Recommended Reading: On Inbee Park’s 3rd LPGA Victory of 2014

So once again I was unable to watch any LPGA that I DVRed this past week, due to work responsibilities reaching a white-hot pitch, imoto’s interest in catching up on past seasons of Once Upon a Time, and my own interest in seeing Primus play live for what may well turn out to be the only time in my life.

As a result, I’m going to recommend some other people’s writing on Inbee Park’s victory at the Fubon LPGA Taiwan Championship by 2 shots over Stacy Lewis:  Centurion‘s post over at LLLLet’s Golf!,  LPGA.com‘s notes and interviews, the AP‘s game story, Ladies on Tour‘s summary, Elizabeth Bethel‘s post over at ProGolfNow/Fansided, and Rick Woelfel‘s post over at Women’s Golf Center….

Enjoy!

So Now Who Do You Think Has Had the Best 2014 in Women’s Professional Golf? And Will?

So far, the title for best 2014 in women’s golf is down to 8 golfers.  Each has at least 3 worldwide wins on major women’s professional tours.  As impressive as Stacy Lewis has been, her difficulty in sealing the deal has opened the door to some golfers who have been racking up wins of late.  Still, Stacy’s still my #1 candidate:

Of course, a lot can happen down the home stretch, with 6 JLPGA, 5 LPGA and 5 KLPGA, and 4 LET events left to go before the year is out.  Maybe someone will leave all these players in the dust if she really heats up as the temperatures continue to go down.

In a nutshell, the best of the best women golfers in the world have not yet begun to fight!  Who do you think will prevail in the end?

Farewell, Dai-chan: Daisuke Takahashi Retires from Competitive Figure Skating

The Constructivist household is in mourning for the retirement of Daisuke Takahashi from competitive figure skating.  Ever since we found out, I’ve been asking the Full Metal Archivist to write something celebrating his career, but she’s still dealing with the shock of the news and is just too sad to put her feelings into words.  What she has told me has been poetic:  “he flirted with the music, seduced audiences, and challenged judges…he was a shaman on the ice.”  So I’ll just point you too her April 2010 “Luv Letter” for now.  More on his legacy later!

Reignwood LPGA Classic Sunday: Can Stacy Lewis Do It?

Reignwood LPGA Classic Friday: Stacy Lewis to Field, "Catch Me If You Can!"

There are a lot of female golfers having great seasons, but Stacy Lewis is doing it on the biggest stage against the toughest competition while playing the most consistently excellent golf.  She didn’t have a particularly great ball-striking day by her standards yesterday to kick off the Reignwood LPGA Classic, but took only 24 putts on her way to a bogey-free 66.  Today, she responded to an opening bogey with 6 birdies the rest of the way, including 3 in her last 6 holes, to move to -12 and dare the field to catch her.

So far only Brittany Lang has really responded to Lewis’s challenge.  Her bogey-free 66 crammed 7 birdies into her last 12 holes.  It’s that kind of burst that’s required to keep up with the world #1 these days, and yet Lang is still 2 back at the halfway point.  Speaking of bursts, Suzann Pettersen birdied 4 of her last 5 holes to post a bogey-free 66 of her own and move within 6 of Lewis after a forgettable 1st day.  We’ll have to see if LPGA newbies Caroline Masson (7-birdie 68) and Mirim Lee (bogey-free 68) can keep the pedal to the metal; they moved within 4 of the lead, catching Caroline Hedwall (4-birdie 71) and Belen Mozo (5-birdie 69) at -8.  Meanwhile, So Yeon Ryu finally woke up, with 5 birdies in her last 13 holes and 3 in her last 4, but she’s 7 off the pace, as are Inbee Park and Chella Choi, while Mi Jung Hur (-2), Ya Ni Tseng (-2), Na Yeon Choi (E), and defending champion Shanshan Feng (E) are even further behind.

So huge advantage to Lewis heading into the weekend in Beijing.  She’s got a big lead on the biggest names chasing her while putting the pressure on those closest to her.  I don’t see any reason she won’t continue making at least 5 birdies a round.  She hasn’t missed a fairway all week, she has taken only 51 putts in 36 holes, and she’s talking like she has history in her sights.  A solid weekend allows her to extend her lead on the money list and in the Player of the Year race and Race to the CME Globe.  The time is certainly ripe for Lewis to rack up even more Hall of Fame points.  Can anyone stop her?

LPGA Hall of Fame Watch, September 2014 Edition

I usually wait till Thanksgiving and the end of the LPGA season to revisit an old Hound Dog LPGA question:  who will be the next player to qualify for the LPGA Hall of Fame?  But given how well the top golfers on tour have been playing, and how much is at stake during the tour’s 2nd Asian Swing and beyond, I figured I’d review where everyone with at least a halfway decent chance of making the Hall stands right now.

Here are the criteria from LPGA.com:

  1. Must be/have been an “active” LPGA Tour member for 10 years;
  2. Must have won/been awarded at least one of the following – an LPGA major championship, the Vare Trophy or Rolex Player of the Year honors; and
  3. Must have accumulated a total of 27 points, which are awarded as follows – one point for each LPGA official tournament win, two points for each LPGA major tournament win and one point for each Vare Trophy or Rolex Player of the Year honor earned.

Check out how quickly Lorena Ochoa qualified in points in Hound Dog’s follow-up post–although he couldn’t have predicted then that she’d retire so soon, before actually meeting criterion #1!  So assuming Laura Davies and Ochoa will either play their way in or be voted in, who are the top candidates for entry right now?  

Check me on this, but here’s how I believe the points breakdown stands right now:

1. Ya Ni Tseng (23)
T2. Inbee Park (18)
T2. Cristie Kerr (18)
4. Suzann Pettersen (16)
5. Stacy Lewis (14)
6. Ji-Yai Shin (13)
7. Paula Creamer (11)
T8. Na Yeon Choi (9)
T8. Ai Miyazato (9) [the only one on this list who doesn’t meet criterion #2]

I’m going to go out on a limb here and officially doubt that Kerr will make it to 27 points.  And given how Shin, Choi, and Miyazato have stalled, it’s difficult to have much confidence that Park, Pettersen, or Lewis will catch Tseng very quickly–although given how well Pettersen has played in Asia in her career and how hot Park and Lewis are, who knows?  Tseng, meanwhile, needs to take a deep breath, realize that everyone runs into rough patches in a golf career, refocus, and learn to crawl again before she tries to run.

In short, everyone on this list has made a name for themselves, but it takes more than that to make history.  With so many 1st-time major winners this season, the only points that are left besides wins are for Player of the Year and for the Vare Trophy (for lowest scoring average).  Right now, Lewis has sizeable leads in both races.  Let’s see if she can lock them up in the next 2 months!

Evian Championship Sunday: Hyo Joo Kim Beats Karrie Webb on 72nd Hole on Network TV…and I Miss It!

Hyo Joo Kim looked to be in control of the Evian Championship for much of the final round, despite charges by Na Yeon Choi and Ha Na Jang, and an eagle-par-birdie run by Mi Jung Hur, but right about the time Golf Channel coverage switched over to NBC, things changed dramatically.  Even as Karrie Webb‘s birdie barrage in the middle of her round–5 birdies between the 9th and 15th holes that got the LPGA legend to -11–put the pressure on the 19-year-old KLPGA superstar, Kim bogeyed both par 3s on the back to drop from -12 to -10.  And even as Choi, Jang, and Hur faltered down the stretch, the tournament came down to the 72nd hole.

Not that I got to see any of it.  I was behind on my DVRed Golf Channel coverage and only found out about the switch to network tv a half-hour after its coverage had ended.  So I didn’t get to see how Kim stuck her approach on the final hole and sank her 12-foot birdie attempt while Webb’s approach failed to fade and she failed to get up and down from the fringe to force a playoff.  I didn’t get to see the look on Webb’s face down the home stretch as she was trying to become the 1st golfer to ever win 6 different major championships.  I didn’t get to see Kim’s body language as she was trying to become the 3rd youngest winner of an LPGA major.  At least I’ll have highlights–some time.

But on a day the Buffalo Bills went 2-0 and my entire neighborhood was cheerful, I spent most of the afternoon annoyed at myself that I never double-checked LPGA.com or my tv listings.  That’s what I get for purposely staying off the web (after posting on 20-year-old Ai Suzuki‘s record-breaking major victory on the JLPGA, that is!) so that I could savor the final-round drama!

Konica Minolta Cup Sunday: 20-Year-Old Ai Suzuki Becomes Youngest Major Winner on JLPGA

20-year-old Ai Suzuki made her 1st career top 10 on the JLPGA a major victory as she held off Ji-Yai Shin, Misuzu Narita, Na-Ri Lee, and Lala Anai down the stretch to break Ai Miyazato’s record and become the youngest winner of the Konica Minolta Cup.

The 1st player to put pressure on the youngster was Lee, who birdied 6 of her 1st 10 holes from 3 groups ahead of Suzuki, Momoko Ueda, and Kaori Ohe to move to -5 for the week.  But Suzuki responded with 4 birdies of her own in her 1st 7 holes to fight back to -7 with 10 holes left in the tournament.  In the group ahead of her Shin and Narita were playing catch-up, however, as Narita fired a bogey-free 33 to move to -5 and Shin also birdied 4 of her 1st 7 holes to also get to -5.  But a double on 9 knocked the former world #1 back on her heels.  Even though a bogey from Suzuki a few minutes later that forced her to settle for an opening 34 dropped her back to -6, it was enough to extend her lead on her playing partners, as Ueda’s 36 and Ohe’s 37 left them at -3 with 9 to play.

When Suzuki made 6-straight pars to start the back, she put the pressure on her pursuers to chase her down, and most of them couldn’t handle it.  Ohe bogeyed 2 of her 1st 4 holes on the back and was out of it.  Ueda ended up shooting a birdieless 38 on the back.  Narita bogeyed the long par-4 13th to drop to -4.  Lee even bogeyed the medium-length par-4 14th to join her.  But Anai, playing from 2 groups ahead of Suzuki, birdied 3 of her 1st 7 holes on the back to catch them at -4.  As Lee and Anai parred in to become leaders in the clubhouse at -4, that’s when things got really interesting.

And Shin was at the heart of things.  She birdied the par-5 16th to make it 4 players at -4.  Even as she bogeyed the par-3 17th, Suzuki bogeyed the 16th to drop to -5.  And then, as Narita made her 3rd-straight closing par and Shin birdied the long par-4 18th to also finish at -4, Suziki birdied 17 to take a 2-shot lead on her pursuers into the final hole.  And it was a good thing she had that cushion, as she bogeyed 18 to finish at -5, just barely good enough to secure the victory over the #3 and #4 players on the JLPGA money list.

Speaking of which, with Bo-Mee Lee withdrawing during the 3rd round and Sun-Ju Ahn sitting this week out, the race for that title just tightened up!

1. Bo-Mee Lee ¥104.86M
2. Sun-Ju Ahn ¥90.51M
3. Misuzu Narita ¥84.53M
4. Ji-Yai Shin ¥78.13M
5. Miki Sakai ¥61.77M
6. Erina Hara ¥50.65M
7. Teresa Lu ¥47.34M
8. Esther Lee ¥47.34M
9. Lala Anai ¥45.89M
10. Ayaka Watanabe ¥44.68M
11. Shiho Oyama ¥44.61M
12. Onnarin Sattayabanphot ¥41.96M
13. Na-Ri Lee ¥40.80M
14. Ritsuko Ryu ¥38.04M
15. Rikako Morita ¥37.79M
16. Momoko Ueda ¥35.37M
17. Mi-Jeong Jeon ¥34.88M
18. Ai Suzuki ¥32.37M
19. Saiki Fujita ¥32.23M
20. Yuki Ichinose ¥31.61M
21. Ji-Hee Lee ¥30.91M

22. Phoebe Yao ¥28.43M
23. Mayu Hattori ¥27.93M
24. Kaori Ohe ¥27.12M
25. Hikari Fujita ¥26.31M
26. Yumiko Yoshida ¥25.47M
27. Asako Fujimoto ¥23.09M
28. Junko Omote ¥22.30M
29. Yeon-Ju Jung ¥22.24M
30. Yukari Baba ¥22.10M
31. Kotono Kozuma ¥22.00M
32. Sakura Yokomine ¥21.82M
33. Rumi Yoshiba ¥21.72M
34. Erika Kikuchi ¥21.69M
35. Megumi Kido ¥21.42M
36. Mami Fukuda ¥21.37M
37. Mamiko Higa ¥20.45M
38. Shanshan Feng ¥20.04M
39. Soo-Yun Kang ¥19.26M
40. Natsuka Hori ¥19.24M
41. Akane Iijima ¥18.36M
42. Miki Saiki ¥17.06M
43. Na-Ri Kim ¥16.64M
44. Eun-Bi Jang ¥15.24M
45. Megumi Shimokawa ¥14.65M
46. Yukari Nishiyama ¥14.43M
47. Yuri Fudoh ¥14.29M
48. Da-Ye Na ¥13.99M
49. Nana Yamashiro ¥13.92M
50. Rui Kitada ¥13.35M

Next up is the Munsingwear Yokai Ladies Classic, where Sakura Yokomine secured her 20th career JLPGA victory last year.  All the top players on tour are on the most current field list, so expect tensions to be high as the tour enters its final 3rd of the season!

[Update 1 (11:45 am):  Ai Ai bangkokbobby‘s Ai to Ai pun on Ai breaking Ai’s record!  (Ai means love).]

Checking in on the Evian Championship and Konica Minolta Cup

No time to go into depth now, but there are 2 big stories coming out of the Evian Championship and a brewing showdown in the Konica Minolta Cup.

Over in France, KLPGA superstar Hyo Joo Kim fired a bogey-free 61 to take a 4-shot lead on Karrie Webb, a 5-shot lead on Mi Jung Hur, and a 6-shot lead on Brittany Lincicome and Suzann Pettersen, who birdied her last 5 holes in a row to keep her hope of defending her title alive.  The other big story is less encouraging, however, as Michelle Wie had to withdraw from the LPGA’s final major of 2014.

Over in Japan, veteran Soo-Yun Kang was the only golfer to break 70 in the JLPGA’s 2nd major of the season, but her 69 leaves money-list leader Bo-Mee Lee and #4 Ji-Yai Shin, who have each won 3 tournaments in recent weeks, only 2 shots off the pace, while the #3 golfer on tour this year, Misuzu Narita, and last year’s money-list title-holder, Rikako Morita, are only 3 back.  Also in the mix are 20-year-olds Ayaka Watanabe (-2) and Ai Suzuki (-2), veteran stars Ji-Hee Lee (-1),  Mi-Jeong Jeon (E), Akiko Fukushima (+1), Yuri Fudoh (+2), and Shiho Oyama (+2), 2013 Rookie of the Year Mamiko Higa (+1), and ex-LPGAer Momoko Ueda (+1).

So there’s a lot to write about when I have the time.  Now it’s time to end my lunch break and get back to work!

Canadian Pacific Women’s Open Sunday: So Yeon Ryu Holds Off Na Yeon Choi for 3rd Career LPGA Victory

So Yeon Ryu pulled 1 shot ahead of Na Yeon Choi at the end of the 1st round of the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open with a walkoff birdie that got her to -9.  For the next 45 holes, it looked like Ryu’s only competition would Annika Sorenstam’s feat of -27 for 72 holes, as she made 16 birdies and only 1 bogey to move to -24 with 9 holes left to play.  At that point she was 6-up on Choi, 7-up on Inbee Park, and 9-up on Azahara Munoz.  The only question seemed to be whether Ryu would beat Annika’s mark and whether Park would play the entire tournament bogey-free.

The answer to both questions, however, turned out to be no.  Park’s bogey-free run would end after 64 holes when she missed a makeable par save on the par-4 11th.  And then NYC cut SYR’s lead in half after Ryu bogeyed 10 and Choi birdied the 11th and the par-3 13th.  And when NYC birdied the par-4 15th and SYR bogeyed it, they were right back on the 70th tee where they had last been on the 19th:  1 stroke apart.  And when Ryu had to lay up on the par-5 16th and Choi had a chance to go for the green in 2, that single stroke seemed a very slim margin indeed.  But when NYC pushed her approach into the right bunker and SYR stuck her wedge to about 8 feet, you could feel the tables start to turn.  And when Choi couldn’t get the sandie and Ryu hit a perfect putt to fight back to -23, you could almost hear the click.  2 pars later for each golfer and everyone on the course could hear it.  Ryu had won for the 3rd time on the LPGA and 1st time since 2012.

The announcers made a big deal about both Ryu and Choi being Inbee Park’s bridesmaids at her October 2014 wedding, so let me make the obligatory “no longer a bridesmaid” comment.  The Park connection I’m more interested in, however, is the notion of a U.S. Women’s Open jinx.  Park lost the top spot in the Rolex Rankings after winning last year’s USWO and didn’t win again until the Manulife (where she also ended up at -23!), which is actually a mild form of the jinx.  Paula Creamer, for instance, had to wait for her 10th career LPGA victory almost 4 years after winning the USWO at Oakmont.  (Park herself had to wait about as long for her 2nd LPGA victory after winning the USWO for the 1st time in 2008).  Admittedly, the comparison isn’t exact, as both SYR and NYC have exactly 1 LPGA win since taking their own USWO titles in 2011 and 2012, respectively.  So let’s call it a delayed-reaction USWO jinx.  In any case, it’s over for So Yeon Ryu.

So congratulations to Ryu on a long-awaited and much-deserved victory.  And congratulations to Kim Kaufman, who fired the low round of the day, a bogey-free 66 that included a 3-putt par on the 16th.  She went -11 over her last 35 holes of bogey-free golf and hit every green but 9.  And congratulations, as well, to Danielle Kang, who tied Kaufman for 5th at -15 and looked like she was having a total blast the entire week.  Caroline Masson and Kristy McPherson, who tied NYC’s 67 for the 2nd-lowest rounds of the day, also deserve much congratulations.

As happy as I am for Ryu and the gang, I’m just as sad for Ai Miyazato, who seemed to have turned a corner with her 2nd-round 67, but who tied Sue Kim for the high round of the day today and was +7 over her final 23 holes.  The stats make it seem her putter let her down on moving day and she spent a lot of time in the rough during the final round.  Hope she shakes it off quickly, as the Evian is her best chance to win her 1st LPGA major!  I was hoping for better from Mina Harigae (-2), Jane Park (-2), Tiffany Joh (-1), and Ayako Uehara (+1) this week, as well.  At least Harukyo Nomura (-8) and Chie Arimura (-6) had pretty solid weeks.  Here’s hoping they play well in Portland next week!

Canadian Pacific Women’s Open Friday: So Yeon Ryu, -15, Sets High Bar for Field

My Picks for the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open

Between the imminent start of the semester and the return to Western NY of my lovely ladies after nearly 2 months in Japan–not to mention needing to finish N.K. Jemisin’s Inheritance trilogy and Guy Gavriel Kay’s 2 amazing historical fantasy novels set in China (Under Heaven and River of Stars), as well as finish binge-watching Parks and Recreation before my students, colleagues, and family take up most of my time and attention–my post-Wegmans week has been packed already, so I’m rushing out my picks for the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open tonight:

1. Ko
2. Park Inbee
3. Pettersen
4. Lewis, Stacy
5. Feng Shanshan
6. Kerr
7. Ryu
8. Thompson
9. Munoz
10. Nordqvist
11. Lincicome
12. Lee Mirim

Alts: Choi Chella; Stanford; Yang

So go with Tony Jesselli‘s this week rather than mine!  Would love to sneak up to London, Ontario, on Sunday, but going to have to get a lot done the next 3 days for that to happen….

My Picks for the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open

Between the imminent start of the semester and the return to Western NY of my lovely ladies after nearly 2 months in Japan–not to mention needing to finish N.K. Jemisin’s Inheritance trilogy and Guy Gavriel Kay’s 2 amazing historical fantasy novels set in China (Under Heaven and River of Stars), as well as finish binge-watching Parks and Recreation before my students, colleagues, and family take up most of my time and attention–my post-Wegmans week has been packed already, so I’m rushing out my picks for the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open tonight:

1. Ko
2. Park Inbee
3. Pettersen
4. Lewis, Stacy
5. Feng Shanshan
6. Kerr
7. Ryu
8. Thompson
9. Munoz
10. Nordqvist
11. Lincicome
12. Lee Mirim

Alts: Choi Chella; Stanford; Yang

So go with Tony Jesselli‘s this week rather than mine!  Would love to sneak up to London, Ontario, on Sunday, but going to have to get a lot done the next 3 days for that to happen….

Sadena Parks Wins on Symetra Tour

With her Sunday 62 and huge come-from-behind-victory in Albany, NY, Sadena Parks became the tour’s 2nd African-American champion and moved up to 6th on the Symetra Tour’s money list.  With 6 events remaining on the 2014 schedule, Parks is well behind 2-time winners Min Seo Kwak and Marissa Steen, as well as the consistent Yueer Cindy Feng (who uncharacteristically played as badly on Sunday as Parks played well), but she’s put almost $9,000 between herself and #11 Brittany Altomare.  With Selanee Henderson currently at #48 on the money list, Cheyenne Woods at #51, and Ginger Howard at #72, it’s looking more and more like they’ll have to make it to the LPGA via Q-School.  So right now Parks has the best odds of becoming only the 5th-ever African-American LPGA member.

I’d be going to this week’s event in Syracuse to see how all these players, along with my favorites Hannah Yun and Mitsuki Katahira, handle a Drumlins East course that I butchered this summer while trying to qualify for the NYSGA’s Men’s Amateur Championship, except that I’ve already committed to helping one of my best friends from grad school move into new digs in Austin, TX.  (And see if I can play a little better out of NY than in it.)  Too bad for me!  (Actually, I’m psyched for the trip!)

ShopRite LPGA Classic Friday: Jennifer Johnson Fires 10-Birdie 62 to Take 1-Shot Lead on Harukyo Nomura

Jennifer Johnson birdied 3 of her 1st 4 holes and 7 of her last 10 on her way to a tournament-record 62 in the 1st round of the ShopRite LPGA Classic today, which was just good enough to give her 1-shot lead on Harukyo Nomura and a 2-shot lead on Christina Kim.

With world #1 Inbee Park lurking 4 back, along with Na Yeon Choi, and the likes of Stacy Lewis, Michelle Wie, and Chella Choi at -4, Lydia Ko at -3, and Lexi Thompson, Anna Nordqvist, Azahara Munoz, and defending champion Karrie Webb at -2, Johnson has a long way to go before she can think about getting her 2nd win on the LPGA, but he’s certainly started things with a bang.  Plus she’s put pressure on a lot of players coming in as favorites, such as Suzann Pettersen, Cristie Kerr, and Hee Young Park (now 8 back), Jessica Korda, Lizette Salas, and Jenny Shin (9 back), So Yeon Ryu (10 back), and Se Ri Pak, Paula Creamer, and Ai Miyazato (11 back).

With only 36 holes left to play, moving day will be more important than usual.  If anyone in the mid-60s or better can repeat their performance tomorrow, a lot of the field will be eliminated from contention.  Let’s see how the 3 leaders back up their super-low rounds!

The Best on the LPGA: 3-to-6-Time Winners, April 2014 Edition

The last time I tried to predict who was most likely to win among those with 3 to 6 LPGA victories was back in January.  Obviously a lot has happened since then, most notably that 3 of the biggest names in the world of women’s golf have shown some serious signs of being ready to realize their promise.  The way Lexi Thompson, Michelle Wie, and Lydia Ko have won this year has gotten everyone’s hopes up, including mine, as you can see below.

[Note: The numbers in parentheses following each player’s name represent LPGA wins and majors.]

Most Likely to Win (Again) in 2014

1. Lydia Ko (3/0):  She started the 2014 season with 3 top 10s in her 1st 5 starts (all top 20s), including a bronze and a silver, but 1 bad start and 2 ok ones lowered expectations heading into last week.  The rest is history.  Just kidding–she’s got a lot of history still to make!  The difference last week was her putting.  If she can keep adjusting to new greens quickly, there’s no reason she can’t keep contending.  I think she has the most complete game of anyone on this list, and that’s saying a lot!
2. Lexi Thompson (4/1):  She won twice in her last 5 LPGA starts of 2013 and finished inside the top 22 in 10 of her last 12 starts last season.  So it’s no surprise that she picked up right where she left off after a couple of hiccups to start 2014.  She’s got 3 top 5s in her last 5 starts and no finish outside the top 30, but to tell you the truth I was surprised that she was able to get a major victory so early in her career.  Last time, I wrote, “If #1 in their Class of 2012 So Yeon Ryu doesn’t get it in gear, Lexi could blow by her in 2014 (and a lot of other people)!”  It’s starting to look like that “could” should be a “will”!
3. Michelle Wie (3/0):  She’s doing it her way and has a 13-event top-25 streak to show for it, including 7 top 10s–with a gold, silver, and bronze among them.  Look for her to keep collecting medals, as her confidence and maturity are at all-time highs and she’s got the game to match them.

The Contenders

4. Shanshan Feng (3/1):  With 2 wins in her last 4 LPGA starts of 2013 and a 5-event streak inside the top 11, she was one of the hottest golfers on the planet coming into this season, but she’s just started to recover from a late and a slow start to 2014.  Now that she’s got her golf legs under her again, she’s riding a 4-event top-20 streak and has 2 top 10s, including a T4 last week, under her belt.  She’s ranked #3 in her class and #6 in her generation and rising fast in both lists, but catching Na Yeon Choi and Ya Ni Tseng is one tall order.  If anyone can do it, she can, but she has to strike while the iron is hot, particularly while NYC and Ya Ni are struggling.
5. Angela Stanford (5/0):  She was considering a North-America-only schedule in 2013, but started playing great golf, with an early bronze at the Founders Cup and another top 5 at Kingsmill, so she did everything but the fall Asian swing in the 2nd half of the season and responded with a 9-event run inside the top 21 to close out her season, highlighted by a T4 at the U.S. Women’s Open, a T6 at the Evian Championship, and a near-win at the Manulife.  She went all in at the start of 2014 and has 5 top 25s to her credit, including 2 top 5s (one of them another near-win).  Forget those 2 missed cuts in the midst of that run:  she’s definitely playing elite golf over the last year.  But she’s vying with Stacy Lewis for the title of Close Call Kid.  Here’s hoping she can focus on the former and keep putting herself in contention.
6. In-Kyung Kim (3/0):  She was hottest in the middle of the 2013 season, when she racked up 7 top-6 finishes in a 14-event run.  But she couldn’t find win #4, as Inbee Park continued to blow by her in the Class of 2007 rankings and Shanshan Feng made up a lot of ground on her in the Tseng Dynasty rankings.  After a very late start to 2014, she finally got her 1st top 20 of the season last week.  Let’s hope that’s the start of better things to come for one of my favorite players on tour.

The Next Best

7. Catriona Matthew (4/1):  Last time, I wrote, “She had a great 1st 3/4 of 2013 and hung on for a bunch of top 30s at the end of the year when she didn’t have her A-game.  She’s skipping the Bahamas and the LET’s opening New Zealand and Australia events but playing the next 3 LPGA events over in the eastern hemisphere.  Don’t be surprised if she’s ready to win in February!”  She came close in her 2nd start of the season, but hasn’t since.  Still, she’s made the cut in her last 6 starts and has 2 more top-21 finishes under her belt.  Never count this veteran out!
8. Beatriz Recari (3/0):  Last time, I wrote, “As great as she was in the 1st half of 2013, the 2nd half was a little bit of a letdown, as she started missing cuts (3 times), finishing outside the top 30 (twice more), and even having to withdraw from Lorena’s event.  And yet she still got a win, 4 other top 10s, and 5 other top 20s in that very same run.  The key for her was a red-hot putter and a killer instinct down the stretch.  If she can maintain both in 2014, she’s going to have an even better season than last one.  As the #1 golfer in her LPGA rookie class and #8 in her generation, it’ll be interesting to see which ranking is a better indicator of where she’s headed on tour.” Unfortunately, the early part of 2014 has been an absolute disaster for her, with 3 MC, 1 WD, and no finish in the top 25.  Let’s hope she turns it around soon!

Quantum Leap Candidates

9. Brittany Lincicome (5/1):  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  I’m still waiting for her to go on a real run and put herself in contention over several events in a row.  At this point in her career, I’m starting to seriously doubt whether she has the desire, the temperament, and the work ethic to do any of that.  In 2013, she had 3 top 20s in the 1st half of the season and 3 top 10s in its 2nd half.  She could do that sleepwalking through 2014.  Unfortunately, she’s doing something worse thus far this season.
10. Seon Hwa Lee (4/0):  After a terrible 2013, she needed to go to Q-School, but she showed she still has it with a 6th-place finish.  So it’s clean slate time for 2014, where so far she’s made 4 of 5 cuts but hasn’t done much to impress.
11. Candie Kung (4/0):  Last time, I wrote, “I wonder if she’s gotten to the point in her 13th season on tour when the most we can expect from her is top 30s and the occasional better finish.  The culprit in 2013 was clearly her putting.  If she can get that back on track, we’ll see her do better than break the $6M mark in career winnings on the LPGA.  But contend?  Let’s hope!”  Unfortunately, she has only 1 top 25 in her 1st 8 starts and no other finish better than 36th.  Still, she’s missed only 1 cut, so I’m not counting her out just yet.
12. Hee-Won Han (6/0):  Gotta ask the same question about this 14th-year LPGAer.  She started 2014 late and got a top-15 finish right off the bat, but hasn’t impressed since then.

On the Bottom, Looking Up

13. Maria McBride (5/0):  She kept her LPGA card only because of Category 5 (multiple wins between 2010 and 2013) on the 2014 LPGA Priority Status List, so she still has a chance to catch or pass her fellow ’98er Sophie Gustafson (the 2 of them have been neck and neck their entire careers).  Her best finish of 2013 (T30) was her last one, but she missed her 1st 5 cuts of 2014 and couldn’t crack the top 70 last week, so she’s got a ways to go to find her game again.
14. Pat Hurst (6/1):  She used up her Category 14 exemption for being in the top 40 on the career money list, so still has a chance to become a $7M woman on the LPGA.  Missing her 1st 6 cuts in a row in 2014 is not the way to do that, however.
15. Lorie Kane (4/0):  At #154 on the priority status list she should get plenty of starts this season, which is good, because she’s racing Hurst to the $7M mark in career winnings.  She’s got 1 top 30 so far in 2014, but only has 3 starts thus far.

On the Outside, Looking In

16. Sophie Gustafson (5/0):  At #209 on the priority status list, she’s in Category 18-land for retired players.  Too bad she’s already missed the cut twice in LPGA starts this season.  Never fear, Gustafson fans:  you can find her full-time on the LET!
17. Wendy Ward (4/0):  At #210 on the priority status list, it was nice that she got a sponsor exemption into the 1st tournament of the season, but she probably won’t get into many others.

Teenagers Off to Great Starts on LPGA and JLPGA

It’s looking like neither Thursday’s 1st round of the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic nor Friday’s 1st round of the Fujisankei Ladies Classic will be done before I crash for the night, so I’ll save my overviews for tomorrow.  But it’s worth noting right now that Lydia Ko opened with a 68 on one side of the Pacific and 16-year-old amateur Kana Nagai did the same on the other side, less than a week after 15-year-old Minami Katsu made history on the JLPGA.

There’s still a lot of golf to be played over in Japan, so there’s a good chance Nagai won’t be leading once everyone’s turned in their cards, but Ko is only 2 shots behind Bay Area leader Karine Icher, who fired a bogey-free 66 on a tough Lake Merced course that’s given a lot of big names fits.  Ya Ni Tseng, Jessica Korda, So Yeon Ryu, Paula Creamer, Azahara Munoz, Amy Yang, and Caroline Hedwall couldn’t break 75.  Karrie Webb, Na Yeon Choi, Shanshan Feng, and Ai Miyazato did by the skin of their teeth.  Inbee Park, Cristie Kerr, Ariya Jutanugarn, and Charley Hull couldn’t get back to E by the end of the day.  And only 11 golfers (as of this writing) broke 70, including Maria (Hjorth) McBride, Stacy Lewis, Morgan Pressel, Hyo Joo Kim, and Jenny Shin.  A triple bogey on the par-4 11th was the only thing that kept Suzann Pettersen from joining them.

So there are lots of players to follow and stories to tell, but not right now.  Take care, everyone!

KKT Cup Vantelin Ladies Sunday: 15-Year-Old Minami Katsu Outlasts Bo-Mee Lee to Become Youngest Winner in JLPGA History

As more experienced golfers around her plunged down the leaderboard during the final round of the KKT Cup Vantelin Ladies, 15-year-old Minami Katsu calmly went out and birdied 5 of her 1st 13 holes to move to -12 and take a 3-shot lead on former KLPGA star Bo-Mee Lee.  Even though she bogeyed the 385-yard par-4 14th, Katsu held on with pars the rest of the way, which was just enough to finish ahead of Lee, who birdied her 2 final holes but ran out of room to chase down the NZ Women’s Stroke Play Championship winner.  With her victory, Katsu became the youngest winner in JLPGA history, eclipsing the mark set by then-16-year-old Hyo Joo Kim in 2012.

What an impressive win for the high school student!  She had the low round of the day and only 4 other players managed to break 70.  You’d have expected her to play more like her fellow Japan National Team member Haruka Morita, who ballooned to a 77 and finished T23, particularly on a day when some of the best players on tour also blew up:  Miki Saiki (78, T50), Yumiko Yoshida (75, T45), Mamiko Higa (76, T37), Rikako Morita (74, T28), Chie Arimura (76, T23), Shiho Oyama (75, T18), Onnarin Sattayabanphot (78, T15)….  Ji-Hee Lee leapfrogged lots of players with a 69 that lifted her into solo 3rd, as Teresa Lu and Erina Hara held steady with 72s, 21-year-olds Mami Fukuda (75) and Misuzu Narita (74) fell back to T6, and Kaori Nakamura (72), Mi-Jeong Jeon (71), and Ritsuko Ryu (71) failed to make moves.  So a lot of factors came together for Katsu to win, but that’s true every week for every winner.  What matters is she got up-and-down from the sand, canning an 8-footer on the final hole and forcing Lee to eagle to tie her!

Because Katsu is an amateur, the winner’s share of the pot went to Lee, who jumped from #8 to #1 on the 2014 JLPGA money list:

1. Bo-Mee Lee ¥33.09M
2. Onnarin Sattayabanphot ¥31.60M

3. Sun-Ju Ahn ¥25.90M
4. Erina Hara ¥24.85M
5. Ayaka Watanabe ¥24.68M
6. Rikako Morita ¥23.96M

7. Esther Lee ¥19.59M
8. Yuki Ichinose ¥16.56M

9. Ritsuko Ryu ¥15.57M
10. Miki Sakai ¥14.47M
11. Mami Fukuda ¥14.31M
12. Ji-Hee Lee ¥14.03M
13. Saiki Fujita ¥12.53M
14. Asako Fujimoto ¥10.98M
15. Yumiko Yoshida ¥10.87M
16. Yukari Baba ¥10.08M
17. Mi-Jeong Jeon ¥9.77M
18. Teresa Lu ¥9.68M
19. Ji-Yai Shin ¥9.44M
20. Mayu Hattori ¥7.61M
Next up on tour is the Fujisankei Ladies Classic, which is defending champion Miki Saiki’s best chance to start turning 2014 around.  The field list doesn’t look complete just yet, but amateur Hibiki Kitamura, who turns 19 on the same day imoto turns 8, will be trying to follow up on Katsu’s victory, as will 17-year-old Megumi Takahashi.

[Update 1 (10:32 am):  Check out this youtube clip of the home stretch:

2013 JLPGA Year in Review

2013 was a fantastic year on the JLPGA.  Thanks to PhilK_NJ over at Seoul Sisters.com, non-Japanese speakers now can see how 2 youtube channels devoted to the JLPGA covered 2013.  But since they’re in Japanese, here are my top stories of the season!

Rikako Morita and Mamiko Higa Lead Japanese Youth Movement.  The JLPGA is a tour that’s been dominated by experienced players for most of the 21st century, from the legendary Yuri Fudoh and her main rival Akiko Fukushima to their top challengers who have now become veteran superstars in their own right, such as Sakura Yokomine, Mi-Jeong Jeon, Ji-Hee Lee, and Shiho Oyama.  It’s also seen global superstars from other tours like Sun-Ju Ahn, Ji-Yai Shin, Inbee Park, Bo-Mee Lee, and Shanshan Feng breeze in and dominate right off the bat.  Meanwhile, top new Japanese talents like Ai Miyazato, Mika Miyazato, Momoko Ueda, Chie Arimura, and Ayako Uehara decided to focus on the LPGA at different stages in their careers.

So it’s a huge deal that Rikako Morita (23) won the money title (beating out Yokomine by less than 2 million yen) and Mamiko Higa (20) won Rookie of the Year in 2013.  Morita did it in style, too, winning her 4th title of the year the week after Yokomine won hers, leapfrogging her back into the top spot on the money list in the next-to-last event of the year.  Overall, Morita played well in bunches, starting the season with a bang by winning the Daikin Orchid Ladies (in a playoff over–you guessed it–Yokomine!) and following it up with a silver and a pair of bronzes in an opening run of 5 top 10s, then getting 2 wins, a silver, and 2 bronzes in 6 starts midway through the season, and finishing the season strong with a pair of top 5s at and after the Japan Women’s Open and by sandwiching her final victory between a T10 and a 12th-place finish.

But Morita and Higa were just the tip of the iceberg.  Natsuka Hori (21) and Yuki Ichinose (25) won early in the season (Hori got another in June), while Misuzu Narita (21) joined them in the winner’s circle mid-way through; they were joined in the top 25 on the money list by Erika Kikuchi (25), Kumiko Kaneda (24), and Mayu Hattori (25).  Harukyo Nomura (21) made it 9 Japanese youngsters in the top 30 and there were 16 in the top 50.  Compare that to the numbers of South Koreans a few paragraphs down and you’ll see what a big deal this is!

Don’t Call it a Comeback:  Sakura Yokomine Takes Player of the Year; Shiho Oyama Wins for 1st Time Since 2011.  As noted above, Sakura Yokomine came within about 2 million yen of taking the money title for the 2nd time in her illustrious career.  How illustrious, you ask?  Well, she’s poised to become the 2nd golfer in JLPGA history to break the 1 billion yen barrier in career winnings!  With her 4 wins this season, Yokomine has caught Mi-Jeong Jeon at 22 career JLPGA victories and pulled well ahead of Ji-Hee Lee (17).  She capped off the season by winning Player of the Year.  Oyama, meanwhile, knocked on the door all season and finally busted it down in the final tournament and final major of the year, garnering her 1st win since 2011, her 3rd major, and her 13th win on tour.

Mika Miyazato Wins Japan Women’s Open for 2nd Time.  Mika Miyazato had a tough year on the LPGA, as she struggled with her putting mightily early in the season and couldn’t seem to sustain runs of good play, but you can’t say you had a bad year when you win the Japan Women’s Open for the 2nd time in the last 4 years!  The fact that she made an amazing walkoff birdie putt to take the title made it all the sweeter.

Seoul Sisters Struggle.  Sure, Sun-Ju Ahn came back to finish 4th on the season-ending money list and Bo-Mee Lee joined her in the top 10 at #7, but that’s the smallest number of golfers from South Korea in the JLPGA top 10 since Mi-Jeong Jeon stood alone in 2007.  Even more telling, Rikako Morita’s winning the money title marked the 1st-non-Korean to accomplish that feat since Sakura Yokomine did it in 2009.  It’s not like the Seoul Sisters disappeared, though.  Na-Ri Lee won twice and finished #11 on the money list, last year’s money-list title-holder Mi-Jeong Jeon ended up at #12, and Da-Ye Na squeaked into the top 20 thanks to her 1st JLPGA victory.  In all, there were 9 Seoul Sisters in the top 30 and 12 in the top 50, including Soo-Yun Kang and Young Kim, who also broke through for their 1st JLPGA victories this season.

Global Stars Fight for 2014 Membership.  It came down to the wire for Momoko Ueda and Ji-Yai Shin, but they both squeaked into the top 50 on the 2013 money list, Ueda in the next-to-last event of the year and Shin in the last.  Soon after securing membership for 2014, they each announced they were going to focus much more (Shin) or exclusively (Ueda) on the JLPGA.

Teresa Lu Breaks Through.  It took her 4 years on the LPGA and 4 more on the JLPGA, but Teresa Lu finally found a way to win on both tours for the 1st time when she took the Mizuno Classic.  Lu finished 2nd 4 times, in the top 5 9 times, and in the top 10 15 times, so it’s no surprise she ended up #3 on the JLPGA money list with nearly 95 million yen in winnings and a 70.94 scoring average.  It’ll be interesting to see how she decides to split her time between the LPGA and JLPGA in 2014, given that Shin and Ueda have decided to focus on the JLPGA while Harukyo Nomura decided to join the rest of the Japanese LPGAers in prioritizing the Big Tour.

Yumiko Yoshida Has Career Year.  The 26-year-old had a breakthrough year in 2013, winning 3 times and finishing 5th on the money list.  Yoshida had gotten her 1st victory last season and finished in the top 20 on the money list for the 1st time in her 6th season on tour, but it was her 7th season that turned out to be the charm.  In addition to her 3 victories, Yoshida got 2 silvers and a bronze, finishing in the top 5 10 times.  Her scoring average of 71.26 was by far the lowest in her career.  Let’s see if she can top it in 2014.

Miki Saiki Establishes Herself Definitively Among JLPGA’s Finest.  With her back-to-back victories in 2013, Saiki extended her winning streak on the JLPGA to 4-straight seasons, a streak during which she finished on the top 10 in the money list every year, as well.  In fact, in her 7 seasons on tour, she’s never finished outside the top 20 on the money list and is now #25 on the career money list.  Saiki started the season with a bang, as her 2 wins came in the midst of a 6-event top 10 streak and a 12-event run in which she finished no worse than T21.  Although she cooled off a bit in the 2nd half of the season, her best chance for her 1st major title came during the Japan Women’s Open, where she finished T2 behind Mika Miyazato.  Next step for the 7-time winner on tour is to get that 1st major!

So here are the top Japanese golfers in the Rolex Rankings in the run-up to determining who’ll play in the International Crown this year:

#21 Ai Miyazato
#22 Mika Miyazato
#35 Sakura Yokomine
#38 Rikako Morita

***

#44 Miki Saiki
#49 Shiho Oyama
#51 Mamiko Higa
#52 Yumiko Yoshida
#66 Chie Arimura
#82 Ritsuko Ryu
#83 Yuki Ichinose
#84 Ayako Uehara
#87 Yuri Fudoh
#96 Mayu Hattori
#100 Natsuka Hori

The top 4 will be determined on Monday, March 31, 2014, at the Kraft Nabisco Championship.  The competition’s going to be fierce!  There’ll be 4 JLPGA events before then, but I expect many of these players to get into at least some of the LET and LPGA events in late January and February in an effort to climb the rankings quickly.

2013 JLPGA Year in Review

2013 was a fantastic year on the JLPGA.  Thanks to PhilK_NJ over at Seoul Sisters.com, non-Japanese speakers now can see how 2 youtube channels devoted to the JLPGA covered 2013.  But since they’re in Japanese, here are my top stories of the season!

Rikako Morita and Mamiko Higa Lead Japanese Youth Movement.  The JLPGA is a tour that’s been dominated by experienced players for most of the 21st century, from the legendary Yuri Fudoh and her main rival Akiko Fukushima to their top challengers who have now become veteran superstars in their own right, such as Sakura Yokomine, Mi-Jeong Jeon, Ji-Hee Lee, and Shiho Oyama.  It’s also seen global superstars from other tours like Sun-Ju Ahn, Ji-Yai Shin, Inbee Park, Bo-Mee Lee, and Shanshan Feng breeze in and dominate right off the bat.  Meanwhile, top new Japanese talents like Ai Miyazato, Mika Miyazato, Momoko Ueda, Chie Arimura, and Ayako Uehara decided to focus on the LPGA at different stages in their careers.

So it’s a huge deal that Rikako Morita (23) won the money title (beating out Yokomine by less than 2 million yen) and Mamiko Higa (20) won Rookie of the Year in 2013.  Morita did it in style, too, winning her 4th title of the year the week after Yokomine won hers, leapfrogging her back into the top spot on the money list in the next-to-last event of the year.  Overall, Morita played well in bunches, starting the season with a bang by winning the Daikin Orchid Ladies (in a playoff over–you guessed it–Yokomine!) and following it up with a silver and a pair of bronzes in an opening run of 5 top 10s, then getting 2 wins, a silver, and 2 bronzes in 6 starts midway through the season, and finishing the season strong with a pair of top 5s at and after the Japan Women’s Open and by sandwiching her final victory between a T10 and a 12th-place finish.

But Morita and Higa were just the tip of the iceberg.  Natsuka Hori (21) and Yuki Ichinose (25) won early in the season (Hori got another in June), while Misuzu Narita (21) joined them in the winner’s circle mid-way through; they were joined in the top 25 on the money list by Erika Kikuchi (25), Kumiko Kaneda (24), and Mayu Hattori (25).  Harukyo Nomura (21) made it 10 Japanese youngsters in the top 30 and there were 17 in the top 50.  Compare that to the numbers of South Koreans a few paragraphs down and you’ll see what a big deal this is!

Don’t Call it a Comeback:  Sakura Yokomine Takes Player of the Year; Shiho Oyama Wins for 1st Time Since 2011.  As noted above, Sakura Yokomine came within about 2 million yen of taking the money title for the 2nd time in her illustrious career.  How illustrious, you ask?  Well, she’s poised to become the 2nd golfer in JLPGA history to break the 1 billion yen barrier in career winnings!  With her 4 wins this season, Yokomine has caught Mi-Jeong Jeon at 22 career JLPGA victories and pulled well ahead of Ji-Hee Lee (17).  She capped off the season by winning Player of the Year.  Oyama, meanwhile, knocked on the door all season and finally busted it down in the final tournament and final major of the year, garnering her 1st win since 2011, her 3rd major, and her 13th win on tour.

Mika Miyazato Wins Japan Women’s Open for 2nd Time.  Mika Miyazato had a tough year on the LPGA, as she struggled with her putting mightily early in the season and couldn’t seem to sustain runs of good play, but you can’t say you had a bad year when you win the Japan Women’s Open for the 2nd time in the last 4 years!  The fact that she made an amazing walkoff birdie putt to take the title made it all the sweeter.

Seoul Sisters Struggle.  Sure, Sun-Ju Ahn came back to finish 4th on the season-ending money list and Bo-Mee Lee joined her in the top 10 at #7, but that’s the smallest number of golfers from South Korea in the JLPGA top 10 since Mi-Jeong Jeon stood alone in 2007.  Even more telling, Rikako Morita’s winning the money title marked the 1st-non-Korean to accomplish that feat since Sakura Yokomine did it in 2009.  It’s not like the Seoul Sisters disappeared, though.  Na-Ri Lee won twice and finished #11 on the money list, last year’s money-list title-holder Mi-Jeong Jeon ended up at #12, and Da-Ye Na squeaked into the top 20 thanks to her 1st JLPGA victory.  In all, there were 9 Seoul Sisters in the top 30 and 12 in the top 50, including Soo-Yun Kang and Young Kim, who also broke through for their 1st JLPGA victories this season.

Global Stars Fight for 2014 Membership.  It came down to the wire for Momoko Ueda and Ji-Yai Shin, but they both squeaked into the top 50 on the 2013 money list, Ueda in the next-to-last event of the year and Shin in the last.  Soon after securing membership for 2014, they each announced they were going to focus much more (Shin) or exclusively (Ueda) on the JLPGA.

Teresa Lu Breaks Through.  It took her 4 years on the LPGA and 4 more on the JLPGA, but Teresa Lu finally found a way to win on both tours for the 1st time when she took the Mizuno Classic.  Lu finished 2nd 4 times, in the top 5 9 times, and in the top 10 15 times, so it’s no surprise she ended up #3 on the JLPGA money list with nearly 95 million yen in winnings and a 70.94 scoring average.  It’ll be interesting to see how she decides to split her time between the LPGA and JLPGA in 2014, given that Shin and Ueda have decided to focus on the JLPGA while Harukyo Nomura decided to join the rest of the Japanese LPGAers in prioritizing the Big Tour.

Yumiko Yoshida Has Career Year.  The 26-year-old had a breakthrough year in 2013, winning 3 times and finishing 5th on the money list.  Yoshida had gotten her 1st victory last season and finished in the top 20 on the money list for the 1st time in her 6th season on tour, but it was her 7th season that turned out to be the charm.  In addition to her 3 victories, Yoshida got 2 silvers and a bronze, finishing in the top 5 10 times.  Her scoring average of 71.26 was by far the lowest in her career.  Let’s see if she can top it in 2014.

Miki Saiki Establishes Herself Definitively Among JLPGA’s Finest.  With her back-to-back victories in 2013, Saiki extended her winning streak on the JLPGA to 4-straight seasons, a streak during which she finished on the top 10 in the money list every year, as well.  In fact, in her 7 seasons on tour, she’s never finished outside the top 20 on the money list and is now #25 on the career money list.  Saiki started the season with a bang, as her 2 wins came in the midst of a 6-event top 10 streak and a 12-event run in which she finished no worse than T21.  Although she cooled off a bit in the 2nd half of the season, her best chance for her 1st major title came during the Japan Women’s Open, where she finished T2 behind Mika Miyazato.  Next step for the 7-time winner on tour is to get that 1st major!

So here are the top Japanese golfers in the Rolex Rankings in the run-up to determining who’ll play in the International Crown this year:

#21 Ai Miyazato
#22 Mika Miyazato
#35 Sakura Yokomine
#38 Rikako Morita

***

#44 Miki Saiki
#49 Shiho Oyama
#51 Mamiko Higa
#52 Yumiko Yoshida
#66 Chie Arimura
#82 Ritsuko Ryu
#83 Yuki Ichinose
#84 Ayako Uehara
#87 Yuri Fudoh
#96 Mayu Hattori
#100 Natsuka Hori

The top 4 will be determined on Monday, March 31, 2014, at the Kraft Nabisco Championship.  The competition’s going to be fierce!  There’ll be 4 JLPGA events before then, but I expect many of these players to get into at least some of the LET and LPGA events in late January and February in an effort to climb the rankings quickly.