Sunday, May 25, 2014

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!

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