Michelle Wie broke 70 at the Pattaya Old Course for the 2nd-straight day to join Ya Ni Tseng 1 shot behind In-Kyung Kim at the summit of the leaderboard of the Honda LPGA Thailand tournament today. Let me tell you, I never expected a player with a history of being so wild off the tee to go 69-68 to start the season, much less play bogey-free golf over her last 20 holes and counting. By contrast, the world #1 snapped her own bogey-free streak at 22 holes with a double bogey at the 5th hole, and she followed it up with 2 bogeys on the back to offset her 4 birdies. And yesterday's leader opened the door to the entire field by following up her record-tying 63 with a 4-birdie, 5-bogey 74, but even though she ended her own bogey-free streak at 19 holes and struggled all day, she maintained a slim lead with a walkoff birdie on the closing par 5.
Instead of a romp for Kim, then, we now have a tight tournament with 13 players within 5 shots of the lead. Even Ji-Yai Shin, who came back with a 71 today, and Ai Miyazato, who birdied every par 5 on the way to a 69, are only 8 shots back at E. And there are plenty of big names even closer to the lead. Amy Yang, Brittany Lincicome, and Amanda Blumenherst have all gone 73-70 to join Kristy McPherson, Karen Stupples, M.J. Hur, and Beatriz Recari at -1. Karrie Webb (74-68), Cristie Kerr (71-71), Mika Miyazato (70-72), and Sun Young Yoo (69-73) have all taken different paths to -2. Natalie Gulbis (71-70) and Stacy Lewis (69-72) are lurking at -3. Suzann Pettersen (68-72), Catriona Matthew (67-73), Stacy Prammanasudh (71-69), and Pornanong Phatlum (70-70) are right in the thick of things at -4. And Na Yeon Choi (69-70), Paula Creamer (69-70), Juli Inkster (66-73), and Momoko Ueda (70-69) at -5 are poised to pass Tseng, Wie, and Kim if they stall on moving day.
Japanese fans must be going nuts, as Mikan and Momo-chan were paired together and both are exceeding early-season expectations, Ueda by a heck of a lot. If Ai-sama can't make a charge on the weekend to defend her title, I'm sure Honda would love to give that big winner's check to 1 of her compatriots. I'm even more certain that Prammanasudh, who's part-Thai, and Phatlum, who's already won this season in Taiwan (in an event sponsored by Japanese corporation Hitachi, no less), are the fan favorites. But I'm sticking to my guns when I say the most unexpected performance this week has to be Wie's. Seriously, did anyone imagine she'd be the only player in the field to stay in the 60s in her 1st 2 competitive rounds of 2011?
Can't wait to see how Golf Channel covers this! Look for an update after I've finished watching....
[Update 1 (5:30 am): Looks like Ruthless Mike had to deal with weather- or internet-related delays when he was scoreboard watching before going to sleep!]
[Update 2 (2:04 pm): Here's Ryan Ballengee on the leaders.]
[Update 4 (2:07 pm): And here's Hound Dog's 2nd-round overview.]
[Update 5 (2:13 pm): And here's bangkokbobby with a focus on the leaders in text and photos.]