Sunday, May 11, 2014

Salonpas Cup Sunday: 21-Year-Old Misuzu Narita Outduels Shanshan Feng and Mika Miyazato

21-year-old Misuzu Narita took home her 3rd JLPGA title and 1st major after outduelling Shanshan Feng and Mika Miyazato during the final round of the Salonpas Cup today.

Narita started the day 2 shots behind Feng, but picked up right where she left off, following up on yesterday's bogey-free back-9 31 with a bogey-free front-9 33 to move to -7 for the week.  Going back to the front 9 yesterday, Narita extended her bogey-free run to 24 holes when she birdied the 365-yard par-4 10th hole, her 10th birdie during that run.  When Feng bogeyed the 380-yard 9th hole to offset one of her 2 birdies on the front, Narita had caught and then overtaken the dual LPGA-JLPGA member.  But Narita's brilliance was being overshadowed by another Japanese young gun, one who has made her home on the LPGA from the start of her career.  Mika Miyazato birdied 6 of her 1st 11 holes today to move to -8 from the group ahead of Narita and Feng.  It was reminiscent of earlier runs in the week, such as her 4 birdies in her 1st 12 holes on moving day and her 3 birdies in a row on the back (her front) during an otherwise painful opening day.  Miyazato's problem all week had been sustaining those runs.  She was +3 over her last 10 holes on Thursday, E over her last 8 holes Friday, and +2 over her last 6 holes Saturday.

But Narita had problems of her own with a bogey on the 390-yard par-4 11th.  All of a sudden Miyazato led Narita and Feng by a shot.  But Narita and Feng bounced right back with birdies on the 515-yard par-5 12th that Miyazato had just failed to birdie, and we had a tie at -8 with no one else in sight.  (Yes, Sun-Ju Ahn ended up shooting a 67 to take solo 4th, but she did most of her damage with a bogey-free 31 on the front and stalled on the back.)  Miyazato was the 1st in the field to get to -9 when she birdied the 160-yard par-3 15th, but her 19-hole bogey-free run came to a crashing halt on the very next hole when she bogeyed the 380-yard par-4 16th.  After a par on the 510-yard par-5 17th, her 2nd missed opportunity on an easy back-9 par 5, Mikan came to the 18th hole with a lot of pressure on her, as she must have expected Narita and Feng to birdie that hole and get to -9.  Which is exactly what they did.

So it all came down to the 18th hole.  Miyazato was the 1st to play it, but instead of birdieing the 415-yard par 4 she bogeyed it to finish her day with a 67 that brought her to -7 for the week.  She was going to need a lot of help from both Narita and Feng--in the form of a pair of walkoff doubles--if she was going to make it into a playoff.  Instead, Narita calmly parred it for a 67 of her own, while Feng bogeyed it for her 4th-straight 70.  It was only Feng's 4th bogey of the week, but her inability to finish off either 9 ended up being the difference.  Narita entered the winner's circle for the 3rd year in a row and took home her 1st major title.

So in the end it was a good week for Ahn, who finished 4th at -4, Erina Hara, whose 69-70 finish on the weekend got her into solo 5th at -3, Ha Na Jang and Lala Anai, who finished T6 at -2, and Ai Miyazato, Ayaka Watanabe, Erika Kikuchi, and Yeo-Jin Kang, who finished T8 at -1.  But it was Narita's 66-67 weekend that brought home the gold.

And the ¥24M she won brought her to the top of the JLPGA money list:

1. Misuzu Narita ¥38.59M
2. Bo-Mee Lee ¥34.63M
3. Sun-Ju Ahn ¥33.73M
4. Onnarin Sattayabanphot ¥32.15M

5. Erina Hara ¥31.67M
6. Ayaka Watanabe ¥31.58M
7. Yuki Ichinose ¥30.38M
8. Rikako Morita ¥25.21M
9. Esther Lee ¥24.89M
10. Miki Sakai ¥21.91M
11. Phoebe Yao ¥20.69M
12. Ritsuko Ryu ¥18.55M
13. Mamiko Higa ¥15.61M
14. Ji-Yai Shin ¥15.60M
15. Ji-Hee Lee ¥15.29M
16. Mami Fukuda ¥15.23M
17. Saiki Fujita ¥13.74M
18. Asako Fujimoto ¥12.76M
19. Yukari Baba ¥12.13M
20. Yumiko Yoshida ¥12.03M
21. Shanshan Feng ¥12.00M
22. Teresa Lu ¥11.85M
23. Mi-Jeong Jeon ¥10.92M
24. Lala Anai ¥10.91M
25. Mayu Hattori ¥9.73M
26. Rui Kitada ¥9.36M
27. Junko Omote ¥7.92M
28. Airi Saitoh ¥7.90M
29. Bo-Bae Song ¥7.73M
30. Na-Ri Kim ¥7.62M

Mika Miyazato would have debuted at #27 this week, but she's never been a JLPGA member.  Ai Miyazato, a life member, debuts at #75.  Narita, meanwhile, has her 6th top 20 in her last 7 starts, her 3rd top 10 in her last 4 starts, and her 2nd top 2 in her last 3 starts.  With almost everyone else in the top 30 cooling off a bit, she has to wait and see if anyone will leapfrog her at the Hoken No Madoguchi Ladies next week.  With Shanshan Feng, Ji-Yai Shin, Sun-Ju Ahn, Mi-Jeong Jeon, Sakura Yokomine, Rikako Morita, Bo-Mee Lee, Ji-Hee Lee, Shiho Oyama, and Momoko Ueda the biggest names in the field, the tournament will not lack for star power.  But Narita will be sitting this one out.  Let's see who makes a move on her!

[Update 1 (7:29 am):  In my excitement about the dramatic finish, I forgot to mention that teenage amateurs Minjee Lee and Minami Katsu both closed with under-par rounds.  Lee's 69 brought her to T16 at +1 with Anna Nordqvist and Katsu's 71 to T33 at +5 with Yuri Fudoh and Momoko Ueda.]

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