Thursday, February 13, 2014

From Sochi to Melbourne: Suzann Pettersen Off to Rollicking Start at the ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open

For someone who claimed she's been pulling all-nighters to keep up with Team Norway's performances at the Winter Olympics, Suzann Pettersen came out fresh in her 1st competitive round of 2014, opening with a 66 at the ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open to take a 1-shot lead on Hee Young Park, Jessica Korda, Jaclyn Sweeney, and Marion Ricordeau.

But lots of players are responding to the 9-birdie gauntlet Pettersen flung down yesterday.  Anna Nordqvist put together a bogey-free 64 today to move to -8 for the week while fellow Swede Caroline Hedwall used a hole in 1 on the back (her front) and a late eagle on the front (her back), along with 5 birdies, to fire a 65 a move to -11 through 36 holes.  Meanwhile, last week's breakthrough winner Cheyenne Woods used an 8-birdie 65 to put her birdieless 40 that closed out yesterday's round firmly in the rear-view mirror.  Still, it's the player she beat who's closest to Hedwall right now:  Australian amateur phenom Minjee Lee eagled the par-4 1st (her 10th today) and followed it up with 3 birdies in her last 5 holes to post a bogey-free 31 on the front, a 67 today, and a -9 total at the halfway point of the tournament.  Between Woods and Lee are a bunch of Americans at -7 (Paula Creamer, Morgan Pressel, Jessica Korda) and a mini-UN at -6 (Ayako Uehara, Carlota Ciganda, Valentine Derrey, Jessica Speechley).  And let's not forget the teenage Singapore-based Chinese amateur sensation Jing Yan, who fired a bogey-free 66 to join the young Americans at -7.

So Pettersen, who's -1 through her 1st 6 holes today and is still the low scorer in the afternoon wave (ahead of Azahara Munoz at -6, Lydia Ko and Chella Choi at -5, and players like Stacy Lewis at -3, Karrie Webb at -2, and Beatriz Recari at -1), has her work cut out for her if she wants to medal this week.  At least she won't have to worry about Lexi Thompson (70-76, +2), who's very likely to miss the cut.  (It's also been a disappointing week for Laura Davies, Sophie Gustafson, Charley Hull, Melissa Reid, Vicky Hurst, and Moriya Jutanugarn, all of whom will definitely be missing the cut.)  Let's see what she's able to do in the rest of round 2!

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