Sarah Jane Smith yesterday seized the outright lead at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open as world No. 1 Lydia Ko scraped past the cut.
Florida-based Smith, 32, carded a six-under 67 to lead an overseas quartet of Thailand’s Pornanong Phatlum, Americans Lizette Salas and Marissa Steen and Sweden’s Caroline Hedwall by one stroke after 36 holes of the tournament.
However, it was a tough day for Ko, looking out of sorts with her new clubs, new coach and new caddie, as she made the cut by one shot and was nine shots from the lead.
The New Zealand star, who has held the top ranking for 69 consecutive weeks, had an up-and-down round of four birdies and six bogeys.
Smith hit the front with a tap-in birdie at the par-five 17th, and by the time she teed off at the 18th, news filtered through that overnight leader Katherine Kirk had dropped another shot to finish the round and lie two shots off the pace.
Smith went down the last fairway and almost chipped in for birdie, eventually tapping in to finish with six birdies.
Kirk, who faded late with a double-bogey at her 17th, held the outright lead at several points of the day before dropping back, but was still right in contention.
Thai world No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn, who had five wins on the LPGA Tour last year, also has some work to do at two-under.
Taiwan’s Min Lee carded a one-under 72 to finish the day in a tie with Kirk and Canada’s Maude-Aimee Leblanc on a seven-under total, while Hsu Wei-ling carded a three-under 70 to finish tied for 39th on three-under overall and Chien Pei-yun was tied for 48th on a one-under total.
Amateur Lin Tze-han carded her second straight even-par 73 to end the day tied for 64th, but compatriots Yani Tseng, Cheng Ssu-chia and fellow amateurs Yu Han-hsuan, Hung Jo-hua and Lu Hsin-yu missed the cut.
Australia’s record five-time champion Karrie Webb, 42, missed the cut for the first time in her illustrious Women’s Australian Open history, finishing at three-over.
Additional reporting by staff writer