Ji Eun-hee yesterday took a one-stroke lead over Lydia Ko in the LPGA Taiwan Championship, overcoming back pain and a double-bogey in windy and rainy conditions.
The 29-year-old South Korean finished with a three-under 69 to reach nine-under 135 at the Miramar Golf and Country Club in Linkou, New Taipei City. She made the double-bogey on the par-five sixth after hooking her drive out of bounds, rallied with birdies on Nos. 9 through 11 and closed with seven straight pars.
“I hurt my middle back this morning,” Ji said. “Just bothering me on my swing and especially with my driver.”
Photo: Chen Chih-chu
The second-ranked Ko birdied the par-five 18th for a 67.
“It’s always good to finish on a birdie,” Ko said. “I’ve just got to keep my head high. Especially with the weather conditions, anything can happen.”
The 18-year-old New Zealander is trying to regain the No. 1 spot in the world from South Korea’s Inbee Park, the winner last year at Miramar.
Photo: Chen Chih-chu
Park is skipping her title defense to play in a South Korean LPGA event, where she dropped into a tie for seventh yesterday.
Ko won the Evian Championship in France last month to become the youngest major champion and has three other LPGA Tour victories this year. She won the 2013 Swinging Skirts World Ladies Masters at Miramar for her first victory as a professional.
Ji won the 2008 LPGA Championship and 2009 US Women’s Open, both majors, for her lone LPGA Tour titles.
“The weather is going to be like this tomorrow and the day after, so trying to be patient every day and just focus on my play,” Ji said. “The greens are going to be softer, so that makes a little easier, actually.”
England’s Charley Hull and China’s Lin Xi-yu, both 19, were tied for third at seven-under. Hull shot a 69, while Lin had a 70. Hull saved par on 16 and bogey on 17 with five-foot putts, then missed a five-footer for birdie on 18.
“A shame I didn’t birdie the last, bogeyed 17, but I was plugged in the bunker on 17 and I made a good up-and-down, so it wasn’t too bad,” Hull said.
She said she feels right at home in the tough conditions.
“I quite like it like this. It’s been fun,” Hull said. “It’s a bit rainy, so it’s a bit like a [women’s] British Open, but obviously a lot warmer... I just love playing in the wind.”
South Koreans Ryu So-yeon (69) and Yoo Sun-young (71) were five-under. Norway’s Suzann Pettersen followed her opening 74 with a 66 — the best round of the day — to move into a tie for seventh at four-under. She won the event in 2012 and 2013 at the Sunrise Golf & Country Club in Taoyuan.
American Morgan Pressel and Germany’s Sandra Gal, tied for third after opening rounds of 68, dropped off the leaderboard. Pressel had a 75 to fall into a tie for 16th at one-under, while Gal was tied for 36th at two-over after a 78.
Chang Ya-chun was the best-placed of the 20 Taiwanese in the field with a second-round 69 taking her to two-under 142.
Taiwanese star Yani Tseng was tied for 32nd at one-over after a 73. She won the inaugural event in 2011 at Sunrise.
Others in the top 50 were Tsai Pei-ying (144 overall), Hsu Wei-ling (147) and Hsieh Yu-ling (147).
Additional reporting by staff writer
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