Chie Arimura's had a frustrating 2 years on the course as she's been trying to adjust to the rigors of LPGA competition and travel, not to mention life away from Japan. Her troubles had even extended to her 2 visits to the JLPGA this year, where she had failed to break 70 in 6 rounds--and even missed the cut last week. So today's 6-birdie 67 at the Japan Women's Open must have been particularly satisfying. Not only did it allow the 26-year-old to move to the top of the leaderboard with 25-year-old Erika Kikuchi (70) at -6, it also kept her 1 shot ahead of former world #1 Ji-Yai Shin (68), 2-time JWO champion Mika Miyazato (70), veteran star Mi-Jeong Jeon (69), and youngsters Ai Suzuki (71), Hiroko Azuma (72), and Haruka Kudo (70) on a day when Yuri Fudoh, Miki Saiki, Ayako Uehara, and Harukyo Nomura missed the cut and Momoko Ueda fought back to make it on the number.
There are plenty of other great golfers within striking distance of Arimura and Kikuchi at the halfway point of the biggest tournament in women's golf in Japan and the JLPGA's 2nd major of 2014. Money-list leader Bo-Mee Lee is only 4 back (along with Yumiko Yoshida), #2 Sun-Ju Ahn 3, #7 Teresa Lu 2 (along with Shiho Oyama), while Ji-Hee Lee is 5 off the pace, Sakura Yokomine 6, and Misuzu Narita 8 (along with Rikako Morita).
Even so, it's great for Arimura to return to the spotlight. Sure, Shin is trying to win her 5th JLPGA event in her last 10 starts, Mikan is trying to redeem her 2nd disappointing LPGA season in a row, Jeong is trying to jumpstart her 2014, Suzuki is going for her 2nd major victory in a row (having outgunned Shin, among others, at the Konica Minolta Cup a few weeks ago), Kikuchi, Azuma, and Kudo are trying to follow Suzuki in making their 1st JLPGA victory a major title, and Ueda would be right in this except for a quad and a double in her 1st round. But being in contention on the weekend in the biggest tournament of the year could be just what Arimura needs to regain her confidence. I saw nothing wrong with her game when I followed her at the Wegmans LPGA Championship. Maybe today is just the spark she needed!