Friday was a good day for Jenny Shin.
On a day when everything seemed to go her way, Shin posted a bogey-free, 7-under par, 65 to climb to the top of the leaderboard Friday at the Kia Classic to lead by one at 10-under par.
“I think it was a really good round. I hit great shots. I hit great putts. I had a lot of 6-footers for birdie, so it was a good day,” Shin said after her round.
Having grown up in nearby Los Angeles, Shin feels added pressure each time she plays in this event in front of family and friends and it’s affected her performance in the past, having twice missed the cut.
“The goal this week was like, I have to make the cut. I have to show up on the weekend. This is the only tournament every year where I struggle to get in contention, and I think part of it was, it's close to home, a lot of people watching. I want to do well. Last year, my coach came out and watched me for two days. So it was just a lot of pressure. This year, I didn't invite anybody, just my mom.”
Shin did extend an invitation this week to James Walton, a veteran caddie she’s had on the bag just twice before. She’s in the market for a new looper and has found success with Walton in the past, working together in 2012 and 2013 with each start resulting in a top-5 finish. Walton has caddied for Suzann Pettersen as well as the PGA Tour’s Y.E. Yang, Robert Karlsson and Billy Mayfair.
“I got a lot of help from James, my caddie. I haven't hired him for a while. He's one of my favorites, and he does a really good job with course management and he helped me quite a bit today and yesterday. I think I did a good job placing my ball in the right position and getting the right clubs,” Shin said. “He's tough to get -- he belongs on the PGA TOUR. I don't know, maybe the win could seduce him, I don't know.”
Shin says she will also have Walton on her bag next week at the first major of the year, the ANA Inspiration. The 2011 rookie holds the 36-hole lead for just the third time in her career this week and is looking for her first win on Tour.
Despite hitting just half the fairways on day two and missing several birdie opportunities, world No.1 Lydia Ko still managed an impressive bogey-free 5-under par, 67 to sit one-back of Shin at day’s end.
“Yeah, I didn't strike the ball as well as I did yesterday, especially on my back nine, I had to make up-and-down from a few places,” said Ko. “The rough is rough, so when you get in there, it's tough to get close to the pin or even on the green sometimes. Sometimes I got fortunate but other times I was able to scramble and I think that's the most important thing around here.”
Tied for second along with Ko is Brittany Lang who carded a 4-under par, 68 to stay in the hunt for the second consecutive week, having finished T-9 in Phoenix. Inbee Park is T-4 at 8-under par after a second round 3-under par, 69. 2016 Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic champion Hyo Joo Kim is in the mix for her second title of the year, currently T-4 with Park after a second round 6-under par, 66. Jessica Korda and Sung Hyun Park round out the top-6 at 7-under par for the championship.
Several notables won’t be around to play the weekend in Carlsbad, including defending champion Cristie Kerr at 5-over par and last week’s winner of the JTBC Founders Cup, Sei Young Kim. This week marks just the third missed cut for Kim since joining the Tour and first since July of 2015.