ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – As the rain poured down on Kingsbarns Golf Links, players sought shelter and comfort in what they knew best. For In-Kyung Kim, that was experience. Friday at the Ricoh Women’s British Open, the 2007 rookie relied on two decades of playing experience to manage a four-under par, 68 in cold and windy conditions to lead at the halfway mark of the season’s fourth major championship. Kim sits at 11-under par, two-strokes ahead of Lexi Thompson and Georgia Hall.
“I’ve been playing golf for 20 years and I feel like it’s one of those times I feel quite at ease,” Kim told LPGA.com. “I started off a little bit [nervous] it was totally different conditions that made me nervous, not the major championship, because I’ve played plenty of it. But I’m quite excited to play well.”
Kim’s round, and the day's conditions, turned at the par five, 11th where she hit five-wood from just over 200 yards to reach the green in two.
“I think after that eagle putt I made, the weather turned around and I had to get in kind of safely. It was dangerous I think, but I feel fortunate to be able to manage it today to be honest.”
Already a two-time winner this season, Kim’s success has come at a surprise even to her, a credit she can only imagine would be due her consistency. Regardless of reason, her solid play has positioned her for a third win this season and first major title. She has 12 top-10s in majors, including three in this championship.
“I don’t think I can expect anything, really in this place. But I really enjoy playing out here. Even the rain, If I had to play golf somewhere else, this would be the golf course that I would play in the rain.”
Two-back of Kim sits Lexi Thompson, whose secret weapon this week has been her caddie Kevin McAlpine, a former looper at Kingsbarns Golf Links, who has guided Thompson around the course like a seasoned veteran.
“I didn’t know what this course was going to bring. He’s told me every line and what the greens do exactly. It’s great to have that local knowledge,” Thompson said.
McAlpine’s reads got Thompson’s day back on track. After back-to-back bogeys on the front, the American rolled in five consecutive birdies, and added a sixth at the 17th hole, to jump to the top of the leaderboard.
“Once you get on that kind of streak you really don’t think about it,” Thompson said of her birdie run. “I was just hitting it pretty well there so I was just aiming at pins and going for it and made a few good putts."
McAlpine was scheduled to begin working with Thompson at this week’s Ricoh Women’s British Open, but her team decided to give him an early try. It’s paid off for the American, who is more of a feel than technical player, and heavily relies on McAlpine for guidance, as well as bit of levity.
“He keeps me relaxed, but at the same time he’s out there doing my numbers, reading my putts with me, basically doing everything,” Thompson said. “Kevin’s been great, not only this week, but he’s been my best friend on the bag through 10, 11 weeks now we’ve been with each other.”
Tied with Thompson is the Ladies European Tour’s Georgia Hall, who is having a career best season on Tour as she currently leads the Order of Merit and LET Solheim Cup point standings. Like Thompson, she had a birdie run of her own Friday and picked up four in a row on her front nine to jump into contention.
“I’ve never had four birdies in a row before, so I was very happy to be four-under after five,” Hall said. “I’m playing really well, I’m especially putting good. That is certainly helping me at the moment.”
Hall has her own secret weapon this week in Gary Player. She competed in his annual pro-am at Wentworth in July and played alongside the Black Knight who shared some advice with the 21-year-old that she’s leaning on this week.
“He talked about short game and he said that you should never feel sorry for yourself and never give up,” Hall said. “Those two things were kind of big to me. If he’s going to say that, then I’m certainly not going to give up on the golf course if I have a bad hole.”
At four-over par, defending champion Ariya Jutanugarn missed the cut in her third consecutive major championship, due in large part to a second round 77 that included a nine at the par 3, 12th hole. The cut line fell at one-under par which sends home notables Nelly Korda (E), Suzann Pettersen (E), Minjee Lee (+1), Karrie Webb (+3) and Danielle Kang (+3).