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Eighteen-year old Bangkok native Moriya Jutanugarn continued her solid play at LPGA International and shot a 6-under 66 to take a three-shot lead in the second round of LPGA Final Qualifying. The Thai teen followed up her first-round 68 with the low round of the tournament. She carded eight birdies and two bogeys to put her 10-under for the week. She's three strokes ahead of 2012 LPGA Tour rookie Lacey Agnew who shot 5-under in the second round and heads into Friday at 7-under par.
"Yea, eight birdies," said Jutanugarn with a smile. "I don't know how come. I'm serious."
The young player tends to undermine her ability but does a good job of keeping herself in check, with a field full of such talented players. She said at each stage of qualifying, she gets nervous off the first tee and has to work at calming her nerves.
"On the front nine, I did not feel comfortable," said Jutanugarn. "I just did not have the speed down on the greens. It's a little different from the other course."
She was 1-over through her first seven holes but seemed to figure it out by the time she made the turn.
"I had my moment on 18, where I went way left on my second shot but then stuck it to three feet for birdie," said Jutanugarn. "I said 'ok Moriya, come back."
She carded four-consecutive birdies on Nos. 18, 1, 2 and 3 and held momentum to pick up three more before finishing out at 6-under.
Two-time LPGA Tour winner Christina Kim turned things around after opening with an even-par 72 in Wednesday's first round and posted a bogey-free 5-under 67. She's currently in third and five off the lead. Former LPGA Tour member Kim Welch and Ayako Uehara of Japan are in the tie for fourth at 4-under.
2012 LPGA rookie Lacey Agnew knows what this week could come down to and how much pressure could be put on her, come Sunday's final round. The Jonesboro, Ga. native played in her first Q School last year and had a solid showing, finishing 20th which would get her full status on the LPGA Tour in 2012. The only problem was that eight other players were tied for that last spot for exempt status.
Lizette Salas would eventually win that final spot, birdieing all three holes of the playoff, but Agnew still had an LPGA Tour card in her hand at the end of the week. Having experienced such a tension-filled ending to an already stressful week, she knew it would help her prepare for this week to help retain her card for next season.
"I think knowing what happened last year and my game plan last year, I switched that up a little bit," said Agnew. "I just decided to stay a little more conservative in certain areas and fire at some pins when I can and see what happens."
Agnew had some rookie struggles in 2012 and split her time between the LPGA Tour and Symetra Tour. She made seven LPGA starts, made one cut and recorded a season-best T64 at the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic. Asked what she learned in her first year on Tour, the former Florida State standout said she immediately began concentrating on her short game.
"One of the things I learned very quickly out there is that it's a putting game," said Agnew. "So that's what I worked on in the offseason. It was great experience. I was able to get in seven events. I learned to take your time and be patient and to play your game. Don't play the course, don't play the other players but play your strengths and at the end of the day if it boils down to you shooting a good score, that's what will happen."
Not at least once, just once: The consistently animated Christina Kim was in good spirits after her second round on Thursday at LPGA International and for good reason. She put together a bogey-free, five birdie round to put her in solo third after two rounds and in good position to finish out the week in the top-20.
Kim, a two-time LPGA winner and three-time U.S. Solheim Cup Team member, had her worst season in her nine years on Tour and finished 110th on the LPGA Tour money list. She was forced to head to Q School for the first time in her career. She qualified for the Tour when she finished second on the Symetra Tour money list in 2002. The California native admitted to never even thinking about the possibility of Q School.
"When I was younger, after I got my card what is now the Symetra Tour, I had vowed that I would never have to go to Q School," said Kim. "And I would now say that no one should ever be that arrogant."
Coming to terms with the reality of fighting for her status on the LPGA, Kim has tried to embrace the situation as much as possible and has said it's humbling, something everyone should go through.
"But now that I'm here, it has a very unique atmosphere," said Kim. "It's a once in a lifetime opportunity that everyone should do at least once. Not at least, just once. Because it's different," she said with laugh.
"There are kids out here who are the same age I was when I was playing the Symetra Tour. You have the two Thai girls just killing it on the golf course, high ranked European players, girls just out of college," said Kim. "It's just this entire ecosystem that is unique and it can be fun if you allow it to be fun."
Kim said she had plenty of fun on Thursday on the Legends Course despite getting off to a slow start. She didn't get her first birdie until her seventh hole on the par 5 16th but turned things around on the front nine. She said she hit her groove after a great play on the second hole.
"It was after the birdie on the second hole because I had a very difficult, sort of awkward angled third shot of 55 yards down wind with this massive bunker short of it," said Kim. "I clipped it perfectly about eight feet short of the hole surprisingly. And then made the eight-foot putt and said 'ok we can do this.'"
She would go on to post three-consecutive birdies on Nos. 4, 5 and 6 to finish 5-under, five strokes better than her first round. Kim said simplifying the process, keeping her mistakes small and ignoring the numbers will be key for the final three rounds.
"One foot in front of the other, hit ball, find, do again," said Kim. "But just like today, I'm going to minimize mistakes. I don't want to think, I shot 5-under yesterday, so that means I can shoot 7-under under today. I try to avoid thinking like that. Just more about hitting good quality shots and adding them up at the end."
Seven members of the Golfweek 2012 NCAA All-America Team are in action this week, trying to play their way onto the LPGA Tour after their respective, accomplished college careers. Second-team member and former LSU star Austin Ernst currently leads the group and shot rounds of 70-71 and sits T6 with three rounds to play.
The remaining standouts and their results are as follows: First Team: Brooke Pancake, Alabama (70-72, -2); Marina Alex, Vanderbilt (70-73, -1); Giulia Molinaro, Arizona State (72-71, -1); Lisa McClosky, USC (70-73, -1); Second Team: Katie Burnett University of South Carolina (72-72, E); Honorable Mention: Emily Talley, Colorado (74-74, +4).
Two-time LPGA winner Laura Diaz improved to 3-under par and is currently tied with six other players for a tie for sixth.
Former U.S. Women's Open champion Birdie Kim shot 6-over on Thursday and is currently 10-over and T104. Four-time LET winner and 2011 European Solheim Cup Team member Mel Reid saw little improvement from a poor opening round and has recorded rounds of 79-76 and currently T108 at 11-over.
Marita Engzelius of Norway holds the top amateur spot at 1-under par and is in a tie for 17th after 36 holes
- 02/12/2012 10:19 - Jutanugarn holds comfortable 6-stroke lead at LPGA Final Qualifying
- 01/12/2012 18:36 - Phatlum in pole position, Hedwall sets course record, Aditi best Indian at Hero Women's Indian Open
- 01/12/2012 08:50 - Moriya Jutanugarn running away with LPGA Final Qualifying Tournament