Defending champion Choi Na-yeon of South Korea shot a four-under 67 yesterday to take a two-stroke lead at the halfway stage of the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia. The 25-year-old moved to a total of 10-under 132 at Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club.
LPGA Tour rookie Sydnee Michaels was second on eight-under 134 after a second-round 65. Suzann Pettersen of Norway, who started the day in a tie for 39th, produced the day’s best of a 64 to make her move to one stroke behind Michaels at seven-under along with three others: American Lizette Salas (67), and Japanese Momoko Ueda (67) and Mika Miyazato (69).
Choi had shared the first-round lead with Karrie Webb of Australia after both put up six-under 65s on opening day.
The South Korean player won the US Women’s Open in July for her first major title and is chasing her seventh win on the LPGA Tour.
“I struggled on the back nine, dropped two shots, but I expected that,” she said. “Back nine is much harder than front. I am still finding the rhythm on the 18th hole, which I save par or otherwise, I could have been three strokes clear.”
Sydnee, who finished fourth on the money list of the Futures Tour to become their rookie of the year last season, made five consecutive birdies from the 11th hole to move high up the leaderboard.
“My putting was really good today. I worked really hard on my putting last month and it paid off,” said the 24-year-old, who is making her first visit to the region.
On playing catch up with Choi, she said: “Golf is a crazy sport, things could change. There is a lot of golf to be played still. I just keep playing my game and hopefully I will see my name on top in the end,” she said.
World No. 2 Stacy Lewis was tied for 21st spot after finishing with a two-under 69 for a two-day aggregate of three-under 139.
The US player opened her campaign with a 70 and together with Yani Tseng, they are the only players to win three times on the LPGA Tour this year.
Former world No. 1 Ai Miyazato of Japan also shot a two-under 69 for a share of 12th on five-under 137.
Salas shot the tournament’s first hole-in-one on the par-three 15th earlier en route to her four-under 67.
Tseng had a 72 and finished the second round tied for 62nd, a full 18 strokes off the lead, after a dismal first-round 78. Taiwan’s Candie Kung was tied for 27th on one-under 141, while amateur Cheng Ssu-chia was on five-over 147.