Apr 2, 2014; Rancho Mirage, CA, USA; A practice round for the Kraft Nabisco Championship. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

LPGA: Coming into Saturday at the Kingsmill Championship


With everybody in the house the first round at the Kingsmill Championship Presented by JTBC is history and the scene’s set for Friday morning, if the weather cooperates.  Azahara Munoz finally dialed in her game today and carded a bogey-free 65.  Second year player Austin Ernst, who’s missed more cuts than she’s made this year, matched her.  Together they share the overnight lead, one stroke ahead of Hee Young Park, who’s still hunting her first 2014 top-10 finish.  But in a field of 144, 49 players — about a third of the field — shot sub-par rounds and are starting Friday within five strokes of the top of the board.  The tournament that’s gone to a playoff in 2012 and 2013 is as wide-open as a competitive athletic event can be.

Chasing the Lead

There’s a crowd of seven starting the second round trailing co-leaders Azahara Munoz and Austin Ernst by two strokes, among them defending champion Cristie Kerr, 2014 Kraft Nabisco champion Lexi Thompson, Rolex Ranked number 16 Lizette Salas, who has two top-10 finishes this year and is on the hunt for her first pro win, and Kathleen Ekey, who’s a bit of a surprise.

Ekey, who’s ranked 351 by Rolex, is playing her third year on the Tour with no top-10 finishes.  She’s entered seven events this year and made the cut only once, at the Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic, which she finished in a tie for 44th place.  But today Ekey pulled out her A game and went to work, hitting eleven of the fourteen fairways, making fourteen greens in regulation, and making her way around the course with an economical 26 putts, the same number required by the LPGA’s putting wizard, Stacy Lewis.  Where has this game been for the last three months?  And perhaps more critical, will Ekey bring it back to the second round?

Lewis v Ko

With a victory at Kingsmill, either Stacy Lewis or Lydia Ko could bump Inbee Park off the top of the rankings.  How did they play today?  They both carded 70.  Lewis was getting a bit more distance off the tee than Ko, and was much more economical on the putting surface, but Ko, playing her usual game of targeted precision, hit more fairways and greens in regulation.  As the weather deteriorates and playing conditions become more challenging, Ko’s game could well prove the advantage, although Lewis may settle into a more accurate rhythm tomorrow.

The Kingsmill Resort River Course, running along the historic James River, is providing a picturesque backdrop for this popular LPGA event.  With first round scores running low and a threatening overnight weather change, I’m anticipating some dramatic ups and downs on the leaderboard during the second round.

Weather permitting, second round play will begin at 7:30am Friday and Golf Channel will provide a delayed broadcast of the round’s highlights beginning at 8:30pm Eastern Time.

 

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