For a second consecutive day, Jin Young Ko has ruled Kooyonga in building a three-shot buffer at the halfway point of the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open.
The South Korean superstar, 22, went out in the gorgeous early-morning Adelaide conditions and carded a three-under-par 69 to go with her dazzling, first-round 65, and, at 10 under, sat back and watched the afternoon players flailing in the sea breeze.
None of them could catch her.
The closest at seven under is American LPGA Tour rookie Emma Talley who had a 69 on Friday, also taking advantage of the breathless morning conditions and wedged between the mighty Koreans.
Two major winners out of the Seoul factory line, Jiyai Shin, who momentarily held the lead when she birdied the first three holes on Friday, and Sun Young Yoo are tied third at six under.
Australia’s leading hopes are Perth’s Minjee Lee and hometown hero Stephanie Na at two under, but both are eight shots from the lead. Veteran Karrie Webb had a disappointing day, shooting 78 to miss the cut.
Even Hannah Green, who at one point reached five under, wilted in the late afternoon, getting into contention then dropping shots at the final four holes to fall back to one under overall. Five Australians made the cut, including first-year professional Karis Davidson, who had a fine 69.
Ultimately the day belonged to the world No.20 Ko, who has logged an astonishing 14 birdies in her opening two rounds, by far the best player through the first two days.
Ironically she had started poorly, dropping shots at her first two holes, the 10th and 11th on the course, and losing the lead to compatriot Shin.
But where on Thursday she had caught fire on the back nine, this time she lit up the front. She birdied the first three holes from the par-five first, each time hitting it close, and regained control of the tournament. It might already be hers to win or lose, because she certainly knows how to close out. She has won 10 tournaments in Korea and 14 overall – no small feat for a 22-year-old.
“Yes, I like this course style,’’ she said afterward. “Korean courses (are) more long hit and narrow and then (I) have to get longer distance and then straight shots, but here is wider, so stress is less.”
Her caddie is an Australian, Dean Herden, who has spent a decade looping for Korean players and winning 51 tournaments. He first saw Ko two years ago almost winning the Women’s British Open, and soon after that he was on her bag.
“She is amazing,” Herden said. “If you get the right yardage, she just flights the ball well. A lot of the girls flight the ball low and it runs out, but she spins it. We’ve changed to a Titleist ball and she gets even more spin now.”
A few of the big names remain in the pack. The past two Open winners, Japan’s Haru Nomura and Korean Ha Na Jang, are both at three under, along with Thai sisters, Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn. World No.9 Cristie Kerr is at one under.
World No.3 So Yeon Ryu faded with a 75 to be even par overall. New Zealand’s Lydia Ko made a run, getting to six under, but then strung four consecutive bogeys together on the back nine to fall off the leaderboard, finishing at two under overall.
Among those to have the weekend off are Canadian Brooke Henderson, Cheyenne Woods and Mel Reid, as well as Sweden’s Caroline Hedwall, who followed a 68 with a disastrous 82.