Against all odds, rookie Mirim Lee will go into the weekend holding a two stroke lead over rookie Lydia Ko at the JTBC Founders Cup. Lee carded 64 yesterday and 67 today and will sleep tonight with a very impressive -13 for the tournament. Ko, with rounds of 67 and 66, seemed to get a feel for conditions at the Wildfire Golf Club at the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort and Spa today. She started the day at -5 and with a birdie and a bogey was still -5 at the turn. Then her putter went to work. Ko fired off four birdies and an eagle on the back nine and went to the clubhouse at -11 for the tournament!
The Top of the Board
Even at -13, South Korean Mirim Lee doesn’t have what might be considered a comfortable lead going into the weekend. There are fourteen players trailing Lee by six strokes or less, and conditions at the Wildfire course are helping keep the scores down. The air is thin and the course is dry. The balls are flying and rolling and the putts are dropping for a number of players.
South Korean Sun Young Yoo, at -10, is holding a solo third place right below Rolex Ranked No. 4 Ko, and there’s a four-way tie for 4th at -8, all power players: Rolex Ranked No. 1 Inbee Park; Rolex Ranked No. 5 So Yeon Ryu; Rolex Ranked 23 Chella Choi, who’s still hunting and is getting closer to her first LPGA victory; and Rolex Ranked 27 Jessica Korda, who already has one 2014 win and is hungry for a second one.
They all improved their putting today. They’re getting comfortable with the fast greens. Expect the scores in this group of experienced, world-class players to drop again in the third round.
Below this quartet there’s a logjam of five players at -8, trailing Lee by five strokes and below them a trio at -7 that includes defending champ Stacy Lewis. I anticipate some upward mobility from this group as well during the Saturday and Sunday rounds.
Outside the Spotlight
Despite the generally favorable conditions, not everyone has been able to manage the very fast greens at the Wildfire.
Azahara Munoz, who carded 68 yesterday seemed to fall apart today. She used 31 putts to make her way around the course, carded 71, and will go into the weekend at five strokes under par.
Paula Creamer, playing in her first event since the 75 foot putt at the HSBC Womens Champions that’s been watched around the world, has carded two rounds of 70 and is going into the weekend at -4 for the tournament.
Among others, Creamer’s sharing a crowded spot on the leaderboard with Rolex Ranked No. 2 Suzann Pettersen.
Munoz, Creamer and Pettersen haven’t been able to blow some fire into their putters and zero in on the cup. With hands on hips and often with scowls on their faces, they took tap-in pars when they should have and hoped to have birdies far too many times today.
Brittany Lang seems to be having a different kind of problem. She’s having trouble finding the fairways and getting to the greens. Lang will go into the weekend three strokes under par.
The Weekend Schedule
With The Founders holding court just off the 18th green, receiving hugs and kisses as the players complete their round, The Founders Cup feels more like a girls golf weekend or a family reunion than a competition with a substantial purse. Yet competition it is and the first players go off the tee at 8:30am local time Saturday morning. Golf Channel will provide Saturday and Sunday coverage beginning at 7pm ET, and I’ll provide a daily wrap-up as well.