PALM SPRINGS – It's amazing what a putter change can do.
It was changes to the flat stick for both Lexi Thompson and Ai Miyazato that propelled them into a share of the lead on Friday at the ANA Inspiration. The duo holds a one-stroke lead at 7-under par.
Thompson went out in the morning wave, carding a 4-under par, 68 to take the outright lead with a birdie at the final hole that had the crowd erupting for the 2014 champion.
“Yeah, 18 is one of the best finishing holes that we have out here, but to hear the crowds cheer making that putt is definitely a good feeling,” Thompson said. “Gives me chills every time.”
Thompson is coming off her worst finish of 2016, posting a T-43 finish at the Kia Classic due in large part to an opening round 77. But Thompson made a bold switch entering the week of a major and switched to the CURE putter, which she said she knew within 20-minutes was going to be going in her bag.
“Yeah, it’s a dramatic change,” said Thompson. “Just changing to the CURE putter and a little bit different stance over the putts has given me a lot of confidence this week. I’m rolling it a lot better, and having my caddie Benji line me up has helped me out a lot too.”
Friday, Miyazato continued to build on the momentum she found at last week’s Kia Classic after making an adjustment to the lie on her putter. She went out in the afternoon after sleeping on a share of the first round lead with Azahara Munoz at 5-under par and after a birdie at her second hole of the day bounced back from bogeys at par 4’s, 13 and 16 to make the turn in 35. It was staying patient that helped the former world No.1 get back on track.
“Even though I made the bogey, afterwards I didn't try to get it back soon,” Miyazato told the media. “I'm like just par's okay on the next hole and see how it goes and just let it go and let it happen. So it was kind of a good mental control.”
Miyazato closed with two birdies and one bogey in her final four holes to move into a share of the lead with Thompson, who she will be paired with on Saturday. It’s an interesting match up that features the longest hitter on Tour in Thompson with one of the shortest but most accurate in Miyazato.
“Yeah, yeah, it will be interesting, I think. I played with her many times and I really like to play with her because she's a really good player. I know she's in good shape, so it's kind of fun to see her game too,” said Miyazato. “But, you know, it's just doesn't matter this golf course if you hit long or not. So just you need to be really staying with your game and have a good course management, so that's about it.”
The duo leads by one ahead of a large group at 6-under par, which includes major champions Lydia Ko, In Gee Chun and Suzann Pettersen, as well as Lizette Salas, Lee-Anne Pace and Sung Hyun Park.
The cut line falls at 2-over par for the week, sending several notables home including 2007 champion Morgan Pressel and Jessica Korda at +3, Sei Young Kim at +4, Brittany Lang at +5 and Megan Khang at +6.