On a day when there were more rounds in the 80’s than in the 60’s, South Africa’s Ashleigh Buhai leads by one through the second round of the Blue Bay LPGA.
Buhai fired one of only two rounds in the 60’s on a blustery Thursday, a 4-under-par 68.
“I just kind of was playing the golf course as it came,” she said. “It played a lot tougher than the last few days. The wind was more or less the same direction, just a bit stronger, so I think it helps being the same direction as you have an idea what to do. It was just a case of taking more club and just trying to play it with the wind.”
She birdied four of her last seven holes including a spectacular chip-in on the par-4 12th.
“It was downhill and downwind, and I hit this lob-wedge, bounced it into the hill perfectly and just kept trickling,” she said of the shot of the day. “I thought I was happy enough to have it stiff, and next minute, I looked, it dropped in. It was cool.”
Buhai withdrew from her last tournament, the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia, and hadn’t teed it up in six weeks prior. She has two top-5 finishes on the year – a tie for fifth at the Indy Women in Tech Championship presented by Guggenheim and a runner-up at the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic – but is still looking the first win of her LPGA Tour career.
“I feel I am getting more comfortable with the situation. I always say, winning is a feeling, no matter where you're trying to win,” she explained. “Obviously the stage out here is huge and everybody at the top of the leaderboard has a chance to win this week. I feel if I keep just trusting my swing and sticking to my goals and my plan, hopefully I will have a chance.
Last week’s winner Shanshan Feng is just a shot back of Buhai after shooting the round of the day Thursday, a 5-under-par 67.
While the average score hovered around 76 on a blustery day in Hainan Island, China, Feng’s six-birdie, one-bogey effort saw her move up 13 spots on the leaderboard.
Last week, Feng became the first golfer on the LPGA Tour to defend a title in 2017, and she was also the last golfer to win back-to-back weeks on Tour, having turned the trick a year ago during the Asia Swing.
Feng said she felt as though she had a good round on Wednesday, but felt more warmed up today, and it showed.
“I knew that after the first round, I would be warmed up a little more. I would say my ball-striking today was better, so I was giving myself birdie chances. Of course, my putting was working today also,” she said. “It continued from last week and so I made a few birdies and I mean, just one bogey for the day, it was pretty good.”
Feng said she’s trying not to think about winning in back-to-back weeks, but instead is just riding the wave of good play. She admitted it’s been great to play in front of the fans in her home country of China this week.
“I'm playing in front of all the fans from home. Of course I feel a little bit of pressure, and I'm pretty sure tomorrow will be more people coming to support me,” she said. “But I just wanted to bring out my ‘A’ game and enjoy the week.”
First-round leader Sun Young Yoo shot 2-over-par 74 and sits solo third at 5-under for the championship, while Lizette Salas, who has notched three top-5 finishes in her last four tournaments is a shot further back at 4-under.
A trio of golfers including Sandra Gal, Nelly Korda, and former world No. 1 Ariya Jutanugarn are tied for fifth at 3-under.
Four golfers are a shot further back, at 2-under, including Jutanugarn’s sister Moriya, Karine Icher, Lee-Anne Pace, and China’s own Xiang Sui.
Feng and Buhai were the lone golfers Thursday to shoot rounds in the 60’s, while 10 golfers shot in the 80’s
Laura Gonzalez Escallon withdrew prior to the start of the second round citing an injury.