With Mi-Jeong Jeon and Ji-Hee Lee playing in the KLPGA's 3rd major this week (along with LPGA stars Ji-Yai Shin, Na Yeon Choi, and Amy Yang, among many others), and others from among the JLPGA's finest taking the week off (including Momoko Ueda and Akiko Fukushima), the Fujitsu Ladies represents a golden opportunity for someone to step up. Will Ai Miyazato and Sakura Yokomine continue their fine play of late? Will Shinobu Moromizato, Chie Arimura, and Yukari Baba shake off some disappointing recent results and return to form?
Time will tell, but the 1st round offers some preliminary answers. Despite making a double bogey on the 160-yard par-3 13th hole, Yukari Baba fired an opening 68 and is tied for the lead with Yuko Shinsakaue, who shot a more traditional bogey-free round. But Ai Miyazato stormed back from an opening 37 with 4 birdies in her 1st 5 holes on the back to pull within 1 shot of the lead, along with 7 other players who also broke 70, including Chie Arimura, Nikki Campbell, and Tamie Durdin. Only 2 off the pace are Shinobu Moromizato and Miki Saiki, while Miho Koga is 3 back and Sakura Yokomine trails by 4. With 24 players going under par, 34 shooting par or better, and 49 within 5 shots of the lead, however, this is still anyone's tournament.
Here's how the top 10 and notables stand heading into the weekend:
T1/-4 Yukari Baba, Yuko Shinsakaue (68)
T3/-3 Ai Miyazato, Chie Arimura, Nikki Campbell, Tamie Durdin, Julie Lu, Ya-Huei Lu, Yumiko Yoshida (69)
T10/-2 Shinobu Moromizato, Eun-A Lim, Miki Saiki, Ah-Reum Hwang, Akane Iijima, Yuriko Ohtsuka, Mikiyo Nishizuka, Kaori Yamamoto (70)
T18/-1 Miho Koga, Mayu Hattori (71)
T25/E Sakura Yokomine, Erina Hara, Yun-Jye Wei, Yuki Ichinose, Esther Lee (72)
T35/+1 Yuri Fudoh, Rui Kitada, Hyun-Ju Shin, So-Hee Kim, Kumiko Kaneda (73)
T50/+2 Yuko Saitoh, Ji-Woo Lee, Mie Nakata (74)
T57/+3 Ayako Uehara, Maiko Wakabayashi (75)
T65/+4 Rikako Morita, Mai Arai, Yuki Sakurai (76)
T73/+5 Midori Yoneyama, Na-Ri Lee, Sakurako Mori (77)
WD Yuko Mitsuka
The 18th, a 374-yard par 4, looks to be a tough finishing hole, with only 3 birdies posted on it all day, while the 1st (long par 5) and 2nd (medium-length par 4) gave up the only 2 eagles from the field. Baba birdied every par 5, Arimura and Saiki birdied 3 of the 4, Yokomine birdied 2, and Miyazato, Moromizato, and Fudoh only birdied 1 of them, so that'll be a trend to watch. Besides the players at the top of the JLPGA, I'll also be interested in seeing how the rookies and young guns fare this week. 19-year-old Asako Fujimoto is in the top 20 in only her 2nd JLPGA event as a professional, 22-year-old Yumiko Yoshida broke 70 for only the 3rd time this season (the other 2 times were also in 1st rounds, which she followed up with disappointing 2nd ones), and 21-year-old Mayu Hattori could well contend again for the 2nd week in a row. But many of their highly-heralded peers continue to struggle. Here's hoping they turn it around tomorrow.
[Update 1 (2:14 pm): Jeon and Lee are in contention heading into the weekend on the KLPGA.]