Saturday, May 31, 2014

ShopRite LPGA Classic Saturday: Stacy Lewis's Bogey-Free 63 Leapfrogs Her Past Christina Kim and Jennifer Johnson

Stacy Lewis couldn't quite match or surpass Jennifer Johnson's tournament record of 62 from yesterday's round on moving day today at the ShopRite LPGA Classic, but her bogey-free 63 got her to -12 through 36 holes and vaulted her 2 shots ahead of Johnson and 1 beyond Christina Kim.  With 52 putts thus far this week, Lewis is wielding the hottest flat stick in the field and is poised to take a real run at world #1 Inbee Park, who birdied 5 of 7 holes as she made the turn from back 9 to front 9 to peak at -9 before bogeying 3 of her last 5 holes to finish at -6 (tied with Harukyo Nomura, who faded to a 73 today after opening with a 63 of her own).  But Lewis will also have to contend with Anna Nordqvist, whose bogey-free 65 got her within 4 shots of the lead, tied with Gerina Piller at -8, as well as Haeji Kang, who also got to -9 late in her round but ended up needing a walkoff birdie to get back to -7.

Everyone else, it seems, will just be trying to pass as many people as possible with a good round tomorrow.  Lewis is playing too well to open the door to someone like Julieta Granada, whose 66 today got her to -5, or Shanshan Feng, whose 65 got her to -3.  As for stalwarts like Na Yeon Choi and Chella Choi, their even-par rounds left them at -5 and -4, respectively, seemingly too far back to make a real run at the top tomorrow.  Meanwhile, youngsters like Kim Kaufman, Dori Carter, and Amy Anderson shot solid 69s (Anderson's featured the biggest comeback, with 5 birdies in her last 8 holes), but are also back in the -5 to -4 range.  And big names like Karrie Webb and Michelle Wie (-3), Suzann Pettersen (-2), and Cristie Kerr (-1) will need to flirt with Annika's 59 to get in the mix tomorrow.

Others had to make great recoveries just to make the cut.  Paula Creamer was +5 with 12 holes to play but 2 birdies and an eagle later and she ended up just on the right side of the cut line.  Line Vedel birdied 3 of her last 4 holes and Ji Young Oh her last 3 holes in a row to join her.  Lydia Ko started the day at -3 but bogeyed 4 holes in a 5-hole stretch early on the back (her front), then grinded her way back to E but took a triple on the par-4 4th and needed back-to-back birdies to make the cut on the number.  Ai Miyazato birdied 2 of her last 6 holes to claw back to E for the week.

Others fell far but hung on.  Ya Ni Tseng fought back to E early on but a double on the par-4 13th put her in danger of missing the cut and only a birdie on the par-4 16th kept her playing on Sunday.  Lexi Thompson bogeyed 3 of her 1st 5 holes and another bogey on the par-3 11th also put her in danger of missing the cut, but a walkoff birdie kept her alive to play another day.  Mika Miyazato birdied 5 of her 1st 12 holes to rise to -2, but 3 bogeys in her last 5 holes dropped her back to the end of the line of those playing tomorrow.  Catriona Matthew was also -2 with 6 holes to play, but a double and a bogey later and she was counting herself lucky to just make the cut.

Some notables, though, were not quite so fortunate.  So Yeon Ryu went bogey-bogey-double-bogey early on the back to fall to +5, but even though she birdied 4 of her last 10 holes, a bogey on the par-3 11th was enough to put her on the wrong side of the cut line.  It's only her 3rd missed cut as an LPGA member.  Se Ri Pak birdied her last 2 holes in a row, but she also ended up at +2 through 36 and won't go on for 54.  Natalie Gulbis fought back from a double on her 33rd hole with back-to-back birdies to close out her round, but also fell 1 shot short.  Pat Hurst recovered from a double early on the front with an eagle on 9 and 3 bogeys in a row late on the back with back-to-back birdies to finish her round, only to end up at +2, too.  Lizette Salas bogeyed 4 of her 1st 11 holes to fall to +4 for the week, too much for her back-to-back birdies that closed out her round to make up for.  Carlota Ciganda doubled 18 to miss the cut by a shot.  And Nicole Jeray birdied 4 of her last 11 holes of bogey-free golf yet also missed the cut by the same margin.

Of course, everyone who missed the cut has a story, including established stars like Laura Davies, Jessica Korda, Eun-Hee Ji, Hee-Won Han, Seon Hwa Lee, Lorie Kane, Morgan Pressel, Angela Stanford, and Jeong Jang, and young hopefuls like Danielle Kang (WD), Tiffany Joh, Jennifer Song, and Jaye Marie Green.  All of which helps to put the fantastic play of Lewis, Kim, and Johnson in a much better perspective.  We'll have to wait and see if anyone can take a run at them from back in the pack or whether this will become a 2- or 3-player race to the finish!

[Update 1 (6/1/14, 8:54 am):  IceCat followed Park, Creamer, and Ko and has great details on their 1st rounds over at Seoul]

Resort Trust Ladies Saturday: Junko Omote Goes 68-68 to Take Lead

Junko Omote turned 40 in February but her game is as sharp as it's ever been.  She was a regular in the top 10 or thereabouts on the JLPGA from 2003-2005, but it's only since 2011 that she's approached that career peak again.  Like 1st-round leader Miki Saiki, her 2014 hasn't been all that great thus far, but she's put it behind her this week with a pair of 68s to take a 1-shot lead at the Resort Trust Ladies over Teresa Lu, Na-Ri Lee, and Ji-Min Lee, and a 3-shot lead on Saiki and Satsuki Oshiro.

Na-Ri Lee had the round of the week thus far, a moving-day 64 that actually included a bogey on the 16th hole.  But lots of golfers moved into contention along with her.  In fact, a good number of other Lees did, too, such as Ji-Hee (bogey-free 67) and Bo-Mee (bogey-free 69), who moved to -4 along with Rikako Morita (72), Mi-Jeong Jeon (71), Yeo-Jin Kang (71), Ayaka Watanabe (70), Ritsuko Ryu (69), Natsuka Hori (69), Onnarin Sattayabanphot (68), and 18-year-old amateur Kotone Hori (68).  Sakura Yokomine moved to -3 with a 4-birdie 69, catching Momoko Ueda (73), Mamiko Higa (70), and Ai Suzuki (70).  All in all, there are 21 golfers within 5 shots of the lead.

Meanwhile, Yuri Fudoh and Sun-Ju Ahn (71s, -2), Misuzu Narita (71, -1), Akiko Fukushima (72, E), and Yumiko Yoshida (72, +1) will need to do something special to have a chance tomorrow.  But at least they have a shot.  Veterans Yuko Mitsuka, Shinobu Moromizato, Young Kim, and Rui Kitada missed the cut, as did young guns Kotono Kozuma, Haruna Taguchi, Erina Yamato, Kumiko Kaneda, and Asako Fujimoto, along with 18-year-old amateur Asuka Kashiwabara.

So let's see if Omote can play the comeback kid, whether someone else will, or whether Bo-Mee Lee can snag her 2nd victory in her last 3 starts.

Friday, May 30, 2014

ShopRite LPGA Classic Friday: Jennifer Johnson Fires 10-Birdie 62 to Take 1-Shot Lead on Harukyo Nomura

Jennifer Johnson birdied 3 of her 1st 4 holes and 7 of her last 10 on her way to a tournament-record 62 in the 1st round of the ShopRite LPGA Classic today, which was just good enough to give her 1-shot lead on Harukyo Nomura and a 2-shot lead on Christina Kim.

With world #1 Inbee Park lurking 4 back, along with Na Yeon Choi, and the likes of Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie, and Chella Choi at -4, Lydia Ko at -3, and Lexi Thompson, Anna Nordqvist, Azahara Munoz, and defending champion Karrie Webb at -2, Johnson has a long way to go before she can think about getting her 2nd win on the LPGA, but he's certainly started things with a bang.  Plus she's put pressure on a lot of players coming in as favorites, such as Suzann Pettersen, Cristie Kerr, and Hee Young Park (now 8 back), Jessica Korda, Lizette Salas, and Jenny Shin (9 back), So Yeon Ryu (10 back), and Se Ri Pak, Paula Creamer, and Ai Miyazato (11 back).

With only 36 holes left to play, moving day will be more important than usual.  If anyone in the mid-60s or better can repeat their performance tomorrow, a lot of the field will be eliminated from contention.  Let's see how the 3 leaders back up their super-low rounds!

The Light at the End of the Road to Pinehurst Is Here!

With Sectional Qualifying for the 2014 U.S. Women's Open concluding in Florida today, you might think about looking to Seoul and Brent Kelley's golf page.  Or see below for key links:

Vero Beach, FL: tweet; results; qualifiers: Mathilda Cappeliez, Emily Penttila, Karlin Beck; alternates: Isabelle Lendl, Jessica Alexander

Wow, hope there's more to be found soon!

[Update 1 (9:56 pm):  Found the results.  Charlotta Sorenstam and Mitsuki Katahira were probably the biggest names not to qualify.]

Resort Trust Ladies Friday: Miki Saiki Returns?

Miki Saiki joined Teresa Lu and Ji-Min Lee at the top of the Resort Trust Ladies after firing a 6-birdie 67 today.  Here's hoping her 5th round in the 60s and 3rd in her last 4 of 2014 signals the return to form of one of the top players on the JLPGA.  If she can put that 6-event run where she made the cut twice and finished no better than 50th squarely in the rear-view mirror, there's no telling where she can end up this season.  At #33 on the JLPGA money list, she's a win away from returning to the top 20, where she's basically been her entire career.

Of course, there are 36 holes left to decide this thing and there are 46 golfers within 5 shots of the lead.  Lu is hoping for a comeback of her own, as are Momoko Ueda and (to a lesser extent) Rikako Morita at -4, Mi-Jeong Jeon at -3, Yukari Baba at -2, Yuri Fudoh, Asako Fujimoto, Kaori Ohe, and Mamiko Higa at -1, and Sakura Yokomine and Akiko Fukushima at E.  The JLPGA's very finest thus far in 2014, Sun-Ju Ahn and Bo-Mee Lee, are right in the hunt -1, while Misuzu Narita and Onnarin Sattayabanphot are right behind them at E.  And the JLPGA's young guns are, too, with Shiho Toyonaga and Satsuki Oshiro at -3, Ayaka Watanabe, Phoebe Yao, Erika Kikuchi, and Lala Anai at -2, Natsuka Hori, Miki Sakai, and Ai Suzuki joining Higa at -1, and 18-year-old amateur Kotone Hori joining Narita and Maiko Wakabayashi at E.

So there's a long way to go before we'll find out how Saiki follows up on last week's runner-up finish.  But wouldn't it be cool if she made it her 5th year in a row on tour with at least 1 win by snagging career win #8 this coming Sunday?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Light at the End of the Road to Pinehurst Just Visible: U.S. Women's Open Sectional Qualifying Continues in FL and AZ Today

With Sectional Qualifying for the 2014 U.S. Women's Open taking place in Florida and Arizona today, you might think about looking to Seoul and Brent Kelley's golf page.  Or see below for key links:

Bradenton, FL: pairings; results; qualifiers: Yueer Cindy Feng, Sandra Changkija, Paula Hurtado; alternates: Anya Alvarez, Doris Chen

Scottsdale, AZ: overview; article; qualifiers: Sadena Parks, Cheyenne Woods, Madison Kerley; alternates: Claire Amelia Legaspi, Sophia Popov

[Update 1 (5/30/14, 7:21 am):  Sorry for the slow updates!  I also missed the Sanford, NC, qualifier, where Stacey Keating, Marta Silva Zamora, Wei-Ling Hsu, and Ally McDonald made it and Rebecca Artis and Brittany Marchand were alternates!  The last qualifier is at Vero Beach, FL, today.  More on that in a separate post.]

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

My Picks for the ShopRite LPGA Classic

The two biggest trends on the LPGA in 2014 are American winners and young winners, but ShopRite LPGA Classic defending champion and Hall of Famer Karrie Webb is a category unto herself, what with her 2 wins already this season.  So where do I think she'll end up on this year's leaderboard?

1. Ko
2. Shin
3. Creamer
4. Lewis, Stacy
5. Pettersen
6. Park Inbee
7. Ryu
8. Nordqvist
9. Thompson
10. Wie
11. Webb
12. Miyazato Ai

Alts: Kerr; Feng; Salas

How about you?

Monday, May 26, 2014

2014 U.S. Women's Open Sectional Qualifying Continues in CA, MA Tomorrow

With Sectional Qualifying for the 2014 U.S. Women's Open taking place in California and Massachusetts tomorrow, you might think about looking to Seoul and Brent Kelley's golf page.  Or see below for key links:

Brockton, MA: pairings; results; qualifiers: Caroline Powers, Megan Khang; alternates: Emma Jandel, Juliet Vongphoumy; notables who failed to qualify: Harukyo Nomura, Nannette Hill, Katie Kempter, Maiya Tanaka, Candy Hannemann

City of Industry, CA: information and pairings; results

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Airbus LPGA Classic Sunday: Jessica Korda's 65 Makes Her 3rd Repeat Winner on LPGA in 2014

Jessica Korda turned it on during the home stretch of the Airbus LPGA Classic and just beat 3rd-round leader Anna Nordqvist to the finish line, thanks to 7 birdies in her last 12 holes, 6 of them coming on the back and 4 in her last 5 holes, with the winning birdie coming on the final hole.  All it took for Korda to become the 3rd repeat winner on the LPGA in 2014 was a bogey-free 65 that got her to -20, 1 shot better than Nordqvist and 2 better than playing partners Michelle Wie and Charley Hull, along with Catriona Matthew.

But for awhile, this tournament was even wider open than the JLPGA event that Sun-Ju Ahn won today.  Whereas Ahn had started the day with the entire field within 7 shots of the lead, Nordqvist had only 13 players within 5 shots of her at the start of the day.  But she opened the door with bogeys on 1 and 9 and an uncharacteristic single birdie on a side she had owned the 1st 3 rounds (33-31-31!), falling to -15 for the week.  That allowed Wie to take the lead at -17 with 4 birdies in her 1st 7 holes, or rather tie Matthew for the lead, as the veteran twice got to -17 on the front herself.  Eun-Hee Ji made 4 birdies after an opening bogey to catch Nordqvist at -15, while Hull birdied 4 holes between 5 and 12 to get to -16.

Matthew, Wie, and Hull would each falter a bit early on the back, as Matthew bogeyed 10 and 12 to fall back to -15, Wie bogeyed the 12th to drop to -16, and Hull bogeyed the 13th to move to -15.  Nordqvist, meanwhile, was figuring out how to get the ball in the hole again, as she birdied 11 and 13 to get to -17.  And Korda was making a charge of her own with birdies on 7, 10, and 12 to move to -16.  And that's when Korda turned on the afterburners:  she birdied 14, 15, and 16 to soar to -19.  And a good thing it was, as Hull would match Korda's feat, birdie for birdie, and Wie responded with back-to-back birdies on 15 and 16 join Hull at -18.  All this came as Matthew birdied 13, 14, and 16 to also get to -18, while Nordqvist made it 4 players right on Korda's heels with a birdie of her own on 16.

So with 2 holes to play it was anyone's tournament.  In the end, the players who birdied 18 would finish 1-2, while Wie, Hull, and Matthew had to settle for T3, a single shot ahead of Jenny Shin, 2 ahead of Ji, Lexi Thompson, and Jodi Ewart Shadoff, and 3-up on Stacy Lewis, So Yeon Ryu, Brittany Lincicome, and Belen Mozo.

In short, Korda's 1st win in the States and 1st win after the 1st event of a season was quite the barnburner.  I'm glad I kept her at #4 in my ranking of the top 22 female pros on the planet under 22, even though youngsters on other tours were passing her in the wins column!

Chukyo TV Bridgestone Ladies Open Sunday: Sun-Ju Ahn Birdies 3 of Last 8 Holes for 15th JLPGA Victory

Sun-Ju Ahn became the 2nd repeat winner on the JLPGA in 2014 today at the Chukyo TV Bridgestone Ladies Open when she blew by Misuza Narita, Phoebe Yao, and more challengers than she could shake a wedge at down the home stretch.  Her 3 birdies in her last 8 holes gave her what ended up being a comfortable 3-shot lead on Yao, Sakura Yokomine, Ji-Hee Lee, Miki Saiki, Ritsuko Ryu, and Miki Sakai and a 4-shot lead on Narita, Na-Ri Kim, Lala Anai, and 18-year-old amateur Kotone Hori, but the outcome was actually in doubt right till the very end.

Narita actually had the 45-hole lead, as her bogey-free 34 on the front lifted her to -7, 1 shot ahead of Saiki, who rocketed out of the gates with a 5-birdie 32, and 2 shots ahead of Ahn, Yao, Ryu, and Akane Iijima.  But things went south quickly for the 21-year-old U.S. Women's Open qualifier when she bogeyed the long par-4 11th; even though by that time Saiki had bogeyed 11 and 14 and Iijima had doubled the 11th, Yao had parred it from the group ahead of Narita--and Ahn would then birdie it from the group behind her.  So all of a sudden Narita and Ahn were tied at -6, Yao held steady at -5, and Ryu had dropped back to -4, along with Saiki.  Ahn regained the solo lead for the 1st time all day on the very next hole, a 146-yard par 3, when she became the only leader to birdie it.  But Yao then birdied back-to-back holes of her own, the par-5 13th and par-4 14th, to join Ahn at -7.  Narita was the 1st of the 3 leaders to blink, as she bogeyed the 144-yard par-3 15th and the 546-yard par-5 16th to drop out of contention.  And then just as Yao was double bogeying the 387-yard par-4 17th, Ahn birdied the long par 5.  All of a sudden what had been a close race had become a blowout.

So Ahn's 15th JLPGA victory ended up being a decisive, if difficult, one.  It also moved her from 4th to 2nd on the JLPGA money list:

1. Bo-Mee Lee ¥56.23M
2. Sun-Ju Ahn ¥46.33M
 Misuzu Narita ¥40.34M
4. Onnarin Sattayabanphot ¥35.56M
5. Erina Hara ¥33.37M
6. Ayaka Watanabe ¥32.21M
7. Yuki Ichinose ¥31.61M
8. Rikako Morita ¥26.95M

9. Miki Sakai ¥26.75M
10. Esther Lee ¥26.33M
11. Phoebe Yao ¥25.44M
12. Ritsuko Ryu ¥22.58M
13. Shanshan Feng ¥20.04M
14. Mi-Jeong Jeon ¥19.60M
15. Ji-Hee Lee ¥19.32M
16. Mayu Hattori ¥18.45M
17. Lala Anai ¥17.16M
18. Ji-Yai Shin ¥16.29M
19. Mamiko Higa ¥15.61M
20. Mami Fukuda ¥15.23M
21. Yukari Baba ¥14.28M
22. Asako Fujimoto ¥13.83M
23. Saiki Fujita ¥13.74M
24. Yumiko Yoshida ¥12.58M
25. Sakura Yokomine ¥12.45M
26. Teresa Lu ¥11.85M
27. Soo-Yun Kang ¥10.76M
28. Na-Ri Kim ¥9.37M
29. Rui Kitada ¥9.36M
30. Junko Omote ¥8.82M

With Ahn's win, Yokomine's, Ji-Hee Lee's, and Saiki's resurgences, and the continuing good play from a host of Japanese youngsters, the JLPGA is really heating up this spring.  Next up is the Resort Trust Ladies, which has a major-quality field, including defending champion Rikako Morita, 18-year-old amateurs Kotone Hori and Asuka Kashiwabara, and 19-year-old amateur Saki Nagamine.  It'll be interesting to see if the JLPGA's Seoul Sisters can keep charging, returning members Ji-Yai Shin and Momoko Ueda can get it in gear, the tour's top stars can stay on the comeback trail, or the Japanese young guns will strike back!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Airbus LPGA Classic Saturday: Anna Nordqvist Takes Over Yellow Jersey

Anna Nordqvist fired her 2nd-straight 66 (and 2nd-straight bogey-free 31 on the front 9!) to take a 1-shot lead on Catriona Matthew into the final round of the Airbus LPGA Classic, but with 13 other players within 5 shots of her, Nordqvist may well need a 3rd 66 to take her 3rd LPGA title of 2014.

There's a trio of Americans looking for revenge for the last 2 Solheim Cups right behind them, for instance.  Stacy Lewis has shot a 31 and 2 33s on the back already this week, so if she stays within 2 shots of Nordqvist heading into the home stretch, watch out for her tomorrow.  Michelle Wie, meanwhile, has made 13 birdies and only 1 bogey in her last 36 holes, so could make up a 3-shot deficit in a heartbeat.  And Jessica Korda bounced back from 2 early bogeys (only her 2nd and 3rd of the week!) to join Wie at lucky -13, hoping to prove she can win something other than the the 1st tournament of a season.

There are other Euro hopefuls looking to block the Americans, though.  Charley Hull may have cooled off today, with only 2 birdies and a bogey, but she was so hot over the 1st 36 holes she's still tied with Wie and Korda.  And Jodi Ewart Shadoff has made the back 9 hers this week, with a 32 and 2 33s, which kept her within 4 of the lead and a shot ahead of Suzann Pettersen and Belen Mozo.

Let's not count out the Seoul Sisters, either.  So Yeon Ryu birdied her last 4 holes in a row to pull within 4 of the lead; if anyone's due for a win, she sure is.  Eun-Hee Ji birdied 3 of her last 6 holes to join Ryu; she's been playing really solid golf this season, almost entirely under the radar.  And my dark horse, Jenny Shin, may have bogeyed her final hole, but she's also 4 off the pace with only 18 holes left to go, and is probably putting better than anyone else in the field over the 1st 54.

Then there are the players who will need to go off tomorrow to put pressure on the leaders.  Players like Lexi Thompson at -10, Se Ri Pak, Na Yeon Choi, and Hee Young Park at -9, and Paula Creamer, Chella Choi, and defending champion Jennifer Johnson at -8.  They'll need everything to fall into place to have a chance tomorrow, but you never know.

So it's not quite the wide-open race the last 18 holes on the JLPGA will be tomorrow, but there are plenty of players poised to roar past the leaders in Mobile.  Should be a great finish!

Chukyo TV Bridgestone Ladies Open Saturday: Sun-Ju Ahn Leads after Utterly Inconclusive Moving Day

Sun-Ju Ahn fired her 2nd-straight 69, this one bogey-free to take the 36-hole lead at the Chukyo TV Bridgestone Ladies Open, but with everyone who made the cut no more than 7 shots behind her, it's really hard to say who's got the best shot at victory tomorrow.

Is it 18-year-old amateur Kotone Hori, who went -5 and bogey-free over her last 13 holes today to catch Na-Ri Kim (67 highlighted by 4 birdies in a row on the back 9), recent U.S. Women's Open qualifier Misuzu Narita (6-birdie 69), and 1st-round co-leader Akane Iijima (3-birdie 71) only 1 shot behind Ahn?

Is it 22-time winner on tour Sakura Yokomine, whose 4-birdie 71 was not nearly as impressive as veteran Yuko Saitoh's 6-birdie 67, but did allow her to catch 1st-round co-leaders Ritsuko Ryu and Phoebe Yao only 2 shots back of Ahn?

Is it Ji-Hee Lee, Ji-Yai Shin, Rikako Morita, Onnarin Sattayabanphot, Mayu Hattori or others only 3 off the pace?

How about Momoko Ueda, Miki Saiki, Erina Hara, or Yukari Baba at -2?

Or veteran Young Kim or rugrat Ai Suzuki at -1?

Or Mi-Jeong Jeon, Shiho Oyama, and company at E?

Why not Natsuka Hori or Esther Lee at +1?  Heck, how about 15-year-old amateur Otoha Yoshi?  She's got as good a chance of anyone heading out early tomorrow of going nuts and putting pressure on the leaders....

Stranger things have happened!  Let's see what actually does this time....  All we know right now is that young guns Kumiko Kaneda, Mamiko Higa, Ayaka Watanabe, Mami Fukuda, and Miho Mori can't win:  they're not playing, as they missed the cut, just like Yumiko Yoshida, Teresa Lu, Rui Kitada, and Bo-Bae Song did.

Airbus LPGA Classic Friday: Catriona Matthew, -13, Leads; Inbee Park, +6, Misses Cut

It was the best of times and the worst of times at the Airbus LPGA Classic today.  Catriona Matthew fired a bogey-free 32 on the back to get to -13 and maintain a 1-shot lead on Charley Hull (who matched her 67) and a 3-shot lead on Hee Young Park (who eagled the par-5 16th to cap off a 66), Anna Nordqvist (who closed with a bogey-free 31 on the front, her back, to secure a 66 of her own), and Jessica Korda (who posted her 2nd-straight 67, this one bogey-free).  With a total of 14 players within 5 shots of Matthew, you know conditions were great for scoring.

Which is why it's so shocking that world #1 Inbee Park missed the cut by 8 shots.  And only slightly less shocking that former world #1 Ya Ni Tseng, who got her 2nd top 5 of the season last week and who you'd think would love the Robert Trent Jones layout, missed it by 4 shots.  With other big names not making it to the weekend (U.S. Women's Open qualifier Laura Davies, Lorie Kane, Angela Stanford, In-Kyung Kim, Mika Miyazato, Beatriz Recari, and Sarah Jane Smith, last week's runner-up with Tseng and Lexi Thompson ), and with others just barely making it (Paula Creamer on the dot, Azahara Munoz and Ariya Jutanugarn with a shot to spare, and Karrie Webb by 2), the Crossings course can't be playing that easy.  After all, nobody topped Matthew's opening 64 (although Harukyo Nomura gave it the ol' college try with a 9-birdie 65!).

So we still have an old-fashioned shootout on our hands heading into the weekend.  With Lexi Thompson only 4 back, Se Ri Pak, Stacy Lewis, and Suzann Pettersen 5 behind Matthew, and Moira Dunn, So Yeon Ryu, and Michelle Wie 6 off the pace, there's plenty of time for a high-powered Sunday showdown to emerge.  That said, I can't help but make Jenny Shin my dark horse pick--I love the way she bounced back from her back-to-back bogeys to start her day!  I'm also really encouraged by Chie Arimura's bogey-free 67 today.  Too bad Mikan couldn't match it (although a bogey-free 68 is nothing to sneeze at, it left her just on the wrong side of the cut line).

Friday, May 23, 2014

Chukyo TV Bridgestone Ladies Open Friday: 4 at -4, Including Rikako Morita, Share Lead

The leaderboard at the Chukyo TV Bridgestone Ladies Open is a great introduction to the JLPGA!  Rikako Morita, Akane Iijima, Ritsuko Ryu, and Phoebe Yao all opened with 68s to share the 1st-round lead.  Who's chasing them is a veritable who's who on tour!

You've got your world-class stars scattered across the top of it:  Sun-Ju Ahn and Sakura Yokomine at -3, Ji-Yai Shin and Mi-Jeong Jeon at -2, Momoko Ueda at -1, Ji-Hee Lee at E, and Shiho Oyama at +1.

You've got your established stars and veterans on the tour right with them:  Miki Saiki and Mayu Hattori at -3, Onnarin Sattayabanphot, Young Kim, and Bo-Bae Song at -2, Yukari Baba and Erina Hara at -1, Yumiko Yoshida, Yukari Baba, Hyun-Ju Shin, Esther Lee, Na Ri Kim, and Kaori Aoyama at E, and Yuko Saitoh, Hiroko Fukushima, Teresa Lu, Yuki Ichinose, Junko Omote, Yuko Mitsuka, and Megumi Kido at +1.

And of course you've got the rugrats getting into everything:  Ai Suzuki at -3, Misuzu Narita and 18-year-old amateur Kotone Hori at -2, Haruka Kudo, Shiho Toyonaga, and 15-year-old amateur Otoha Yoshi at -1, Natsuka Hori, Miki Sakai, Kaori Ohe, Asako Fujimoto, Lala Anai, Eri Joma, and Riho Fujisaki at E, and Erina Yamato, Nana Yamashiro, and Rumi Yoshida at +1.

You've even got your dark horses like Porani Chutichai, Yoko Maeda, and Asami Kikuchi at -2, Ji-Woo Lee, Yukari Nishiyama, Kaori Nakamura, Eun-Bi Jang, and Ji Min Lee at -1, Satsuki Oshiro, Miki Uehara, Mihoko Iseri, and Yumi Takabayashi at E, and Yui Kawahara, Yuko Fukuda, Eriko Tanikawa, and Nozomi Inoue at +1.

Even the leaders represent different groupings on tour.  Morita is a young gun who's broken through to star status on tour (she got her 7th JLPGA title earlier this season) and will represent Japan with Ai Miyazato, Mika Miyazato, and Sakura Yokomine in the LPGA's International Crown. Yao is a rising star who got her 1st win this season and whom I rank among the best 22 female pros under 22 years of age in the world.  Ryu won in 2011 and 2012 and has been a regular in the top 15 on tour the last 3 seasons.  And Iijima is an established star on tour who's been eclipsed in recent years but still has 6 JLPGA victories to her name.

Which of these many individuals will rise to the top on the weekend--and which group(s) they'll represent--is what makes the JLPGA such an interesting tour to follow.  My big question is whether the empire will strike back this week--Ahn, Yokomine, and Morita are all recent money-list leaders; Yokomine and Jeon have 22 JLPGA victories each; Lee has 17 and Oyama 13--or whether we'll continue to see the rebel alliance rack up victories....

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Airbus LPGA Classic Thursday: Euros Gone Wild/Matthew, Hull, Pettersen Go Low

The 2 biggest trends in the world of women's golf during the early months of 2014 have been Americans winning on the LPGA and the under-22 crowd winning nearly everywhere on the planet.  Well, after the 1st round of the Airbus LPGA Classic, it seems that European superstars Catriona Matthew and Suzann Pettersen have just about had enough of the former, while Charley Hull's 1st professional win earlier this year seems to have only whetted her appetite.  Matthew opened with a 7-birdie, 1-eagle, 23-putt 64, Hull with a bogey-free 65, and Pettersen with a bogey-free 66 today to take the top 3 spots in the field, although Pettersen does share hers with Stacy Lewis and Eun-Hee Ji.

Oh, and there are more Americans near them, including Moira Dunn, Jessica Korda, and Nicole Castrale at -5 (hey, I can put my ol' golfing buddy 1st in that list even if she's the least famous of the 3, right?), Brittany Lang and Jennifer Song at -4, and Pat Hurst, Angela Stanford, Brittany Lincicome, Vicky Hurst, Jenny Suh, Amelia Lewis, and Amy Anderson at -3.  Ji, too, has plenty of company in the upper reaches of the leaderboard, what with Se Ri Pak and Jenny Shin shooting 67s, Hee Young Park a 68, Na Yeon Choi and Chella Choi 69s, and So Yeon Ryu and In-Kyung Kim 70s.  What about the top-ranked Korean in the world?  #1 Inbee Park had a tough day, settling for a 5-bogey 74.  Not quite as bad as Beatriz Recari's 77 or Mika Miyazato's 75, but not even as mediocre as 73s by Chie Arimura, Caroline Masson, Moriya Jutanugarn, Mina Harigae, and Mirim Lee or 72s by Carlota Ciganda and Ashleigh Simon or even 71s by Karrie Webb, Paula Creamer, Ya Ni Tseng, Michelle Wie, and Sun Young Yoo.  In short, Park will be fighting to make the cut tomorrow and has to hope the leaders don't keep the pedal to the metal.

From their point of view, however, that's just what they need to do.  My pick for the week, Lexi Thompson, is lurking at -2; she got her putter going for a little while on the back, with 3 birdies in a 4-hole stretch, but a walkoff bogey put that run to an end.  No problem!  I'm sure she'll start rolling it  consistently better as the week goes on!  And if she doesn't, there are 34 players ahead of her who will try to leave her in the dust, too, including Euro stalwarts Azahara Munoz and Jodi Ewart Shadoff at -3.  And Monday qualifier Ariya Jutanugarn is tied with her....

That's just life on the LPGA these days.  It's definitely a go low or go home situation tomorrow!

Recommended Reading: Dave Andrews on Rebecca Lee-Bentham's Long Road to Pinehurst

Great article by Dave Andrews on what it was like to caddie for Rebecca Lee-Bentham as she duelled Sarah Jane Smith for the last spot to Pinehurst from the Virginia sectional qualifier!  What he thought would be a 36-hole job turned into a 46-hole one--and carried into the next morning!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

My Picks for the Airbus LPGA Classic

Going with my gut for my picks this week at the Airbus LPGA Classic!

1. Thompson
2. Lewis, Stacy
3. Wie
4. Park, Inbee
5. Pettersen
6. Jutanugarn, Ariya
7. Ryu
8. Munoz
9. Shin
10. Tseng
11. Choi, Na Yeon
12. Harigae

Alts: Webb; Johnson, Jennifer; Park Hee Young

Hoping that Mika Miyazato, Chie Arimura, Tiffany Joh, Jane Park, and Pornanong Phatlum put it all together this week, too!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

2014 U.S. Women's Open Sectional Qualifying Continues in Minnesota, Missouri, Texas, and Washington Today

With Sectional Qualifying for the 2014 U.S. Women's Open taking place in the midwest and west today, you might think about looking to Seoul and Brent Kelley's golf page.

Or see below for key links:
  • North Oaks, Minnesota:  pairingsresults; qualifier: Minjee Lee; alternates: Amy Anderson, Maria Fassi
  • St. Louis, Missouri:  overview; results; qualifiers: Jasi Acharya, Samantha Gotcher; alternates: Michelle Butler, Sydney Needham
  • The Woodlands, Texas:  information; results; qualifiers: Marissa Steen, Ashley Knoll; alternates: Sierra Sims, Kelsey Vines
  • Seattle, Washington:  overview; results; qualifiers: Jordan Ferreira, Carleigh Silvers; alternates: Aram Choi, Eimi Koga
I've updated this list as news has come in!

22 Under 22: May 2014 Update

The under-22 crowd has been taking the world of women's golf by storm in 2014.  And that's not even counting amazing amateurs like 15-year-old Minami Katsu, who made history by winning on the JLPGA and eclipsing Hyo Joo Kim's record for youngest winner on tour!  Or any of the other top players on the World Amateur Golf Ranking who are 21 and under....

Already this year has witnessed wins by Jessica Korda, Mi Hyang Lee, Charley Hull, Ayaka Watanabe, Lexi Thompson, Lydia Ko, Phoebe Yao, Kyu Jung Baek, Misuzu Narita, and Sei Young Kim.  Wonder who'll be next?

So here's my updated ranking of the top 22 female professionals under 22 years of age.  I note wins and majors on the top women's professional  tours, along with Rolex Rankings and Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index ratings and ranks.

Simply the Best

1. Lydia Ko (3 LPGA, 1 KLPGA, 1 LET; 9.40 RR [#3]; 69.18 GSPI [#2])
2. Lexi Thompson (4 LPGA [1 major], 1 LET; 6.88 RR [#6]; 70.21 GSPI [#14])
3. Ha Na Jang (5 KLPGA; 3.50 RR [#18]; 70.05 GSPI [n.r.])

The Next Best

4. Jessica Korda (2 LPGA; 2.83 RR [#26]; 70.27 GSPI [#21])
5. Hyo Joo Kim (1 JLPGA, 2 KLPGA; 2.86 RR [#25]; 69.27 GSPI [n.r.])
6. Sei Young Kim (4 KLPGA; 2.50 RR [#34]; 72.57 GSPI [n.r.])
7. Misuzu Narita (3 JLPGA [1 major]; 1.39 RR [#75]; 71.34 GSPI [#50])
8. Ariya Jutanugarn (1 LET; 2.34 RR [#37]; 71.57 GSPI [n.r.])
9. Mamiko Higa (2 JLPGA; 1.87 RR [#48]; 71.20 GSPI [#46])
10. In Gee Chun (1 KLPGA; 1.81 RR [#51]; 69.76 GSPI [n.r.])
11. Charley Hull (1 LET; 2.11 [#43]; 71.85 GSPI [#77])

Rising Stars

12. Harukyo Nomura (1 JLPGA; 1.10 RR [#92]; 71.65 GSPI [#62])
13. Ayaka Watanabe (1 JLPGA; 1.41 RR [#73]; 71.79 GSPI [#72])
14. Kyu Jung Baek (1 KLPGA; 1.02 RR [#106]; 71.96 GSPI [n.r.])
15. Natsuka Hori (2 JLPGA; .88 RR [#121]; 73.03 GSPI [#130])
16. Mi Hyang Lee (1 LET; 1.17 RR [#86]; 71.73 GSPI [#67])
17. Phoebe Yao (1 JLPGA; n.r. RR; 71.67 GSPI [#63])

Quantum Leap Candidates

18. Jenny Shin (2.16 RR [#39]; 70.71 GSPI [#22])
19. Moriya Jutanugarn (1.06 RR [#97]; 73.06 GSPI [#135])
20. Danielle Kang (.86 RR [#125]; 72.45 GSPI [#101])

Dark Horses

21. Xiyu Lin (.65 RR [#170]; 73.78 GSPI [#190])
22. Rebecca Lee-Bentham (.44 RR [#216]; 74.43 GSPI [#247]

So who do you think should be on this list? What do you think of my ranking?

Monday, May 19, 2014

Big Day for 2014 U.S. Women's Open Sectional Qualifier Hopefuls!

With Sectional Qualifying for the 2014 U.S. Women's Open taking place all over the country and the world today, you might think about looking to Seoul and Brent Kelley's golf page.

Or see below for key links:

  • Aichi, Japan:  results; qualifiers: Misuzu Narita, Ayaka Watanabe, Lala Anai, Eri Joma, Chisato Hashimoto; alternates: Yuki Ichinose, Mao Nozawa
  • Chungnam, South Korea:  qualifiers: Narangyi Bae, Soyoung Lee; alternates: Hee Kyung Bae, Hyesun Kim
  • Shandong, China:  entries; resultsarticle; qualifiers: So Young Jang, Yu Ting Shi; alternates: Yuyang Zhang, Hye In Yeom
  • Buckinghamshire, England:  articleresults; qualifiers: Amy Boulden, Kelsey Macdonald, Nicole Garcia, Stephanie Na, Nikki Campbell, Lucy Williams, Rebecca Hudson, Holly Clyburn; alternates: Camilla Lennarth, Beth Allen
  • Manakin-Sabot, Virginia:  overview; qualifiers: Brooke Mackenzie Henderson, Kris Tamulis, Sue Kim, Kristy McPherson, Dori Carter; altermate: Mi Jung Hur
  • Dunwoody, Georgia:  overviewinformationresults; qualifiers: Erica Popson, Brooke Pancake, Jessica Wallace
  • Winnetka, Illinois:  pairings; results; qualifiers: Hannah Pietila, Elizabeth Tong; alternates: Lindsey McPherson, Noriko Nakazaki
  • North Oaks, Minnesota:  pairings; results; qualifier:  Minjee Lee; alternates: Amy Anderson, Maria Fassi
  • Half Moon Bay, California:  results; qualifiers: Lucy Li, Kathleen Scavo, Paige Lee; alternates: Sara Banke, Yoonhee Kim
I'll update this list as news comes in!

[Update 1 (5/20/14, 12:12 pm):  Looks like the Minnesota qualifier got moved to today.]

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Kingsmill Championship Sunday: Lizette Salas Breaks Through

Lizette Salas won the Kingsmill Championship by 4 shots over Lexi Thompson, Ya Ni Tseng, and Sarah Jane Smith, but her 1st LPGA title didn't come as easy as the final margin of victory makes it seem.  If Tseng hadn't 4-putted the final green for a walkoff double, there would have been a lot more pressure on Salas down the stretch.  As it was, she was able to ride out a huge early lead, thanks to 2 birdies in her 1st 5 holes that brought her to -15.  Even though she played her last 13 holes in +2 and without a birdie, she forced others to try to catch her--and they just couldn't do it.

Lydia Ko got to -10 after birdies on the 2 front-side par 5s, but a bogey on 8 and a double on 12 dropped her out of contention.  Thompson got to -9 with 2 early birdies of her own, but spent most of crunch time at -8 after a bogey on the par-4 6th.  So Yeon Ryu, who tied Ko for 5th at -8, was there as early as the 6th hole, but also couldn't get anything going the rest of the way.  Pornanong Phatlum got to -8 when she birdied the 1st, but 2 bogeys and a double over her next 7 holes ensured she'd be fighting to make the top 10 rather than to put pressure on Salas (she ended up T8 at -6 with Azahara Munoz, Sandra Gal, and Mina Harigae).  And what of Hee Young Park, who started the day only 3 behind the winner and already at double digits under par?  3 doubles in her 1st 10 holes sent The Rocket crashing and burning in one of her worst rounds of the last several years, a birdieless 79.  So almost nobody who started or finished in the top 10 really took a run at Salas.  (Yes, Thidapa Suwannapura snuck into solo 7th with a fine 69, but she was never a factor, as she needed a bogey-free 33 on the back just to get to -7.)

In the end, then, it was the former world #1 who had the best chance to deny Salas LPGA victory #1.  And for awhile it looked like Tseng just might get there.  A 3-birdie flurry between the 12th and 15th holes got her to -11, only 3 behind Salas.  Little did Tseng know that Salas would also bogey 17.  In the end, Tseng's double made Salas's little mistakes moot.  The only players to go low today--Smith with a bogey-free 66 and Mi Hyang Lee with a 7-birdie 66, not to mention Jennifer Johnson, Chie Arimura, and Jane Park, who all shot 67s--were well too far back for their rounds to matter to Salas.

With her win, Salas can put all her previous close calls and Sunday struggles behind her.  Even though her putter let her down just a bit down the stretch, her 32 putts in the final round only look bad in comparison to her wizardry on the greens over the 1st 3 rounds:  27, 28, and 26 putts.  When you consider that she beat the likes of Stacy Lewis and Suzann Pettersen by 8 shots and defending champion Cristie Kerr by 11, you know Salas was really rolling the ball well this week.  She was one of the best putters in the world last year and was by far the best this week.  The only players to have as few putts as she did (or close to as few) this week--Tseng, Lee, Park, for instance--hit far fewer greens in regulation than she did.  Guess that putter switch last week and trying to remain positive and patient rather than demanding perpetual perfection from herself were just what the doctor ordered!

Hoken No Madoguchi Ladies Sunday: Bo-Mee Lee Birdies 3 of Last 8 Holes to Secure 6th JLPGA Victory, Schooling Teenage Amateur in the Process

Bo-Mee Lee's 4-birdie 69 gave her a 4-shot victory at the Hoken No Madoguchi Ladies over Mi-Jeong Jeon (73), Shanshan Feng (68), Mayu Hattori (68), and Soo-Yun Kang (68), but the KLPGA star's 6th career JLPGA win didn't come that easy.

Lee was still 1 behind teenage amateur Asuka Kashiwabara standing on the 11th tee, as the playing partners had each birdied one hole and bogeyed one in their 1st 10.  But just as Lee went on a tear, Kashiwabara faltered.  A birdie on the long par-5 11th brought Lee even with the 18-year-old.  A Kashiwabara bogey on the short par-4 13th gave Lee her 1st lead of the day and she never looked back, engineering a 2-shot swing on the long par-4 15th.  A 3rd Kashiwabara bogey on the medium-length par-4 17th and a walkoff birdie by Lee completed a 6-shot swing over those final 8 holes.  Kashiwabara ended up tied with Na-Ri Lee (69) and Lala Anai (70) for 6th at -4, while Momoko Ueda (74) ended up tied for 9th at -3 with Onnarin Sattayabanphot (70), Sakura Yokomine (71), and Porani Chutichai (72).

Lee's win put her back atop the JLPGA money list:

1. Bo-Mee Lee ¥56.23M
 Misuzu Narita ¥38.59M
3. Onnarin Sattayabanphot ¥34.97M
4. Sun-Ju Ahn ¥33.73M
5. Erina Hara ¥32.73M
6. Ayaka Watanabe ¥32.21M
7. Yuki Ichinose ¥30.38M
8. Rikako Morita ¥26.03M

9. Esther Lee ¥25.82M
10. Miki Sakai ¥22.73M
11. Phoebe Yao ¥21.41M
12. Shanshan Feng ¥20.04M
13. Mi-Jeong Jeon ¥18.96M
14. Ritsuko Ryu ¥18.55M
15. Mayu Hattori ¥17.77M
16. Mamiko Higa ¥15.61M

17. Ji-Yai Shin ¥15.60M
18. Lala Anai ¥15.41M
19. Ji-Hee Lee ¥15.29M
20. Mami Fukuda ¥15.23M
21. Saiki Fujita ¥13.74M
22. Asako Fujimoto ¥13.39M
23. Yukari Baba ¥13.36M
24. Yumiko Yoshida ¥12.58M
25. Teresa Lu ¥11.85M
26. Soo-Yun Kang ¥10.76M
27. Rui Kitada ¥9.36M
28. Sakura Yokomine ¥8.46M
29. Kotono Kozuma ¥8.41M
30. Junko Omote ¥7.92M

Next up on tour is the Chukyo TV Bridgestone Ladies Open, which features most of the JLPGA's finest (although not Lee), as well as 18-year-old amateur Kotone Hori.  Let's see who can close the gap on Lee in a serious way next week!

[Update 1 (3:55 pm): Lee gets the Golf Babes treatment!]

Kingsmill Championship Saturday: Lizette Salas Takes 3-Shot lead on Hee Young Park into Final Round

Lizette Salas, my #4-ranked player without a win on the LPGA, put herself in great position to graduate from that category today by birdieing 3 of her 1st 6 holes and 3 of her last 5 yesterday at the Kingsmill Championship on her way to a bogey-free 65 that put her 3-up on 2nd-round leader Hee Young Park.  With the likes of Stacy Lewis, Lydia Ko, and Katherine Kirk 5 back and Lexi Thompson, Ya Ni Tseng, and Pornanong Phatlum 6 off the pace, it's too soon to call the final round a match-play situation.  But with Salas finding her putting touch again at -13 and the Rocket in range of her 3rd LPGA victory at -10, those chasing them are going to have to go super-low today.

Kingsmill can be vulnerable to exactly those kinds of rounds, however.  So I wouldn't quite say anyone under par is completely out of this thing, particularly if Salas and Park stall or fall back.  But it doesn't seem like So Yeon Ryu (-6) has figured out the greens, like Azahara Munoz (-5) has another 65 (or lower) in her this week, like Brittany Lang (-4) is ready to bounce back from her 5-bogey 74 yesterday, like anyone at -3 (such as Suzann Pettersen, Cristie Kerr, Carlota Ciganda, Jenny Shin, or Charley Hull) is hitting on all cylinders this week, that Anna Nordqvist or Angela Stanford at -2 has a low-60s round in them today, or that Karrie Webb, Ai Miyazato, or Gerina Piller at -1 is ready to flirt with the course record.

Stranger things have happened, though!  Can't wait to see how this one turns out!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Hoken No Madoguchi Ladies Saturday: Teenage Amateur Withstands Charges by Bo-Mee Lee, Momoko Ueda, Mi-Jeong Jeon

After opening with 73s yesterday at the Hoken No Madoguchi Ladies, Bo-Mee Lee and Momoko Ueda were paired together in the 4th group off the 1st tee today.  They responded with a little game of "anything you can do I can do better":  Ueda birdied her 1st 5 holes in a row; Lee 2 of her 1st 3; Ueda bogeyed 7 and 8 but posted a 32 on the front when she birdied 9; Lee cruised to a bogey-free 33 when she birdied the 9th, too; Ueda birdied the 12th; Lee did, too; Ueda sandwiched a bogey between birdies on 16 and 18 to post a 66 and move to -5; Lee birdied 3 of her last 5 holes to post a bogey-free 65 and move to -6.

The rest of the field seemed to move into spectator mode in response to these early fireworks.  Sure, Onnarin Sattayabanphot, Na-Ri Lee, and Hyun-Ju Shin, who started on the back a few minutes after Lee and Ueda teed off on the front, each put together great 68s, while Shanshan Feng and Kaori Yamamoto, who started on the back a few minutes before them, notched a 5-birdie 69 and a 4-birdie 69 from separate groups.  And Megumi Shimokawa and Porani Chutichai, who began their rounds on the front just a few minutes before Lee and Ueda, fired a bogey-free 67 and a 5-birdie 68, respectively, while Shiho Toyonaga, playing in the group right behind Lee and Ueda, posted a 5-birdie 68 to join them at -3.  But many of the leaders after 18 holes plunged down the leaderboard over the next 18 holes.  Yumiko Yoshida (75) fell to E and T27; Miki Saiki (74) dropped to +1 and T32; Kumiko Kaneda (75) barely made the cut at +2; Hiroko Fukushima (77) missed it by a shot; Ji-Hee Lee (78) and Akari Yamamoto (79) by 3.  And many other players simply stalled.  Just as Sakura Yokomine fired her 2nd-straight 71 to inch to -2, so many of the golfers tied with Feng, Sattayabanphot, Na-Ri Lee, and Yamamoto at -1 posted 71s or 72s.

Yet through it all a teenage amateur playing in the final group played great golf.  18-year-old Asuka Kashiwabara fired a bogey-free 33 of her own on the front to move to -6, then responded to her only bogey of the day, on the long par-5 11th, with back-to-back birdies for a 68 that moved her to -7 and alone in the lead through 36 holes.  And she did this while a JLPGA legend was making a move of her own from a couple of groups ahead of her.  Mi-Jeong Jeon fired a 7-birdie 68 to join Lee at -6.  That means that Kashiwabara will be playing with 2 of the top Korean golfers in the world tomorrow.  Let's see how she handles the Sunday pressure!

[Update 1 (7:39 am):  I forgot to mention that Ji-Yai Shin, perhaps the biggest name in the field, posted a birdie-less 77 to miss the cut by a mile.  Or that 19-year-old Hikari Fujita bounced back from yesterday's 77 to shoot a 69 that put her just on the right side of the cut line.  Or that Ayako Uehara extended her visit to Japan from the LPGA with a 71 that brought her to +1.  Finally, there are 11 players within 5 shots of the teenager heading into the final round!]

Friday, May 16, 2014

Kingsmill Championship Friday: Who Took/Will Take Advantage of a Soggy Course?

A huge storm system blew through the Williamsburg area this morning and delayed the start of the 2nd round of the Kingsmill Championship by three and a half hours.  With a much wetter course and much different winds than yesterday, the key question was who would adjust quickest to the changed conditions?  Stacy Lewis answered that question earlier today, firing a bogey-free 65 to move to -7 for the week, tied with Brittany Lang, who shot a 4-birdie 68 to get there.  So did Mariajo Uribe, whose 7-birdie 65 got her to -5.  But it was Hee Young Park whose 68 got her to the top of the leaderboard through the morning wave at -8.

With the afternoon wave unlikely to finish today, it'll be interesting to see if any of them can do as well as the morning foursome--or the others who shot 68s, such as Katherine Kirk, Suzann Pettersen, Mina Harigae, Mo Martin, Anna Nordqvist, and Silvia Cavalleri.  So far, Lexi Thompson  and Lizette Salas are making runs at Park, while further down the leaderboard Line Vedel, Chella Choi, and Paz Echeverria are also playing good golf.  I'll check in with an update a little later tonight!

[Update 1 (8:15 pm):  Shout-out to Jane Park for making the cut in her 1st start since injuries sidelined her months ago!  Also nice to see that Ya Ni Tseng has put together 2 under-par rounds in a row and is only 4 shots off the lead. I'm hoping Ai Miyazato can join her tomorrow morning--right now she's +2 on her 2nd round with no birdies.]

[Update 2 (8:20 pm):  Speaking of players I like, I'm hoping the cut line rises to +2 so that Morgan Pressel can play on the weekend.  I'd also love to see Paula Creamer, Chie Arimura, and Tiffany Joh fight their way to the right side of that line tomorrow morning.  It's too late for Laura Diaz (despite a fine 69 today), Jennifer Song, Harukyo Nomura, Se Ri Pak, Sun Young Yoo, and Moira Dunn, but I'm rooting for Louise Friberg, Amy Yang, and Christina Kim to make the cut.]

[Update 3 (8:22 pm):  Also nice to see Seon Hwa Lee make a cut.  It's easy to forget she's a 4-time winner on the LPGA!  Glad that Carlota Ciganda will be playing on the weekend, too.]

[Update 4 (8:25 pm):  It's official.  2nd-round play is suspended due to darkness!]

[Update 5 (5/18/14, 5:00 am):  Yesterday was taken up by graduation and The Full Metal Archivist's and my 11-year anniversary, so I only found out this morning that Paula Creamer's made-cut streak came to an end on Saturday morning.  Knowing her, she'll just start another one!  Glad to see Chie Arimura made it.  She's too good to keep suffering like she has been on the LPGA thus far.]

Hoken No Madoguchi Ladies Friday: Yumiko Yoshida and Amateur Asuka Kashiwabara Lead with 69s

The JLPGA's diversity is on display at the top of the Hoken No Madoguchi Ladies leaderboard today.  27-year-old Yumiko Yoshida, a 4-time winner on tour who has made a quantum leap in recent years to join the game's elite (as 3 of her wins came last season), is tied for the lead at -3 with 18-year-old amateur Asuka Kashiwabara, while a range of youngsters (Haruka Kudo, 21, at -2; Ai Suzuki, 20, at -1; Natsuka Hori, 21, at -1; Miki Sakai, 22, at -1; and Kumiko Kaneda, 24, at -1), veterans (Hiroko Fukushima, 36, at -2; Mi-Jeong Jeon, 31, at -2; Soo-Yun Kang, 38, at -1; Ji-Hee Lee, 35, at -1; Yukari Baba, 31, at -1; and Yukari Nishiyama, 31, at -1), and mid-career players (Akari Yamamoto, 26, at -2; Hikari Kawamitsu, 27, at -2; Miki Saiki, 29, at -1; Sakura Yokomine, 28, at -1; Ji-Woo Lee, 28, at -1; and Mayu Hattori, 26, at -1) chase them.

It's certainly encouraging to see big names like Jeon, Lee, Yokomine, and Saiki near the top of the leaderboard.  And Bo-Mee Lee, Rikako Morita, and Momoko Ueda at +1 and Ji-Yai Shin, Shanshan Feng, Ayako Uehara, and Teresa Lu at +2 are by no means out of it.  Meanwhile, Mamiko Higa and Erika Kikuchi at +4 and and Shiho Oyama, Onnarin Sattayabanphot, and Yuki Ichinose at +3 have a little more work cut out for them just to make the cut.

Let's see how this one shapes up!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Kingsmill Championship Thursday: Azahara Munoz and Austin Ernst Open with 65s

Azahara Munoz and Austin Ernst fired 6-under-par 65s to take the lead of the Kingsmill Championship by 1 shot over Hee Young Park, 2 shots over Cristie Kerr, Lexi Thompson, Brittany Lang, Lizette Salas, Danielle Kang, Thidapa Suwannapura, and Kathleen Ekey, and 3 shots over Ya Ni Tseng, Ai Miyazato, Jessica Korda, Sarah Jane Smith, Sandra Changkija, Dori Carter, and Alejandra Llaneza.

Munoz's round was bogey-free, while Ernst offset her lone bogey on the 1st hole (her 10th) with an eagle on the par-5 3rd.  Park's putting saved her, as she hit only 9 greens but made 6 birdies and a lone bogey on a mere 22 putts.  It was a similar story for Tseng, who hit only 4 fairways and 11 greens but took only 25 putts, and Thompson, who hit 4 more fairways and 1 more green, and took 1 more putt, than the former world #1.  Meanwhile, Kang and Miyazato got off to hot starts--Kang a bogey-free 30 on the back (her front) while Miyazato was -5 through 12 holes after eagling the 3rd--but struggled down the home stretch, making a pair of bogeys each on the front (their back).  Still, today was only Kang's 3rd round in the 60s all season and Miyazato's 2nd (she failed to break 70 in the Salonpas Cup last week but hung in there for a top 10), so they have plenty of reason to celebrate.  Other leaders to make eagles included Carter (on the par-5 7th), Llaneza (on the par-4 9th), and Changkija (on the 3rd).

By contrast, a good number of the hottest golfers on the planet had cold starts to their week:  Anna Nordqvist (74), Paula Creamer (73), Angela Stanford (73), Se Ri Pak (72), Suzann Pettersen (72), and Chella Choi (71) failed to set Kingsmill on fire, while Karrie Webb (70), Stacy Lewis (70), Lydia Ko (70), So Yeon Ryu (70), and Charley Hull (70) barely got under par.  Several of them had to make comebacks to even get to where they got:  Ko was -2 over her last 7 holes, Ryu was -2 over her last 8, Lewis was -1 over her last 4 holes, and Creamer closed with a bogey-free 33 after opening with a 5-bogey 40.  The difference, as you might have guessed, was putting.  Lewis was the only player in this bunch to take fewer than 30 putts, and she had as few as she did (26) because she hit so few greens (10).

Let's see whether former #1s Tseng and Miyazato can keep it rolling, whether Kerr and Thompson can make a move on Munoz and Park, and whether all the surprising Southerners (in both a U.S. and global sense) at or near the top of the leaderboard can stay there tomorrow!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

2014 U.S. Women's Open Sectional Qualifying: May 12 and May 14 Results from HI, PA, CA, CO

Once again, Seoul is the easiest place to find full results from recent U.S. Women's Open Sectional Qualifying sites.

For instance, the USGA web page tells us that Xyra Suyetsugu won the Honolulu, HI, qualifier with a score of 145 and that Mariel Galdiano and Cassy Isagawa are alternates at 146.  But how did the other 22 entrants do?  Check out Seoul Sisters!

In Butler, PA, amateur Bailey Tardy's 145 beat out amateur Jessica Porvasnik's 146 and Jennifer Song's 148 for medalist honors, while Laura Diaz and Sydnee Michaels had to settle for alternate status after firing 149s.  You'd think maybe there'd be more information on the USGA's twitter feed, right?  But you actually can find it via the Western Pennsylvania Golf Association site (if you scroll down far enough on their championship central page!)  Once you do that, you'll see that Perrine Delacour, Amelia Lewis, and Rachel Rohanna were the biggest names not to qualify of the 75 players who teed it up at the start of the day on Monday.

Coming up later today are qualifiers at Oak Valley in Beaumont, CA, and The Heritage at Westmoor in Westminster, CO.  I'll let you know what I find out about them when I can find it--so far no dice!

[Update 1 (9:19 pm):  Here are the Colorado results.]

[Update 2 (9:24 pm):  Here's the link to next Monday's Northern California qualifier at Half Moon Bay.]

[Update 3 (9:28 pm):  Here are the pairings for next Monday's Chicago-area qualifier.]

[Update 4 (5/15/14, 9:34 pm):  Isn't it weird that the Beaumont results aren't even up on the USGA page?  Were they wildfired out?]

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

My Picks for the Kingsmill Championship

3-time winner Cristie Kerr will be happy to return to Kingsmill and particularly happy to be returning on such a nice little hot streak.  Without Inbee Park or Michelle Wie in the field, Kerr's odds of winning again go up a bit, but there are plenty of big names looking to block her.

1. Lewis, Stacy
2. Kerr
3. Creamer
4. Pettersen
5. Ko
6. Thompson
7. Choi Chella
8. Ryu
9. Munoz
10. Stanford
11. Miyazato
12. Shin

Alts: Nordqvist; Webb; Yang

So who do you see winning this week?

Monday, May 12, 2014

Congratulations to Misuzu Narita, Valentine Derrey, and Wei-Ling Hsu

Winning your 1st major is one thing.  Beating world-class golfers to do it is even better.  That's what Misuzu Narita accomplished yesterday at the JLPGA's Salonpas Cup.  Yes, the 21-year-old needed a little help at the end of the day from Shanshan Feng and Mika Miyazato to claim her 3rd JLPGA title in her 3rd season on tour, but she was the one putting pressure on them and they're the ones who couldn't handle her.

Valentine Derrey has won on the Symetra Tour before, but she notched her 1st-ever LET victory yesterday in Turkey, beating Malene Jorgensen and Charley Hull by 2 and 3 shots, respectively.  She moves to 3rd on the LET's Order of Merit, joining veterans Gwladys Nocera, Karine Icher, and Sophie Giquel-Bettan to become the 4th French golfer in the top 7 thus far this year.

Meanwhile, on the Symetra Tour, Wei-Ling Hsu won in dramatic fashion with a walkoff eagle that ensured that Min Seo Kwak wouldn't claim her 2nd title in a row on the LPGA's developmental tour.  The 19-year-old from Taiwan has already won once in each of her 2 seasons on the Symetra Tour.  On a day when Cheyenne Woods rocketed into the top 25 and Min Lee into the top 10 with strong 67s, only Sara-Maude Juneau could match Hsu's closing 68.  Hsu joins Yueer Cindy Feng, Marissa Steen, and Kwak as only the 4th player to break the $30K barrier on the tour's money list in 2014.

So congratulations to all 3 winners from the world of women's golf!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Salonpas Cup Sunday: 21-Year-Old Misuzu Narita Outduels Shanshan Feng and Mika Miyazato

21-year-old Misuzu Narita took home her 3rd JLPGA title and 1st major after outduelling Shanshan Feng and Mika Miyazato during the final round of the Salonpas Cup today.

Narita started the day 2 shots behind Feng, but picked up right where she left off, following up on yesterday's bogey-free back-9 31 with a bogey-free front-9 33 to move to -7 for the week.  Going back to the front 9 yesterday, Narita extended her bogey-free run to 24 holes when she birdied the 365-yard par-4 10th hole, her 10th birdie during that run.  When Feng bogeyed the 380-yard 9th hole to offset one of her 2 birdies on the front, Narita had caught and then overtaken the dual LPGA-JLPGA member.  But Narita's brilliance was being overshadowed by another Japanese young gun, one who has made her home on the LPGA from the start of her career.  Mika Miyazato birdied 6 of her 1st 11 holes today to move to -8 from the group ahead of Narita and Feng.  It was reminiscent of earlier runs in the week, such as her 4 birdies in her 1st 12 holes on moving day and her 3 birdies in a row on the back (her front) during an otherwise painful opening day.  Miyazato's problem all week had been sustaining those runs.  She was +3 over her last 10 holes on Thursday, E over her last 8 holes Friday, and +2 over her last 6 holes Saturday.

But Narita had problems of her own with a bogey on the 390-yard par-4 11th.  All of a sudden Miyazato led Narita and Feng by a shot.  But Narita and Feng bounced right back with birdies on the 515-yard par-5 12th that Miyazato had just failed to birdie, and we had a tie at -8 with no one else in sight.  (Yes, Sun-Ju Ahn ended up shooting a 67 to take solo 4th, but she did most of her damage with a bogey-free 31 on the front and stalled on the back.)  Miyazato was the 1st in the field to get to -9 when she birdied the 160-yard par-3 15th, but her 19-hole bogey-free run came to a crashing halt on the very next hole when she bogeyed the 380-yard par-4 16th.  After a par on the 510-yard par-5 17th, her 2nd missed opportunity on an easy back-9 par 5, Mikan came to the 18th hole with a lot of pressure on her, as she must have expected Narita and Feng to birdie that hole and get to -9.  Which is exactly what they did.

So it all came down to the 18th hole.  Miyazato was the 1st to play it, but instead of birdieing the 415-yard par 4 she bogeyed it to finish her day with a 67 that brought her to -7 for the week.  She was going to need a lot of help from both Narita and Feng--in the form of a pair of walkoff doubles--if she was going to make it into a playoff.  Instead, Narita calmly parred it for a 67 of her own, while Feng bogeyed it for her 4th-straight 70.  It was only Feng's 4th bogey of the week, but her inability to finish off either 9 ended up being the difference.  Narita entered the winner's circle for the 3rd year in a row and took home her 1st major title.

So in the end it was a good week for Ahn, who finished 4th at -4, Erina Hara, whose 69-70 finish on the weekend got her into solo 5th at -3, Ha Na Jang and Lala Anai, who finished T6 at -2, and Ai Miyazato, Ayaka Watanabe, Erika Kikuchi, and Yeo-Jin Kang, who finished T8 at -1.  But it was Narita's 66-67 weekend that brought home the gold.

And the ¥24M she won brought her to the top of the JLPGA money list:

1. Misuzu Narita ¥38.59M
2. Bo-Mee Lee ¥34.63M
3. Sun-Ju Ahn ¥33.73M
4. Onnarin Sattayabanphot ¥32.15M

5. Erina Hara ¥31.67M
6. Ayaka Watanabe ¥31.58M
7. Yuki Ichinose ¥30.38M
8. Rikako Morita ¥25.21M
9. Esther Lee ¥24.89M
10. Miki Sakai ¥21.91M
11. Phoebe Yao ¥20.69M
12. Ritsuko Ryu ¥18.55M
13. Mamiko Higa ¥15.61M
14. Ji-Yai Shin ¥15.60M
15. Ji-Hee Lee ¥15.29M
16. Mami Fukuda ¥15.23M
17. Saiki Fujita ¥13.74M
18. Asako Fujimoto ¥12.76M
19. Yukari Baba ¥12.13M
20. Yumiko Yoshida ¥12.03M
21. Shanshan Feng ¥12.00M
22. Teresa Lu ¥11.85M
23. Mi-Jeong Jeon ¥10.92M
24. Lala Anai ¥10.91M
25. Mayu Hattori ¥9.73M
26. Rui Kitada ¥9.36M
27. Junko Omote ¥7.92M
28. Airi Saitoh ¥7.90M
29. Bo-Bae Song ¥7.73M
30. Na-Ri Kim ¥7.62M

Mika Miyazato would have debuted at #27 this week, but she's never been a JLPGA member.  Ai Miyazato, a life member, debuts at #75.  Narita, meanwhile, has her 6th top 20 in her last 7 starts, her 3rd top 10 in her last 4 starts, and her 2nd top 2 in her last 3 starts.  With almost everyone else in the top 30 cooling off a bit, she has to wait and see if anyone will leapfrog her at the Hoken No Madoguchi Ladies next week.  With Shanshan Feng, Ji-Yai Shin, Sun-Ju Ahn, Mi-Jeong Jeon, Sakura Yokomine, Rikako Morita, Bo-Mee Lee, Ji-Hee Lee, Shiho Oyama, and Momoko Ueda the biggest names in the field, the tournament will not lack for star power.  But Narita will be sitting this one out.  Let's see who makes a move on her!

[Update 1 (7:29 am):  In my excitement about the dramatic finish, I forgot to mention that teenage amateurs Minjee Lee and Minami Katsu both closed with under-par rounds.  Lee's 69 brought her to T16 at +1 with Anna Nordqvist and Katsu's 71 to T33 at +5 with Yuri Fudoh and Momoko Ueda.]

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Salonpas Cup Saturday: Shanshan Feng Extends Lead to 2 Shots on Misuzu Narita

Shanshan Feng shot her 3rd-straight 70 at the JLPGA's 1st major of 2014 to take a 2-shot lead into the final round of the Salonpas Cup over 21-year-old Misuzu Narita, who fired a bogey-free 31 on the back to roar into solo 2nd.

Despite making her biggest mistake of the week, a double bogey on the 391-yard par-4 11th, Feng bounced back with birdies on the 400-yard par-4 14th and 510-yard par-5 17th.  Mika Miyazato, meanwhile, birdied 4 of her 1st 12 holes, but bogeyed the 165-yard par-3 13th and followed it up with another on the 14th to drop back into a tie for 3rd with 21-year-old Phoebe Yao (73) and 19-year-old Hikari Fujita (69).  Anna Nordqvist would have been right there with them if she could have finished each side stronger; despite making 5 birdies on the day, she had to settle for a 70 because she doubled the 380-yard par-4 9th and bogeyed the 415-yard par-4 18th.  As it is, though, she's -1 and in striking distance, along with KLPGA star Ha Na Jang and 1-time JLPGA winner Erina Hara, who both shot 69s, and Yeo-Jin Kang, who followed up yesterday's 67 with a 73 yet is still tied for low Korean in the field.

Other big names are going to need some help from those ahead of them if they're going to contend tomorrow.  Ai Miyazato remained stuck at E with Bo-Mee Lee (who fired a 3-birdie 70), Yuki Ichinose, Erika Kikuchi, and Lala Anai.  Sun-Ju Ahn stayed at +1 and was caught by Hyun-Ju Shin, who shot a 70 thanks to a 3-hole birdie train to close out the back; they both were met on the way down by Ji-Woo Lee and Yeon-Ju Jung, who each shot 75s.  In the same vein, Ayaka Watanabe stayed at +2, Mamiko Higa at +3, Momoko Ueda at +4, and Yuri Fudoh at +5.

Others moved in the wrong direction on moving day.  Rui Kitada's 76 dropped her from T6 to T26.  15-year-old Minami Katsu almost fought her way all the way back to E after opening with an 82, but then suffered a birdieless 41 on the back to drop back to +6 with Ji-Hee Lee, who also shot a 75 today.  1 worse were Sakura Yokomine (74) and Natsuka Hori (75).  And Miki Saiki's struggles continued this season, as her 75 dropped her to +8.

Narita's 66, 69s by Jang, Hara, and Fujita, 70s by Feng, Miyazato, Nordqvist, Lee, Shin, and Mayu Hattori, and 71s by Yukari Nishiyama and Kaori Nakamura were really the only impressive moving day scores.  Feng has been able to lead all 3 rounds at Ibaraki just by playing steady golf.  If she can continue the rate she's set of less than 1 bogey per round tomorrow, she's going to put a lot of pressure on those chasing her, who have all had a more volatile tournament this week.  That said, you never can tell when lightning will strike.  The only eagle of the day on the back 9 today came on the tough 18th hole from 22-year-old Riho Fujisaki, who's +10 for the week (Esther Lee and Nobuko Kizawa got them on par 5s on the front).  Probably an eagle is too much to expect, but I'm really rooting for something good to happen for Ai-sama or Mikan tomorrow!  Even the experience of being in contention on a Sunday will be good for them....

Friday, May 9, 2014

Salonpas Cup Friday: Shanshan Feng Shares Lead with Yeo-Jin Kang

After some delays due to thunderstorms and darkness--and the 2nd round of the Salonpas Cup was finally completed Saturday morning in Ibaraki--Yeo-Jin Kang had caught Shanshan Feng at the top of the leaderboard with a bogey-free 67 that brought her to -4 for the week.

Others making big moves included 15-year-old amateur champion of the KKT Cup Vantelin Ladies, Minami Katsu (who went 82-65 to get into a tie for 35th at +3 with the likes of Ji-Hee Lee, Hyun-Ju Shin, Mamiko Higa, Teresa Lu, and Minjee Lee), 22-year-old Miki Sakai (whose bogey-free 68 moved her to E and into a tie with the likes of Ai Miyazato, Mika Miyazato, and Esther Lee in 10th), 6-time JLPGA champion Rui Kitada (whose 6-birdie 68 brought her to -1, tying her for 6th with 2-time winner in 2014 Yuki Ichinose, Erika Kikuchi, and Lala Anai), journeywoman Yukari Nishiyama (whose 69 was sparked by 1 of only 2 2nd-round eagles from the field, which allowed her to catch Bo-Mee Lee, Ha Na Jang [the other eagler of the day], Saiki Fujita, Ayaka Watanabe, and Misuzu Narita at +2 [T23]), 21-year-old champion of the Fujisankei Ladies Classic Phoebe Yao (whose 6-birdie 69 put her 1 shot behind Feng and Kang), and veteran Ji-Woo Lee (whose bogey-free 32 on the back helped her get to -2 at the halfway point and into a tie with Yeon-Ju Jung for 4th).

Among those who matched Feng's 70 was none other than Momoko Ueda, who joined a host of big names--Yuri Fudoh, Sakura Yokomine, Mi-Jeong Jeon, Miki Saiki, Yumiko Yoshida, Natsuka Hori, Bo-Bae Song, and Mayu Hattori, among them--who barely made the cut.  Not so fortunate were Ji-Yai Shin, Onnarin Sattayabanphot, Ritsuko Ryu, Haruka Morita, Kumiko Kaneda, Soo-Yun Kang, Na-Ri Kim, Shiho Oyama, Yumi Matsubara, Rikako Morita, and Shinobu Moromizato.

Play has already started in the 3rd round, with Minami Katsu continuing her charge up the leaderboard in the early going.  I'll check back in tomorrow morning with the full results!

[Update 1 (10:58 pm):  There are 22 players within 5 shots of the lead, and I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that Anna Nordqvist and Sun-Ju Ahn are both at +1!]

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Salonpas Cup Thursday: Shanshan Feng Takes Early Lead

Shanshan Feng took the early lead in the JLPGA's 1st major, the Salonpas Cup, on the strength of a 3-birdie 70.  Feng, one of the few remaining dual LPGA-JLPGA members, is making her 1st stop on her 2nd tour since last year's Mizuno Classic.  She leads veteran Nobuko Kizawa and youngsters Erika Kikuchi, Lala Anai, and Kotono Kozuma by 1 shot, a passel of players by 2 shots, including Anna Nordqvist, Ayaka Watanabe, Phoebe Yao, and Maiko Wakabayashi, and even more by 3, including Ai Miyazato, Sun-Ju Ahn, Saiki Fujita, and Na-Ri Lee.

With only 13 players at par or better and 5 under par, this week already has a major feel to it.  And not everyone was able to handle the pressure of the 1st round.  15-year-old history-maker Minami Katsu opened with an 82, Young Kim with an 81, Shiho Oyama with an 80, Rikako Morita with a 79, Momoko Ueda, Miki Saiki, Onnarin Sattayabanphot, Ritsuko Ryu, and Haruka Morita with 78s, Kumiko Kaneda, Na-Ri Kim, and Yumi Matsubara with 77s, Ji-Yai Shin, Yumiko Yoshida, Minjee Lee, Miki Sakai, and Mayu Hattori with 76s, Sakura Yokomine, Mi-Jeong Jeon, Ji-Hee Lee, Ha Na Jang, Mamiko Higa, Teresa Lu, and Erina Hara with 75s, and Yuri Fudoh, Mika Miyazato, Bo-Mee Lee, Yuki Ichinose, Natsuka Hori, Esther Lee, Bo-Bae Song, and Misuzu Narita with 74s.

Still, a few players did spectacular things in the 1st round.  Kozuma eagled the 365-yard par-4 10th, Nordqvist, Hori, and Yun-Jye Wei eagled the 510-yard par-5 17th, and Yao eagled the 505-yard par-5 5th.  Airi Saitoh negated a 3-hole bogey train with a 3-hole birdie train as she started the front; she ended up with a 74.  So the West Course at Ibaraki can be had.

It'll be interesting to see who can take advantage of it in the 2nd round!