Queensland’s Sarah Jane Smith has ridden a hot putter into the lead at the halfway mark of the ISPS HANDA Women’s Australian Open at Royal Adelaide Golf Club
The World No.107 made six birdies in a flawless display to sign for a six under 67 to take a one-shot lead into the weekend.
Smith, who is yet to win on the LPGA Tour, put on a short-game masterclass and only needed the putter 21 times during the round.
The 32-year-old is coming off the best year of her career and said winning the Patricia Bridges Bowl would be a dream and winning an LPGA title on home soil would make it even better.
“It would be a dream come true and something I think every young Australian thinks about at some point,” Smith said.
Smith is enjoying the Seaton layout and is happy to be back in her home country. “I’ve actually played a lot of golf here,” she said. “It’s nice to be back in Australia playing and nice to play well for a change.”
She moved to the top of the leaderboard, alongside fellow Queenslander Katherine Kirk, with a tap-in birdie at the par-5 17th and moments later she was leading alone. Kirk had dropped a shot but Smith was oblivious. She almost chipped in for her seventh birdie of the day but settled for a par and a blemish-free 67.
Kirk wasn’t quite as sharp as she was on day one. She was still very good with the putter – using it just 30 times – and it may well have kept her in contention two shots back of Smith after signing for a oneover par 74.
“I’m happy with the spot I’m in,” Kirk said. “Would I have preferred to play better today – yes, but it’s not over until Sunday afternoon.”
Headline acts Brooke Henderson and World No.1 Lydio Ko have scraped through to the weekend after poor second rounds. When Henderson walked to the 8th hole she was five-under par and looked to be cruising, but a double bogey saw the 19-year-old’s round unravel. The Canadian went on to card a further four bogies made the weekend by a single shot.
Ko was sloppy from tee to green, hitting only 10 greens in regulation and she ground her way to a two over par 75 and is even with the card and nine shots behind Smith after two rounds.
“I think that I’m hitting the ball good enough where I can have a lower (round) and hopefully that’s the one coming on the weekend,” Ko said.
Lower rounds were a theme for the locals during the second round with nine Aussies made par or better. Victorian Su Oh started hot and made birdie at the 2nd before holing a chip on the 3rd to move to five under for the tournament. But hooked tee shots on the 4th and 5th holes unsettled the 20-year-old, and she lost momentum, eventually signing for an even par 73.
Western Australian Minjee Lee was consistently good from tee to green in her three under 70, but the Olympian struggled on Royal Adelaide’s greens.
“I could have made a couple more putts here and there but they just didn’t seem to want to drop,” Lee said.
It was all bad news for Karrie Webb, who fought admirably in the strong southwesterly gusts, but could only manage an even par 73 that meant she missed the cut by three shots. The five-time champ won’t be playing the weekend at the Australian Open for the first time in 21 consecutive appearances.
Marissa Steen (71) and Lizette Salas (70) both flew the flag high for the US and each hold a share of second. Steen’s two under was a mixed bag including an eagle, three birdies and three bogies.
“I think for me it’s just staying within myself and staying confident and just going out and putting the blinders on and just focusing on what I need to do,” Steen said.
Sweden’s Caroline Hedwall (69) and Thailand’s Pornanong Phatlum (70) rounds out the quartet just one shot behind Smith.
Michelle Wie is also still well in contention, despite getting off to a rocky start with a double bogey. The former US Open champion fought hard and hit the shot of the day when her lob wedge found the cup on the par-4 1st hole.
“Starting with a double bogey is never fun, but I really grinded out there and that hole out on my 10th hole really worked well for me,” said Wie, who started her round from Royal Adelaide’s 10th hole.
Wie was frustrated by back spasms throughout her round, but rallied to card a two-under par 70.
“I had to yell at myself sometimes, ‘hit it, go through the ball’, I just tried to block a lot to the right,” she said. Wie is confident her back will be fine for the weekend, but said she’s “headed straight for the physio”.
World No.2 Ariya Jutanugarn also looked frustrated throughout her round. Her exasperation reached boiling point after a bogey at the 16th was followed by a ‘fried-egg’ lie in one of bunkers beside the 17th green. She eventually signed for a one-under 72 and is seven shots off the pace heading into the weekend.