MIYAZAKI – Tour money leader Rikako Morita and second-placed Sakura Yokomine each carded a 2-over-par 74 on Thursday in the first round of the season-ending Japan LPGA Tour Championship.
Morita entered play at the ¥100-million event with a lead of roughly ¥2.8 million over Yokomine. Sunday’s winner will earn a ¥25-million payday.
Morita had an eagle, three birdies and seven bogies at the par-72 Miyazaki Country Club. She got off to a strong start and was 3 under after her birdie on No. 12, but suffered five bogies over the final six holes.
“The bogeys were due to my poor putting, not the wind,” said Morita when asked if the weather had hastened her back-nine plunge. “Part was being too conservative and passive.”
The pair was tied for 14th, five strokes back of the leading quartet of Yumiko Yoshida, Shiho Oyama, and South Koreans Ahn Sun-ju and Lee Na-ri, who were at 3-under-par 69. Yoshida, who is third in the money rankings, trails Morita by more than ¥38 million.
The 23-year-old Morita, who finished seventh in earnings last season, has four wins on tour this season including last week’s Elleair Ladies Open.
Yokomine, 27, won the 2009 money title and has finished among the top four in seven of the past eight seasons.