New Zealand golf prodigy Lydia Ko fired a second-straight four-under-par 68 on Friday to seize a share of the second-round lead with Chella Choi at the LPGA’s Canadian Women’s Open.
Ko, a 15-year-old South Korean-born New Zealander who won the US Women’s Amateur crown two weeks ago, shared the lead with Choi on eight-under 136, three shots in front of their nearest rivals.
She played without a bogey on the Vancouver Golf Club course and birdied three holes in a row starting at the par-three 12th, then added a fourth birdie at 17 to gain her share of the lead.
In January, Ko won the New South Wales Open in Australia at the age of 14 to become the youngest player to win a professional tour event.
“I’m just here for the experience,” Ko said. “But the professionals, on the other hand, it’s about how much money they’re going to get by each placing.”
Should she hang on to the lead this week, Ko would be the youngest winner in the history of the LPGA Tour and the first amateur winner since American JoAnne Carner in 1969.
Choi, 22, had eight birdies in a bogey-free eight-under par 64.
“I’m very happy,” said Choi, who had been hindered by a sore shoulder on Thursday. “I don’t know how I made the putts.”
Club member Brian Alexander served as Ko’s caddie, and she appreciated having the local knowledge.
“Two weeks ago at the US Amateur, my mom caddied, and that is kind of a different feeling, because she’s your mom and you have to listen to her,” Ko said. “It was really comfortable having my mom there, but it’s also really relieving and comfortable to have someone that knows the course off their hat, really. He’s been here for, I think 10 years, so he knows where not to go and where to go. There were quite a few tricky greens.”
Alexander, a real-estate developer, said he gave Ko advice about the course in practice rounds this week, but she has been making her own decisions during the tournament.
Moira Dunn, Angela Stanford, US Women’s Open champion Choi Na-yeon and Park In-bee shared third place on five-under 139. Dunn and Stanford both carded 70s, while South Korea’s Park posted a 71 and her comptriot Choi shot 72.
It was a further shot back to Norway’s Suzann Pettersen (69), South Korea’s Shin Ji-yai (70) and Vicky Hurst (70) on 140.
Pettersen said it was odd seeing Ko’s name atop the leaderboard.
“It feels like you’re being beaten by a kid,” Pettersen said about Ko. “I know she’s good. The problem is, she’s too young to understand where she’s at.”
Taiwan’s world No. 1 Yani Tseng, the overnight leader after a 66, ballooned to a 75 to fall nine shots off the pace.
Tseng tallied one bogey and one double bogey, falling from the top of the leaderboard to 10th place.
Tseng seemed to have found her old form in round one at the Vancouver Golf Club in Coquitlam, firing a six-under 66 to take the lead, but she then shot a three-over 75 in round two with 32 putts.
In total, she scored a three-under 141 in the first two rounds of the competition, which has a purse of US$2 million.
Speaking of her zero birdies in round two, the world No. 1 joked in an interview on the LPGA official Web site that “I probably left them yesterday.”
“With three-under, I still have two more days to go and hopefully next two days I can fight back a little bit,” said the Taiwanese star, who has struggled to regain her edge in recent months.
Tseng’s compatriot Amy Hung was eliminated on Friday with a six-over 150 to rank 100th.
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