Suzann Pettersen is playing flat out for a win at the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship. Mounting a vigorous defense of her 2012 championship, the Norwegian carded one eagle, two birdies and one bogey to take a commanding five-stroke lead over South Korean Sun Young Yoo and Spaniard Carlota Ciganda going in to Saturday’s third round.
Pettersen jumpstarted her 2nd round surge with a hole-in-one at the par-3 second where she used a pitching wedge from 133 yards to record her third ace on the LPGA Tour.
I called the shot, I hit it exactly how I wanted and was fortunate enough that I had a good break . . . It’s nice to get a hole‑in‑one when you actually call the shot in advance and then pull the trigger.
The rain had stopped but the winds were swirling and gusting throughout the 2nd round, complicating playing conditions for everyone but Suzann Pettersen. Rolex Ranked #2 Pettersen was the only player in this week’s 78-player field to record two subpar rounds with the winds making scoring conditions difficult. She cruised along the front-nine of Sunrise Golf & Country Club as she recorded six consecutive pars before carding her first birdie of the day at the par-5 ninth. After making the turn at 3-under for the day, Pettersen gave back a stroke with her first bogey of the day at the 14th hole but was able to claw her way back to 7-under for the tournament with a birdie at the par-5 18th.
The 13-time LPGA Tour winner is inching her way one-step closer to clinching her fourth victory this season and she is also making a significant dent into Inbee Park’s lead in the Rolex Player of the Year race, LPGA Official Money List, and Rolex Rankings. With only 3 events remaining on this year’s LPGA Tour schedule, Pettersen must sustain her impressive tournament surge that has included two wins and two top-3 finishes if she wants to finish the year on top.
What a Difference A Day Makes
Sun Young Yoo opened this week’s Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship with a 1-over 73, but the South Korean made a significant comeback on Saturday as she fired an impressive 3-under 69 in the midst of the windy conditions. Nestled on top of a mountain, Sunrise Golf & Country Club is notorious for its swirling winds. The course did not disappoint. The wind howled during Friday’s second round but Yoo knew what to expect as she clawed her way up the leaderboard from a tie for 14th into a tie for second.
Yoo’s course management strategy that incorporated the wind? “I just focused on where I want to start the ball, instead of focusing to getting close to the pin,” Yoo, who’s ranked 44th by Rolex, explained in her post-round interview. Clearly, that strategy worked for Yoo.
Spaniards Carlota Ciganda and Beatriz Recari and Aussie Katherine Hull-Kirk also moved up the board with sub-par 2nd rounds. Despite a painful double bogey on the par-5 17th hole, Ciganda carded 70 and, now at -2 for the tournament, is sharing the 2nd slot on the board with Sun Young Yoo.
Hull-Kirk and Recari, both at -1 for the tournament, are sharing the 4th slot on the board. Hull-Kirk shaved 3 shots off her 1st round score of 73 and Recari moved from a 1st round even par score to 1 shot under par.
When there’s movement upward, there’s also movement downward. Swede Caroline Hedwall and American Alison Walsche looked good at the end of the first round to challenge Pettersen. That seemed less likely at the end of the 2nd round. Both hit a birdie drought and carded 73, 1 shot over par, and dropped down to a share of 6th place on the board.
As Pettersen lengthens her lead, catching her will become more problematic. The sun will shine, at least some of the time, for the Saturday 3rd round, but the winds will continue to howl and swirl and befuddle ball direction. With Pettersen leading the field by 5 shots at the tourney mid-point, catching her in the difficult scoring conditions is going to involve a magical combination of skill and luck.
Golf Channel will provide 2nd round highlights today, Friday, October 24, noon-3pm ET that without a doubt will include Pettersen’s ace, and I’ll be back with a recap of Saturday’s 3rd round tomorrow.