Three-time NCAA player of the year Amanda Blumenherst and LPGA rookie leader Moriya Jutanugarn shot five-under 66 on Friday to top the leaderboard in the ShopRite LPGA Classic, a stroke ahead of defending champion Stacy Lewis.
Michelle Wie, who a decade ago made one of her first appearances on the women’s tour as a 13-year-old at the event, was two shots behind after tying her lowest numerical score of what has been a very disappointing season.
The Bay Course at the Stockton Seaview Hotel and Golf Club was the big winner. Only 18 of the 143 players who finished, including just five in the afternoon round, broke par on the 6,155-yard course, which played tougher because of wind and bumpy greens.
Having Lewis near the top of the leaderboard is almost a given these days. The defending LPGA player of the year has eight top-10 finishes in 11 events, including two wins and earnings of US$722,868.
However, the company around her is not used to the lofty perch.
Blumenherst has missed cuts in six of eight events. The former Duke star has never finished better than a tie for fifth since joining the tour in 2010 after winning at qualifying school. Jutanugarn, whose 17-year-old sister, Ariya, was the halfway leader at Kingsmill in Virginia this month, has missed the cut in two of her past four events, after getting off to a quick start.
The one thing all the leaders did was keep their drives in the fairway for the most part.
Blumenherst, who struggled with her driver all year, had an eagle, four birdies and a bogey. The eagle came on the par-five third when she rolled in a 35-footer from fringe.
Jutanugarn made two of her six birdies on her first two holes. She had one bogey.
Lewis had three tap-in birdies, including two at par-fives. She made two 20-footers. A bad drive led to her bogey.
Wie had five birdies and two bogeys in posting her second 68 of the year. The other came on a par-72 course in Hawaii, which was her lowest round of the year in relation to par.
Beatriz Recari of Spain and Hee Young Park headed a group at two-under after posting the best rounds of the players who teed off in the afternoon. Park’s South Korean countrywomen, Cella Choi, played her first eight holes in five-under, but gave four shots back as the afternoon wore on and finished at one-under.
Taiwan’s Amy Hung was tied for 45th with a two-over 73, while former world No. 1 Yani Tseng was tied for 61 with a three-over 74. Their compatriot Candie Kung withdrew.
Additional reporting by staff writer