Amy Yang held firm atop the leaderboard at the LPGA Tour Championship on Friday, taking a three-shot lead by the time the second round was halted due to darkness.
Taiwan’s Yani Tseng and Candie Kung were both 11 shots off the lead, while Amy Hung had not yet completed her second round.
The South Korean finished with a two-under 70 on Friday, playing through near-freezing temperatures at dawn at Grand Cypress Golf Club that made firm and fluctuating greens even faster.
“It is very surprising,” said Yang, who is going for her first LPGA victory and has never led a round until this week.
Maria Hjorth (68) and Lee Seon-hwa (73) were three shots back.
World No. 1 Shin Ji-yai (75) is 8-over par and projected to make the cut on the number, keeping alive her chances of having the top ranking at season’s end.
Yang overcame a slow second-round start to finish with four birdies on the back nine, including a sizzling putt from about 20 feet on the 18th hole. She also did it with a tougher morning tee time, around 8:30am, before things warmed up.
“You really have to be patient out here, because you’re going to have some bad breaks,” Hjorth said.
The course has wreaked havoc even on the top players.
The LPGA’s player of the year award is wide open at the season-ending event for the first time in a decade, now that Lorena Ochoa and Annika Sorenstam are retired. Five in the field have a chance to grab the honor and the top ranking is also in play.
Shin and Choi Na-yeon would be the first Korean to win the LPGA’s top honor. Cristie Kerr could become the first American since Beth Daniel in 1994 to claim the award, Tseng would be the first from Taiwan, and Ai Miyazato of Japan is also in contention.
Kerr (71) is five shots back, Choi (71) is seven off the lead, Tseng (73) is 11 back and Miyazato (71) is 14 off the pace. In other words, parity rules again at the top.
“I think it’s more interesting having more people up there,” Kerr said. “I would like to be the dominant Alpha female, but you have to work really hard for that.”
Yang’s last victory of any kind came in 2006, when she won the Ladies Masters in Australia at only 16 years old. That made her the youngest amateur ever to win on the Ladies European Tour and it seemed there would be more victories in her future.
“I was too young to know what winning a tournament meant,” she said. “After that, I had to finish high school. So there was a gap of time between that.”
Additional reporting by staff writer
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