After eagling her 10th hole of the day, the 501-yard par-5 1st, 22-year-old Hiroko Azuma was -6 and bogey-free late in the 1st round of the Japan Women's Open. This was uncharted territory for a young professional who had made only 7 cuts coming into this week, and she stumbled down the home stretch with 3 bogeys and 2 birdies to settle for an opening 67. But it was still the best round of the day on a day that notables like Momoko Ueda (78), Harukyo Nomura (77), Young Kim (77), Yuri Fudoh (75), and Onnarin Sattayabanphot (75) would like to forget as quickly as possible.
Even 2-time champion Mika Miyazato had trouble finishing off her round. After making 4 birdies in her 1st 13 holes of bogey-free golf, she bogeyed the 387-yard par-4 14th and couldn't make a birdie coming home. On a day when 26-year-old Erika Kikuchi (68) matched Azuma's 32 on the back and veteran Shiho Oyama (69), 20-year-old Ai Suzuki (68), and 22-year-old Mami Fukuda (71) posted 33s on the back, Miyazato's 36 was the worst score on that side among those in the top 12.
That includes Sun-Ju Ahn (69), who's #2 on the JLPGA money list, and Teresa Lu (69), who's #7, while money-list leader Bo-Mee Lee is right in this thing at -1 with #3 Ji-Yai Shin, Sakura Yokomine, and the visiting Chie Arimura. Other notables include Lala Anai (68), Mi-Jeong Jeon (70), Yumiko Yoshida (70), Ritsuko Ryu (70), Misuza Narita (72), Natsuka Hori (72), 16-year-old amateur and youngest-ever JLPGA winner Minami Katsu (72), Ji-Hee Lee (73), Ayako Uehara (73), Rikako Morita (74), Erina Hara (74), Esther Lee (74), Na-Ri Lee (74), and Ayaka Watanabe (74).
I still like Miyazato's chances for her 3rd JWO victory, particularly because her 33 was the lowest score on the tougher front today. Let's see what happens!