It took Pornanong Phatlum 14 holes over her last 2 rounds in the Lorena Ochoa Invitational to improve on where she stood after her 1st 13 holes yesterday, but she did break 70 for the 2nd day in a row and went just low enough to hold onto a share of the halfway lead at -9 with So Yeon Ryu and Anna Nordqvist. Ryu, who birdied 6 of her last 13 holes yesterday, birdied 6 of her last 12 today and played her last 13 bogey-free. Nordqvist, who made 5 birdies in her last 11 holes yesterday, made 5 in her last 12 today and takes a streak of 15 bogey-free holes and counting into moving day tomorrow.
But the lead chase pack has also grown. Lexi Thompson fired the low round of the week thus far, a bogey-free 64, to leap from E to -8. Gerina Piller joined her despite making 3 bogeys today; all she did was board the birdie train for 5 holes on the front and scatter 5 others over the rest of her round (4 of them on the back) on her way to a 65. And world #1 Inbee Park just kept chugging along, as she made 2 birdies on each side for the 2nd day in a row for her 2nd-straight bogey-free 68. (It makes you start to wonder what she'll shoot when her putter really heats up!) 2 shots back are In-Kyung Kim and Lizette Salas, who followed up their opening 70s with bogey-free 67s. And look who's only 3 off the pace: recent world #1 Stacy Lewis put together a bogey-free 66 to join Suzann Pettersen (68), Karine Icher (68), and Jenny Shin (69) at T9.
In short, the number of leaders has tripled while the lead chase pack has doubled in a mere 18 holes. And when you consider that Morgan Pressel (-5) birdied 7 of her 1st 11 holes today and slowed like Phatlum did down the stretch yesterday to a 66, that Ilhee Lee (-4) matched Lewis's and Pressel's and Phatlum's feats, that just under half the field is within 5 shots of the lead, and that we even saw 67s today from those who played terribly yesterday--Cristie Kerr (77-67), Brittany Lincicome (76-67), Jodi Ewart Shadoff (75-67), Paula Creamer (74-67)--well, the only conclusion that we can draw is that 3/4 of this field is not yet out of this thing.
So the co-leaders have to really move it on moving day to put themselves in position to get their 1st win of the season (and for Phatlum, the 1st in her LPGA career). Anything worse than high 60s may leave them eating many others' dust....
[Update 1 (7:23 pm): More notes: Pressel took only 23 putts today; Lewis's only blemishes in her 1st 36 holes were a couple of doubles; Salas is on a 32-hole-and-counting bogey-free run; Inky's is 30; Lexi birdied 7 of her 1st 13 holes and got to 64 with a walkoff birdie, avoiding the fate of Phatlum and Pressel; Ilhee Lee just missed a hole in 1 by an inch, she said on twitter.]
[Update 2 (11:25 am): Ruthless Mike and bangkokbobby have some interesting thoughts on the LPGA's Player of the Year race.]