Teresa Lu came close to winning the Miyagi TV Cup Dunlop Ladies Open last year, but ended up tying Ai Miyazato for 2nd, just 1 shot behind winner Na-Ri Lee. This year, a moving-day 65 highlighted by 4 birdies in her last 5 holes put Lu atop the leaderboard at -7 with Ayaka Watanabe, who celebrated turning 21 last week by going birdie-par-par-birdie-eagle to finish off her round today.
They lead Sun-Ju Ahn, who's twice finished the year atop the JLPGA money list, but who's trying to regain some momentum after getting relegated to #3 so far this season by Ji-Yai Shin's 4 wins in her last 9 starts and Bo-Mee Lee's run of 6-straight top 5s that included 2 wins until she missed the cut at the Konica Minolta Cup a couple of weeks ago. Shin is sitting this week out and Lee is showing some rustiness after taking last week off. Whereas Ahn has made 6 birdies and only 1 bogey in her 1st 36 holes to sit 2 shots behind Lu and Watanabe, Lee made 2 bogeys yesterday and 2 today, along with a double bogey on the par-4 9th, to offset her 6 birdies. So Ahn has a great opportunity to make up some serious ground on Lee tomorrow.
But Ahn is just the tip of the iceberg Lu and Watanabe have to worry about going all Titanic on tomorrow. Veteran Shiho Oyama and 22-year-old Natsuka Hori are only 3 shots back; the big group at -3 includes 2 golfers who are trying to regain their 2013 form, money-list title-holder Rikako Morita and Yumiko Yoshida; and youngsters Erika Kikuchi, Kumiko Kaneda, and Mami Fukuda have a lot to prove from 5 off the pace.
Lu and Watanabe have succeeded in putting lot of distance between themselves and other big-name players besides Lee. Momoko Ueda (-1), Misuzu Narita (-1), Erina Hara (-1), Na-Ri Kim (-1), defending champion Na-Ri Lee (-1), Yuri Fudoh (E), Sakura Yokomine (E), Ai Suzuki (E), Ji-Hee Lee (+1), Miki Saiki (+1), and Mi-Jeong Jeon (+2) would probably need to go lower tomorrow than the co-leaders did today to put any pressure on them. At least they have a chance. Chie Arimura, visiting from the LPGA, opened with a 40 on the front today and even a walkoff birdie left her 2 shots outside the cut line. Not exactly the homecoming she was hoping for.
So let's see if Lu or Watanabe can put together her 2nd win of 2014 or whether established stars like Ahn, Oyama, and Yoshida can outrun rising ones like Hori, Morita, Kikuchi, Kaneda, and Fukuda in the effort to chase the co-leaders down!