Friday, July 11, 2014

Ricoh Women's British Open Friday: Mo Martin Shoots 2nd-Straight 69 to Take 3-Shot Lead into Weekend

Even as the mighty fell during the 2nd round of the Ricoh Women's British Open, Mo Martin stood tall, shooting her 2nd-straight 5-birdie 69 at Royal Birkdale and taking a 3-shot lead on So Yeon Ryu and Beatriz Recari into the weekend.  Martin's continued accuracy off the tee--she hit 12 out of 14 fairways for the 2nd round in a row--stood her in good stead as Recari followed up yesterday's walkoff eagle with a 6-birdie 67, capped off by 3 in a row to finish her round, and Ryu bounced back from a double bogey on the 2nd with 4 birdies over her remaining 16 holes of bogey-free golf.  Sun Ju Ahn tied Recari for low round of the day and the week, as she followed up her eagle-par-par-birdie finish yesterday by bouncing back from an opening bogey with 6 birdies in her last 13 holes.  So with Recari -7 over her last 19 holes and Ahn -8 over her last 22, it's amazing that Martin has maintained such a large lead on them.

And let's not forget Julieta Granada, who joined Ahn at -2 for the week by finishing birdie-birdie.  Or Ariya Jutanugarn, whose 68 (capped off by an eagle-birdie finish) puts her at the head of an impressive class at -1 that includes Amy Yang (birdie-birdie finish), Gwladys Nocera (who just missed an eagle-eagle finish when her bomb from the back of the 18th green spun out of the cup), and Amelia Lewis (who had hopes of moving into solo 2nd but doubled the 18th after playing her previous 16 holes bogey-free and -4).  If Yang can improve her ball-striking on the weekend, watch out for her:  she's taken only 48 putts over the 1st 36 holes--6 better than Martin and Ahn!  It's amazing that she's hit only 13 fairways in her 1st 2 rounds--something Martin seems able to do in a single round--but is still in the hunt at a Royal Birkdale that's punished most players for missing fairways in a big way.

Before I get into who else is still in contention heading into the weekend, let's look at some of the mighty who have fallen to the +6 cut line:  Catriona Matthew, who had everything on her scorecard from a 3 to an 8 today on her way to an uncharacteristic 83 to finish her week at +13; JLPGA young gun Misuzu Narita, whose 79 dropped her to +12; 2-time WBO champion Ya Ni Tseng, who bounced back with a 72 today to finish at +10; world #1 amateur Minjee Lee, whose 71 today allowed her to tie Tseng; U.S. Women's Open champion Michelle Wie, whose 78 eclipsed yesterday's 75 as her worst round of the year and finished at +9, tied with Cheyenne Woods; fellow USWO champion Na Yeon Choi, whose 75 today also left her at +9, tied with super-amateur Su-Hyun Oh; last week's LET winner In-Kyung Kim, whose birdieless 75 today left her at +8, tied with Solheim Cup star Caroline Hedwall; 3-time WBO winner Karrie Webb, whose missed birdie putt on 18 capped off a 79 that left her 1 shot on the wrong side of the cut line, right with JLPGA star Shiho Oyama, who bounced back from yesterday's 79 with a 72 today thanks to a bogey-free 34 on the par-37 back 9.  A moment of silence for all of their hopes of winning this year's WBO.

Whose hopes are still alive?  Certainly everyone at E and +1, which includes the likes of Inbee Park, Shanshan Feng, Azahara Munoz, Jessica Korda, Morgan Pressel, and Eun-Hee Ji right where they started the week and Stacy Lewis, Suzann Pettersen, Ai Miyazato, Jenny Shin, Sophie Giquel-Bettan, and amateurs Georgia Hall and Emma Talley.  The group at +2 all finished strong, as well:  Angela Stanford birdied 14 and 16; Chella Choi her last 3 in a row; Hannah Jun 3 of her last 4; and Vikki Laing with a double eagle/albatross on 17.  And even though Ayako Uehara finished with a disastrous 44 and Ji-Yai Shin and Pornanong Phatlum didn't do much better with their closing 40s, they're still not out of this thing at +3.

That's assuming, of course, that everyone under par in the 1st half of the tournament is due for some serious struggles in the 2nd half.  I mean, if Lexi Thompson can take a 10 on the 1st hole and still make the cut, if Charley Hull can hit 1 shot OB on 18, almost go OB on her provisional, have to take an unplayable, and salvage a double from it, tying Thompson at +5 in the process, then Lydia Ko and Paula Creamer at +4 aren't out of this, because anything can happen.  Especially if the weather turns anything but the near-perfection it's been the last 2 days....

[Update 1 (10:32 pm):  Nice to see Mika Miyazato and Rikako Morita hanging in there to make the cut, Miki Saiki and Erina Hara joining Uehara at +3, and Ai Miyazato leading Team Japan at +1.  With Ahn, Feng, and Shin doing well thus far this week, the JLPGA will be well-represented on the weekend, despite the loss of Narita and International Crown team member Mamiko Higa.]

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