Apologies to my regular readers for taking this mini-sabbatical from Mostly Harmless! Probably the main reason I’ve been too busy to blog has been all the extra time I’ve been putting into meeting with my students this past month to consult with them on their critical essays and final research projects. Although most of them chose not to do web authoring projects, a good number did; here are links to their work:
For most of the day today at the AXA Ladies, the final pairing and the entire final round looked like a victory lap for 28-year-old Saiki Fujita. Her 2-shot lead on 20-year-old Ayaka Watanabe through 36 holes had grown to 5 by the time the final pairing reached the 4th tee and even a double bogey on the 356-yard par-4 6th–her 1st blemish since Friday, bringing her total to 1 bogey, 1 double, and 1 eagle for the week–only seemed to spur her on to even better golf, as she birdied her next 3 holes in a row to post a 33 on the front anyway.
So what if Watanabe bounced back with 2 late birdies to return to -8 or Bo-Mee Lee birdied 3 of her last 4 holes on the front to move to -9? Fujita was -13 and cruising, with a gigantic 8-shot lead on hometown hero and 18-year-old Asuka Kashiwabara to boot. And after matching Watanabe’s and Kashiwabara’s birdies on the 178-yard par-3 13th, Fujita’s lead was 5 on Lee and Watanabe and 8 on Kashiwabara with only 5 holes left to play. The only question seemed to be whether she’d get her 1st win in almost 3 years with 3 straight 67s or not.
But then Fujita bogeyed the 379-yard par 4 14th even as Kashiwabara birdied it and she lead Lee and Watanabe by 4 with 4 to play and Kashiwabara by 6.
And then she bogeyed the 388-yard par-4 15th right after Lee had birdied it. Now it was only 2 on Lee with 3 to play, but at least it was still 3 on Watanabe and 5 on Kashiwabara, right?
Wrong. Watanabe and Kashiwabara cut it to 2 and 4, respectively, with matching birdies on the 162-yard par-3 16th. Then Watanabe followed it up with another birdie, this time on the 383-yard par-4 17th, to pull within 1 of Fujita and pass Lee, who had bogeyed it just minutes earlier to fall 3 shots off the pace. So the only player Fujita had to worry about as they came to the tee of the 505-yard par 5 was Watanabe. All Fujita had to do was birdie it to secure her 6th career JLPGA victory.
Instead, she bogeyed it. And Watanabe eagled it! Watanabe had turned a 5-shot deficit into 2-shot victory in a mere 5 holes! Now that’s how to make your 1st-ever JLPGA victory memorable!
What makes Watanabe’s win even more impressive is that she had missed the cut badly the week before at the T-Point Ladies. Just 8 days later, she joined the youth movement that’s been redefining the JLPGA the last couple of years. And she leaped to the 2nd spot on the2014 JLPGA money list: 1. Onnarin Sattayabanphot ￥24.11M
Rui Kitada, whose bogey-free 69 enabled her to catch Kashiwabara in a tie for 4th at -8, is in the next spot after Ahn, while Asako Fujimoto and Erina Hara, who finished in T7 at -6 (1 shot behind Lala Anai and 1 ahead of defending champion Natsuka Hori) bring the total to 9 Japanese players at 26 or younger in the top 15 of the money list–and 7 under 25! One of them, Okinawa’s own Mamiko Higa, will be defending her title next week at the Yamaha Ladies. The KLPGA’s Hyo-Joo Kim will be one of the visiting players in the field. Let’s see if a Korean young gun can stop the Japanese young guns from running wild in the early stages of 2014.
[Update 1 (11:10 pm): You have to watch this video of Watanabe’s finish! Her birdie on 17 came from an awesome approach from a fairway bunker and her eagle was a chip-in!
[Update 2 (11:26 pm): This video covers the entire final hole plus the aftermath. Thanks to my anonymous commenter for both links!]
Daisuke Takahashi will be the 3rd Japanese male skater–along with Yuzuru Hanyu and Tatsuki Machida–to go to the Winter Olympics, according to Japan TV. After pulling out of the ISU Grand Prix Finals at the start of the month due to a leg injury–I’ve heard it reported as a stress fracture near his knee–Takahashi finished 5th at Japan Nationals, jeopardizing his hopes of returning to the Winter Olympics. This will be the 2nd time in a row that Takahashi will be rushing a recovery from a major injury to compete in the Olympics. Let’s hope he can bounce back quickly!
Here are his skates:
Here’s his emotional interview right after he finished 5th:
I was really afraid this was a career-ending injury. I’m relieved that we’ll get a chance to say goodbye to him at Sochi.
[Update 1 (11:02 am): The Full Metal Archivist pointed me toward this recent interview with his choreographer Lori Nichol. Helps put his journey and his free skate in perspective.]
[Update 2 (11:38 am): Wow, this Japan Nationals was one for the history books! Akiko Suzuki won the women’s gold in her last appearance at nationals with her mom watching her skate for the first time ever. Yuzuru Hanyu broke 100 points on his short program in winning the men’s gold. Kanako Murakami skated a fantastic long program and broke 200 to take the silver, qualifying for Sochi at the same time along with Suzuki and Mao Asasa, who skated a great short program and a so-so long.]
The LPGA’s rookie class of 2014 can’t catch any breaks. The very same day I finally get their membership right I find out Tiffany Joh has released a new video. I present “What’s Up with Lexi?”
’14ers, the ball is in your court. Or rather, you have the honors now….
[Update 1 (9:46 pm): Ugh, I was trying to figure out what T-Joh was parodying and having no luck, but 9-going-on-10 onechan knew right away. Of course, she sent me to a different parody of “What Does the Fox Say” rather than the original, which is when I figured out that I am super-old.]