ANOTHER STRONG START FOR AZAHARA MUNOZ
Ko Olina Golf Club suits Spain’s Azahara Munoz game considering her track record. Two of her six LOTTE Championship finishes were runner-up, in 2012 and in 2018. Munoz made a valiant attempt on Thursday to place herself in contention with a second-round 66 to -10 total, just five strokes behind first-round leader Eun-hee Ji.
“I really like this golf course. The fact that it's windy but the greens hold I don't mind so much the wind,” said Munoz who is making her seventh start of the LOTTE Championship. “Well, it starts getting to me when the greens are really firm.”
In Munoz’s seven starts on the 2019 season, she has three top-5 finishes and an additional top-10 finish—she is so close to adding another win to her LPGA Tour resume (she won the 2012 Sybase Match Play Championship) and feels like her game is coming together to do just that.
“I'm hitting lots of fairways so that gives me the chance to go for the greens, and then my irons too, but also making nice putts,” said Munoz after hitting eight of 14 fairways and 13 of 18 greens, making 25 putts. “I think when you have a 6-under round everything kind of has to click. I also chipped in on the 3rd hole today, so what helps as well.”
EUN-HEE JI FINISHES STRONG AFTER MAKING AN EAGLE
This week is Eun-Hee Ji’s eighth start of the LOTTE Championship but today, the 32-year-old LPGA champion utilized her experience and confidence from her early season win at the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions presented by Insurance Office of America to navigate around Ko Olina on Wednesday.
“Yeah, little more, little more wind, so I had to play for the wind on a couple holes,” said second-round leader Ji. “Some holes that makes a little bit easier because downwind and I got shorter clubs in, so that makes a little bit easier for me.”
Ji went out in 35, making two birdies and a bogey on the 18th but made the turn and started make a surge. She chipped in for eagle on the par-5 1st from 40 yards, followed up with a birdie on No. 2, No. 5, back-to-back birdies on No. 7 and 8 for the day’s low round of 65.
“Oh, that makes a lot of difference in my mind,” said Ji of her mid-round eagle. “I didn’t hit it too bad on No. 18, but I left my first putt really short and just missed the second putt. So I just kept focusing on it and I just wanted to hit an eagle. Makes a lot of difference for me.”
NELLY KORDA SHOOTS 4-UNDER IN WINDY CONDITIONS
“Played pretty solid all day. Made a few bogeys, but my caddie and I really made sure to not rush and take our time and really check the wind and make our decisions properly,” said Nelly Korda after shooting a second round 4-under 68 on Wednesday. Korda, went out in 35 and came back in 33, making three consecutive birdies on Nos. 5 through 7, a bogey on No. 8 and completed the round with a birdie on her last hole, No. 9.
“Well, first one was the par-5. I hit my 5-iron just right side of the green; chipped up; tap-in for birdie. Then hit a really good wedge shot into the next hole and then the next hole -- I think it was 6 -- yes, 6, I hooked my drive almost into OB and I had a clear shot through the trees and I hit a 9-iron, controlled nine, and got it to about like 12 feet and made it,” said Korda.
BROOKE HENDERSON TIED FOR THIRD IN TITLE DEFENSE AT KO OLINA
Defending champion Brooke Henderson turned in a 4-under 68 in Round 2 of the LOTTE Championship to stay tied for third with Australia’s Minjee Lee. The players in the top three all bested the tournament’s 36-hole scoring record, previously 134 and most recently set by Henderson. Today, that record now stands at 129.
“The wind was a lot stronger than it was yesterday right off the bat even early this morning. Took a little bit of adjusting to it,” said Henderson who managed to bounce back after a bogey on the par-4 3rd with two birdies on Nos. 5 and 7. “Got a couple breaks and was hitting the ball in pretty good places, giving myself some birdie looks. It was nice to make a few putts, especially the two par-3s on the back.”
The 21-year-old is gaining momentum in her campaign to defend her title at Ko Olina, looking for her first win of the season in 2019.
“The leaderboard is pretty dense right now and there is a lot of talented players. It's halfway through the event,” said Henderson. “Just keep doing what I'm doing and make a lot of birdies and see what happens.”
Rolex Rankings No. 20 Eun-Hee Ji
Ji’s 36-hole 129 is her best 36-hole score of the 2019 season; she previously shot 134s at the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions presented by Insurance Office of America and at the Honda LPGA Thailand
She hit 10 of 14 fairways and 11 of 18 greens, making 23 putts
Ji is in her 13th season on the LPGA Tour; she is a five-time winner on the LPGA Tour. Her most recent win was at the inaugural 2019 Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions presented by Insurance Office of America
This is Ji’s seventh event of the 2019 LPGA Tour season; she has two additional top-10 finishes this year
She is competing in her eighth LOTTE Championship; her best finish is T11 in 2018
Rolex Rankings No. 10 Nelly Korda
Korda’s 36-hole 131 is her best 36-hole score of the 2019 season; she shot a 135 after 36 holes at the Bank of Hope Founders Cup
She hit seven of 14 fairways and 12 of 18 greens, making 26 putts
Korda is in her third season on the LPGA Tour; she won the 2016 Sioux Falls GreatLIFE Challenge and finished ninth on the Volvik Race for the Card Symetra Tour money list to earn LPGA Tour status in her first year as a professional
This is Korda’s seventh event of the 2019 LPGA Tour season; she won the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open earlier this season for her second victory on Tour
She is competing in her first LOTTE Championship
Rolex Rankings No. 4 Minjee Lee
Lee’s 36-hole 133 is her lowest score of the 2019 season; she shot a 134 through 36 holes at the Honda LPGA Thailand and finished second
She hit seven of 14 fairways and 11 of 18 greens, making 23 putts
Lee is in her fifth season on the LPGA Tour; she is a four-time winner on the LPGA Tour and also represented Australia in the 2019 Rio Olympics, finishing T7
This is Lee’s eighth event of the 2019 season; she has two runner-up finishes this season—at the Honda LPGA Thailand and at the HSBC Women’s World Championship
She is the 2016 champion of the LOTTE Championship; this is her fifth start of the LOTTE Championship
Rolex Rankings No. 12 Brooke Henderson
Henderson’s 36-hole 133 is her second lowest score of the 2019 season; she shot a 132 through 36 holes at the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions presented by Insurance Office of America
She hit eight of 14 fairways and 14 of 18 greens, making 29 putts
Henderson is in her fifth season on the LPGA Tour; she is a seven-time winner on the LPGA Tour; she is one-win shy of tying Sandra Post’s record for most victories by a Canadian player in LPGA Tour history
This is Henderson’s seventh event of the 2019 season; she has three top-10 finishes this season
She is the defending champion of the LOTTE Championship; this is her fourth start of the LOTTE Championship
23 players in the top 20 represent 13 different countries (Republic of Korea, USA, Australia, Canada, Spain, Thailand, China, Sweden, Denmark, Italy, Philippines, Puerto Rico, South Africa)
Eun-Hee Ji shot the day’s low round of 7-under-par 65; she is currently leading the LOTTE Championship
Benyapa Niphatsophon withdrew on hole No. 2, her 11th hole of the second round due to injury
83 players made the cut at even par