Tuesday, November 30, 2010

JLPGA Final Qualifying Tournament Tuesday: Jae-Hee Bae Leads with Bogey-Free 67

Jae-Hee Bae leads Kaori Ohe by a single shot after firing a bogey-free 67 in the 1st round of JLPGA Q-School's Final Qualifying Tournament. Ohe canned 6 birdies of her own but double bogeyed the 333-yard par-4 7th hole, yet she still outdid fellow 3rd-stage medalist Kumiko Kaneda by a shot.

Also at -3 are the LPGA's Hee Young Park and the KLPGA's Bo-Mee Lee. Park's only blemish came at the 501-yard par-5 10th hole. Lee, who started on the back, bogeyed her 1st and last holes but made 5 birdies in a 10-hole stretch in the middle of her round. Another shot further back are the LPGA's Shanshan Feng and Teresa Lu. Feng, playing with Ohe and Kaneda, birdied her 1st 3 holes but didn't make another the rest of the day, while Lu spread her 3 birdies around the middle of her round. An eagle on the 510-yard par-5 17th hole helped dual LPGA-JLPGA member Shiho Oyama stay in the hunt, although a walkoff bogey dropped her 4 behind Bae. Meena Lee, who started on the back, also bogeyed the 387-yard par-4 18th, but a birdie on the 521-yard par-5 1st and pars the rest of the way made her the 39th player to shoot par or better today.

Here's how the leaders and notables stand heading into the 2nd round:

1st/-5 Jae-Hee Bae (67)
2nd/-4 Kaori Ohe (68)
T3/-3 Hee Young Park, Bo-Mee Lee, Kumiko Kaneda, Ya-Huei Lu, Natsu Nagai, Yumi Hirose (69)
T9/-2 Shanshan Feng, Teresa Lu, Ji-Na Lim, Kuniko Maeda, Mayumi Shimomura, Yui Mukaiyama, Maiko Suzuki, Erina Hayashi (70)

T17/-1 Shiho Oyama, Erika Kikuchi, Mihoko Iseri (71)
T28/E Meena Lee, Onnarin Sattayabanphot, Orie Fujino, Megumi Kido (72)
T40/+1 Soo-Yun Kang, He Yong Choi, Erina Hara, Yumiko Yoshida, Yeo-Jin Kang, Saori Ikushima (73)
T58/+2 Lindsey Wright, So-Hee Kim, Maria Iida, Miki Sakai (74)
T71/+3 Sakurako Mori, Julie Lu (75)
T76/+4 Mika Takushima, Kaori Higo, Ae-Na Jeon (76)
T86/+5 Tao-Li Yang, Yuki Sakurai (77)

Tough starts for Wright (who opened with a birdieless 39 on the back) and Kang (who made 1 of only 4 triple bogeys from the field today, on the 400-yard par-4 13th hole), but they can't be as disappointed as 2nd-stage medalist Megumi Kido, who got to -3 with her eagle on the 1st, but made 3 bogeys and no birdies over her last 8 holes to let a great chance to post a 1st-round number slip through her fingers. Fellow 2nd-stage medalist Miki Sakai birdied 3 holes in a row midway through the front and got to -3 on her day with a birdie on the 10th, but fell apart in her last 7 holes with 3 bogeys and a double. Let's see whether they can bounce back tomorrow!

Monday, November 29, 2010

JLPGA Q-School: Final Qualifying Tournament Pairings

The pairings for the 4-round 4th stage of JLPGA Q-School, their Final Qualifying Tournament, have been released. All the players from the previous stage that I tracked except Na Zhang, Riko Higashio, Hiroko Yamaguchi, Da E Na, Mai Arai, and Kyung-Min Lin advanced. The biggest new names belong to the LPGA's Hee Young Park and Lindsey Wright, although Shiho Oyama and Erina Hara from the JLPGA will be recognizable to fans of Asian golf.

Here's when and where the key players (whose names I could recognize) go off in tomorrow's 1st round:

1st Tee
8:00 am: Teresa Lu
8:27 am: He Yong Choi, Miki Sakai
8:45 am: Jae-Hee Bae
8:54 am: Orie Fujino
9:03 am: Julie Lu
9:12 am: Mika Takushima, Maria Iida
9:21 am: Hee Young Park
9:30 am: Soo-Yun Kang
9:39 am: Ji-Na Lim
9:48 am: Shanshan Feng, Kumiko Kaneda, Kaori Ohe
9:57 am: Erina Hara, Kaori Higo
10:06 am: Kuniko Maeda
10:15 am: So-Hee Kim
10:24 am: Shiho Oyama, Yeo-Jin Kang, Yumiko Yoshida

10th Tee
8:00 am: Ae-Na Jeon
8:36 am: Erika Kikuchi
8:45 am: Megumi Kido
8:54 am: Tao-Li Yang
9:21 am: Meena Lee
9:30 am: Lindsey Wright
9:39 am: Bo-Mee Lee
9:48 am: Onnarin Sattayabanphot
9:57 am: Sakurako Mori
10:06 am: Yuki Sakurai

Interesting that no top LETers took advantage of their exemptions into this stage and that Hee Young Park was the only eligible Korean on the 2009 LPGA money list to do so--not Na Yeon Choi, In-Kyung Kim, Song-Hee Kim, Eun-Hee Ji, or Seon Hwa Lee. (Although for the 1st 3, at least, playing in the LPGA Tour Championship is obviously a much higher priority!) Looks like Wright is trying to keep the Australian pipeline to the JLPGA alive, as well. And that--again for obvious reasons--Ya Ni Tseng is not joining Teresa Lu in helping to shore up the Taiwanese pipeline.

[Update 1 (8:25 am): Happy Fan reports that Sarah Lee, Gloria Park, Il Mi Chung, Joo Mi Kim, and Aree Song will be joining youngsters Hana Jang and KLPGA Q-School medalist Eun Byol Choi on the KLPGA in 2011.]

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Kyung-Tae Kim Takes Commanding Lead on Ryo Ishikawa and Yuta Ikeda into Final JGTO Event of 2010

Japan Golf Tour money-list leader Kyung-Tae Kim stumbled today in the final round of the Casio World Open and allowed #2 Ryo Ishikawa and #3 Yuta Ikeda to remain within 40 million yen of him heading into the final event of the JGTO season. However, the odds are still in his favor of taking their money-list title this coming week. Even if he comes in last in the 30-golfer event and Ikeda wins, he'll still end up in 1st for the season. If Ishikawa were to win, Kim could still take the title with a 2nd- or 3rd-place (and maybe even a solo 4th-place) finish. Last year, he lost to Shigeki Maruyama in a playoff, so it appears he enjoys the Tokyo Yomiuri Country Club. Let's see if Kim can make like Sun-Ju Ahn and make it a Korean sweep of the top tours in Japan!

Ricoh Cup Sunday: Inbee Park Finally Gets Her 2nd JLPGA Win!

The final round of the Ricoh Cup wasn't pretty, as only 3 players were able to avoid going over par, but Inbee Park managed to fend off fellow JLPGA rookie and money-list title-holder Sun-Ju Ahn for her 2nd win of the season and 1st major on tour.

Park started well with a birdie, but gave it back and more with a double bogey on the long par-5 2nd and a bogey on the medium-length par-4 4th. By then, Ahn, who parred her 1st 4 holes was only 1 behind her. The deficit remained 1 after 8 holes, after Park had rattled off 4 pars and Ahn had recovered from a bogey on the long par-3 5th with a birdie on the medium-length par-4 6th. But then Park got hot, birdieing the 9th through 11th holes before Ahn could finally match her last birdie, keeping the lead to 3. Even though Ahn bogeyed the next hole, a short par 3, to fall 4 back, she didn't give up. After she birdied the short par-5 13th and Park bogeyed the long par-4 14th, Ahn was 2 down with 4 to play. Unfortunately for her, she fell apart, making 3 bogeys down the stretch to Park's 1. And just like that, Park had avoided getting her 7th silver medal in her 14th start on the JLPGA this season.

Here's how the final tournament of the season ended:

1st/-1 Inbee Park (72-72-70-73)
T2/+3 Sun-Ju Ahn (72-72-73-74), Mika Miyazato (70-71-76-74)
4th/+4 Yuri Fudoh (69-76-72-75)
5th/+6 Miki Saiki (69-76-74-75)
T6/+7 Hiromi Takesue (70-79-74-72), Akane Iijima (71-77-73-74), Chie Arimura (72-74-74-75)
T9/+8 Saiki Fujita (72-75-75-74), Sakura Yokomine (72-71-78-75)

11th/+9 Ayako Uehara (72-74-75-76)
T12/+10 Rui Kitada (78-74-74-72), Na-Ri Kim (71-74-80-73), Na-Ri Lee (74-76-74-74), Mi-Jeong Jeon (70-79-73-76)
T16/+11 Ji-Hee Lee (75-74-76-74), Nikki Campbell (74-79-70-76)
T18/+12 Mayu Hattori (75-75-78-72), Eun-A Lim (74-75-74-77), Young Kim (72-74-77-77)
T21/+13 Mie Nakata (74-78-75-74), Nobuko Kizawa (73-76-78-74)
T23/+15 Hyun-Ju Shin (76-77-72-78), Rikako Morita (67-76-82-78)
25th/+16 Akiko Fukushima (77-76-76-75)
26th/+18 Yukari Baba (78-78-74-76)
27th/+19 Shinobu Moromizato (78-78-72-79)
28th/+21 Yoshimi Koda (74-79-78-78)
29th/+23 Yun-Jye Wei (79-81-75-76)

So here's the final 2010 JLPGA money list:

1. Sun-Ju Ahn ¥145.07M
2. Sakura Yokomine ¥101.83M
3. Mi-Jeong Jeon ¥92.31M
4. Yukari Baba ¥90.36M
5. Inbee Park ¥82.04M
6. Chie Arimura ¥79.25M
7. Yuri Fudoh ¥69.70M
8. Miki Saiki ¥69.56M
9. Akane Iijima ¥64.88M
10. Saiki Fujita ¥64.50M
11. Na-Ri Kim ¥59.36M
12. Rui Kitada ¥59.33M
13. Nikki Campbell ¥55.22M
14. Ji-Hee Lee ¥52.88M
15. Young Kim ¥49.89M
16. Ayako Uehara ¥48.70M
17. Mayu Hattori ¥48.62M
18. Ji-Yai Shin ¥47.82M
19. Mie Nakata ¥46.06M
20. Shinobu Moromizato ¥43.34M
21. Hiromi Takesue ¥42.43M
22. Eun-A Lim ¥42.09M
23. Na-Ri Lee ¥37.13M
24. Hyun-Ju Shin ¥36.76M
25. Miho Koga ¥34.53M
26. Hiromi Mogi ¥34.17M
27. Asako Fujimoto ¥33.25M
28. Rikako Morita ¥32.63M
29. Bo-Bae Song ¥31.16M
30. Akiko Fukushima ¥30.83M
31. Ji-Woo Lee ¥30.60M
32. Maiko Wakabayashi ¥28.00M
33. Ah-Reum Hwang ¥27.96M
34. Kaori Aoyama ¥27.51M
35. Tamie Durdin ¥27.00M
36. Yun-Jye Wei ¥24.83M
37. Ritsuko Ryu ¥22.21M
38. Junko Omote ¥22.17M
39. Momoko Ueda ¥21.77M
40. Nobuko Kizawa ¥21.66M
41. Chieko Amanuma ¥21.07M
42. Yui Kawahara ¥20.91M
43. Yoshimi Koda ¥20.52M
44. Yuki Ichinose ¥19.10M
45. Esther Lee ¥18.64M
46. Midori Yoneyama ¥18.47M
47. Li-Ying Ye ¥17.59M
48. Ai Miyazato ¥16.91M
49. Hiroko Ayada ¥16.77M
50. Yuko Mitsuka ¥15.65M

By my count, Ahn is 6th on the all-time JLPGA list for most winnings in a single season. Yokomine, who won the most in JLPGA history last season, broke the 100-million-yen barrier for the 4th-straight season; with her worst finish in the last 6 seasons being 4th in 2005, she's now 8th on the all-time money list. Similarly, Jeon hasn't finished worse than 6th on the money list in the last 5 seasons and has broken the 90-million-yen barrier in each of them; she's now 14th on the all-time money list. For Fudoh, still the only player in JLPGA history to earn more than a billion yen in her career, this was her 10th season in the top 10 on the money list. This was a career-best season for Baba, Saiki, Iijima, and Fujita, as well.

[Update 1 (10:46 am): Added a few points to this post in my summaries for Hound Dog LPGA and Waggle Room.]

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Ricoh Cup Saturday: Inbee Park Takes Her Turn at the Top

In the 3rd round of the Ricoh Cup, it was 2nd-round leader Mika Miyazato's turn to blow up with 5 bogeys in her 1st 15 holes and no birdies until the 17th hole. As a result, even though Inbee Park double-bogeyed the very same hole, she still had a 3-shot lead on Miyazato, money-list title-holder Sun-Ju Ahn, and billion-yen-woman Yuri Fudoh. Meanwhile, Sakura Yokomine's 78 that dropped her 7 shots off the pace summed up her season--she's just been unable to keep herself in contention all that often, at least compared to what we've become used to over the past several years.

Here's where the leaders and notables stand heading into the final round:

1st/-2 Inbee Park (72-72-70)
T2/+1 Yuri Fudoh (69-76-72), Sun-Ju Ahn (72-72-73), Mika Miyazato (70-71-76)
5th/+3 Miki Saiki (69-76-74)
6th/+4 Chie Arimura (72-74-74)
T7/+5 Akane Iijima (71-77-73), Ayako Uehara (72-74-75), Sakura Yokomine (72-71-78)
T10/+6 Mi-Jeong Jeon (70-79-73), Saiki Fujita (72-75-75)

T12/+7 Nikki Campbell (74-79-70), Eun-A Lim (74-75-74), Hiromi Takesue (70-79-74), Young Kim (72-74-77)
16th/+8 Na-Ri Lee (74-76-74)
T17/+9 Hyun-Ju Shin (76-77-72), Ji-Hee Lee (75-74-76), Na-Ri Kim (71-74-80), Rikako Morita (67-76-82)
21st/+10 Rui Kitada (78-74-74)
T22/+11 Mie Nakata (74-78-75), Nobuko Kizawa (73-76-78)
T24/+12 Shinobu Moromizato (78-78-72), Mayu Hattori (75-75-78)
26th/+13 Akiko Fukushima (77-76-76)
27th/+14 Yukari Baba (78-78-74)
28th/+15 Yoshimi Koda (74-79-78)
29th/+19 Yun-Jye Wei (79-81-75)

Let's see if Park can get that elusive 2nd win on the JLPGA this season, or whether she'll rack up her 7th silver medal in her 14th and final start on tour! Me, I'd love to see Mikan get her 2nd JLPGA major title of the year....

Ricoh Cup Friday: Mika Miyazato Takes the Lead

In the 2nd round of the JLPGA's season-ending major, the Ricoh Cup, Mika Miyazato held it together while a lot of other players struggled, shooting a 2-birdie 71, tied for low round of the day. When 1st-round leader Rikako Morita ended her day with a triple bogey on the 408-yard par-4 18th to fall back into a tie with Sakura Yokomine at -1, Miyazato found herself with a 2-shot lead with 2 rounds to go. Also hanging in there today were JLPGA rookies Sun-Ju Ahn and Inbee Park, whose even-par rounds kept them within 3 shots of the lead.

Here's how the leaders and notables stand heading into the weekend:

1st/-3 Mika Miyazato (70-71)
T2/-1 Sakura Yokomine (72-71), Rikako Morita (67-76)
T4/E Sun-Ju Ahn (72-72), Inbee Park (72-72)
T6/+1 Na-Ri Kim (71-74), Yuri Fudoh (69-76), Miki Saiki (69-76)
T9/+2 Chie Arimura (72-74), Young Kim (72-74), Ayako Uehara (72-74)

12th/+3 Saiki Fujita (72-75)
13th/+4 Akane Iijima (71-77),
T14/+5 Ji-Hee Lee (75-74), Eun-A Lim (74-75), Nobuko Kizawa (73-76), Mi-Jeong Jeon (70-79), Hiromi Takesue (70-79)
T19/+6 Mayu Hattori (75-75), Na-Ri Lee (74-76)
T21/+8 Rui Kitada (78-74), Mie Nakata (74-78)
T23/+9 Akiko Fukushima (77-76), Hyun-Ju Shin (76-77), Nikki Campbell (74-79), Yoshimi Koda (74-79)
T27/+12 Yukari Baba (78-78), Shinobu Moromizato (78-78)
29th/+16 Yun-Jye Wei (79-81)

Lots of high scores--the weather must have been terrible!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Recommended Reading: Lisa Mickey and Happy Fan Remind Us What Thanksgiving Is All About

Check out these amazing Thanksgiving stories from Happy Fan and Lisa Mickey when you get a chance tonight!

Ricoh Cup Thursday: The JLPGA's Youth Wave Continues Gathering Momentum

For years, the JLPGA was known as a tour where golfers from their teens to their 50s would regularly compete head-to-head, but it appears that the youth movement sweeping the world of women's professional golf is starting to make some serious waves in Japan, as well. On the same day that 20-year-old Kaori Ohe and 21-year-old Kumiko Kaneda took medalist honors in the 3rd stage of JLPGA Q-School--beating LPGAers Shanshan Feng, Meena Lee, Teresa Lu, and Soo-Yun Kang and KLPGA stars Bo-Mee Lee and He Yong Choi--20-year-old Rikako Morita took the lead in the Ricoh Cup, the limited-field, season-ending major, with a 6-birdie 67.

2 shots back is 26-year-old Miki Saiki and 3 shots back is the Japan Women's Open champion, the 21-year-old LPGA regular, Mika Miyazato. Last week's winner, the 24-year-old Na-Ri Kim, is only 4 back, and still within 5 are 23-year-old money-list champion Sun-Ju Ahn, 24-year-old runner-up Sakura Yokomine, 23-year-old Chie Arimura, and 22-year-old dual LPGA-JLPGA member Inbee Park. Sure, billion-yen-woman Yuri Fudoh (34), perennial JLPGA star Mi-Jeong Jeon (28), Hiromi Takesue (28), and ex-LPGAer Young Kim (30) are only 2, 3, 3, and 5 shots behind Morita, respectively, so it's not like the older players on tour are being skunked. But when Saiki Fujita (25), Ayako Uehara (26), and Akane Iijima (27) seem like seasoned vets in comparison to most of the rest of the top of the leaderboard, I think the conclusion is pretty clear that the JLPGA's young guns are starting to really hit their stride.

Here's how the leaderboard looks after round 1:

1st/-5 Rikako Morita (67)
T2/-3 Yuri Fudoh, Miki Saiki (69)
T4/-2 Mika Miyazato, Mi-Jeong Jeon, Hiromi Takesue (70)
T7/-1 Akane Iijima, Na-Ri Kim (71)
T9/E Sun-Ju Ahn, Sakura Yokomine, Chie Arimura, Inbee Park, Young Kim, Ayako Uehara, Saiki Fujita (72)

16th/+1 Nobuko Kizawa (73)
T17/+2 Nikki Campbell, Eun-A Lim, Mie Nakata, Na-Ri Lee, Yoshimi Koda (74)
T22/+3 Ji-Hee Lee, Mayu Hattori (75)
24th/+4 Hyun-Ju Shin (76)
25th/+5 Akiko Fukushima (77)
T26/+6 Yukari Baba, Shinobu Moromizato, Rui Kitada (78)
29th/+7 Yun-Jye Wei (79)

JLPGA Q-School 3rd Stage Thursday: Kumiko Kaneda and Kaori Ohe Take Medalist Honors

20-year-old Kaori Ohe took medalist honors at the Ibaraki prefecture playing of the 3rd stage of JLPGA Q-School with a 71 today, while 21-year-old Kumiko Kaneda was the medalist at Mie on the strength of a 68. I'm pretty sure that just about all the players I was following made it through to the Final Qualifying Tournament next week. Given that 5 spots in the 102-player field are reserved for those who finished 51st through 55th on the JLPGA money list this year and an undetermined amount for those who made the top 50 in last year's FQT, as well as the fact that anyone from the top 20 of the 2009 LPGA money list and the top 10 of the LET's top 10 can also join in, the "cut line" from this week has yet to be officially determined, but my guess is that anyone outside the top 40 in either qualifier is either on the bubble or out.

Here are the final results from this week:

1st/-6 Kaori Ohe (70-68)
6th/-3 He Yong Choi (73-71-69)
7th/-2 Miki Sakai (72-73-69)
15th/-1 Teresa Lu (74-68-73)
17th/-1 Ae-Na Jeon (69-73-73)
26th/+2 Sakurako Mori (76-72-70)
27th/+2 Erika Kikuchi (73-75-70)
32nd/+3 Megumi Kido (75-76-69)
34th/+3 Tao-Li Yang (73-74-72)
43rd/+5 Na Zhang (76-74-71)
61st/+7 Riko Higashio (78-72-73)
62nd/+7 Hiroko Yamaguchi (75-74-74)

Looks like veterans Higashio and Yamaguchi are the odd ones out and Zhang is holding her breath. I'm really rooting for Zhang, who was 5th on the JLPGA money list in 2007, to make a full recovery from her back problems and make it back to the tour in 2011.

1st/-6 Kumiko Kaneda (71-71-68)
2nd/-3 Shanshan Feng (76-69-68)
3rd/-1 Ji Na Lim (72-71-72)
5th/+1 Soo-Yun Kang (77-68-72)
12th/+5 Meena Lee (77-74-70)
17th/+7 Bo-Mee Lee (83-68-72)
18th/+7 Onnarin Sattayabanphot (79-72-72)
28th/+10 Yuki Sakurai (80-76-70)
45th/+12 Da E Na (79-74-75)
55th/+13 Mai Arai (79-74-76)
56th/+13 Kyung-Min Lin (77-76-76)

Looks like Na's on the bubble, while youngsters Arai and Lin will not be advancing.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

JLPGA Q-School 3rd-Stage Wednesday: Big Names Come Roaring Back

Here are the results from the 2nd round of the 3rd stage of JLPGA Q-School at Ibaraki prefecture (with links to their JLPGA profiles, when available):

1st/-6 Kaori Ohe (70-68)
T4/-2 Teresa Lu (74-68), Ae-Na Jeon (69-73)
T10/E He Yong Choi (73-71)
T14/+1 Miki Sakai (72-73)
T30/+3 Tao-Li Yang (73-74)
T37/+4 Sakurako Mori (76-72), Erika Kikuchi (73-75)
T45/+5 Hiroko Yamaguchi (75-74)
T55/+6 Riko Higashio (78-72), Na Zhang (76-74), Megumi Kido (75-76)

And here are the Mie prefecture 2nd-round results:

1st/-2 Kumiko Kaneda (71-71)
2nd/-1 Ji Na Lim (72-71)
T3/+1 Soo-Yun Kang (77-68), Shanshan Feng (76-69)
T16/+7 Bo-Mee Lee (83-68), Onnarin Sattayabanphot (79-72), Meena Lee (77-74)
T33/+9 Mai Arai (79-74), Da E Na (79-74), Kyung-Min Lin (77-76)
T62/+12 Yuki Sakurai (80-76)

I've checked names against the JLPGA money list, so 2nd-stage medalists Ai Kido and Yoshinori Sakai now have their real 1st names--Megumi and Miki! Sorry for any confusion!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

JLPGA Q-School 3rd-Stage Tuesday: LPGAers Get Off to Slow Starts, Bo-Mee Lee to a Disastrous One

The opening rounds of the 3rd stage of JLPGA Q-School at Ibaraki and Mie prefectures are complete. Here's how the notables in each qualifier fared today:

T7/E Yoshinori Sakai (72)
T17/+1 He Yong Choi, Tao-Li Yang (73)
T26/+2 Teresa Lu (74)
T36/+3 Hiroko Yamaguchi, Ai Kido (76)
T52/+4 Na Zhang, Sakurako Mori (76)
T78/+6 Riko Higashio (78)

1st/-1 Kumiko Kaneda (71)
2nd/E Ji Na Lim (72)
T13/+4 Shanshan Feng (76)
T19/+5 Meena Lee, Soo-Yun Kang, Kyung-Min Lin (77)
T45/+7 Onnarin Sattayabanphot, Mai Arai, Da E Na (79)
T60/+8 Yuki Sakurai (80)
T94/+11 Bo-Mee Lee (83)

I still have the feeling google translate is letting a number of names slip through my fingers, but that's the best I can do right now.

Sun-Ju Ahn's Amazing Year

One year ago today, Sun-Ju Ahn was hanging out at #71 in the Rolex Rankings, averaging a mere 1.70 points per start. Unlike her former KLPGA rival Ji-Yai Shin, who was closing fast on then-world #1 Lorena Ochoa, Ahn's career seemed to be going nowhere fast. Even after earning her JLPGA card for the 2010 season by finishing 2nd at their Q-School in early December, she was still at #71 but down to 1.67 points. She had lost a spot and dwindled to 1.45 points by early March of this year, right before the start of the JLPGA season. At that point, Sakura Yokomine was the top-ranked JLPGA regular, at #15 with 4.56 points.

Flash forward to yesterday, and you'll see that Yokomine moved up to #13 with 5.73 points--and that Ahn blasted past her to #11 with 7.27 points. That's what 4 golds, a silver, 2 bronzes, and 14 total top 5s in 26 starts on the 2nd-toughest women's tour on the planet will do for you. 3 of her wins came during a 10-event run late in the season where she never finished outside the top 5. I don't know if she'll be able to become the 5th player in JLPGA history to crack the 150-million-yen barrier in season winnings this week at the Ricoh Cup, but I do know that her chances of winning went up when Ji-Yai Shin, Ai Miyazato, and Morgan Pressel turned down their invitations into the tour's season-ending major (although she will have to outdo the visiting Mika Miyazato). Whatever happens, though, Ahn has the satisfaction of becoming the 2nd-ever non-Japanese winner of the JLPGA's money-list title to last her for the rest of her career.

What'll Ahn do for an encore? From what I've been able to gather with my limited Japanese, it looks like she's seeking to become the 1st repeat money-list title-holder on the JLPGA since Yuri Fudoh. After that? It'll be interesting to see if she decides to follow in the footsteps of Ai Miyazato, Momoko Ueda, and Shiho Oyama and seek dual LPGA-JLPGA membership, or whether she'll take her cue from Fudoh and other top Koreans on the JLPGA like Mi-Jeong Jeon, Ji-Hee Lee, and Hyun-Ju Shin, who have never sought LPGA membership--or Bo-Bae Song, who turned it down even after winning the 2009 Mizuno Classic. Where Ahn and fellow JLPGA rookies who had outstanding 2010s like Inbee Park, Young Kim, and Na-Ri Kim decide to focus their energies the rest of the decade will say a lot about what direction of the globalization of women's golf is headed. Will the LPGA remain the top tour on the planet, or will we start to see more parity between the LPGA and JLPGA--kind of like what we're starting to see happen with the PGA and European tours in the men's game?

[Update 1 (11/30/10, 4:20 am): Ahn just jumped to #9 in this week's Rolex Rankings!]

Monday, November 22, 2010

JLPGA Q-School 3rd-Stage Pairings

Some pretty interesting names at the Ibaraki and Mie qualifiers into the final stage of JLPGA Q-School.

Headlining the former are the LPGA's Teresa Lu, the KLPGA's He Yong Choi, the CLPGA's Tao-Li Yang, former JLPGAers Na Zhang and Sakurako Mori, the JLPGA's Hiroko Yamaguchi and Riko Higashio, and 2nd-stage medalists Ai Kido (from Gunma) and Yoshinori Sakai (from Tochigi).

The latter features the LPGA's Shanshan Feng, Meena Lee, Soo-Yun Kang, and Onnarin Sattayabanphot, the KLPGA's Bo-Mee Lee, Ji Na Lim, and Da E Na, JLPGAers Kumiko Kaneda (the medalist at Mie), Kyung-Min Lin, Mai Arai, and Yuki Sakurai, and a couple of Chinese golfers whom google translate had difficulties with.

3 rounds will decide who will stay alive in their quest to join (or rejoin) the JLPGA in 2011.

Sun-Ju Ahn Joins Ai-Yu Tu on JLPGA; Who Will Join Ayako Okamoto on LPGA?

Looking at bangkokbobby's post on Sun-Ju Ahn winning the JLPGA money title to become the 2nd foreign player after Ai-Yu Tu to do so, as well as LPGA.com's rundown of the Player of the Year race and Quick 18 with Ayako Okamoto, it struck me that Ya Ni Tseng, Ai Miyazato, Na Yeon Choi, and Ji-Yai Shin have an amazing opportunity to become the 2nd-ever Asian Rolex Player of the Year. Lorena Ochoa denied Shin by a single point from accomplishing this feat last year. The only player who could keep it from happening this year is Cristie Kerr, but as Hound Dog points out, the only way she can do it is by winning the LPGA Tour Championship. With Shin and Miyazato declining their invitations into the JLPGA's final event and last major of the year, the Ricoh Cup, jet lag won't be a factor in determining who, if anyone, will follow Okamoto. Can't wait to see what happens!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Daio Paper ElleAir Ladies Sunday: Na-Ri Kim Takes 1st JLPGA Title with 66

Na-Ri Kim was 3 shots behind Yukari Baba and Tamie Durdin at the start of the day in the Daio Paper ElleAir Ladies, but thanks to 4 birdies on her part and slow starts by the leaders had caught them by the end of the front 9. Even though playing partner Mi-Jeong Jeon matched her 33 to make it a foursome at -10, the former LPGAer was unfazed. She reeled off birdies on the 370-yard par 4 10th and 533-yard par-5 11th to take a 1-shot lead on Durdin and a 2-shot lead on the rest, then bounced back from a bogey on the 155-yard par-3 12th with birdies on the 410-yard par-4 14th and the 479-yard par-5 17th. Even though Jeon, too, birdied those same holes coming in, Kim ended up outpacing her by 2 shots, -13 to -11. And when Durdin bogeyed the 15th and 16th as this was happening in the group behind them, it all came down to her playing partner Baba, who hadn't made a birdie since the 8th hole. She gave it a great run, though, finishing birdie-birdie to come within 1 shot of forcing a playoff, but in the end the only player in the field to break 70 all 3 rounds had her 1st career JLPGA victory.

Here's how the leaders and notables ended up in the final regular-season event on the JLPGA schedule:

1st/-13 Na-Ri Kim (69-68-66)
2nd/-12 Yukari Baba (67-67-70)
3rd/-11 Mi-Jeong Jeon (71-65-69)
T4/-10 Ayako Uehara (68-67-71), Tamie Durdin (68-66-72)
6th/-9 Mayu Hattori (72-67-68)
T7/-7 Hiromi Takesue (72-69-68), Sakura Yokomine (70-70-69), Rui Kitada (67-71-71)
T10/-6 Midori Yoneyama (71-72-67), Chie Arimura (71-68-71), Yumiko Yoshida (70-69-71)

T13/-5 Shiho Oyama (72-71-68), Asako Fujimoto (73-69-69), Sun-Ju Ahn (70-71-70), Akane Iijima (72-68-71), Shinobu Moromizato (68-71-72), Yui Kawahara (66-73-72), Ji-Hee Lee (71-67-73)
T20/-4 Jae-Hee Bae (70-73-69), Maiko Wakabayashi (74-68-70), Yun-Jye Wei (73-68-71), Miki Saiki (72-68-72)
T25/-3 Yuki Ichinose (73-70-70), Onnarin Sattayabanphot (74-68-71), Ah-Reum Hwang (70-69-74)
T28/-2 Nikki Campbell (76-68-70), Beatriz Recari (72-72-70), Ritsuko Ryu (72-72-70), Chieko Amanuma (75-68-71), Na-Ri Lee (70-72-72), Rikako Morita (73-68-73), Akiko Fukushima (67-73-74)
T37/-1 Hiromi Mogi (70-74-71), Saiki Fujita (73-70-72), Kaori Aoyama (70-72-73)
T43/E Hyun-Ju Shin (71-71-74), Erina Hara (71-71-74), Teresa Lu (70-72-74), Bo-Bae Song (70-69-77)
T48/+1 Young Kim (69-73-75)

While Kim was putting on a superlative charge, money-list leader Sun-Ju Ahn was sprinkling bogeys in with birdies to post a respectable 70. But her chief rival Sakura Yokomine was putting on a show of her own, making 5 birdies in her 1st 12 holes to get to -9. However, she couldn't buy a birdie the rest of the way and played her last 6 holes in +2. And as a result, she failed to pull within 25 million yen of Ahn. It's looking to me like even if Yokomine wins the season-ending major, the Ricoh Cup, for the 2nd year in a row, Sun-Ju Ahn has clinched the 2010 JLPGA money-list title.

1. Sun-Ju Ahn ¥132.82M
2. Sakura Yokomine ¥99.66M
3. Mi-Jeong Jeon ¥91.24M
4. Yukari Baba ¥89.92M
5. Chie Arimura ¥74.60M
6. Miki Saiki ¥63.01M
7. Saiki Fujita ¥62.33M
8. Yuri Fudoh ¥61.75M
9. Akane Iijima ¥60.23M
10. Na-Ri Kim ¥58.29M
11. Rui Kitada ¥58.26M
12. Inbee Park ¥57.04M
13. Nikki Campbell ¥54.56M
14. Ji-Hee Lee ¥52.22M
15. Young Kim ¥49.38M
16. Mayu Hattori ¥48.11M
17. Ji-Yai Shin ¥48.68M
18. Ayako Uehara ¥47.16M
19. Mie Nakata ¥45.58M
20. Shinobu Moromizato ¥42.91M
21. Eun-A Lim ¥41.57M
22. Hiromi Takesue ¥37.79M
23. Hyun-Ju Shin ¥36.30M
24. Na-Ri Lee ¥36.06M
25. Miho Koga ¥34.53M
26. Hiromi Mogi ¥34.17M
27. Asako Fujimoto ¥33.25M
28. Rikako Morita ¥32.16M
29. Bo-Bae Song ¥31.16M
30. Ji-Woo Lee ¥30.60M
31. Akiko Fukushima ¥30.38M
32. Maiko Wakabayashi ¥28.00M
33. Ah-Reum Hwang ¥27.96M
34. Kaori Aoyama ¥27.51M
35. Tamie Durdin ¥27.00M
36. Yun-Jye Wei ¥24.42M
37. Ritsuko Ryu ¥22.21M
38. Junko Omote ¥22.17M
39. Momoko Ueda ¥21.77M
40. Nobuko Kizawa ¥21.18M
41. Chieko Amanuma ¥21.07M
42. Yui Kawahara ¥20.91M
43. Yoshimi Koda ¥20.10M
44. Yuki Ichinose ¥19.10M
45. Esther Lee ¥18.64M
46. Midori Yoneyama ¥18.47M
47. Li-Ying Ye ¥17.59M
48. Ai Miyazato ¥16.91M
49. Hiroko Ayada ¥16.77M
50. Yuko Mitsuka ¥15.65M

Among those who will need to play in the 3rd stage of JLPGA Q-School, which begins in a couple of days, are #55 Jae-Hee Bae, #56 Yuko Saitoh, #57 Shiho Oyama, #58 So-Hee Kim, and #59 Teresa Lu. It remains to be seen whether #80 Seon Hwa Lee will try to maintain her dual membership next season. As for fellow dual member Tamie Durdin, who found her game in the JLPGA's home stretch, she has 1 more LPGA event she could play in if she wants to get back inside the top 100 on their money list and keep a priority status worth anything there in 2011.

We'll find out soon what Lee's and Durdin's plans are, but we already know that neither Ji-Yai Shin nor Ai Miyazato (or, for that matter, Morgan Pressel or 2-time winner Miho Koga) will accept their invitations to the Ricoh Cup. In fact, the only dual member to prioritize the JLPGA over the LPGA will end up being Inbee Park, who dropped out of the top 10 of the money list with her missed cut this week. She's now the 3rd-ranked rookie--and 4th-ranked Korean--on the JLPGA money list. Let's see if she can bounce back next week!

[Update 1 (12:43 pm): More great photos and another good overview from bangkokbobby!]

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Daio Paper ElleAir Ladies Saturday: Tamie Durdin's 66 Puts Her on Top with Yukari Baba

Moving day at the Daio Paper ElleAir Ladies had a definite "go low or go home" vibe today. Mi-Jeong Jeon set the pace with a bogey-free 65 and Tamie Durdin with a bogey-free 66, but there were a host of 67s and 68s. When the dust had settled Durdin and Yukari Baba shared a slim 1-shot lead on Ayako Uehara and were only 2-up on Jeon, 3-up on Na-Ri Kim, and 4-up on Ji-Hee Lee and Rui Kitada. Money-list leaders Sun-Ju Ahn and Sakura Yokomine couldn't keep pace with the leaders and find themselves 7 and 6 shots back, respectively, but Chie Arimura joined the 15 golfers within 5 shots of the lead with her 68.

Here's where the leaders and notables stand heading into the final round:

T1/-10 Tamie Durdin (68-66), Yukari Baba (67-67)
3rd/-9 Ayako Uehara (68-67)
4th/-8 Mi-Jeong Jeon (71-65)
5th/-7 Na-Ri Kim (69-68)
T6/-6 Ji-Hee Lee (71-67), Rui Kitada (67-71)
T8/-5 Mayu Hattori (72-67), Chie Arimura (71-68), Bo-Bae Song (70-69), Ah-Reum Hwang (70-69), Yumiko Yoshida (70-69), Mihoko Iseri (70-69), Shinobu Moromizato (68-71), Yui Kawahara (66-73)

T16/-4 Miki Saiki (72-68), Akane Iijima (72-68), Sakura Yokomine (70-70), Akiko Fukushima (67-73)
T20/-3 Yun-Jye Wei (73-68), Rikako Morita (73-68), Hiromi Takesue (72-69), Sun-Ju Ahn (70-71)
T24/-2 Maiko Wakabayashi (74-68), Onnarin Sattayabanphot (74-68), Asako Fujimoto (73-69), Hyun-Ju Shin (71-71), Erina Hara (71-71), Teresa Lu (70-72), Na-Ri Lee (70-72), Kaori Aoyama (70-72), Young Kim (69-73)
T35/-1 Chieko Amanuma (75-68), Saiki Fujita (73-70), Yuki Ichinose (73-70), Shiho Oyama (72-71), Jae-Hee Bae (70-73)
T46/E Nikki Campbell (76-68), Beatriz Recari (72-72), Ritsuko Ryu (72-72), Hiromi Mogi (70-74)

MC: Harukyo Nomura [a] (73-72), So-Hee Kim (76-70), Mie Nakata (75-71), Esther Lee (75-71), Miho Mori [a] (75-71), Eun-A Lim (73-73), Inbee Park (74-74), Ji-Woo Lee (73-75), Yuko Mitsuka (78-73), Haruka Morita [a] (77-74), Li-Ying Ye (76-76), Momoko Ueda (77-78)

If the 73s by Yui Kawahara, Akiko Fukushima, and Young Kim were not enough to show how costly little mistakes can be, how about the big ones made by LPGAers Inbee Park and Momoko Ueda? Both missed their 2nd cuts of the season on the JLPGA, both because of birdie droughts (Park made only 3 birdies in 36 holes and Ueda 4), but whereas Ueda put herself behind the 8-ball early with a 9 on the par-3 3rd hole yesterday, Park simply never got anything going.

Enough about those playing badly. Let's see if Durdin can play her way into the season-ending major, the Ricoh Cup, whether Baba can cap off her career season with a win, whether Uehara can make it 3 years in a row with a JLPGA victory, whether Jeon can get her 4th win of the season and 17th of her career, whether Kim can snag her 1st career JLPGA victory, whether Lee can make a Sunday charge for her 2nd win of the season and 14th of her JLPGA career, whether Kitada will instead be getting her 2nd win of the season (and 7th of her career), or whether someone will make a charge from 5 or more shots back. A great Sunday by Ahn can clinch her the money-list title and put her in position to join the JLPGA's greats in single-season winnings. And even a so-so Sunday by Yokomine could end her hopes for making it 2 money-list titles in a row.

Lots at stake tomorrow. Stay tuned!

[Update 1 (10:21 am): Just noticed bangkokbobby's post, complete with great photos, is up.]

[Update 2 (10:38 am): This event also decides who will need to go to the 3rd-stage of Q-School to retain their 2011 JLPGA cards--only the top 50 on the money list are in for next season for sure. With #51 Ikue Asama, #53 Yeo-Jin Kang, #57 So-Hee Kim, #59 Chiharu Tsunekawa, and #60 Mika Takushima also missing the cut, and #54 Orie Fujino, #55 Yuko Saitoh, and #56 Jae-Hee Bae well off the pace, #50 Mitsuka can breathe a little sigh of relief--but only a little one, as #52 Yumiko Yoshida can pass her with (I believe) a top-3 finish tomorrow, and #58 Teresa Lu and #61 Shiho Oyama might be able to snag a runner-up finish and knock her out, as well. This could be down to the wire!]

Friday, November 19, 2010

Can Ryo Ishikawa Make a Big Move This Weekend?

Right now after 2 rounds in the Dunlop Phoenix JGTO event, Ryo Ishikawa is tied with Tom Watson, Robert Allenby, and Ai Miyazato's brother Kiyoshi at +3. He's 12 shots behind tournament leader Yuta Ikeda, 8 shots behind money-list leader Kyung-Tae Kim, 7 shots behind defending champion Eduardo Molinari, and even 6 shots behind Ai-sama's brother Yusaku (and Robert Karlsson). This is bad news for fans of Ryo-kun, because even though he, Kim, and Ikeda all have 3 wins this season, he trails Kim by more than 18 million yen with only 2 events remaining after this one on the JGTO schedule. It doesn't appear that Hiroyuki Fujita, who sits between Ryo-kun and Ikeda on the money list, will be much of a factor this week (he's at -1 thus far), but if Ikeda wins he'll vault himself right into the thick of the race for #1 and if Kim wins Ryo-kun will have to win the last 2 events just to have a chance to catch him.

[Update 1 (4:18 pm): Ryo-kun's going off the back right behind Watson and Allenby's pairing. Too bad he wasn't paired with them!]

[Update 2 (11/20/10, 10:27 am): Looks like the answer (at least so far) is "no." Ryo-kun's 71 leaves him 12 behind tournament leader Ikeda and 7 behind money list leader Kim. Looks like he'll need to shoot another 58 to have any kind of chance tomorrow!]

[Update 3 (11/21/10, 4:28 am: Almost the worst possible result for Ryo-kun today. He could only tread water while Ikeda won and Kim took 2nd with a closing 64. Here's what the top of the JGTO money list looks like now:

1. Kyung-Tae Kim ¥170.56M
2. Ryo Ishikawa ¥133.58M
3. Yuta Ikeda ¥126.20M
4. Hiroyuki Fujita ¥112.40M

With 40 million yen for the winner and 2 events to go, everyone over 100 million yen still has a chance, but they'll all need some help from Kim if they want to avoid a Korean sweep of the top of the top Japanese tours' money lists.]

Daio Paper ElleAir Ladies Friday: Yui Kawahara Takes Lead with 66

Yui Kawahara has been hanging around all season on the JLPGA, missing a good deal of cuts but making enough money to stay comfortably within the top 50 on the money list, largely on the strength of 2 really good weeks--a T3 at the Meiji Chocolate Cup and a T4 at the Munsingwear Ladies Tokai Classic. Well, after opening with a bogey-free 66 in the Daio Paper ElleAir Ladies today, she not only has given herself a chance for her 1st JLPGA win and entry into next week's season-ending major, the Ricoh Cup, but also for the best season of her career.

It's not going to be easy, though, as she's being chased by a host of talented golfers. Sun-Ju Ahn and Sakura Yokomine, 1-2 on the money list, may be stuck 4 shots back, but right behind Kawahara is none other than Akiko Fukushima, who's won once this year but is looking to improve on a season that could well turn out to be her worst of the 2000s. If it weren't for a walkoff bogey, she'd be co-leader with Kawahara. Also 1 shot behind are Yukari Baba, whose career season could be improved only by her 1st win since 2008, and Rui Kitada, who's looking to approach her 2004 campaign, when she got 3 of her 6 JLPGA wins and ended up 3rd on the money list.

But that's not nearly all. Shinobu Moromizato had a great chance to win last year's money-list title, but this season has been utterly disappointing by comparison; still, she's only 2 off the pace heading into the weekend and like Fukushima is eager for a little redemption at the end of the year. Ayako Uehara, who it seems has done everything but win this season, is also 2 back after a 6-birdie effort today. Tamie Durdin, having secured her 2011 JLPGA card just a little while ago, is also looking to move up the money list; her eagle-birdie finish also leaves her only 2 shots back. And former LPGAers Young Kim and Na Ri Kim, who have played solidly in their rookie campaigns on the JLPGA, are only 3 back; both are looking for their 1st wins on their new tour. LPGAer Teresa Lu is looking to duplicate Durdin's feat--she needs to make a lot of money this week to get into the top 50 on the money list and secure her JLPGA card for next season; currently, she's 4 off the pace, due to a disappointing bogey on the par-5 17th.

Here's how the top 10 and notables stand heading into the weekend:

1st/-6 Yui Kawahara (66)
T2/-5 Akiko Fukushima, Yukari Baba, Rui Kitada (67)
T5/-4 Shinobu Moromizato, Ayako Uehara, Tamie Durdin, Nobuko Kizawa (68)
T9/-3 Young Kim, Na-Ri Kim (69)

T11/-2 Sun-Ju Ahn, Sakura Yokomine, Bo-Bae Song, Teresa Lu, Na-Ri Lee, Hiromi Mogi, Ah-Reum Hwang, Kaori Aoyama, Jae-Hee Bae (70)
T22/-1 Mi-Jeong Jeon, Chie Arimura, Ji-Hee Lee, Hyun-Ju Shin, Erina Hara (71)
T32/E Shiho Oyama, Beatriz Recari, Miki Saiki, Akane Iijima, Mayu Hattori, Hiromi Takesue, Ritsuko Ryu (72)
T45/+1 Saiki Fujita, Eun-A Lim, Ji-Woo Lee, Yun-Jye Wei, Asako Fujimoto, Rikako Morita, Yuki Ichinose, Harukyo Nomura [a] (73)
T57/+2 Inbee Park, Maiko Wakabayashi, Onnarin Sattayabanphot (74)
T67/+3 Mie Nakata, Chieko Amanuma, Miho Mori [a] (75)
T76/+4 Nikki Campbell, So-Hee Kim, Li-Ying Ye (76)
T83/+5 Momoko Ueda, Haruka Morita [a] (77)
T90/+6 Yuko Mitsuka (78)

As you can see, not everyone did well today. Mitsuka's 78 puts her in danger of dropping out of the top 50 on the money list; Ueda's 77 in inexplicable; Park's 74 is completely out of character; and even 72s by the likes of Oyama, Recari, and Ito-En Ladies champion Saiki are let-downs.

So I guess the theme for tomorrow is "come-backs"! Fukushima, Moromizato, and Durdin are looking to turn disappointing seasons around. Kawahara, Uehara, and the Kims are looking to make this a season to remember. And the JLPGA's biggest names--Ahn, Yokomine, Jeon, Arimura, Lee, Oyama, Park, Campbell, Ueda, and Mitsuka--are looking to bounce back from disappointing 1st rounds. Let's see who can do it over the weekend!

[Update 1 (3:51 pm): Nice job by bangkokbobby with details on the most interesting rounds of the day and another set of awesome photos.]

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Beatriz Recari Teeing It Up on the JLPGA Tomorrow

I was interested to see if Ji-Yai Shin, Ai Miyazato, Seon Hwa Lee, or Candie Kung would take advantage of their eligibility to play in the last regular-season JLPGA event of 2010, the Daio Paper ElleAir Ladies, so I checked their pairings sheet for tomorrow's 1st round. Even though Shin and Miyazato are playing in next week's season-ending major, the Ricoh Cup, they won't be teeing it up this week. Nor will Lee or Kung. As I scanned the list, I noticed plenty of JLPGA regulars with LPGA connections of one kind or another--Inbee Park, Momoko Ueda, Shiho Oyama, Teresa Lu, Tamie Durdin, Young Kim, Na-Ri Kim, and Onnarin Sattayabanphot--when all of a sudden I came across a "B.リカリ" from "スペイン"! Yup, that's Beatriz Recari from Spain, who must have enjoyed the Asian swing so much she couldn't wait to get back to Japan! No, wait, she only played in Malaysia this year, so this'll be her 1st time on the JLPGA. Buena suerte, B-chan!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Real Reason Tiger Started Tweeting

Check out what Cheyenne Woods just tweeted. Now Tiger can make snappy comebacks about her massive following of 306 and counting in the same medium she's using, I suppose....

The Best on the LPGA: 3- to 6-Time Winners, November 2010

With In-Kyung Kim joining this list of the top players with 3 to 6 LPGA victories, it's time to recalibrate my September assessment of who among them is likeliest to win next and focus on who's most likely to take the LPGA Tour Championship next month. A lot's dependent on which courses they play at Grand Cypress, so I reserve the right to change my mind in the final PakPicker, but for what it's worth, here's my list!

Most Likely to Win In Orlando

1. Suzann Pettersen (6 wins/1 major): Look her up in the dictionary under "D-U-E."
2. Na Yeon Choi (4/0): A win would lock up the prestigious 2010 Mostly Harmless LPGAer of the Year award for her. Not that she needs the extra motivation.
3. In-Kyung Kim (3/0): It would be fitting if she closed the season with 2 wins in a row, just like the player I'm ranking after her opened it.
4. Ai Miyazato (6/0): She's got 1 last chance this year to join Lorena Ochoa, Annika Sorenstam, and Karrie Webb among active and recently-active players in the 6-win-season club and become only the 2nd Japanese golfer in history (after the legendary Ayako Okamoto in 1987) to win the LPGA's Player of the Year award. I'm rooting for her, but she'll be dealing with some serious jet lag after playing the JLPGA's season-ending major, the Ricoh Cup, the week before. Still, wouldn't it be amazing if she ended 2010 with 8 Hall of Fame points to her name?
5. Ya Ni Tseng (5/3): A win for her would make the race to be the 1st to follow Ji-Yai Shin in graduating from this list pretty intense in 2011!

The Contenders

6. Angela Stanford (4/0): Breaking the tournament record in Lorena's invitational with a final-round 63 and not even coming close to catching In-Kyung Kim just about sums up her season.
7. Brittany Lincicome (3/1): She's pretty much convinced me she's for real this season, but until she overcomes her "onebadrounditis," she won't be contending with any regularity on the LPGA.
8. Seon Hwa Lee (4/0): The sooner her 2010 is over, the happier she'll be.

Quantum Leap Candidates

9. Candie Kung (4/0): All of a sudden, she's playing the best among the LPGA's veterans on this list. She hasn't finished outside the top 30 since missing the cut at the Navistar.
10. Maria Hjorth (3/0): She started the season with 2 top 10s in her 1st 4 LPGA starts but hadn't done much since and had even missed 4 cuts in a row heading into the Asian swing, so of course she got a T3 in Malaysia and a T14 in Japan!
11. Sophie Gustafson (5/0): 2010 has been a big letdown after a fantastic 2009--her T18 in Korea was only her 5th top 20 of the year--but a win in Orlando would end the year on a high note!
12. Hee-Won Han (6/0): She had missed 3 cuts in a row heading into the Asian swing, but didn't finish outside the top 40 on it. Still, her T18 in Korea was only her 5th top 20 of the season.
13. Pat Hurst (6/1): She got her 5th top 20 of the season in Malaysia, but that's a far cry from graduating from this list.
14. Catriona Matthew (3/1): She, too, broke out of her missed-cut funk on the Asian swing, but never finished as highly as she did in Lorena's event (T25), a far cry from the relative quality of her 1st half of the season.

On the Bottom, Looking Up

15. Wendy Ward (4/0): A T5 at the CVS salvaged her season, but she wasn't able to follow up on it effectively on the Asian swing.
16. Lorie Kane (4/0): Her fantastic 11th-place finish at the CWO means that this season won't be her last stand on the LPGA, after all. At #87 on the money list heading into the LPGA Tour Championship, she'll definitely will be within the top 100 at season's end and will be able to get into most 2011 events.

On the Outside, Looking In

17. Grace Park (6/1): She hasn't competed since her WD from the LPGA Championship with a back injury and missed cut (with a walkoff double) at the Farr.
18. Wendy Doolan (3/0): She hasn't played on the LPGA since mid-May. Hope she's ok.
19. Dorothy Delasin (4/0): This 2000 Rookie of the Year had been struggling to keep her card from 2006-2008, but she fell off a cliff in 2009, going 0 for 16 in made cuts and even bombing out of Q-School. This season, her only made cut was at the Navistar, bringing her total to 1 for 25 in the last 2 seasons. Her 1st 4 years on tour when she averaged a win a year and was a consistent top 30 threat are a distant memory now.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

OK, So Now Who's Having the Best 2010 in Women's Golf?

Last season, 15 players garnered multiple wins, either on their home tour alone or across 2 or more tours, with Ji-Yai Shin beating out Lorena Ochoa, Sakura Yokomine, and Hee Kyung Seo for 2009 Mostly Harmless Player of the Year. So who are the front-runners for this year's award? Heading into the final weeks on all the women's major tours, it seems like a good time to update my late-September overview. Here are the 16 players with multiple wins worldwide in 2010.

5-time Winners (3): Ai Miyazato (all LPGA--Thailand, Singapore, Tres Marias, ShopRite, Safeway); Lee-Anne Pace (all LET--Switzerland, Wales, Finland, China 2x); Laura Davies (all LET--New Zealand, Germany, Austria, Spain, India)

4-time Winners (3): Ya Ni Tseng (3 LPGA--Kraft Nabisco, British, NW Arkansas--and 2 LET--Australian, British); Ji-Yai Shin (2 LPGA--Evian, Mizuno--2 JLPGA--Cyber Agent, Mizuno--1 KLPGA--KLPGA Championship--and 1 LET--Evian); Sun-Ju Ahn (all JLPGA--Daikin Orchid, Stanley, Sankyo, Fujitsu)

3-time Winners (2): Mi-Jeong Jeon (all JLPGA--Yonex, Nichirei, Munsingwear); Bo Mee Lee (all KLPGA--Kim Young Joo, Daewoo, Star Tour Grand Finale)

2-time Winners (8): Cristie Kerr (both LPGA--State Farm, LPGA Championship); Na Yeon Choi (both LPGA--Farr, Hana); Sakura Yokomine (both JLPGA--Fundokin, Masters GC); Yuri Fudoh (both JLPGA--Bridgestone, Meiji); Akane Iijima (both JLPGA--Suntory, Golf5); Soo-Jin Yang (both KLPGA--Korean Women's Open, Himart); Shin Ae Ahn (both KLPGA--Hidden Valley, High1 Resort); Trish Johnson (both LET--Tenerife, France)

My top 3 right now would be Ya Ni Tseng, Ji-Yai Shin, and Ai Miyazato. How about yours?

[Update 1 (12/8/10, 8:36 am): Check out Jason Sobel's case for Ya Ni Tseng--and he doesn't even mention her LET win!]

[Update 2 (12/30/10, 10:45 am): I should note that Inbee Park (Nishijin, Ricoh) also won twice on the JLPGA this season--the 2nd a major!]

Monday, November 15, 2010

One Week Will Decide Who's Had the Best 2010 on the LPGA

In-Kyung Kim's win in Guadalajara helps make clear how "on" she's been since the LPGA Championship, as she became the 8th player this season to join the Million Dollar Club. But she'll need to make it 2 in a row next month in Orlando to decisively join the tour's true elite in 2010. For as great as the bottom 7 on this list's seasons have been, I'm including them here mainly to set off how utterly fantastic the top 6 are.

1. Na Yeon Choi $1.81M (2 wins in 22 starts, 174 Player of the Year points, 69.77 scoring average, 4.28 birdies per round)
2. Ji-Yai Shin $1.78M (2/18 starts, 170, 69.95, 4.00)
3. Ya Ni Tseng $1.56M (3/18, 2 majors, 188, 70.48, 3.85)
4. Suzann Pettersen $1.53M (0/18, 134, 69.92, 3.84)
5. Cristie Kerr $1.51M (2/20, 1 major, 173, 69.86, 4.24)
6. Ai Miyazato $1.45M (5/20, 179, 70.48, 4.03)
7. Song-Hee Kim $1.18M (0/21, 104, 70.07, 3.97)
8. In-Kyung Kim $1.12M (1/20, 116, 70.46, 3.81)
9. Michelle Wie $.89M (1/19, 62, 71.34, 3.56)
10. Paula Creamer $.88M (1/13, 1 major, 78, 70.77, 3.54)
11. Inbee Park $.83M (0/19, 62, 70.83, 3.46)
12. Katherine Hull $.77M (1/23, 66, 71.33, 3.34)
13. Morgan Pressel $.74M (0/22, 40, 70.96, 3.64)

The money-list race is down to the top 2. Can Ji-Yai Shin make it 2 seasons in a row on top or will Na Yeon Choi instead snag the Hall of Fame point at stake in this race?

The Player of the Year race is down to the top 5 in POY points. I wonder how the LPGA would break the tie if Ji-Yai Shin were to win the LPGA Tour Championship and Ya Ni Tseng were to come in 2nd? Or would we have co-POYs? A win by any of the top 4 would earn her the Hall of Fame point at stake in this race. Ai Miyazato is the only one chasing Tseng who could win it with a 2nd-place finish, although she'd need a lot of help from Tseng in that case.

The Vare Trophy race is down to the top 4 players, all of whom have scoring averages under 70. Unless the LPGA fails to waive or reduce its "70 rounds" requirement for eligibility, that is. They should follow Hound Dog's excellent suggestion:

There HAS to be a minimum to prevent somebody with 20 rounds played beating out a player with 80. I'm saying the rule should read something like this: "The minimum number of rounds to qualify will be 2.5 times the number of stroke-play events in that season or 70, whichever number is less." Under that rule, this year's number would be 57.5 (actually 58) and any year with 28 or more stroke-play events would use 70. JNT’s suggestion of 75% of the total rounds is a good one too.

BTW, if the schedule were less than 18 events (less than 19 if more than two were 54-hole events), it would be impossible to reach 70 rounds!

It's not just the number of events on the schedule, however; it's also the number of 3-rounders! The ShopRite, the Safeway, the P&G, Sime Darby, the Hana, and the Mizuno are a significant proportion of the total schedule this year. I'd hate to see someone other than Na Yeon Choi or Cristie Kerr get the lowest scoring average and not win the trophy this season, especially with injuries limiting Ji-Yai Shin's and Suzann Pettersen's playing opportunities.

I've been tracking the birdie rate race since I started doing this series because I think it's the best single indicator of who has the game to win on tour--and to win repeatedly. You have to go back to 2004 and 2006 to find years when there were 4 players averaging 4 or more birdies per round. If Song-Hee Kim gets back on track in Orlando and the other 4 keep making birdies like they have been all season, we'll have 5 in 2010.

Seeing how these 4 season-long races end up may help us figure out who's had the best 2010 in all. But probably not. Consider that 2 of the most consistently excellent performers all year--Suzann Pettersen and Song-Hee Kim--have been unable to get a win. By contrast, the most prolific winners--Ai Miyazato and Ya Ni Tseng--have been the most inconsistent. The trio of 2-time winners--Na Yeon Choi, Ji-Yai Shin, and Cristie Kerr--have the most impressive stats across the board, so maybe it ought to come down to them?

Let's put it this way.
  • If Na Yeon Choi wins the LPGA Tour Championship, she'll sweep all 4 of the LPGA's major season-long races and would certainly get my vote.
  • If Ji-Yai Shin wins and beats Choi badly enough to also overtake her in scoring average as well as winnings, she'd get my vote, as she would have won 3 of the 4 races I've been tracking. Even taking "only" the POY and money-list lead would probably be enough in my book.
  • If Cristie Kerr wins, takes POY, and beats Choi badly enough to take the Vare Trophy and pass her in birdie rate, she'd have won 3 of the 4 season-long races. But if Choi were to hold onto the Vare Trophy and the birdie-rate lead, I'd probably call it a draw between them.
  • If Ya Ni Tseng were to make it 4 wins this year, her 2 majors along with her POY trophy would give her my vote--even if Choi, Shin, or Kerr managed to win 2 or even 3 of the other season-long races.
  • If Ai Miyazato were to join Lorena Ochoa, Annika Sorenstam, and Karrie Webb among active players in the 6-win-season club and take POY in the process, it would be hard to deny her--even if Choi were to win the other 3 races.
So it comes down to these 5 players for Mostly Harmless LPGAer of the Year, with all due apologies to Suzann Pettersen. Even if she were to win and end up with the lowest scoring average on tour in 2010, I couldn't put her ahead of really any of the top 5. Somebody else winning would muddy the waters even further, so that's probably what'll happen....

[Update 1 (9:14 am): Here's a breakdown of the key Hall-of-Fame-points-bearing races from bangkokbobby, complete with charts and photos. He also looks at the tops in top 10 percentage. Highly recommended!]

[Update 2 (11/17/10, 8:18 am): Neat observation by Mike Southern on how highly ranked Suzann Pettersen is despite not winning anywhere in the world since late 2009.]

[Update 3 (8:32 am): Here's LPGA.com's rundown of the key races.]

[Update 4 (6:18 pm): Hound Dog runs through all the POY scenarios. Great job, HD!]

[Update 5 (11/18/10, 8:02 pm): Hound Dog breaks down the race for the Vare Trophy between Na Yeon Choi and Cristie Kerr.]

[Update 6 (11/19/10, 2:58 pm): Here's LPGA.com's breakdown of the money-list showdown between Choi and Shin.]

[Update 7 (3:48 am): And here's The Armchair Golfer with a little suggestion about a name change for the LPGA based on the closeness of all their key races.]

Lorena Ochoa Invitational Sunday: In-Kyung Kim's Got Heart

Soon after posting yesterday's front-9 update of the Lorena Ochoa Invitational, I was at a friend's house watching the finale, blown away that Angela Stanford had posted a tournament-record 63, moved by Ai Miyazato's closing birdie barrage (5 in her last 10 holes to bounce back from going +4 in a 3-hole stretch early on the front), impressed by the tenacity and brilliance of Paula Creamer and Cristie Kerr, floored by Karine Icher's walkoff spin-back side-door eagle (which capped off a bogey-free run of 48 holes and counting!), and psyched that Suzann Pettersen took such a valiant run for her 1st win of the season after doubling the par-4 4th for the 2nd time that week (she went -4 in her last 14 holes, making all 4 birdies in a 6-hole stretch in the middle of her round).

That all their heroics couldn't get them to the winner's circle is due to the absolute virtuosity of In-Kyung Kim, who made 9 birdies and would have tied Stanford's course record except for a 3-putt bogey on the par-3 17th. That her 1st win of the season isn't close to the biggest story of the week is due to Kim's heart. As The Squire mentioned and Brent Kelly and bangkokbobby contextualized, Inky pledged to donate her entire's winner check to charity.

Here's her reasoning, courtesy of LPGA.com:

Well, I've been thinking about this for a long time, all this year if I won a tournament, I really wanted to help the people who need help. And I came to this tournament, I went to Lorena's party and I saw the kids, how she is helping kids with her foundation, and I decided that even though‑‑well, yes, if I win, I will be giving all the money to the people who need help. I had in my mind that I wanted to help American charities that I've been looking for, so I wanted to share this prize money, half to Lorena's foundation and half to an American charity that I was deciding on. So I hope‑‑I feel so grateful that even in here, playing against all of these great players, and I just wanted to share this feeling to other people and I've got a lot of help to becoming this good at golf. I'm fortunate, but people who need help, I hope this money can help a lot‑‑not a lot, but you know, it could help.

Clearly, Lorena Ochoa's influence is felt deeply all over the tour, and particularly by Kim:

I just hope, you know, Lorena has helped the kids for over the years, many years, but this is kind of a start for me. I would love to have my own foundation one day, but I just‑‑not just this week, I want to keep doing good things to the people that need help, not only kids, but also, you know, in the world there are‑‑what's going on in Haiti and all over the world. So it means a lot to me, because now, winning this tournament, I have been able to help other people. I think that's what I like about golf, and you know, it's great that what I can do to other people.

Interesting that she's looking for a U.S. charity that does something like her sponsor Hana Bank's microlending project:

It's kind of a long story, but Hana Bank, who is sponsoring me, and the CEO has Microbank (Smile Microbank Foundation), which is people that they couldn't‑‑able to get a loan from the regular bank because they don't have credit. So the Microbank helps people who are not able to‑‑can't loan them money. So the Microbank helps those people and I got into‑‑every time I made birdie or eagle, I send 90 or hundred bucks for a birdie, I donate every tournament this year, and that's how I got into like looking for charities. So it's not just about money that I have given to, but also it has a great feeling; if I play good and make a lot of birdies, then I can help more people. That's how it kind of started and in the U.S., I was looking for Microbank and maybe another like who needs help, but I haven't decided yet, so I can't really tell which charity yet I'm going to donate. But when I decide who really needs help, then I'll, you know, tell.

Sorry to quote from so much of the interview, but her answer to her closing question gives a great glimpse into Inky's history--and personality:

Q. It sounds to me like you're a person who is really into helping others. Is there any particular story in your life or why are you so interested in helping?
IN‑KYUNG KIM: I never really talked about it before. Before I came to the U.S.‑‑I wanted to come to the U.S. but I know it's tough and my parents are working really hard at the time when I was 16. And we weren't really rich, but it takes a lot of money to send me to the U.S. and go to school and all that, right. But there is one person who helped my parents kind of sending me to the U.S., and if he didn't help my parents, or, you know, if he didn't help me coming to the U.S., I wouldn't really be here, you know what I mean. I was able to educate‑‑learn English‑‑I wish I could speak a bit of Spanish, but not there yet. Maybe I should come here often. Anyways, so at the time, you know, it's like it's all about timing, and everyone needs help. I think education is really an important thing, but also, here in life, I'm sure you have met great people. I have such great people around me and I want to be the one person to gather‑‑who knows, you know, those kids can be somebody else than what they have. I think that's why I'm all about that. Gracias. Tengo hambre!

I recall vividly when Inky jokingly referred to herself as a "punk kid" after one of her previous LPGA victories. Well, now she's one 1 kid who already has become "somebody else than what they have." Well done!

[Update 1 (9:11 am): Here's Hound Dog's final-round overview.]

[Update 2 (9:17 am): Here's Stephanie Wei's take (sweet parenthetical comparison between Petterson and Westwood, Steph!).]

[Update 3 (9:44 am): Here's Inky's live announcement:

Here's Inky hanging out on youtube:

Check out derr2000's latest, too:


[Update 4 (9:54 am): All right, 1 more youtube slideshow:

Song choice is hurting my ears, though.]

[Update 5 (11/16/10, 9:05 am): Here's Hound Dog's epilogue.]

[Update 6 (11:36 am): Here's Shane Bacon's reaction to Inky's generosity.]

[Update 7 (11/19/10, 4:22): Here's Beth Ann Baldry with more details.]

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Lorena Ochoa Invitational Sunday Front 9: In-Kyung Kim's Got Her Putter

In-Kyung Kim just dropped a 30 on the field at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational, finishing the front 9 with 4 birdies in a row to climb to -17 through 63 holes. Despite the heroics of Angela Stanford, who followed up a 31 on the front with an eagle on the par-5 10th (her 4th sub-par hole in a row) and just birdied the par-4 15th to get to -11; despite the charge by Na Yeon Choi that saw her get to -13 with 6 left to play (she was -6 through 11 today); despite the brilliance of Song-Hee Kim (who's birdied 6 of her last 10 holes to join them at -11) and Hee Young Park (who birdied 5 of her 1st 8 holes to beat them there)--despite all that fantastic golf--this is now Inky's tournament to lose. Let's see how she plays the back 9!

[Update 1 (3:14 pm): Ai Miyazato got it to -12 before a double bogey-bogey-bogey stretch early on the front knocked her out of contention. She'll need to follow up her birdie on 9 with a heck of a lot more to have a hope of fulfilling my prediction for her! Too bad she couldn't make it 2 par 5s in a row on the 10th.... But hey, I did just reiterate that Inky is the most likely to win next among those with 2 LPGA victories to their names!]

Ito-En Ladies Sunday: Miki Saiki Goes Wire-to-Wire

Miki Saiki faced a front-9 31 from JLPGA money list leader Sun-Ju Ahn and a late charge from Hiromi Takesue in the final round of the Ito-En Ladies, but she got off to a fast start herself with 4 birdies of her own on the front to keep them at bay and played just well enough on the back to hold off Mie Nakata and Na-Ri Lee and take her 1st title since her rookie season in 2007. Lee failed to make a birdie in her last 6 holes and had to settle for 70 and 3rd place after a walkoff bogey. Nakata fired a bogey-free 67, but despite birdieing both par 5s on the back and pulling within 1 shot of the lead when Saiki bogeyed the long par-3 17th, just couldn't catch the leader on the final hole. Saiki's par secured her 2nd career victory on the JLPGA.

Here's how the leaders and notables ended up:

1st/-10 Miki Saiki (67-70-69)
2nd/-9 Mie Nakata (71-69-67)
3rd/-8 Na-Ri Lee (70-68-70)
T4/-6 Sun-Ju Ahn (71-73-66), Hiromi Takesue (74-68-68)
6th/-5 Mi-Jeong Jeon (72-70-69)
T7/-4 Shiho Oyama (74-68-70), Sakura Yokomine (68-73-71)
9th/-3 Yuki Ichinose (73-72-68)
T10/-2 Eun-A Lim (73-72-69), Bo-Bae Song (72-69-73)

T12/-1 Yukari Baba (74-72-69), Kaori Aoyama (72-73-70), Na-Ri Kim (70-74-71)
T15/E Tamie Durdin (74-73-69), Maiko Wakabayashi (76-70-70), Inbee Park (70-75-71), Mayu Hattori (71-73-72)
T22/+1 So-Hee Kim (74-73-70), Erina Hara (73-70-74)
T26/+2 Teresa Lu (73-73-72), Hyun-Ju Shin (72-74-72), Ayako Uehara (74-68-76), Hiromi Mogi (71-71-76)
T33/+4 Ji-Hee Lee (75-72-73), Momoko Ueda (73-74-73), Chieko Amanuma (72-75-73), Yuri Fudoh (73-73-74)
T38/+5 Chie Arimura (76-73-72), Rui Kitada (74-73-74)
T43/+7 Asako Fujimoto (72-73-78)
T51/+11 Saiki Fujita (76-70-81)

That great final-round charge by Ahn extended her lead over Sakura Yokomine on the JLPGA money list, while Saiki moved all the way from #15 to #6:

1. Sun-Ju Ahn ¥131.44M
2. Sakura Yokomine ¥96.66M
3. Mi-Jeong Jeon ¥84.24M
4. Yukari Baba ¥81.12M
5. Chie Arimura ¥72.72M
6. Miki Saiki ¥62.07M
7. Yuri Fudoh ¥61.75M
8. Saiki Fujita ¥61.74M
9. Akane Iijima ¥58.85M
10. Inbee Park ¥57.04M
11. Rui Kitada ¥55.26M
12. Nikki Campbell ¥53.82M
13. Ji-Hee Lee ¥50.84M
14. Young Kim ¥49.09M
15. Ji-Yai Shin ¥48.68M
16. Mie Nakata ¥45.58M
17. Mayu Hattori ¥44.11M
18. Ayako Uehara ¥41.66M
19. Eun-A Lim ¥41.57M
20. Shinobu Moromizato ¥41.55M
21. Na-Ri Kim ¥40.29M
22. Hyun-Ju Shin ¥35.82M
23. Na-Ri Lee ¥35.32M
24. Hiromi Takesue ¥34.79M
25. Miho Koga ¥34.53M
26. Hiromi Mogi ¥33.58M
27. Asako Fujimoto ¥31.87M
28. Rikako Morita ¥31.42M
29. Bo-Bae Song ¥30.68M
30. Ji-Woo Lee ¥30.60M
31. Akiko Fukushima ¥29.64M
32. Ah-Reum Hwang ¥27.10M
33. Maiko Wakabayashi ¥27.06M
34. Kaori Aoyama ¥26.92M
35. Yun-Jye Wei ¥23.48M
36. Momoko Ueda ¥21.77M
37. Junko Omote ¥21.58M
38. Tamie Durdin ¥21.50M
39. Ritsuko Ryu ¥21.47M
40. Nobuko Kizawa ¥20.77M
41. Chieko Amanuma ¥20.33M
42. Yoshimi Koda ¥19.72M
43. Yui Kawahara ¥19.53M
44. Esther Lee ¥18.64M
45. Yuki Ichinose ¥18.24M

Despite not playing and missing the cut, respectively, Ai Miyazato held steady at #46 and Yuko Mitsuka at #50, but Teresa Lu moved up to #58 and Shiho Oyama to #61. With only the Daio Paper ElleAire Ladies to go before the limited-field season-ending JLPGA-major Ricoh Cup, I'm hoping that Lu is one of the 16 sponsor exemptions into a field next week that is set to include Ji-Yai Shin, Ai Miyazato, Seon Hwa Lee, and Candie Kung in addition to fellow LPGAers Inbee Park and Momoko Ueda and former LPGAer Na-Ri Kim.

[Update 1 (9:26 am): Nice post (with photos!) on the final round from bangkokbobby!]

[Update 2 (11/17/10, 8:21 am): Plus a good overview of key JLPGA performance stats by bangkokbobby.]

Dai-chan Did It! Your Turn Now, Ai-sama!!

Despite flying across the country to Portland, OR, The Full Metal Archivist didn't turn out to be all that much in the inspiration department for Daisuke Takahashi at Skate America, as he got outskated in the short program by rival Nobunari Oda--

--and just, as she put it, "choked 3 jumps" in the free skate, but she was one heck of a good luck charm, after all, as he still got the gold--by less than a point! Guess it makes up for him getting jobbed by the judges at Skate Canada outside Toronto last year when the entire Constructivist family could afford to make the trip together.

No way I'm headed to Guadalajara to support Ai Miyazato in person today at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational, but I'm hoping she realizes she still has a great shot at winning, even if she isn't playing at her absolute best! Gambatte, Ai-sama. How about you show Dai-chan how to finish off a win with style?

[Update 1 (1:20 am): Here's Oda's short program:

Cleaner program and great music, but just not as interesting or expressive a skater as Dai-chan, no? You be the judge!]

[Update 2 (1:36 am): That was quick:

Way to go, Russian TV!]

[Update 3 (2:50 am): The FMA just texted me: "Got 2 autog. of daisuke. Such nice guy. took extra time 4 fans." Mama's bringing home some cool gifts for onechan and imoto. Too bad she'll miss seeing them skate tomorrow at the Fredonia rink!]

[Update 4 (6:44 am): From reading Backstage Barbie's post, it seems like Oda screwed up worse than Dai-chan.]

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Lorena Ochoa Invitational Saturday: Pettersen Falters Down the Stretch, Letting a Dozen Players Back into Contention

Suzann Pettersen had a great chance to run away from the field on moving day at the Lorena Ochoa Invitational. With 5 birdies in her 1st 10 holes and a bogey-free streak of 37 holes and counting, she stood at -14 for the tournament heading into the same back 9 on which she had shot a 30 the previous day. But even though her bogey-free streak made it to 41 holes in all, she bogeyed 2 of her last 4 and didn't make a single birdie down the stretch to finish at -12. It was still good enough for the lead, as Paula Creamer squandered an eagle on the par-5 10th and a birdie on the par-4 11th by going +2 over her last 7 holes to drop back to -10 and none of her other challengers could go super-low. But with 4 people playing great golf only 1 shot behind her, Pettersen has her work cut out for her tomorrow.

Consider what--or rather, who--she's up against. Ai Miyazato, In-Kyung Kim, and Stacy Lewis have not shot a round in the 70s yet this week, while Karine Icher is having a career year and is on a 30-hole-and-counting bogey-free run. A shot behind Creamer at -10 are Karrie Webb, Amy Yang, Azahara Munoz, and Meena Lee. Fortunately for Pettersen, she has a 4-shot lead on Cristie Kerr, a 5-shot lead on Na Yeon Choi, and a 6-shot lead on Song-Hee Kim, but still there are 12 players within 5 shots of her.

Guess which 1 of them has won 5 of the 6 previous times she broke 70 in the 1st round this season? Yup, Ai-sama's 7th 1st round in the 60s of the year bodes well for her chances of denying Pettersen yet again in 2010. Given that she's been in the 60s in her final round 5 of the previous 6 times she was there in the 1st and hasn't gone low since her August win at the Safeway, I'd say she's super-due to make it 6 out of 7 and take her 6th title of the year tomorrow. You heard it here 1st!

[Update 1 (8:57 pm): Oh, boy! Ai-sama, Paula, and Stacy get to put pressure on Suzann from the group ahead of her! In-Kyung and Karine will go head-to-head with Suzann in the final round.]

[Update 2 (9:00 pm): Wow, if Inky, Stacy, or Karrie get their putters going tomorrow or if the rest of the leaders' putters cool off, things could get very interesting. Inky's only missed 6 greens in 3 rounds and Stacy and Karrie are striking the ball almost as solidly....]

[Update 3 (9:27 pm): Here are the notes and interviews from LPGA.com.]

[Update 4 (11/14/10, 4:31 am): bangkokbobby has a great write-up, awesome pictures, and fantastic youtube clips from the 3rd round, so what are you still doing here?]

[Update 5 (9:19 am): Heee-ere's Hound Dog's quick overview of moving day!]

Ito-En Ladies Saturday: Saiki Faces Late Charge from Lee as Yokomine, Ahn, and Park Falter

It was a bad day for the JLPGA's hottest players during the 2nd round of the Ito-En Ladies, as Sakura Yokomine went +2 over her final 12 holes of birdie-less golf to stumble to a 73, Sun-Ju Ahn needed a walkoff birdie to salvage a 73 of her own after triple-bogeying the par-4 11th, Inbee Park needed birdies in 2 of her last 4 holes to salvage a 75 after tripling the par-5 5th and doubling the par-4 10th, and Chie Arimura barely made the cut. With the likes of Akane Iijima, Nikki Campbell, and Yuko Mitsuka missing the cut, Yuri Fudoh, Momoko Ueda, and Ji-Hee Lee unable to get anything going, and big mistakes by others in the hunt (a triple on the par-4 9th by Yoko Inoue, a double on the par-3 17th and a bogey on the par-4 18th by Shiho Oyama, and a late bogey by Bo-Bae Song), there's a great opportunity for some of the lesser-known JLPGAers to step up tomorrow.

Leading the way for the 2nd-straight day is Miki Saiki, who made 3 birdies in her last 14 holes of bogey-free golf to take a 1-shot lead on the charging Na-Ri Lee, who birdied 4 of her last 6 holes to pull within a shot of the lead. Mie Nakata's had a so-so season so far in terms of results (her scoring average is actually the lowest of her career!), but she made 4 birdies in her last 7 holes to reach solo 3rd at 3 back. Will 1 of these 3 players step up tomorrow and take control of the tournament, or will they open the door to the other 8 players within 5 shots of the lead?

Here's where the leaders and notables stand heading into the final round:

1st/-7 Miki Saiki (67-70)
2nd/-6 Na-Ri Lee (70-68)
3rd/-4 Mie Nakata (71-69)
T4/-3 Bo-Bae Song (72-69), Yoko Inoue (72-69), Sakura Yokomine (68-73)
T7/-2 Shiho Oyama (74-68), Ayako Uehara (74-68), Hiromi Takesue (74-68), Mi-Jeong Jeon (72-70), Hiromi Mogi (71-71)

T12/-1 Erina Hara (73-70)
T15/E Sun-Ju Ahn (71-73), Mayu Hattori (71-73), Na-Ri Kim (70-74)
T19/+1 Eun-A Lim (73-72), Kaori Aoyama (72-73), Yuki Ichinose (73-72), Asako Fujimoto (72-73), Inbee Park (70-75)
T28/+2 Saiki Fujita (76-70), Maiko Wakabayashi (76-70), Yukari Baba (74-72), Yuri Fudoh (73-73), Teresa Lu (73-73), Hyun-Ju Shin (72-74)
T36/+3 Ji-Hee Lee (75-72), Rui Kitada (74-73), Tamie Durdin (74-73), So-Hee Kim (74-73), Momoko Ueda (73-74), Chieko Amanuma (72-75)
T48/+5 Chie Arimura (76-73)

MC: Esther Lee (79-71), Akane Iijima (77-73), Harukyo Nomura [a] (78-73), Yun-Jye Wei (77-74), Rikako Morita (75-76), Ji-Woo Lee (76-76), Li-Ying Ye (80-73), Jae-Hee Bae (78-75), Nikki Campbell (74-79), Ah-Reum Hwang (80-76), Yuko Mitsuka (80-78)

Nice to see Erina Hara under par again. Wonder if she or anyone else outside the top 10 has it in them to pull a Rikako Morita and break into the low 60s in the final round? I'd love to see Teresa Lu do it! She needs some great finishes in the JLPGA's home stretch just to keep her card for next season.

[Update 1 (8:25 pm): Wow, not only is bangkokbobby great in the PakPicker at Seoul Sisters.com and a stalwart on mylpga.com, but he's also a great JLPGA blogger. Check out the photos he found from the 2nd round!]

Friday, November 12, 2010

Lorena Ochoa Invitational Friday: Creamer, Pettersen, and 11 Others Blast Past Fading Kerr

1st-round leader Cristie Kerr was cruising through her 1st 30 holes in the Lorena Ochoa Invitational, making 11 birdies against only 2 bogeys, but the wheels came off in her last 6 holes today. 2 double bogeys and a walkoff bogey later and she had followed up yesterday's course-record 64 with a 76 and fallen to -4 overall.

In the meantime, plenty of players were going low. Meena Lee posted a bogey-free 65 to get to -7 overall, where she was joined by 2010 Rookie of the Year Azahara Munoz (67), Karine Icher (whose own 67 was sparked by an eagle on the par-5 10th that helped propel her to a closing 31), and a trio of golfers who broke 70 2 days in a row (Ai Miyazato, In-Kyung Kim, and Katherine Hull). Despite a walkoff bogey that snapped a 78-hole bogey-free run dating back to the Mizuno Classic, Stacy Lewis also broke 70 for the 2nd day in a row to enter the weekend at -8.

But they all were overshadowed by a Suzann Pettersen 65 that brought her to -9 and a Paula Creamer 66 that gave her a 1-shot lead over Pettersen. Like Miyazato in the 1st round, Creamer made 8 birdies, but it was Pettersen's closing 30 that stole the show. Even though the winless Song-Hee Kim fired a bogey-free 67 to climb to -5, it was Pettersen's bid for her own 1st win of 2010 that overshadowed Kerr's virtuosity over her 1st 30 holes.

So already Lorena's invitational has featured thrills and spills--and we haven't even hit moving day yet. Dare we wonder what's in store for us and the players tomorrow?

[Update 1 (11:44 pm): Here are Hound Dog's quick overview and LPGA.com's notes and interviews.]

Ito-En Ladies Friday: Miki Saiki and Sakura Yokomine Alone Under 70

Miki Saiki stayed hot from last week's Mizuno Classic, firing 9 birdies in the 1st round of the Ito-En Ladies for a 67, but ended up with only a 1-stroke lead on Sakura Yokomine, who made 6 birdies of her own. Most other players found birdies harder to come by, however, as nobody else in the field broke 70 and only 12 golfers shot sub-par rounds. Late charges by Na-Ri Kim and Inbee Park brought them within 3 of Saiki, while money-list leader Sun-Ju Ahn stayed within striking distance at 4 back. Teresa Lu, fighting to keep her JLPGA card for 2011, was -3 through her 1st 10 holes, and -2 with 2 to play, but finished bogey-double on the par-4 8th and 9th holes to drop 6 behind with Yuri Fudoh and Momoko Ueda.

Here's how the leaders and notables stand heading into the weekend:

1st/-5 Miki Saiki (67)
2nd/-4 Sakura Yokomine (68)
T3/-2 Inbee Park, Na-Ri Kim, Na-Ri Lee (70)
T6/-1 Sun-Ju Ahn, Mie Nakata, Mayu Hattori, Hiromi Mogi, Yumiko Yoshida, Natsu Nagai, Mikiyo Nishizuka (71)

T13/E Mi-Jeong Jeon, Bo-Bae Song, Hyun-Ju Shin, Asako Fujimoto, Kaori Aoyama, Chieko Amanuma (72)
T22/+1 Yuri Fudoh, Momoko Ueda, Teresa Lu, Eun-A Lim, Erina Hara, Yuki Ichinose (73)
T30/+2 Shiho Oyama, Yukari Baba, Rui Kitada, Nikki Campbell, Ayako Uehara, Hiromi Takesue, Tamie Durdin, So-Hee Kim (74)
T46/+3 Ji-Hee Lee, Rikako Morita (75)
T53/+4 Chie Arimura, Saiki Fujita, Ji-Woo Lee, Maiko Wakabayashi (76)
T62/+5 Akane Iijima, Yun-Jye Wei (77)
T68/+6 Jae-Hee Bae, Harukyo Nomura [a] (78)
T77/+7 Esther Lee (79)
T84/+8 Yuko Mitsuka, Ah-Reum Hwang, Li-Ying Ye (80)
WD Young Kim

As you can see, many players high up the JLPGA money list struggled greatly today. This week is a great opportunity for Yokomine and Ahn to further distinguish themselves from the rest of the JLPGA, for Park to leapfrog a bunch of JLPGA regulars, and for several others to turn good seasons into great ones. Let's see who takes advantage over the next 36 holes!

[Update 1 (3:24 pm): Check out HappyFan on the appeal of the JLPGA to Korean players.]