Swede Anna Nordqvist and Auusie Katherine Hull-Kirk both carded 2nd round scores of 70 and held on to the slender 1 shot lead they established in the 1st round of the LPGA KEB-HanaBank Championship. They’ll go in to the final round Sunday at -7 for the tournament. Home town favorites Amy Yang and Korean LPGA Player Ju Young Pak, who shared the lead with Nordqvist and Hull-Kirk after the 1st round, have dropped back to -6 and will go to the final round of the HanaBank in a 3-way tie with defending champion Norwegian Suzann Pettersen for the 3rd spot on the leaderboard.
Korean players are holding half the top-10 slots on the HanaBank leaderboard at the end of the 2nd round. In addition to Pak and Yang, with a share of 3rd, Sei Young Kim, Hee Kyung Seo and Ha-Nuel Kim are at -5 with a share of 6th and Jiyal Shin, at -4, has a solo hold on the 10th spot on the board.
Rolex Ranked #1 Inbee Park, playing her first tournament in Korea since she took the top rank 27 weeks ago, is 1 shot under par for the tournament and will begin the final round of the HanaBank well down on the leaderboard, 6 shots off the lead maintained by Nordqvist and Hull-Kirk, in a tie for 22nd place.
Battle for the Top
The final round at the HanaBank has the making of an epic golf drama. Nordqvist and Hull-Kirk, both winless for several years, will have to fend off an aggressive and determined Suzann Pettersen, who has her eye on more than back-to-back wins at the HanaBank.
I know if I play well . . and win tournaments I can possibly take [the #1 Rolex Rank] from [Inbee Park] by Christmas. That’s what I’m shooting for . . .
The 2nd round was an up and down ride for Hull-Kirk. She carded one eagle, five birdies, three bogeys, and one double-bogey. Despite getting off to a quick start with birdies at two of the opening three holes, the wheels came off a bit for Hull-Kirk after a double-bogey at the par-4 ninth. She recovered on the back 9 and went on to sink putts for 2 more birdies, then gave back a shot before the round ended.
Nordqvist played a bit more evenly. Despite a couple of errant shots due to the gusty winds, she carded four birdies and two bogeys to grab a share of the lead. The Swede headed into the eighth hole at even-par for the day, then recorded back-to-back birdies and holes eight and nine to make the turn at 2-under. Despite making a charge late in the front-nine, Nordqvist cooled off a bit on the back-nine and recorded one birdie and one bogey for a two-day total of 7-under-par.
Defending champ Suzann Pettersen is playing steadier than either of the leaders. With 5 birdies and 2 bogeys in the 1st round and again in the 2nd, Pettersen’s established a rhythm, made friends with the greens at the Sky 72 Golf Club, and is ready to take advantage of the opportunities to shave off a stroke here and a stroke there as she makes her way through the final round Sunday.
We’ll see where I go tomorrow, but I feel pretty comfortable with the position I’m in.
Suzann Pettersen, Ready to Come From Behind
With 3 Tour victories on her 2013 resume, Pettersen comes into the final round with the distinct advantage of confidence that she can come from behind and win. She’s done it twice this year. With the wind blowing and the greens firming up, Pettersen says she feels “right at home” on the Sky 72 course and if she can maintain her pace she believes she’ll take the top spot in the Rolex Rankings away from Inbee Park before the end of the year.
Anna Nordqvist and Katherine Hull-Kirk, watch your backs!
With Stacy Lewis taking a pass on the HanaBank, the Americans seem to have lost their anchorage. Lewis’s probable International Crown teammates are not shining this weekend. Christie Kerr and Lexi Thompson, who won the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia last week, are both at +1 for the tournament and Paula Creamer is at +3.
Alison Walsche, at -5 for the tournament and holding a share of 6th place going into the final round, is the only American among the top-10 on the board. At 2 shots off the lead, Walsche is within reach of the top and her game improved from the 1st to the 2nd round. She shaved 3 strokes off her 1st round score of of 71 to card 68 in the 2nd round, and outplayed Nordqvist, Hull-Kirk, and Pettersen. All those shots came from saved putts. Ranked 99th by Rolex, Walsche finished the Sime Darby in a tie for 6th and is not out of the running at the HanaBank. I’ll keep an eye on her for the final round.
Golf Channel will provide delayed coverage of the 2nd round 11am-2pm today and I’ll be back tomorrow with a tournament wrap-up and a look toward the Sunrise LPGA Taiwan Championship, which is next up on the LPGA Asia loop.