Sei Young Kim, No. 13 on the Race to the CME Globe, appeared on her way to possibly the 36-hole lead on Friday at TPC Kuala Lumpur with nine birdies over her first 15 holes. She catapulted into the lead with her fifth birdie in a six-hole stretch on hole 15. However, Kim incurred a two-stroke penalty for removing a leaf, a loose impediment, in the bunker on hole 17 and took a five on the par-3. It was a violation of Rule 13-4.
“Honestly, I thought I could move the leaf, but it's not a factor, the leaf behind my ball,” explained Kim. “Then I just picked up the leaf and then throw some air. Then Brittany Lincicome came to me and asked did you move the rock or leaf. I moved the leaf. It’s not a big deal, we have two more rounds.”
Kim dropped from 10-under, which was the lead, to 8-under and is in fourth place into the weekend. The six-time LPGA winner started the round with four birdies over her first eight holes. Even with the penalty, Kim still turned in a 6-under, 65 on Friday at the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia.
Kim is projected to move to sixth on the Race to the CME Globe if she can stamp her second win of 2017 this weekend.
Thunderstorms that were expected on Thursday in Malaysia arrived on Friday. Approximately three and a half hours after play began, the horns blew at 11:10 a.m. local time due to lightning in the vicinity of TPC Kuala Lumpur. Heavy storms brewed for a short time and then lightning lingered for over three hours. Play did not resume until 3:00 p.m.
Players were forced to manage a three hour and 50 minute delay.
Two-time Sime Darby champion Shanshan Feng will head into the weekend with a one-stroke lead at 11-under, 131. She made birdies on holes three and four before the delay to move into the lead. The lengthy delay didn’t seem to bother her as she hit her 40-yard wedge on the par-5 sixth to 5-feet and made birdie. She then lipped out a 25-foot birdie on the par-3 seventh and made par.
"I think overall today was a very good round," said Feng. "I didn't have as many birdie chances as yesterday, but I think I actually made more putts so that made me very happy."
Feng, 28, made birdie on hole 15 to move into the lead at 10-under and then made birdie on the par-3 17th to get to 11-under.
Incredibly, but also not surprisingly, Feng has not made a bogey through the first 36 holes at TPC Kuala Lumpur. After all, she has finished either first or second each of the last four years.
Feng has a chance at her eighth career win over the weekend.
How did she pass the time during the delay?
"I had my feet up and then I was actually taking a nap," said the jovial Feng. "Some caddies were taking pictures of me and showing the others, like, oh, she's sleeping again. Long delays are stressful so you just have to find a way to relax."
Rookie Madelene Sagstrom dropped six birdies between holes six and 14 and finished in solo second at 10-under, 132. Sagstrom is coming off her career-best finish, a tie for third in Taiwan.
Sagstrom, who turned in a 66 in round one, made birdie on 17 to move into second place. The smooth swinging Swede made seven birdies on Friday.
"I had a really good run for it after the rain delay and I was really excited to get some good shots back," said Sagstrom, a 3-time Symetra Tour winner in 2016. "I started rolling the putter really well. I'm just enjoying it out here. I'm not trying to focus on the leaderboard at the moment. I'm just trying to go out and play good golf and have fun."
Cristie Kerr has been playing on the LPGA since 1997 so she has seen it all and handled the near four-hour delay to perfection to move into third at 9-under, 133.
“I felt great,” said Kerr, who has 173 career top 10 finishes. “I found a groove with my swing that I haven't had in my swing in a while. It felt good to hit some really solid shots out there.”
Kerr, a 19-time winner, took full advantage of soft and receptive greens after the rain with five straight birdies from holes 12 through 16 to grab sole possession of the lead at the time at 9-under.
“I'm just working really hard and I feel very blessed to do what I do,” said Kerr, who ranks seventh on the CME Race to the Globe. “I've been one of the best for a long time, and very blessed to have that happen. I just got to keep working hard, stick to my game plan and my feels out there and stay out of my own way. That's the plan.”
Kerr, who started the day at 1-under and T20, moved onto the front pages of the leaderboard on the front with four straight birdies from holes four through seven.
The 8-under is tied for her lowest round of the 2017 season. She also carded an 8-under on the final day of the Honda LPGA Thailand in February. Kerr came one stroke shy of tying the tournament record of 62 set by Amy Yang in 2013.
First-round leader Lydia Ko followed her 64 with an even-par, 71 and is in a tie for 5th at 7-under, 135.