Rikako Morita shot a 6-under-par 67 to kick off the CAT Ladies. Despite bogeying the 532-yard par-5 18th, last year's JLPGA money-list title-holder leads Kaori Yamamoto by 2 and this year's money-list leader Bo-Mee Lee by 3 (along with former LPGAer Momoko Ueda and International Crown competitor Phoebe Yao). In addition, 22-year-old Saki Okamura (who's missed 12-straight cuts coming into this week!) and 36-year-old Hiroko Fukushima (who's MCed her last 4 starts on the JLPGA, as well) fought their way to 71s.
But it was a tough day for most of the field: only 13 players ended up under par after 18 holes and only 18 finished at par or better. With the likes of Erina Hara, Teresa Lu, Soo-Yun Kang, Mamiko Higa, Mayu Hattori, and Lala Anai at +1, Mi-Jeong Jeon, Yumiko Yoshida, and Shinobu Moromizato at +2, Akiko Fukushima, Rui Kitada, Young Kim, Ritsuko Ryu, and Miki Sakai joining Narita at +3, Saiki Fujita, Na-Ri Lee, Akane Iijima, and Yukari Baba at +4, and Miki Saiki and Hyun-Ju Shin at +5, not only is tomorrow's cut line likely to be high, but Morita has built a pretty big cushion already on golfers who might have been expected to contend this week. Add in the fact that Ji-Yai Shin and Bo-Bae Song withdrew during the 1st round--Shin with left shoulder pain after 6 holes and Song with poor health--and Morita can eliminate most of the field with another good round tomorrow.
If Morita does play well Saturday, she puts a lot of pressure on the top 3 players on the JLPGA money list, who were paired together today. Lee eagled the 376-yard par-4 11th and parred in for her 70, but Sun-Ju Ahn and Misuzu Narita could manage only 72 and 76, respectively. Ahn was -2 through 4 and Narita -2 through 6, but both had trouble the rest of the way, particularly Narita who doubled the 7th and bogeyed 3 of her last 6 holes, including both 17 and 18. By the same token, then, it's just as easy for Morita to struggle tomorrow. If so, players in the top 10 on the money list like Ayaka Watanabe, Onnarin Sattayabanphot, and Esther Lee, who all matched Ahn's opening 72, have a good opportunity to put some pressure on everyone ahead of them with good rounds tomorrow.
We'll just have to see who can handle the 6,701-yard Daihakone Country Club over the weekend!