Sunday, October 5, 2014

Japan Women's Open Sunday: Can 20-Year-Old Ai Suzuki Win Her 2nd JLPGA Major in a Row? Can Ji-Yai Shin Win for the 5th Time in her Last 10 Starts?

Let's take a look at the players with the best shot of winning the Japan Women's Open today before I jump into not-quite-live-blogging the final round!

  • Ai Suzuki (-8):  The 20-year-old won the Konica Minolta Cup almost out of nowhere, defeating Ji-Yai Shin, one of the hottest players in the world of women's golf, in the process.
  • Yun-Jye Wei (-8):  She has 4 JLPGA victories in her 14-year career on tour, but none since 2010.  She finished in the top 10 of the money list twice and top 30 7 times in her 1st 8 years on tour, but hasn't cracked the top 35 since and has only 1 top 10 in her 22 previous starts this season.
  • Ji-Yai Shin (-6):  With 4 wins in her 9 previous starts, and history on the KLPGA and LPGA as well as on the JLPGA (where she already has 9 victories) to draw on, she may well be the favorite today.
  • Ah-Reum Hwang (-5):  The 26-year-old journeywoman got a top 10 at the Konica Minolta Cup in a reduced schedule this season, but has never cracked the top 20 on the JLPGA money list in her 6 previous full seasons on tour, even when she got her lone win in 2009.
  • Hiroko Azuma (-5):  The 22-year-old tied her best career finish in tour with a T5 at the Samantha Thavasa Ladies this July, but has done very little of note before or after that week in 2014.  Here's the 1st-round leader's chance.
  • Sun-Ju Ahn (-4):  This 2-time money-list title-holder picked up her 16th JLPGA victory back in June, but has since been overshadowed by Bo-Mee Lee and Ji-Yai Shin.
  • Mi-Jeong Jeon (-4):  This 22-time JLPGA winner hasn't been quite the same golfer since winning the money-list title in 2012, with only 5 top 10s thus far this season, but she's always a threat.
  • Na-Ri Lee (-4):  She's coming off 4 top 6s in a row and counting during a time of the season where she won twice last year for her only JLPGA victories during her now 7 years on tour.
  • Erika Kikuchi (-4):  This 26-year-old is looking to improve on her 1st-ever top-20 finish on the JLPGA money list last season, her 5th full one on tour, and snatch her 1st victory away from players with much longer resumes.
  • Kana Nagai (-4):  The 17-year-old amateur is ranked #60 in the Women's WAGR and finished 7th at this year's Callaway Junior World Golf Championships in her age division.
  • Mika Miyazato (-3):  She's won the JWO twice before, but is going to have to bounce back from a front-9 39 on moving day in a big way to make it a hat trick this year.
  • Chie Arimura (-3):  This 13-time JLPGA winner has had a tough 2 years on the LPGA and will have to decide if she wants to go to Q-School again to try to improve her status after finishing outside the top 100 on the money list.  After sharing the lead here at the halfway point, she fell off the pace with a back-9 39 yesterday.
  • Teresa Lu (-3):  She decided against a return to the LPGA after winning the Mizuno Classic last year and followed it up with her 2nd JLPGA title to start June.  At #7 on the money list this season, she's aiming for the top today!
It's looking like Bo-Mee Lee (this year's money-list leader) and Rikako Morita (last year's) are too far back to contend today (they start the day at -1 and E, respectively), but Shiho Oyama and Yumiko Yoshida were only 6 down at the start of play.  So let's check in on the action!

[Update 1 (12:36 am):  Teresa Lu has birdied 6 of her 1st 11 holes to move to -9 and take a 1-shot lead on Yun-Jye Wei.  Pretty much everyone besides Na-Ri Lee at -6 has moved backwards today.  Ai Suzuki is +2 through 9, Ji-Yai Shin is +2 through 10, and Mika Miyazato is +2 through 13, for example.]

[Update 2 (12:38 am):  Kana Nagai is one of the few to move up the leaderboard, with an eagle on the par-4 4th and a bounceback birdie on the par-5 10th to join Lee at -6.]

[Update 3 (12:40 am):  Right now there are 7 players chasing Lu who are within 5 shots of her lead.  Sun-Ju Ahn and Ah-Reum Hwang round out that group, but both are only -4.]

[Update 4 (1:01 am):  Lu gave everyone chasing her some hope with a bogey on the par-4 14th that dropped her to -8, but Wei bogeyed 10 and 11 (her 2nd back-to-back bogey run of the day) to fall to -7.  Lee, Suzuki, and Nagai are only 2 down now.]

[Update 5 (1:06 am):  Sorry, Wei's bogey on 11 put her at -6.  Lee birdied the par-3 13th to follow up on her birdies on 8 and 9 to pull within 1 of the lead.]

[Update 6 (1:09 am):  Suzuki's now 3 back after making her 4th bogey of the day, this one on the par-4 11th.]

[Update 7 (1:11 am):  Rikako Morita shot her 2nd-straight 70 on the weekend to finish at -2.  Both rounds included bogeys on the par-4 18th, or she would have done even better.]

[Update 8 (1:13 am):  Erina Hara also finished her week 70-70 and ended up at -1.  She eagled the 1st today and parred out.]

[Update 9 (1:17 am):  Out-of-it files:  Yumiko Yoshida is +6 today through 17, Mi-Jeong Jeon is +4 through 16, Mika Miyazato is +3 through 16, Chie Arimura is +2 through 17, Hiroko Azuma is +3 through 14, Ji-Yai Shin is +3 through 13, Ai Suzuki is +4 through 14.  Bo-Mee Lee's 72 leaves her tied with Hara at -1.]

[Update 10 (1:21 am):  Oyama's 3-birdie 71 makes her the new leader in the clubhouse at -3.]

[Update 11 (1:22 am):  Lu parred 15, 16, and 17.  Lee parred 14 and 15.  The lead remains 1.]

[Update 12 (1:28 am):  Wei has now bogeyed 3 of her last 4 holes to drop back to -5.  Nagai has made 6-straight pars after that birdie on 10 got her to -6.  She needs to make a couple of birdies coming home to catch Lu, it looks like.]

[Update 13 (1:37 am):  Lu is in with a 6-birdie 67 that makes her the new leader in the clubhouse at -8.  Now everyone else knows what they need to shoot to catch or pass her!]

[Update 14 (1:42 am):  Tough weekend for Mikan (74-77) makes this one of those tease JWOs for her.  Too bad!]

[Update 15 (1:43 am):  Lee failed to birdie the par-5 16th.  She's 1 down with 2 to play.]

[Update 16 (1:44 am):  Nagai parred the par-3 17th, so she needs an eagle on the par-4 18th to force a playoff.]

[Update 17 (1:52 am):  Wow, Lee birdied 17 to join Lu at -8!]

[Update 18 (2:00 am):  69-71-72-70 by Nagai leaves her alone in 3rd.  What a great week for the amateur!  She ended up 1 shot ahead of Sun-Ju Ahn, who birdied the 18th for a 71.]

[Update 19 (2:02 am):  Erika Kikuchi won't be happy about the 4 bogeys she made each day on the weekend, but she made enough birdies in the 2nd half of the tournament to finish at -3, tied with Oyama right now for 8th.]

[Update 20 (2:04 am):  Arimura's 75-74 finish on the weekend sums up her 2014.]

[Update 21 (2:07 am):  OMG!  Lee bogeys 18 to all but hand the title to Lu!]

[Update 22 (2:08 am):  Man, that was Lee's 1st bogey of the day and 1st in her previous 26 holes.  What a terrible time for it!]

[Update 23 (2:10 am):  Wei and Suzuki need to finish eagle-eagle to force a playoff.  Looks like Lu's 3rd JLPGA victory will be her 1st major!!!!]

[Update 24 (2:15 am):  No hole in 1s for Wei or Suzuki.  Lu wins!]

[Update 25 (3:51 am):  Here's the JLPGA's hole-by-hole leaderboard/grid!  I'll have the money-list update after I get up--and even longer after the LPGA's China event is over!]

No comments: