Saturday, March 8, 2014

World Ladies Championship Saturday: World #1 Inbee Park Catches #2 Suzann Pettersen at -18 with 62

OK, I'm a huge JLPGA fan and still believe it's the 2nd-best women's professional tour, behind the LPGA and ahead of the KLPGA and LET.  And I'm definitely excited about the possibilities in their season-opener's closing round tomorrow, as I just finished explaining.  But even I have to admit that the LET's World Ladies Championship over at Mission Hills in Hainan, China, is blowing the Daikin Orchid Ladies away this week.

Let me count the ways:

  • World #2 Suzann Pettersen has been playing great golf, going 67-68-66 to move to -18 and lead the Melee at Mission Hills every day of the tournament.  Thus far, I should say.  Because world #1 Inbee Park just shot an 11-under-par 62 to join her at the top of the leaderboard.  I'd say the highlight of her round was the 6 birdies in a row that she made between holes 9 and 14, but that would be downplaying her 5 other birdies, 3 before and 2 after the train.  Pettersen needed a bogey-free 32 on the back to avoid getting blown away, as Park opened with a 32 and closed with a 30!  So a showdown between the top 2 players in the world definitely trumps a showdown between the top 2 players on the JLPGA from last season.  Throw in #5 So Yeon Ryu (70, -12) and there are brighter stars playing better on the LET than on the JLPGA this week (yes, Ji-Yai Shin, Mika Miyazato, and Sun-Ju Ahn are within striking distance of the lead in Okinawa)--even if #7 Shanshan Feng is stuck at T18 after a 69 brought her only to -6 in her home country.
  • You like young guns?  The World Ladies Championship's got young guns galore.  Sure, Rikako Morita, Mamiko Higa, Ayaka Watanabe, and Kumiko Kaneda have some name recognition in Japan, but if by some chance you haven't yet heard of Ariya Jutanugarn (67, -13), In Gee Chun (68, -11), Minjee Lee (69, -11), or Ha Na Jang (69, -8), you'll know who they are after tomorrow's round.
  • How about lesser-known players trying to make a name for themselves this week?  Ye Na Chung (68, -14), Joanna Klatten (66, -10), Amelia Lewis (67, -10), and Holly Clyburn (64, -7) are playing great golf this week.  Clyburn's bogey-free round would have headlined almost any other round in any season, after all.  How well do Onnarin Sattayabanphot, Airi Saitoh, and Esther Lee stack up against them?  Pretty well, but when you consider that Chung has the best chance of anyone in Mission Hills to headhunt the world #1 and #2 tomorrow, well....
  • How about complete unknowns trying to play Cinderella?  Taiwan's Yi Chen Liu (67, -11) may not have much of a chance to actually win this thing, but she's certainly in the running for a top-3 finish!  15-year-old Okinawan Hina Arakaki may be closer to the lead and more likely to repeat as low amateur in the Daikin Orchid Ladies (the only other one to make the cut, 17-year-old Anri Iha, is 3 shots behind her), but I've got to give the nod to Liu for hanging with the big girls double digits under par thus far, even if only those from China would consider her to be playing in her home country this week!
  • Plus, the World Ladies Championship has a team element, which Korea is going to win once more.  But the U.S., France, China, and Thailand are in a real race for 2nd.
Probably the best chance the JLPGA has to grab some headlines is if former world #1 Ji-Yai Shin were to come from 3 behind tomorrow and put her name firmly in the running for the last spot on Team Korea at the LPGA's International Crown.  But if Ha Na Jang plays well enough to pass In-Kyung Kim in the Rolex Rankings, even a Shin win would most likely play second fiddle.  And while Shin's 6th JLPGA victory and 1st since 2010 would be the main story out of Okinawa, Jang is only one subplot of many coming out of Mission Hills.  There's just no beating a Park-Pettersen shootout!

So, yeah, I'll keep waving my Japanese flag over here at Mostly Harmless, but this week the JLPGA's finest are definitely getting overshadowed--and rightly so!


Colin N.Z said...

The last three hours of the World Ladies Championship at Mission Hills can been seen live streaming on the LET's You Tube.
More than just prize money up for grabs at these tournaments over the next two weeks as the players look to defend or improve their International Crown position. Bruce does Minjee Lee qualify or a mathematical chance to make the Australian team? Certainly playing better than any of the others outside of Karrie Webb. Just hope no one involved in this tournament had relatives aboard Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 which has gone missing which was the main news coming out of China last night. Really can't see Inbee losing this one from here.

The Constructivist said...

I don't know if amateurs are eligible for the Intl Crown, Colin. Thanks for the link. Thoughts with everyone affected by the tragedy.

Mike said...

I would think amateurs are eligible. After all, the teams are picked from the Rolex Rankings and I can't find anything in the qualifications at that says they can't:

"Each of the countries will be represented by four players based on the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings announced on Monday March 31st at the Kraft Nabisco Championship."

Perhaps they didn't expect that to happen, so they didn't think to include "must be a pro" in the qualifications. Could be interesting if Minjee Lee manages to get high enough in the Rolex since Lee is currently ranked 133 and is from Australia, while Lindsey Wright at 127 holds the last spot.

The Constructivist said...

Nothing against Wright, but I'd much rather see Lee on the team!