Coming into this week, In-Kyung Kim was averaging 2.81 birdies per round on the LPGA, but she did blow away the LET field at the Ladies European Masters the 1st week of July when she finished at -18. So far through 36 holes at the Portland Classic, Inky is playing like it's early July again, as she's made 14 birdies and has gotten to -12. But there are many fellow players in the LPGA's Rebel Alliance who are looking to make the next 36 holes as pressure-packed for her as possible--plus the LPGA's Royals are making something of a move, as well.
Leading the Royals charge today was So Yeon Ryu, who fired an 8-birdie 66, improving her putts taken from 34 yesterday to 25 today and moving to -8. Next in line was Suzann Pettersen, who birdied 4 holes in a row late in her round today for a total of 5 birdies in her last 7 holes as she finished the front (her back) and got to -6, catching fellow Royals Anna Nordqvist (71) and Chella Choi (70), who both needed late comebacks to get under par on the day. And Shanshan Feng put together a 6-birdie 67 with only 24 putts (10 fewer than yesterday's round) to join Na Yeon Choi (69) at -5.
But once again the Rebels outdid the Royals when it came to going low. Mi Jung Hur's bogey-free 65 not only tied Inky's opening round, but also matched Carlota Ciganda, who made 4 birdies in her 1st 7 holes on the front and turned around and made 4 more in her 1st 6 holes on the back for a 65 of her own today. Hur and Ciganda caught fellow Rebel Laura Diaz, who shot a 68 to extend her bogey-free run to 36 holes and counting, at -9, only 3 shots behind Inky. It looked for awhile like 65 shooters Inky, Hur, and Ciganda would be eclipsed by rookie Jaye Marie Green, who found her Q-School form today and was -8 through her 1st 17 holes, but a walkoff double bogey forced her to accept a 66 that got her to -6. Tiffany Joh birdied 5 of her 1st 8 holes to get to -6 for the week much earlier in the day, but stayed there for the next 10 holes, while Ji Young Oh also took advantage of the front, but for her it was a late charge over her last 9 holes--a 5-birdie 31--that brought her to -6. Beatriz Recari, who like Ciganda can make a claim to LPGA Royalty-in-Waiting thanks to their role in Team Spain's taking of the International Crown, but who like Ciganda has not had a very good 2014 in stroke-play events, ended up 1 shot behind that Rebel trio at -6. Like Green, Recari has the 18th hole to blame for having to accept a 66 today; she made her lone bogey of the day there as she made a turn. Because of that, she's tied with another Euro who just fell short of making a claim to LPGA Royalty when she lost last year's Rookie of the Year race by a single point, Caroline Masson, whose lone blemish came at the very start of her round, but who rallied for a 6-birdie 67. They reached the halfway point in the tournament just 1 shot ahead of a pair of ex-Royals, Ai Miyazato (7-birdie 67) and Morgan Pressel (6-birdie 67), top 2 players in the Class of 2006 who have not had 2014s to write home about just yet. Bringing the Rebel Alliance charge to a close were Xi Yu Lin (68), Mina Harigae (69), and Paula Reto (69), who ended the day at -8, 1 shot ahead of Amelia Lewis, who made a nice comeback to salvage a 71.
So with Rebels #1, T2, and T5 to T10 thus far, with the only Royals in the bunch at T5 and T10--or, to put this another way, Rebels outnumber Royals 14-4 in the top 18 after 36 holes--Hound Dog's claim that weaker fields are more likely to result in surprise winners is halfway to gaining another data point in its favor.
But I'd be remiss if I didn't end this post with a look toward the cut line and its larger significance. Even as Jane Park and Danielle Kang clawed their way to the right side of it, Sandra Gal, Chie Arimura, and Harukyo Nomura fell on the wrong side of it. It's hard to be a Rebel on the LPGA, but it's even harder to stay one. Even players who have been having really good 2014s like Meena Lee and Jenny Shin couldn't make the cut this week, nor could future stars like Charley Hull and Yueer Cindy Feng. It reminds us that all these players put it on the line every week--or as often as they can--for as long as they can. So it's particularly gratifying to report that Jeong Jang (-3) and Hee-Won Han (+1) made the cut in what will be their last professional event in the States. I agree with Centurion that it would be wonderful for their last event before full retirement to take place in Korea this fall and heartily recommend and second his tribute to their competitive golf careers. JJ and Hee-Won Mom will be missed!