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Ai Miyazato has birdied 7 of her 1st 14 holes during the final round of the Miyagi TV Cup Dunlop Ladies Open to move to -7 for the week and open up a 3-shot lead on Na-Ri Lee and a 5-shot lead on Teresa Lu and Lala Anai. Miyazato has a great chance to shoot the low round of the week and win her 16th JLPGA tournament the day after the 10th anniversary of her 1st-ever win on tour right at this very event. To do that, she’ll need to finish strong, as fellow Okinawan Mamiko Higa fired a bogey-free 66 that included a hole in one on the 155-yard par-3 7th hole from the 1st group off the 10th tee today.
Even as Okinawans are getting excited (LPGA rookie Ayako Uehara was -4 through her 1st 10 holes but had to settle for a 70 that brought her to +2 for the week; those late bogeys mean she’ll need some help to finish in the top 10), fans of other golfers on tour are not as happy. Fellow LPGA rookie Chie Arimura finished with her 2nd-straight 76 and will likely fall outside the top 50. Yuri Fudoh and Sakura Yokomine closed with 73s to end up at +5 for the week, while Rikako Morita and Momoko Ueda will need to birdie the par-5 18th to beat them and improve on the +3 they are overall right now.
Still, there are a handful of golfers still out on the course who have a chance to join Higa in the under-70 club, including Shiho Oyama, Yuko Mitsuka, and Erika Kikuchi. Na-Ri Lee will have to take advantage of the 2 short par 5s she has yet to play (14 and 18) to have a chance to join them and put pressure on Ai-sama down the stretch.
The JLPGA web site has gone into deep freeze until the tv coverage is complete, but I’m not going to stay up to wait for it to thaw out. See you later in the morning with an update! Ai-sama, gambatte-ne!
[Update 1 (4:48 am): I’m in shock! Ai-sama doubled the 154-yard par-3 15th and followed it up with a bogey on the 372-yard par-4 17th to end up with a 68 that left her at -4 for the week. Playing 2 groups behind her, Na-Ri Lee birdied the same hole Ai-sama doubled, then parred her way in to finish at -5 and take her 1st trophy on the JLPGA right out of Ai-sama’s hands. I can’t believe it!]
[Update 2 (4:59 am): Wow, even as Ai-sama was collapsing, others were charging. Teresa Lu finished birdie-birdie to tie her at -4, Yukari Baba closed with 3 birdies in her last 4 holes to catch Lala Anai (who birdied 4 of her last 11 bogey-free holes) at -3, Esther Lee birdied 16 to finish at -2, Erika Kikuchi fired a bogey-free 69 and Miki Saiki birdied 5 of her last 11 holes against only 1 bogey to catch Higa at -1, and Junko Omote birdied 5 of her last 11 holes of bogey-free golf and Shiho Oyama 3 (against only 1 bogey in that sane span) to round out the top 10 at E. Ai-sama can certainly take away some positives from the fact that only 4 players (Higa, her, Yuko Mitsuka, and Hiroko Azuma) broke 70 today, but, man, you have to go outside the top 30 to find a stretch run as weak as hers. Ouch!]
[Update 3 (5:30 am): Here’s how the money list looks now:
1. Rikako Morita ￥93.27M
2. Sakura Yokomine ￥71.50M
3. Yumiko Yoshida ￥68.54M
4. Miki Saiki ￥65.84M
6. Natsuka Hori ￥62.05M
7. Mi-Jeong Jeon ￥58.55M
8. Sun-Ju Ahn ￥57.67M
9. Bo-Mee Lee ￥50.97M
11. Ritsuko Ryu ￥48.08M
12. Yuki Ichinose ￥43.24M
14. Onnarin Sattayabanphot ￥40.87M
15. Da-Ye Na ￥39.45M
17. Misuzu Narita ￥37.96M
18. Hiromi Mogi ￥36.88M
19. Kumiko Kaneda ￥36.85M
21. Asako Fujimoto ￥33.82M
32. Maiko Wakabayashi ￥26.21M
[Update 4 (1:38 pm): bangkokbobby has the overview and the youtube! Turns out it was Miyazato’s putter of all things that let her down. She missed a 6-footer save bogey on 15 and missed a 4-foot par save on 17, then watched as her birdie putt on 18 hung on the low left lip. Ouch!]