Rampant Ariya soars to 4-shot lead in Hainan
World No. 1 Ariya Jutanugarn blew away the rest of the field at the Blue Bay LPGA yesterday as the big-hitting Thai carded a 4-under-par 68 in windy conditions to open up a four-stroke lead on south China’s Hainan Island.
After two rounds at the US$2.1-million tournament, a co-sanctioned event between the China and US LPGA tours, the Bangkok native was 7-under 137.
Moriya Jutanugarn, Ariya’s elder sister who was runner-up last year, was equal second after shooting a 71 over the Jian Lake Blue Bay layout, tied with American Jennifer Song (71) and Mexico’s Gaby Lopez (71).
Zhang Weiwei was the top Chinese after posting a 69 to sit six shots back in a group of three players that included Thailand’s Thidapa Suwannapura, the overnight leader who struggled to a 75. US LPGA Tour regular Liu Yu was a shot further back in equal ninth after the Beijing native posted her second straight round of even-par 72.
Starting the day one shot back, Ariya carded consecutive bogeys starting at the fifth hole to drop to 1-under. She then got to work with three straight birdies to make the turn at 4-under.
“I hit the perfect shot at the par-3 seventh hole and made birdie. That gave me lots of confidence, especially on the par-5s,” said the 22-year-old, a three-time winner this season.
Hubei native Zhang, who won in the wind at last year’s Hengqin Phoenix Tree Building Orient Golf Challenge in Zhuhai, credited her putting for her move up the leaderboard in posting a bogey-free round. “The putter was really good today, just 23 putts. The long game was not ideal and I just hit nine greens in regulation. The putter saved this round,” the 21-year-old said.
Liu carded three birdies over the first eight holes, only to see them wiped out by three bogeys. “I had a great chance to have a really good score today. I was 3-under par for the first eight holes. I lost my focus then,” said the 22-year-old, who won on the CLPGA Tour as an amateur.
World No. 2 Park Sung-hyun improved to an even-par 72 to get to 1-over. Defending champion Feng Shanshan (72) of China was 3-over in equal 23rd.