Defending champion Suzann Pettersen fired a second round five-under-par 68 on the Blackstone Course at Mission Hills Resort Haikou in China on Friday to keep her lead at the World Ladies Championship. The world ranked number 2 from Norway is sitting at 11-under-par at the mid-point of the 72-hole stroke play tournament, two clear of the five-way logjam in second place. Two teenaged rising stars in the field, Thailand’s Ariya Jutanguarn and Australia’s Minjee Lee, are four shots off the lead and holding onto a share of the eighth slot on the board, alongside world ranked number one Inbee Park and Gwladys Nocera.
Pettersen Stays on Top
Pettersen carded a flawless round on a warm and overcast day in tropical Hainan, with four birdies on the par fives and another on the driveable par-4 16th, a dog-leg playing over a lake.
Australian Nikki Campbell (67), England’s Trish Johnson (68), South Koreans and So Yeon Ryu (67) and Ye Na Chung (69) and Valentine Derrey of France (68) are all on nine-under-par, trailing Pettersen’s lead by two shots going into the third round.
But scores are running low, including a career-best round of nine-under-par 64 from Italian Diana Luna, and Pettersen will need to dig deep and produce some phenomenal golf to maintain her lead and successfully defend.
Luna was feeling at home on the moonscape-like black lava volcanic golf course. Her personal low round of 64 included two eagles on the second and 16th holes, as well as seven birdies and two bogeys.
You can really go low out here. There were a couple of really low ones out here today. It’s impossible to say. I think you’ve got to be at least 16-under-par for the next two rounds; then I think you’re in good shape.
One of Pettersen’s closest competitors, world ranked number five Ryu, recorded two eagles in her second round. The 2011 US Women’s Open champion hit a three-wood off the par-5 second hole tee and then a three-wood again on the second shot, followed by a three foot eagle putt!
Derrey also mixed seven birdies with two bogeys in a 68. A number of the players are finding the par-5s reachable in two and with 2-putts the eagles are flying.
Korean LPGA player Chung, who led the Sanya Ladies Open in Hainan in October last year, had six birdies and two bogeys in a four-under 69. She said: “I tried not to be greedy today, so I focused on making a par on every hole and I think that was the reason for my score.”
Jutanugarn carded a 66, improving over her first round 73 and moving up the board from her 20th place start to a share of 8th place, alongside Minjee Lee and Inbee Park. Lee, who started the second round with a share of the 2nd slot on the board, ran into a bit of trouble and dropped down to share 8th place. But the pair of teenagers are holding their own against the finest golfers in the world, going into the third round of the tournament at -7 and playing even with Park.
The Tournament Within the Tournament
In the team event running concurrently, where scores are determined by the lowest aggregate for each pair representing their country, France and South Korea were tied for the lead on 276 at the halfway point.
However, with new tournament conditions this year, Norway was out of the race as Pettersen’s partner, Marianne Skarpnord, missed the cut by one stroke and will not play the weekend.
The cut fell at 149, three-over-par and 55 players, including four amateurs, will compete for the three individual, team and amateur titles being contested simultaneously over the weekend.
The 3rd and 4th round of the World Ladies Championship will be streamed live via YouTube, 5:30-8:30am GMT, Saturday, March 8 and Sunday, March 9. This link will get you there:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xj1wa8jPqeQ.