FROM THE ISLANDS TO THE DESERT
The queen of the islands, Sei Young Kim, could be the queen of the desert this week after taking the 36-hole lead Friday at the JTBC Founders Cup at 15-under-par after a second round 66. Each of Kim’s three previous LPGA wins came on an island and so did each of her five wins on the KLPGA, but Kim’s cruising in the desert to this point.
Her 15-under-par total tied the tournament record through 36 holes and is a personal best for her as well despite not feeling like she was on top of her game heading into the week.
“Before the first round, I was uncomfortable and couldn’t trust myself, but after this round, I got confidence,” Kim said.
Kim was confident from the very start Friday with a birdie at the first and then a curling 25-foot eagle at the second. Kim went on to post her second eagle of the day later at the 15th when she nearly jarred her 5-iron second shot on the fly and proceeded to roll in a seven footer for eagle.
“Hole 2, I got the second shot 200 to the pin. I pick up the five wood, try the shot because it’s downwind. I have to make it stay in the bowl because the greens are very firm. So it was good work,” Kim said. “15, hit the driver good and the second shot was 165 to the pin. I heard the cameraman told me it was almost in the hole. But the putt – I wasn’t missing the putt, but it was in the hole. I was shocked.”
On a track where the birdies have been plentiful, Kim will have to pour in a host of them this week to hold off a pack of capable contenders. Brittany Lang, who is looking for her first win since the 2013 Manulife Financial LPGA Classic, is just two shots back of Kim in solo second at 13-under-par after a second-round 4-under-par 68. Jacqui Concolino (64) and Giulia Sergas (68) are just three shots back in a tie for third at 12-under-par. Gerina Piller (68) and Eun Hee JI (67) round out the top five in a tie for fifth.
Kim, who has made a name for ridiculously clutch play on Sundays, has held at least a share of the 54-hole lead five times in her LPGA career and has closed it out with a win in three of those. As for how she can do it again, well, that’s still to be determined.
“I don’t know, but I try to just focus on what I do know,” Kim said with a laugh.
GIULIA SERGAS HAS ITALIAN GOLF LEGEND CONSTANTINO ROCCA IN HER CORNER THIS WEEK
Giulia Sergas sits three shots back of the lead entering the weekend at the JTBC Founders Cup.
“It’s a great week because Constantino Rocca is following me, and he’s right there on my side, and I love it,” Sergas explained.
Sergas has been working with the Italian golf legend since January.
“Constantino has just so much knowledge about the game, and there’s so many little things,” Sergas explained. “This level is just about inches, and he knows the inches. So he gave me all the steps that I was looking for and that it’s very hard to get if you don’t get experience on tour.”
Sergas is playing on a medical exemption due to a broken ankle she suffered last season which forced her to miss two months.
“Very important to be steady and keep what I’ve been working on, keep it going,” Sergas said of her approach to the weekend. “And give myself a chance to play as many events as I can.”
PUTTER CHANGE SPARKS STACY LEWIS
Stacy Lewis had been using her trusty TaylorMade Raylor since the 2012 season but following her first round of the JTBC Founders Cup she decided to make the switch.
“I mean, I hardly ever change. I mean, that putter -- I won the ANA with one putter, and then the rest of my wins have been with that TaylorMade that I took out,” Lewis said. “That was the hardest part for me was taking that out of the bag just because I had success with it.”
The change to a new Happy Putter paid dividends, as Lewis needed only 25 putts en route to her 7-under 65.
“I’ll definitely have it out there tomorrow,” Lewis said. “I couldn’t get comfortable lining up my other putter. If I line this one up good, I think the stroke kind of works itself out.”
BACK AT IT AGAIN ON THE LPGA
Hannah O’Sullivan’s senior classmates at Hamilton High School may be off away at the beach, enjoying a spring break away from the desert, but they’ll still be sending love back home after O’Sullivan tied the low round of the day Friday with a sparkling 8-under par 64. She’ll now spend the remainder of her spring break playing the weekend at the JTBC Founders Cup in her hometown after vaulting into a tie for 17th.
“They might be on the beach at the moment, but they’re all very supportive, especially my teachers,” O’Sullivan said. “I even had one of our counselors come out yesterday. So they’re very supportive. I can’t – well, I love the school, but I’d rather be out here for a while. But they’ll all be very supportive when I get back.”
None of what O’Sullivan’s been able to do through two days should be at all surprising for anyone despite being still in high school. She played in two major championships a year ago and made the cut in both, and she became the youngest winner in Epson Tour history with a win over a year ago at the age of 16. Nevertheless, she makes sure to take the opportunity to enjoy her success and not take for granted the ridiculous things she’s been able to do before high school graduation.
“This is a big event. So I just try and have fun and keep it loose for sure,” O’Sullivan said. “I try to control the ponytail a little, but I just think it’s – I’m just staying loose and taking it one shot at a time.”
She did a great job of that Friday. One shot in particular stood out, a dazzling 3-wood to three feet at the par-5 15th, which she poured in for an eagle. She also showed a nifty short game with a beautiful up and down at the 18th after short siding herself in the front left bunker.
“I just played pretty clean. My ball striking was good,” O’Sullivan said. “Whenever I missed a couple shots, I was able to get up and down really well. My putting was very good. I kept rolling it well. I was rolling it great yesterday, but the putts were finally dropping today.”
LOWEST CUT OF THE YEAR
74 players Friday emerged at 3-under-par or better to make it into the weekend and constituting the lowest cut line of the 2016 season.