Pornanong Phatlum on Friday demonstrated the growing depth of Thai golf talent when she vaulted to the halfway lead at the Women’s British Open in Lancashire.
Swinging with metronomic consistency, Phatlum hit every green in regulation and carded a five-under-par 67 in the second round for a one-stroke advantage.
She posted a 10-under 134 total, while Australian first-round leader Minjee Lee (70), Japan’s Mamiko Higa (69) and England’s Georgia Hall (68) were nipping at her heels on nine-under.
Just behind the pack in fifth place was Taiwan’s Teresa Lu with eight-under 69.
Phatlum arrived at Lytham with a dreadful Open record, only one cut made in seven previous starts, but she seems to have finally come to grips with the style of golf required on British seaside courses.
“[The] links course is pretty hard for me,” she said. “Every year I just try to plan to do my best. I didn’t have good times, so right now I [feel] like I got more experience and like more confidence on my swing.”
World No. 97 Phatlum has no great recent form to speak of and has never won an LPGA event, but the 28-year-old has been a solid performer in nearly a decade on the tour.
Her position atop the leaderboard offered a reminder that there is more to Thai golf than the Jutanugarn sisters — world No. 1 Ariya and No. 11 Moriya.
Phatlum is seeking to become the fourth Thai winner on the LPGA circuit this year, but she will have to keep making birdies to hold off the pack, including Higa, a 24-year-old from Okinawa, who is engaged to sumo star Ikioi Shota.
Higa’s position could have been even better had she not double-bogeyed the 17th hole.
First-round leader Lee also finished poorly, dropping three shots in the final three holes.
Hall had no such problems in a bogey-free round, as she rode the support of the home gallery.
“It just makes me happy that I see so many people supporting me,” she said. “I don’t really feel any pressure at all.”
Canadian Brooke Henderson (70) inched within five shots of the lead, thanks to an ace with a nine-iron from 129m at the ninth.
She won a case of sparkling wine for her accomplishment, which she donated to the media.
Two other Taiwanese were still in the competition, both sharing a piece of 24th place with two-under: Hsu Wei-ling and Phoebe Yao.
Additional reporting by staff writer