Fast greens and thick rough are challenging players this week at SKY72 Golf Club’s Ocean Course, not unlike the set up that often awaits players at the U.S. Women’s Open, which 36-hole leader Brittany Lang captured in July.
“Yeah, I think the greens are still very firm, some of the firmer greens we see all year. I think some of the pin placements were in maybe a little bit easier positions where you could get at the pin a little bit better,” Lang told the media. “You know, just hitting at the center of the greens and getting looks, because on firm greens I think that's really important.”
The KLPGA’s Sung Hyun Park believes the course set up is perfect for a long hitter like herself. “I don't think I have a particular strategy for this course, but I think it's a course that's definitely advantageous for long hitters. The green this year is firmer than last year, which helps my wedge shots,” said Park.
While the greens seemed no match for Alison Lee in round one, who made it around in just 25 putts, day two was much more of a puzzle for the first round leader who struggled to get comfortable on the putting surface.
“I putted really well on the front nine, yes. Then on the back when I had that 3-putt on 10 I actually had a downhill birdie putt like 15 feet and just hit it way by, like six, seven feet, and then missed the par putt coming back and pulled it,” Lee said. “I wasn't committing to the shot or committing to the putt. I left a couple short; left some long. I just wasn't in tune. Just lost my feel on the course with my putting on the last few holes, so that's definitely something I probably want to work on and focus on for tomorrow.”
Feeling The Pressure
Just one rookie, In Gee Chun, has won this season on the LPGA Tour, a testament to the strength and unusual talent shown by the 2015 class that captured a collected five victories between them. 2015 rookie Alison Lee made history of her own last year, playing her way onto the U.S. Solheim Cup Team with five top-10 finishes by the time the team was named in the Fall. She nearly captured her first win that year too, holding the 36-hole lead at the weather delayed Kingsmill Championship. But in the Monday finish it was fellow rookie Minjee Lee, who Alison grew up playing against, who came out on top and she settled for third. Seeing other rookies get their first win has only increased the pressure Alison has felt to win.
“So, yeah, like growing up, you know, college, junior golf, and even before that, I've always been on top,” Lee told the media. “Definitely been a struggle the past few years not being able to win yet, and seeing a lot of my friends that I played golf with growing up win like Jessica and even Minjee Lee being the same rookie class.”
While some cave under pressure, Lee says it makes her work harder and play better and hopes this is the week she can get that first win.
“Yeah, I would definitely say a lot of pressure, especially this week I'm in a good position to win this week. Hopefully I can get it done. It's a huge goal, dream of mine to win out here. I'm going to do my best to try not to think about it the next few days and just play golf, and hopefully everything will just fall into place.”
Lee tees off in the final group on moving day alongside Solheim Cup teammates Brittany Lang and Cristie Kerr at 10:30 a.m. local time.
Park Ready To Go
The KLPGA’s Sung Hyun Park has been a fixture on LPGA leaderboards in 2016. The seven-time winner this season on the KLPGA leads the money list and has finished outside the top-13 on the LPGA Tour just once in her six prior starts this season. When and if Park decides to join the LPGA has been an ongoing question and one she’s taken to asking fellow pro’s advice about in recent events.
“I think I'm considering two main factors when it comes to whether I'm going to go to the LPGA. That's the change in environment and the language. I think language is an important factor, so I need to really prepare,” Park told media. “When I asked In Gee as we played today, they seem to think that I should just come because everything somehow works out.”
Everything worked out for Park on Friday as she matched the low round of the day with a seven-under par, 65 which vaulted her from seven-back of the lead to start the day into a share of third with Cristie Kerr. Park has shown she has what it takes to play under the most pressure packed weekends on Tour, leading the U.S. Women’s Open before finishing third and contending at the Evian Championship where she finished in a share of second behind In Gee Chun.
“I think my game really started to improve starting the second half of the last year. Much hasn't changed, but when I'm playing I'm much more relaxed, and this is really helping my scores,” said Park. “I always thought that the short game was a little bit of a weak link. I've been focusing on improving my short game, so I think I my overall performance has improved.”
With a win on Sunday, Park would become the first non-member win on the LPGA Tour this season and first since Sun Ju Ahn at the 2015 TOTO JAPAN CLASSIC.