It appears as though the 2018 ISPS HANDA Australian Open has become South Korea’s to lose, with Jin Young Ko leading a handful of well-placed compatriots into the weekend.
Ko began the second round with a two-shot lead over countrywoman Jiyai Shin – but has since extended that leading margin to three, firing a three-under round of 69 to reach 10-under par.
The 22-year-old, who is playing her first season on the LPGA Tour, started poorly from the 10th tee and dropped out of the lead with two early bogies. But she soon caught fire on her inward nine and carded three consecutive birdies.
“I have led wire-to-wire once before, so I know I can do it,” Ko said.
Ko, once again, put on a ball-striking clinic around Kooyonga Golf Club and hit nearly 90 percent of greens in regulation.
But such is her nature – she headed straight to the practice green after her round to ensure she makes the most of her opportunities over the weekend.
“I have two keys, one key is my thinking and the other key is my putting,” Ko said. “So me and my caddie, we will talk about putting … we have to go to the putting green.”
Joining Ko inside the top eight are fellow Koreans Jiyai Shin (-6), who won the championship in 2013 and was victorious at the Canberra Classic last week, Sun Young Yoo (-6), Hyejin Choi (-4) and defending champion Ha Na Jang (-3).
“Three-under is a really good score on this golf course,” Jang said. “I have two more days and that’s perfect.”
Meanwhile, five-time champion Karrie Webb epitomised what was a tough day for the Australian contingent, missing the cut for the second consecutive year.
The Queenslander began the day at two-under but was soon back to even par as she made the turn. And things only got worse for the World Golf Hall-of-Famer from there.
A birdie at her 10th hole was offset by a double bogey at the par-3 3rd – before a further three bogies ensured her tournament was over.
Overnight’s leading Australian Hannah Green also suffered a late collapse as she stumbled home with four consecutive birdies.
The Perth-native looked to be cruising after she chipped in at the 13th hole to move into a tie for fourth – but a dropped shot at the 15th was a sign of things to come.
Green, 21, now sits in 23rd heading into the weekend and has been leapfrogged by Minjee Lee and Stephanie Na as the best-placed Australians.
America’s Emma Talley, who, like Green, is a rookie on the LPGA Tour, sits in solo second and is all that separates Korea from holding a trifecta of leading players.
The 23-year-old has improved considerably since missing the cut at the Canberra Classic last week – and is a good example of the benefits of modern technology.
“I was actually on Facetime with my coach last Sunday because my swing was so messed,” Talley said. “I was just getting long in my back swing … so we Facetimed in Canberra and he was like, ‘it’s an easy fix’ and it’s worked.”
The best round of the day belonged to Japan’s Nasa Hataoka, who shot six birdies on her way to a five-under 67.