Inbee Park to be exact.
With a day’s best second-round 67, the 24-year-old South Korean put her back to the field, going 7 under after 36 holes and taking a one shot lead into the weekend.
American second-year pro Lizette Sales follows at 6 under after posting 68, while Italian Giulia Sergas (69) and Swede Caroline Hedwall (68) are within two at 5 under.
“I think it’s good to be ahead because you’re in better position than anybody else,” she smiled.
Park built her round on six birdies and only one bogey, once getting to 7 under with three straight birdies at Nos. 11, 12 and 13 before suffering her only stumble at 14. She hit 10 of 14 fairways and 15 of 18 greens. She needed only 28 putts.
“Obviously, putted really good out there, especially on the back nine,” she said. “The wind picked up, so it was tough on the back nine.”
Park, in her seventh LPGA season since qualifying as a 17-year-old, has become one of women’s golf’s most consistent performers. Last year, on the way to claiming the LPGA money and stroke average titles, she won twice, recorded six seconds and 12 top 10s in 24 events.
After four tournaments this season, she has one win and has climbed to No. 4 in the Rolex Rankings.
But while Park has the 2008 U.S. Women’s Open title and a runner-up finish in last year’s Women’s British on her major championship resume, she has had struggles in the KNC.
In nine previous appearances, she missed three cuts, and only twice finished better than T-26.
“I don’t know,” Park said when asked to explain the difficulty. “I think it’s because of this golf course. It plays pretty tough for me. I never had a good two days. This is something new on this golf course for me and I don’t know. It’s good.”
Park’s closest pursuer seems a far more unlikely threat, a second-year pro playing in her fifth career major. Salas, who grew up in nearby Azusa, Calif., is not, however, a typical aspiring newcomer.
The first four-time All-American in the University of Southern California women’s golf history, she three top 10s in five tournament appearances this season.
Friday’s round included five birdies and just one bogey.
“I try to make it easy as I can,” she said. “I started off with a birdie and then had my first three-putt, my only bogey of the day. That made me a little frustrated, missed a couple of birdie putts on the front, but turned it around on the back and started rolling them in.”
Going into Saturday third round, 11 players are 3 under or better, putting them within four shots of the lead. A total of 27 are under par, including first-round tri-leader England’s Jodi Ewart Shadoff, ranked 110th in the world (4 under), Hall of Famer Se Ri Pak (3 under), and Americans Paula Creamer, Cristie Kerr and Michelle Wie, all at minus 2.
Ewart Shadoff, 25, winless in her third season on tour, shot 72 on the heels of an open-day 68 to keep remain in contention.
Beginning play off the back nine, she made the turn 1-under for her round and reached 6-under for the tournament after a second birdie on the fourth, but immediately went bogey-bogey and finished the day’s round even-par.
“Just shots out to the right and it cost me a couple of shots,” she said.
Two players surprisingly absent from the mix are new Rolex Rankings No. 1 Stacy Lewis and No. 2 Yani Tseng.
Lewis is even-par and T-28 after rounds of 73-71 and Tseng is plus-3 after Friday’s 75.
Tseng’s day was undone by a triple-bogey 7 on the par-4 seventh hole.
“Just accept that one shot costs three more shots,” she said. “Just one shot I didn’t pick the target.
“I was hitting driver, but today I picked 3-wood. I didn’t like the target I picked and I just kind of pulled to the left. It was (just barely) out of bounds. So it’s very unlucky.”