Inbee Park Leading Field at Meijer LPGA Classic


Apr 2, 2014; Rancho Mirage, CA, USA; Inbee Park during a practice round for the Kraft Nabisco Championship golf tournament at Mission Hills Country Club. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

With Inbee Park in the lead and Suzann Pettersen in hot pursuit, the top of the leaderboard at the Meijer LPGA Classic is twinkling with stars going into the weekend.  But Park and Pettersen aren’t alone up there at the top.  Mirim Lee and Amy Yang are pushing hard from 3rd and 4th on the board, respectively, and a gang of five is going into Saturday sharing fifth place and trailing Park’s 10-under par lead by five strokes.  The Blythefield Country Club track is testing everyone but as Lydia Ko observed, “everybody’s playing the same course, so it’s playing firm and tough for everyone.”

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Park’s New Flat Stick

Inbee Park has always used a mallet putter but her flat stick’s been holding her back this year so she experimented with So Yeon Ryu’s blade putter at the International Crown and liked the results.

". . . so I said to the TaylorMade rep ‘can you make me one exactly the same as So Yeon’s?’ It came this week and it’s been working. – Inbee Park"

Indeed it has.  Park made her way around Blythefield on Thursday with an economical 27 putts on Thursday and again on Friday, carding two consecutive rounds of 66 despite uncharacteristically low accuracy off the tee.

Pettersen’s New Short Game Coach

Pettersen was paired with Paula Creamer and Lydia Ko on Thursday and Friday and as I predicted, she pulled ahead of both of them today and will go into the weekend at 9-under par, one shot behind Inbee Park and holding solo second on the leaderboard.

Pettersen found playing with Lydia Ko instructive:

"I’ve been learning a lot of chipping watching Lydia chip today. She’s the chipping queen on this tour, just phenomenal to see such a great touch around the greens."

I’m looking for Pettersen to make good use of what she learned today and repeat her hot 2nd round, birdie-birdie start tomorrow.  She’s paired with Park and playing in the final group.  Watch for a Saturday afternoon battle of the stars!

Mirim Lee & Amy Yang

Rookie Mirim Lee and seven-year veteran Amy Yang have both recorded two very strong rounds.

Amy Yang.

Lee, who’s ranked 71st, showed a fine game with her T2 finish in March at the JTBC Founders Cup, and she’s pulled it out again at the Meijer Classic.  More accurate than most of the field off the Blythefield tees, Lee also put an impressive eagle on her card today at the par-5 11th and she’s going into the weekend with a three stroke edge over the Tour’s rookie star, Lydia Ko.

Yang, who’s world ranked 15th, has been playing steady golf this year and she’s moving into position to play for the win.  She’s recorded three 2014 top-10 finishes, sharing that T2 at the Founders Cup with Mirim Lee and claiming a solo 10th at the Kraft Nabisco Championship and an impressive solo 4th place finish at the US Women’s Open in June.

The Gang of Five

Haru Nomura, Line Vedel, Lydia Ko, Katherine Kirk and Sandra Gal are going into the weekend all tied up at 5-under par and sharing the 5th slot on the leaderboard.

Nomura, world ranked 84th, made good use of her two rounds with Shanshan Feng and Sandra Gal and made good on my prediction that she’d keep pace.  Gal, who had the early lead at the Meijer Classic, played a so-so second round and dropped back while Nomura, despite a sprinkling of bogeys on her second round card, applied her flat stick effectively and carded a 67 today.  Feng, at -4, is trailing her first and second round playing partners by one stroke going into the weekend.

Rookies Line Vedel and Lydia Ko are both looking good.  Vedel’s been more accurate off the tee and Ko’s been playing a stronger short game, but they’re both in position to let Inbee Park and Suzann Pettersen know the win isn’t theirs, not yet.

World ranked 108th, Katherine Kirk’s been a fixture on the Tour since 2008 but she’s been winless since her 2010 Navstar LPGA Classic victory.  Kirk played heroically for Team Australia at the International Crown and she’s showing us that strong sturdy game again this week.

Other Notes

World ranked number 1 Stacy Lewis goes into the weekend at even par, trailing Inbee Park’s lead by ten shots and Lexi Thompson, who’s ranked 5th, slipped into the weekend just above the cut line.  She’ll start Saturday at 2-over par.

Mo Martin joined Michelle Wie on the sidelines with a hand injury.

Jessica Korda missed the cut, as did both the amateurs, Lindsey McPherson and Grace Choi.

Saturday Schedule

Play begins on Saturday at 9:48am local time, with the final group, Inbee Park and Suzann Pettersen, teeing off at 3pm.  Golf Channel will begin coverage of the third round in progress at 5pm ET, and ProGolfNow will provide continuing commentary and updates.

Follow me on Twitter @bethbethel and I’ll notify you when I post commentary on the Meijer LPGA Classic and other pro golf events.