Friday, March 14, 2014

Ariya Jutanugarn on Track to Defend Title at Lalla Meryem Cup in Morocco

Ariya Jutanugarn fired a bogey-free 66 to take the halfway lead at the Lalla Meryem Cup today.  Her -8 total (with 18 birdies in her 1st 36 holes!) gives her a 2-shot lead on Nina Holleder, a 2nd-year LET member from Germany, and Mathilda Cappeliez, a rookie from France who made 5 birdies and an eagle on her way to a bogey-free 64.  They're followed by a host of players who need no introduction, including Laura Davies, Gwladys Nocera, and Sophie Giquel-Bettan at -5, Lee-Anne Pace at -4, and Charley Hull at -3.  1st-round co-leaders Sophie Walker (-5) and Rebecca Hudson (-4) remain in the mix, along with the rookie from Swaziland, Nobuhle Dlamini (-4).

Lower down the leaderboard, Linda Wessberg and Nontaya Srisawang's 70s ensured they'll be playing on the weekend and keeping alive the former's hopes of making Team Sweden and the latter's hopes of leapfrogging countrywoman Onnarin Sattayabanphot to retake the #4 spot on Team Thailand for the LPGA's International Crown.  Stacy Keating and Camilla Lennarth, however, shot a 76 and a 74, respectively, to miss the cut by a single shot, which makes their odds of making Team Australia and Team Sweden, respectively, a little longer.

Let's see how these players handle the pressure on the weekend.  Jutanugarn is poised to establish herself as the best female Thai golfer in the world if she keeps playing this strongly--an impressive return from a serious shoulder injury that cut last season quite short and required surgery and a long recovery/rehab regimen.  Can she keep making as many birdies over her last 36 holes as she has over her 1st?

[Update 1 (3/15/14, 5:44 am):  Ruthless Mike looks at Laura Davies's game this week and hopes for a Jutanugarn/Davies showdown.  Me, too!]

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