Sunday, May 4, 2014

CyberAgent Ladies Sunday: Yuki Ichinose's Walkoff Eagle Earns Her Her 3rd JLPGA Title (and 2nd of 2014)

Yuki Ichinose fired a bogey-free 33 on the back 9 of the CyberAgent Ladies to blow by former world #1 Ji-Yai Shin and teenagers Haruka Morita and Kotone Hori and secure her 2nd JLPGA victory of 2014 and 3rd of her career.  Ichinose benefitted from the problems of her closest competitors, to be sure, but she also made an eagle on the 18th hole to knock them out of contention for good.

Shin had passed her playing partners Morita and Hori when they both bogeyed the 2nd hole and she birdied it, but they rejoined her at -8 with birdies on the par-3 4th.  Things quickly went downhill for Hori and Shin, though, as the former bogeyed the par-5 5th, doubled the par-5 9th, and bogeyed the par-4 10th, while the latter bogeyed 3 of 4 holes as she made the turn.  Meanwhile, Morita bogeyed the par-3 7th to fall back to -7 but stayed there until she birdied the par-4 11th.  With Shin 3 shots back and Ichinose 2 down after a 2-birdie, 2-bogey front 9, the 17-year-old seemed to have the tournament in hand.

But then Morita bogeyed the next 2 holes in a row, while Ichinose birdied 12 and Shin 12 and 14 to throw the tournament back up in the air.  Even 22-year-old Kotono Kozuna, who had made 3 birdies and 2 bogeys in her 1st 13 holes, was suddenly in the mix at -6--though not for long, as she bogeyed 15 and doubled 16.  Shin, too, faltered down the stretch with a bogey on the par-4 17th.  That left Ichinose with a 1-shot lead on Morita as she hit her approach shot on the 475-yard par-5 18th with Morita waiting on the tee.  I don't know the details, but Ichinose ended up eagling the hole and forcing Morita to make an albatross to force a playoff.  The amateur did birdie 18 to secure solo 2nd, but the victory was Ichinose's.

Only 4 other players--Ha-Neul Kim (who matched Ichinose's 69 for low round of the day), Na-Ri Kim, Lala Anai, and Misuzu Narita--managed to break par today, while defending champion Sakura Yokomine plunged down the leaderboard with a 78 and big names like Sun-Ju Ahn, Bo-Mee Lee, and Mi-Jeong Jeon fell out of the top 20 with 75s.  Japanese youngsters like Mamiko Higa and Ai Suzuki also had tough days, as their 75s pushed them out of the top 15.  So Ichinose's winning round was actually quite impressive.

It's funny, because it's been either feast or famine for Ichinose in 2014.  After winning the 2nd JLPGA tournament of the year over Haruka Morita and 22-year-old Miki Sakai (I guess the 25-year-old rises to the occasion when she has a chance to beat up on younger golfers), she proceeded to miss the top 35 in her next 6 starts.  In fact, Ichinose's opening 68 this week was only her 2nd sub-70 round of the year and her 1st since her winning 67 on a Sunday nearly 2 months ago--and today's 69 was only her 3rd round in the 60s all season.  Despite that inconsistency, Ichinose is now #3 on the JLPGA money list:

1. Bo-Mee Lee ¥33.72M
2. Onnarin Sattayabanphot ¥32.15M

3. Yuki Ichinose ¥29.16M
4. Ayaka Watanabe ¥29.07M
5. Sun-Ju Ahn ¥26.53M
6. Erina Hara ¥25.67M
7. Rikako Morita ¥25.21M
8. Esther Lee ¥24.27M
9. Miki Sakai ¥20.11M
10. Phoebe Yao ¥18.89M
11. Ritsuko Ryu ¥18.55M
12. Ji-Yai Shin ¥15.60M
13. Ji-Hee Lee ¥14.91M
14. Mami Fukuda ¥14.85M
15. Mamiko Higa ¥14.70M
16. Misuzu Narita ¥14.59M
17. Saiki Fujita ¥12.53M
18. Asako Fujimoto ¥11.95M
19. Yumiko Yoshida ¥11.58M
20. Yukari Baba ¥11.51M
21. Teresa Lu ¥10.94M
22. Mi-Jeong Jeon ¥10.40M
23. Rui Kitada ¥8.45M
24. Mayu Hattori ¥7.93M
25. Junko Omote ¥7.92M

So there are a lot of wounded golfers heading into the JLPGA's 1st major of 2014, the Salonpas Cup.  It'll be interesting to see if the visiting Anna Nordqvist or the returning Shanshan Feng can take advantage of the uneven play of the JLPGA's finest thus far in 2014--or if Ai Miyazato and Mika Miyazato can find their games back home in Japan!

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