Japan Women’s Open Thursday: 4 Lead at -2, Only 6 Under Par

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Mika Miyazato, Miki Saiki, Teresa Lu, and Mihoko Iseri came the closest in the 108-player field at the Japan Women’s Open to reaching the 60s, but all eventually finished their opening rounds at -2, giving them a 1-shot lead on Yuri Fudoh and Kaori Ohe, a 2-shot lead on Mayu Hattori, Hyun-Ju Shin, Tomoko Kusakabe, and Yui Mukaiyama, and a 3-shot lead on a host of players that included Sakura Yokomine, LPGA rookie Ayako Uehara, last week’s winner Na-Ri Lee, and former LPGAer Harukyo Nomura.

Meanwhile, some of the highest-ranked players in the field struggled mightily.  In-Kyung Kim opened with a birdieless 40 and needed her lone birdie of the day on the 160-year par-3 17th to stay at +4.  Ai Miyazato made the Japanese evening news by missing 2 1-footers on the same hole (she tripled that long par-5 3rd hole with a 4-putt after bogeying the previous hole) and missing another short putt; she actually did well to stay at +4, making 3 birdies and 3 bogeys the rest of the way.  Ji-Yai Shin made a double on the medium-length par-5 18th as she made the turn and also ended up with an opening 76 after posting a total of 4 bogeys (including 2 in her last 4 holes) and 2 birdies in her round.  Sun-Ju Ahn also made a double and 4 bogeys but bounced back with 3 birdies in her last 11 holes to salvage a 75.  Money-list leader Rikako Morita was -2 through her 1st 6 holes, but still ended up with a 74 after making 4 bogeys, including 2 consecutive bogeys to finish her round, the rest of the way.  Bo-Mee Lee joined her by following up her bogey-free 35 on the back (her 1st 9) with 2 bogeys and a walkoff double on the front.  Mi-Jeong Jeon also shot a 74, but at least she made 16 pars in her round–no birdies, though.

In that context, it’s pretty impressive that anyone was able to get and stay under par on the fast and firm greens (which ran 12.5 on the stimpmeter).  Mikan was actually -3 and bogey-free through her 1st 12 holes and finished with 5 straight pars.  Lu also made the same-length bogey-free run, but her 1st bogey of the day brought her over par; she bounce right back with 3 birdies in a row, though, to close out her round.  Fudoh made 4 birdies on the front, including 3 in a row to finish the side, and was -3 through 11 holes, but stumbled home with 3 bogeys and a birdie the rest of the way.  Others had similar roller-coaster rounds.  Saiki made 5 birdies in her round, but needed a bogey-free finish over her last 7 holes in which she made her last 2 birdies of the day to get and stay under par.  Miseri did the same but her final 2 birdies came in her last 4 holes and her closing bogey-free run was 6 holes long.  Mayu Hattori needed a bogey-free 33 finish on the front to fight back to E after finishing the back with a double bogey.  Natsuka Hori tripled her 2nd hole, the long par-5 11th, but fought back with 6 birdies the rest of her round–and still shot a 73.  And the list goes on.  It’s a rare scorecard that didn’t have at least one double on it.

In other words, things were tough all over.  Let’s see who has the mental toughness to stay focused and keep fighting over the final 54 holes in the biggest tournament of the year on the JLPGA.

[Update 1 (8:05 pm):  The low amateurs so far have pretty good pedigrees.  Haruka Morita (73) won the Japan Women’s Amateur in late June, while Mao Nozawa (also 73) came in 3rd.]

[Update 2 (8:11 pm):  In addition, Kotone Hori (74) made it to the 2nd round of the JWA, while runner-up there Yumi Matsubara opened with a 74, as well.  Hibiki Kitamura finished 4th at the JWA, but she had to settle for a 76 today.]

[Update 3 (8:20 pm):  Check out who made their JWO debuts in 2010!  A lot of the young amateurs in the field this year were even younger back then!]

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