Friday’s roundup: Minjee Lee opens 6-stroke lead
Hainan, China — Minjee Lee patiently navigated Jian Lake’s undulating greens again Friday to stretch her lead to six strokes in the Blue Bay LPGA.
Already a two-time winner on the LPGA Tour, the 20-year-old Australian followed her opening 7-under 65 with a bogey-free 67 in windier afternoon conditions off Hainan Clear Water Bay.
“I had a pretty solid round,” Lee said. “I had 3 under the first nine, so I was happy with my start. In the middle, I had a couple loose shots here and there, but I could get up-and-down. Then I finished off with two birdies. Overall, pretty solid round.”
Three days after Typhoon Sarika roared through the South China Sea beach resort, the wind finally kicked up as Lee played the back nine. The wind makes it more difficult to hit targets in valleys and on plateaus on the large, tiered greens.
“I don’t think it’s easy out there,” Lee said. “It’s still windy and the greens are really undulated, so you have to be in the right places. It’s not easy.”
Germany’s Caroline Masson was second at 6 under after her second straight 69. She birdied four of the last five holes — the lone par coming on a 3-foot birdie miss on the par-4 15th.
“You’ve just got to be smart and you’ve got to be accepting out there,” Masson said. “Some holes play very tough with certain wind and certain pin positions. So sometimes you have to hit a perfect shot in the perfect spot and get lucky, as well, to get it on the right side of the green or keep it on the green or get it close.
“A lot of times, you hit a decent shot and you end up missing the green, so it’s important to stay patient and trust in the short game, and I think that’s what I did today. I made some really good up-and-downs out there, and kind of made the birdies when I had the chances on the last few holes.”
She won the Manulife LPGA Classic in Canada in September for her first LPGA Tour victory.
“Today it was important to stay patient out there, be confident and kind of be relaxed and not try to force things too much,” Masson said. “I think I’ve gotten a little more relaxed on the golf course after my win, so that’s definitely a good thing.”
Spain’s Carlota Ciganda and American Jessica Korda were 5 under.
Ciganda had a 71. She had an emotional first LPGA Tour victory Sunday in a playoff in South Korea.
Korda followed her opening 67 with a 72. She had five birdies, a double bogey and three bogeys.
Lee birdied three of the four par 3s, the last with an 18-footer from the fringe on the 116-yard 17th. She also birdied the par-3 fourth and seventh, and followed with a downhill 30-footer on the par-5 eighth. She ended a par streak with a downhill 12-footer for birdie on the par-4 16th.
After the birdie on 17, she missed a chance on the par-5 18th when her low wedge approach skipped up a ridge and left her a downhill 20-footer that missed on the right edge.
The 2012 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion won last year at Kingsmill and in April in Hawaii.
“I’ll just try to play my own game,” Lee said. “I don’t really want to go in with too high of expectations because I don’t know what the conditions are going to be like. It could get windy. …
“I’m not going to be any more or less aggressive or more or less conservative. It just depends on where you are on the fairway and where the pin is. I’ll take it from there.”
China’s Xi Yu Lin (68), South Korea’s Chella Choi (72) and Germany’s Sandra Gal (73) were 4 under.
“Yesterday, the rhythm was kind of slow. Today, the rhythm was right there, pretty smooth,” Lin said. “Also my mood is pretty good, as well, as far as the putting.”
Second-ranked Ariya Jutanugarn, the tour leader with five victories, was 2 under after a 71. Michelle Wie and Charley Hull each shot 70 to also reach 2 under. Wie got into the field on a sponsor exemption.
Defending champion Sei Young Kim was 1 under after a 72. The South Korean player won last year in wind and rain without shooting a round in the 60s.
Brooke Henderson was even par after a 75. The 19-year-old Canadian is playing for the fourth straight week in Asia and plans to make it six in a row with stops in Malaysia and Japan.
At Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Defending champion Justin Thomas shot a 6-under 66 to take a two-stroke lead halfway through the CIMB Classic, staying within striking distance of his own tournament record at TPC Kuala Lumpur.
Thomas shared the first-round lead with fellow Americans Keegan Bradley and Derek Fathauer at 64, and followed up with a bogey-free round to get to 14 under. Thomas finished at 26-under 262 last year for his first PGA Tour title.
Asian Tour leader Anirban Lahiri of India was second after a 66. He closed with a double bogey for the second straight day.
Scotland’s Russell Knox (63) was 11 under along with American James Hahn (64) and Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama. Fathauer (70) was tied for sixth at 10 under, and Bradley (71) was 8 under.
Ryan Moore, the 2013 and 2014 winner, and Brendan Steele, the winner last week at Silverado in California, also were 8 under. Moore had a 65, and Steele shot 69.
At Vilamoura, Portugal, Defending champion Andy Sullivan shot a 10-under 61 for a share of the Portugal Masters lead.
The Englishman won last year by a record nine shots. He matched Scotland’s Mark Warren (65) at 14-under 128 at Oceanico Victoria.
Ireland’s Padraig Harrington (63) and Sweden’s Jens Fahrbring (64) were a stroke back, and American David Lipsky (66) was 12 under.