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Teresa Lu fired a bogey-free 30 on the final 9 of the Mizuno Classic today to roar past Chella Choi and take her 1st victory on a major professional tour.
Choi, who had gone out with a bogey-free 31 to get to -11, had a lead of 1 shot over 2nd-round co-leaders Shiho Oyama and Yuki Ichinose, 2 shots over Yumiko Yoshida (who followed up yesterday’s 65 with 4 birdies in her 1st 7 holes today) and Asako Fujimoto, and 3 shots over fellow co-leader Mamiko Higa and Lu (who had bogeyed the 9th after birdieing 1, 3, and 7). But Choi would make only 1 birdie the rest of the day on her way to a 66, her 3rd-straight round in the 60s. It was a big one, to be sure. Lu had birdied 4 holes in a row early on the back to get to -12, and Choi’s birdie on the par-5 16th tied her for the lead. But Lu birdied her final 2 holes in a row to post a 64 and win by 2 over Choi.
Lu’s 30 was light-years ahead of the competition down the stretch. She beat Choi by 5 shots over the last 9 holes. Among the leaders, only Higa and Shanshan Feng came closer to her–and only by 1 shot! Their 34s were good enough to lift Higa into a tie for 3rd with Ichinose at -10 and Feng into a tie for 8th with defending champion Stacy Lewis and Eun-Bi Jang. Everybody else in the top 12 shot 36s or 37s. Oyama (37) ended up in a tie for 5th with Yoshida (36) at -9; Fujimoto (37) was solo 7th at -8. Kaori Nakamura (36) and Ji-Yai Shin (37) ended up T11 at -6.
And even so this JLPGA-dominated top 12 (even more so if you recall that Feng and Shin are dual LPGA-JLPGA members) finished way better than the LPGA’s rookies. Yes, Moriya Jutanugarn fired a 69 to finish T30 at -3 and gain 20 points in the ROY race, cutting Caroline Masson’s lead to 11 points. Masson shot 72-72 on the weekend, but she finished T60 at +4, gaining only 5 points. Everyone else is out of the race, as Lisa McCloskey shot a 76 (E, T41), Austin Ernst a 79 (+3, T58), Ayako Uehara a 76 (+4, T60), and Chie Arimura a 73 (+5, T68). But they shouldn’t feel too bad: JLPGA money-list leader Rikako Morita shot a 77, Natsuka Hori shot a 76, Erika Kikuchi a 75, Na-Ri Lee a 74, and Kumiko Kaneda a 73.
Back to the JLPGA, winnings this week are being counted on the money list, after all:
1. Rikako Morita ￥105.58M
2. Sakura Yokomine ￥102.83M
3. Miki Saiki ￥81.94M
4. Teresa Lu ￥78.89M
5. Sun-Ju Ahn ￥78.13M
6. Yumiko Yoshida ￥77.58M
7. Mamiko Higa ￥71.56M
8. Bo-Mee Lee ￥70.34M
9. Natsuka Hori ￥64.75M
16. Onnarin Sattayabanphot ￥44.23M