My grandmother once advised me to never invoke the phrase “I told you so” in relationships I value, and I do value my relationship with my readers. That said, Charley Hull, the English teenager with the golf swing that’s been described as an exercise in controlled violence, mounted a serious challenge to Catriona Matthew, characterized by Juli Inkster as one of the most underrated players on the LPGA Tour, for the lead at the Airbus LPGA Classic Presented by JTBC. Hull, playing with an early tee time, carded a 67 in the second round, and took the clubhouse lead until Matthew pulled even late in the day with a birdie on 16 and then took back the lead with another birdie on 17. And that’s how it stands going into the weekend. We’ll have a treat Saturday! They’ll be paired and playing each other shot-for-shot.
Power Pairings Lookback
As I predicted, Rolex Ranked no. 2 Stacy Lewis is going into the weekend at -8, with a one stroke lead over Rolex Ranked no. 7 So Yeon Ryu and a substantial edge over Karrie Webb, who’s going into the weekend at 4 strokes under par.
With Inbee Park out of the field, Lewis’s chance to move to the top of the world rankings is considerably improved. If she can finish inside the top-3 she’ll take the top of the world rankings. That’s a strong incentive.
Going into the weekend trailing Matthew’s lead by five strokes, however, Lewis has some work ahead of her, and she’s going to succeed or fail on the putting surface. Catriona Matthew has used an economical 54 putts for the first 2 rounds. Charley Hull and Stacy Lewis, both powerful ball strikers, have made two laps of the course in 58 putts. Those 4 strokes could be a critical difference
I don’t count Karrie Webb out yet. Webb’s ability to turn her game around is legendary and her capacity to determine what she needs to shoot and then deliver that score is testimony to the skill that’s put her in the World Hall of Fame.
I also predicted that Michelle Wie, paired with Inbee Park and Angela Stanford, would take control of the round within her threesome. Park, who simply couldn’t get her game going, ended her day with a disappointing +6 and will not play the weekend and neither will Angela Stanford, who wasn’t able to repeat her first round performance and finished Friday at -1.
Wie got hot today and carded a 66. She’ll start the weekend at -7, trailing the lead by 5 strokes. If she can bring her second round game to the tee Saturday and Sunday she’ll be in strong contention.
Lexi Thompson, ranked 6th by Rolex, took control of the round within her threesome and is going into the weekend at -9, alongside Jenny Shin. Thompson’s playing partners, Suzann Pettersen (-8) and Azahara Munoz (-3) will both play the weekend and although Munoz is faced with quite a stretch Pettersen, trailing Matthew by 5 strokes, remains a strong challenger.
Chasing the Lead – Inside the Top-10
In addition to Catriona Matthew and Charley Hull, there are thirteen players inside the top-10 on the board and within five strokes of the lead going into the weekend. Although the field has narrowed, with scores continuing to run low Matthew and Hull won’t lack for competition.
Hee Young Park, Jessica Korda and Anna Nordqvist are all going into the weekend at -10 and sharing the third slot on the leaderboard. Already 2014 champions, Korda and Nordqvist know what it takes to narrow the gap to the top over the next 36 holes. And Park, although without a top-10 finish this year, delivered the shot of the day with her eagle chip-in on the par-5 16th hole.
Immediately below Lexi Thompson and Jenny Shin at -9, there are 8 players at -8: in addition to Stacy Lewis and Suzann Pettersen, Haru Nomura, Christina Kim, Jodi Shadoff, rookie Felicity Johnson, Se Ri Pak, and Eun-Hee Ji.
We’ll have a sense of whether or not they have the game to challenge the leaders after Saturday’s round.
Notable Cuts and Near Misses
Paula Creamer saved herself with a birdie on the 18th and will play the weekend, but trailing the lead by 11 strokes.
Inbee Park has missed her first cut this year, by a whopping 6 strokes. I.K. Kim, Angela Stanford, Yani Tseng, Beatriz Recari, Mika Miyazato, and Laura Davies, who just qualified to play in her 28th US Women’s Open next month, also missed the cut this week.
Sydnee Michaels and Lindsey Wright lead off Saturday’s round at 7:30am local time. The final group, Catriona Matthew, Charley Hull, and Hee Young Park, tee off at 12:10pm local time. Golf Channel will begin coverage of the round in progress at 3pm ET, and I’ll provide a wrap-up of the round Saturday evening.