Yani Tseng. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Beyond the Spotlight at The Australian Open

Chasing the Trophy. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

Norwegian Suzann Pettersen did not disappoint.  She came off the first tee hot at the ISPS Handa Australian Women’s Open and set a fast pace for the field who ended up chasing her at The Victoria Golf Club.  The 2nd ranked player in women’s golf ripped through The Victoria Golf Club recording nine birdies and three bogeys to card 66 and take a 1-stroke lead over Americans Jaclyn Sweeny and Jessica Korda, South Korean Hee Young Park, and Frenchwoman Marion Ricordeau, her closest competitors heading into the second round.  And behind the leaders are 53 players starting the 2nd round lurking within 5 shots of the lead.  That’s a very crowded board and there’s a lot of golf yet to be played at the Australian Open.

To be sure, Pettersen is playing with a purpose.  She’ll take over the top Rolex Rank if she finishes in 1st or 2nd place at the Australian Open.

The players who are chasing her are equally determined.

A Quartet of Challengers

Jessica Korda. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Americans Jessica Korda and Jaclyn Sweeny are trailing Pettersen by a single shot going into the 2nd round.  Korda, who’s Rolex Ranked No. 20, won the season-opening Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic and finished inside the top-10 at last week’s Volvik RACV Ladies Masters.  She’d like to collect a 2nd early-season win.  It would get her closer to the Americans’ LPGA International Crown team.

Rolex Ranked No. 424, Sweeny played on the Symetra Tour in 2012 and 2013 and is hunting her first pro top-10 finish.  She’s put herself into a good position to get that by Sunday.  They both shot bogey-free rounds and are positioned to take a run at the top of the board.

Rolex Ranked No. 17 Hee Young Park and No. 307 Marion Ricordeau are sharing the second slot on the board with Korda and Sweeny.  Park won the 2013 Manulife Financial LPGA Classic and finished the RICOH British Women’s Open in a tie for 2nd.   Like Sweeny, Ricordeau is still looking for her first pro top-10 finish.

The Top-10 Ranked Players

Stacy Lewis. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

In addition to number two-ranked Pettersen, Stacy Lewis, Lydia Ko, Karrie Webb and Lexi Thompson are also vying for a place at the top of the Australian Open leaderboard.   They’ll all start the second round faced with the need to play catch-up golf.

Rolex Ranked No. 4 Ko and No. 9 Thompson are closest to the top of the board among the top-ranked players trailing Pettersen’s lead.  Ko will start the 2nd round two shots off the lead and sharing the 6th slot on the board with Swede Caroline Hedwall.  Thompson, at -1, trails Pettersen by 4 shots.  She needs to stay ahead of Korda just to hold on to her spot on the American International Crown team.

Stacy Lewis, America’s top-ranked golfer, and Karrie Webb, who holds the same distinction among Australian golfers, are both a bit further down the board.  They both finished the 1st round one shot under par and trail the lead by 5 shots starting the 2nd round.

The Rookies

American Anya Alvarez and Dane Line Vedel both caught my attention as the 2014 season teed off.   Going into the 2nd round, both are below the projected cut line, even par at this point. Vedel is at +1 and Alvarez is at +3.  They need to put some birdies on their cards in the 2nd round if they hope to stay in the tournament.

Outside the Spotlight: Fan Picks

With 3 bogeys and 4 birdies on her 1st round card Yani Tseng is starting the 2nd round at -1, keeping company with Karrie Webb and Stacy Lewis and 15 others.   There’s going to be a 2nd round scramble in the middle ranks.

The euphoria of her  RACV Australian Masters victory may have been a bit dampened by Cheyenne Woods’ first round at the Australian Open.  She struggled to find the fairways and struggled even more to find the bottom of the cup.  Starting the 2nd round at +2, Woods, like the rookies Alvarez and Vedel, needs to put a string of birdies on her scorecard if she hopes to survive the cut.

Englishwoman Melissa Reid, Rolex Ranked at 239, hasn’t seen a victory since her 2012 win at the Raiffeisenbank Prague Golf Masters, her 4th LET victory.  At 8 shots over par going into the 2nd round as the Australian Open and the projected cut at even par, Reid isn’t likely to be playing on Saturday and Sunday.

Tags: Golf Ladies European Tour LPGA Suzann Pettersen Women's Australian Open

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