Defending champion Hee Young Park hasn't made a bogey in her 1st 36 holes of the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic, but she's still behind the pace she set when she beat Catriona Matthew in a playoff last year after both golfers tied at -26 in regulation. At -11 this year, Park is 3 shots ahead of rookie Xi Yu Lin, 4 shots ahead of Inbee Park, So Yeon Ryu, Na Yeon Choi, and Belen Mozo, and 5 shots ahead of Cristie Kerr, Kristy McPherson, Caroline Masson, Jacqui Concolino, and Marina Alex.
But Park has some heavy hitters to contend with who are hanging right with her. 2-time winner in 2014 Anna Nordqvist has played flawless golf except for a double bogey on the par-3 17th yesterday, and that's the only difference between her and Park at the halfway point. Nordqvist was on pace to beat fellow Swede Pernilla Lindberg's bogey-free 64 for low round of the day and the week, but failed to birdie either of the back-to-back par 5s on the front after making 7 of them in her 1st 12 holes. Even closer to Park is Michelle Wie, who followed up yesterday's 65 with a bogey-free 67 today to get to double digits under par; the only difference between her and The Rocket is a Wie bogey on the par-3 9th yesterday. And then there's Shanshan Feng, my pick to win this week. She's matched the defending champion birdie for birdie and like her is bogey-free through 36 holes and counting.
Other big names can still get into the mix with a hot weekend. Suzann Pettersen made 3 birdies and an eagle on her way to a 67 that got her to -5, while Stacy Lewis, Lydia Ko, Angela Stanford, and Catriona Matthew are at -4.
But Grey Silo clearly has it in for Ai Miyazato, who missed the cut for the 2nd time she's played this event. Others who won't be playing on the weekend include Sandra Gal, Christina Kim, Pat Hurst, Vicky Hurst, and Moriya Jutanugarn. Still waiting to see whether the cut line will fall at E or +1. Will update when the 2nd round is complete!
[Update 1 (6:40 pm): Looks like the players at +1 will unexpectedly squeak in! Christel Boeljon and Nicole Vandermade did it in style with 68s, while inaugural champion Brittany Lang made it despite a late double on the par-4 8th.]
[Update 2 (6:43 pm): The lowest rounds of the day after Nordqvist's and Lindberg's 64s and Feng's 65 belonged to lesser-known players as well as Inbee and Hee Young Park: Anya Alvarez, Katie Futcher, and Thidapa Suwannapura. Congrats to them all!]
[Update 3 (6:45 pm): Add Jee Young Lee to the golfers 5 off the pace. She birdied 4 of her last 13 holes to get to -6!]