Classic Momoko!

5 11 2007

Momoko UedaJapan has a new sensation.

Momoko Ueda became the first Japanese national to win the Mizuno Classic in nine years, getting the title with a 5-under-par 66 on the final day – including a double-eagle… staving off a push from Reilley Rankin (USA) and Maria Hjorth (Sweden) to win by 2 strokes. Ueda finished with a 13-under 203, earning her first LPGA tour event victory.

Both Rankin and Hjorth had more than one opportunity to take the lead out of Ueda’s hands, but Ueda’s double eagle put her out of reach of both Rankin & Hjorth.

Advice from Momoko’s coach had her focusing more on her own game, and less on what her opponents were doing. Seemed to work fine!
Early leader Laura Davies finished 5th, not recovering well from a penalty involving a misplaced ball. J-Teen Ai Miyazato never played well, carrying her recent poor form over, and sustaining it throughout the tournament – never in it, finishing a disappointing 8-over 224, 68th place.

It’s a great victory for the 21 year old, and certainly big things will be expected of her now. It should be – in the long run – a good thing for Ai Miyazato too… this win should lift some of the expectations that are inevitably placed upon her within Japan.

1. Momoko UedaUeda Wins!
2. Maria Hjorth
2. Reilley Rankin
4. Shinobu Moromizato
5. Mi Hyun Kim
5. Chie Arimura
5. Mie Nakata
5. Laura Davies
9. Angela Park
9. Hye Jung Choi
9. Yuri Fudoh
9. Jee Lee
9. Bo Bae Song
14. Yui Kawahara
14. In-Bee Park
14. Brittany Lang
14. Joo Mi Kim
14. Jeong Jang

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Classic Davies at Mizuno Classic

3 11 2007

Laura Davies playin’ well…Laura Davies has been playing some classic golf at the Kashikojima Country Club in Mie, Japan. After the first round, Davies (65) holds a one stroke lead over Reilley Rankin (66) and local girl Chie Arimura (66). The weather’s been cool, but winds have certainly been a factor in playing the course.

Karrie Webb’s off to a slow start, hitting a +1 over par 73. It was certainly an inconsistent day for Webb, who followed birdies with bogeys, or vice versa.
One consolation for Webb could be that she’s not alone as a poorly-performing-star. J-teen sensation Ai Miyazato finds herself 5 over par on 77. Miyazato was buoyed by cheering fans, but just couldn’t seem to find any semblance of consistency on the greens.

Still, Japanese ladies dominate the top 5… and there are several well-poised to do well on Day 2.

Top 5…
1. Laura Davies [34+31 = 65, -7]
2. Reilly Rankin [33+33 = 66, -6]
2. Chie Arimura [34+32 = 66, -6]
4. Erina Hara [34+33 = 67, -5]
5. Mie Nakata [35+33 = 68, -4]

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Mizuno Classic

1 11 2007

It’s amazing. One of the biggest events on the LPGA of Japan tour card, and I can barely find a whisper of it in the mainstream media. A shame, really.

So, starting tomorrow the Mizuno Classic begins (Nov 2nd – 4th). This year, it will be held at the luxurious Kashikojima Country Club near the city of Shima, in Mie prefecture (just south of Nagoya). With a purse of US$1.4 million ($210,000 for the winner), it’s a pretty lucrative tournament, and is the only LPGA of Japan event to be co-sanctioned by the LPGA.

Local Golden Girl, Ai MiyazatoSo… who’ll be there? Last year, Karrie Webb of Australia won the event, and she’s returning to defend her title against a field of 77 other golfers, fairly evenly split between LPGA & JLPGA members. Leading challengers to take that title from Webb are Jeong Jang (South Korea), Laura Davies (England), Mi Hyun Kim (South Korea) and Sophie Gustafson (Sweden). Local challenges will come from Momoko Ueda, and Japanese golden girl Ai Miyazato.
I think that a local can win this, Miyazato has been in very good form this year, and has had 6 top ten finishes this year already. After only playing 2 years on the LPGA tour, she’s amassed a hefty US$1.3+ million. Girl can play, and on her home turf with a massive following, she could be the one worth watching.
For those that like a bit of a gamble, the odds are pretty long on her at the moment – many sportsbetting sites have her at 100/1.
Still, I guess my tip of the local girls for the tournament would be Shinobu Moromizato…

It’s disappointing that Michelle Wie doesn’t play in a tournament like this, rather than still pursuing the Men’s events (recently she withdrew from the Casio Men’s Open here in Japan). This is exactly the type of tournament she could thrive in, with not all of the big-name LPGA stars competing here, and her good looks would ensure she gets plenty of positive media coverage. No-one loves ‘cute’ more than Japan.

More updates as the tournament progresses…

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Japan Loves Cute, re deux

19 10 2007

Japanese golf is in quite a bit of difficulty. The tour is down to 24 events, down from 44 in the boom years of the 90s. Whilst still being the 3rd largest tour in the world, the prize money has not kept pace with that of the PGA and European Golf tours. Add to that, 5 sponsors bailed on the tour after the close of the 2006 season. Even the beverage giant Suntory left, a long-time regular in the sponsor’s lists. The Japan Golf Tour is in a downward spiral.

ai-miyazato.jpgProviding a stark contrast to this is the growth of the JLPGA. The ladies’ game in Japan has grown rapidly. There are now 37 tour events, and it is the 2nd most lucrative tour in the world (behind the LPGA). They have 3 huge events – the Japan Open, the JLPGA Championship and the JLPGA Tour Championship – and one event is even co-sanctioned by the LPGA, The Mizuno Classic. Read the rest of this entry »

Top Sports Stories in Japan… (Sept 16)

16 09 2007

Not so hot any more… but she isMixed bag last night – Hawks lost, but hey – Wallabies beat up on the Welsh!

So, in today’s sports headlines in Japan:

Top Sports Stories in Japan… (Sept 11)

11 09 2007

More gorgeous Aizawa HitomiCooler… and wetter today.

The cool’s a pleasant change!

Anyway, in today’s sports headlines in Japan:

Top Sports Stories in Japan… (Sept 10)

10 09 2007

Ayumi Kinoshita goodness…Pretty big weekend in sport… more to come!

So, today’s top stories in sports in Japan: