Saturday, July 5, 2014

Nichi-Iko Ladies Saturday: Maiko Wakabayashi Keeps Pedal to Metal

Maiko Wakabayashi picked up where she left off from yesterday's closing 31 at the Nichi-Iko Ladies with an opening 5-birdie 32 on her way to a 67 today that put her 2 shots ahead of Yeon-Ju Jung (who shot a bogey-free 68) and 3-up on Sakura Yokomine (who posted a 70 to extend her bogey-free streak to 36 holes and counting) heading into tomorrow's final round.

The biggest moves of the day belonged to Airi Saitoh, who fired an 8-birdie 65, and Kaori Ohe, whose bogey-free 66 brought her within 4 of the lead, but only a few golfers in the field were able to even just keep pace with Wakabayashi.  Rumi Yoshiba is the highest of them on the leaderboard at -8 with Ohe, while defending champion Young Kim was 1 behind Yoshiba and Bo-Mee Lee and Yukari Baba were 2 behind her.  Others with a small hope of winning tomorrow include Na-Ri Lee (68), Natsuka Hori (70), and Ritsuko Ryu (70), all of whom are tied with Kim at -7.  Among those who don't have a chance is everyone who couldn't get under par after 36 holes; that includes Rui Kitada, Shinobu Moromizato, Hyun-Ju Shin, Esther Lee, Kumiko Kaneda, and Yuki Sakurai.

So Wakabayashi has a chance to run away and hide from the field tomorrow in her quest for her 3rd JLPGA victory and 1st since 2012.  Jung has a chance to break through for her 1st JLPGA win.  And Yokomine has a chance to make a statement heading into the Women's British Open and the LPGA's International Crown (where Mamiko Higa replaced Rikako Morita, helping to make it even more Team Okinawa than Team Japan!).

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