and an eagle for her 2nd-straight 68, but only took a 1-shot margin on Oyama and Yamato and a 2-shot lead on Ahn (who made 6 birdies and an eagle in her last 14 holes early in the day) into the final round.  With youngsters Nana Yamashiro and Julia Kurata lurking 3 shots back along with KLPGA transplant Da-Ye Na, and a full 20 players within 5 shots of her, Narita's victory was by no means assured.

And when Omote opened today's round with a bogey-free 30 and Ahn fired a bogey-free 34 of her own, while Narita parred her 1st 12 holes in a row, things got even tighter at the top of the leaderboard, especially when Narita's playing partners got it going.  Yamato birdied 3 and 8 to offset a bogey on the short par-4 4th and move to -8 herself, while Oyama bounced back from a bad stretch on the front in which she made 3 bogeys in 6 holes by birdieing 9 and 10 to return to -7.  So it really was anyone's tournament heading into the home stretch.

Playing well before the leaders, Omote was the 1st to blink, with a bogey on 10 that she offset with a birdie on the short par-5 13th.  By the time Ahn got to the 13th an hour later, Omote had stumbled home with 2 bogeys in her last 4 holes to settle for being leader in the clubhouse at -6.  Ahn responded by going OB and taking a double bogey on the easy par 5 to join her (and Lala Anai).  When Narita birdied the very same hole minutes later to get to -9, she suddenly found herself with a 1-shot lead on Yamato, a 2-shot lead on Oyama, and a 3-shot lead on Omote, Ahn, and Anai.  Oyama then birdied the long par-3 14th to join Yamato just 1 shot behind their playing partner.  And that's how things stayed until the 18th, when Narita uncharacteristically bogeyed the short par 5.  But she got revenge on the 1st playoff hole with a birdie putt of about 14 feet.

So Narita is now a 2-time winner in 2014 and has moved up 1 spot to #2 on the JLPGA money list:

1. Bo-Mee Lee ¥61.71M
2. Misuzu Narita ¥53.76M
3. Sun-Ju Ahn ¥51.05M
4. Onnarin Sattayabanphot ¥36.13M
5. Ayaka Watanabe ¥35.03M
6. Erina Hara ¥34.26M
7. Yuki Ichinose ¥31.61M
8. Rikako Morita ¥28.06M

9. Miki Sakai ¥27.87M
10. Esther Lee ¥26.57M
11. Phoebe Yao ¥25.74M
12. Teresa Lu ¥25.34M
13. Ritsuko Ryu ¥23.70M
14. Ji-Hee Lee ¥20.43M
15. Mi-Jeong Jeon ¥20.28M
16. Lala Anai ¥20.22M
17. Shanshan Feng ¥20.04M
18. Mayu Hattori ¥18.82M
19. Ji-Yai Shin ¥17.18M
20. Mamiko Higa ¥16.73M
21. Mami Fukuda ¥15.59M
22. Saiki Fujita ¥15.54M
23. Junko Omote ¥15.54M
24. Yukari Baba ¥14.76M
25. Sakura Yokomine ¥14.46M
26. Asako Fujimoto ¥13.83M
27. Yumiko Yoshida ¥13.38M
28. Soo-Yun Kang ¥12.60M
29. Na-Ri Lee ¥11.72M
30. Shiho Oyama ¥9.90M

Next up on the JLPGA is a big one, the Suntory Ladies, which Rikako Morita won last year.  This year, top Japanese amateurs Minami Katsu, Kotone Hori, Asuka Kashiwabara, Haruka Morita, Yumi Matsubara, and Eri Okayama will be joining the JLPGA's finest and vying for a low amateur title won in the past by the likes of Ai Miyazato, Sakura Yokomine, and Chie Arimura.

[Update 1 (8:46 am):  The kids are doing great on the KLPGA, as well, as rookie Kyu-Jung Baek (-18) held off charges by Ha Na Jang (-16) and Hyo Joo Kim (-15)!]

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