Ilhee holds onto Sime Darby LPGA lead

Ilhee Lee ©eddieputera|TCH
Ilhee Lee ©eddieputera|TCH

Kuala Lumpur: A beaming Ilhee Park retained her one-shot advantage at the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia as American teenage star Lexi Thompson rose into contention after a low-scoring second round on Friday.

The pint-sized Lee continued from where she left on with some strong play early on, carding a six-under 65 to lead the US$2 million tournament on 13-under 129.

Having started with three birdies through nine holes, Thompson blazed the back nine of the East Course at Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club with four birdies and an eagle on a trot, finishing the day on eight-under 63.

Last week’s winner Feng Shanshan of China was a further two strokes back in third after a 65 while South Korean I.K. Kim (66) and American favourite Paula Creamer (67) were tied for fourth at nine-under 133. Amy Yang shot a 62 to better the tournament record of 64 to take share of sixth alongside Japan’s Mamiko Higa (66).

Lee played her first nine holes five-under par and extended her lead to as large as four strokes before Thompson cut the lead to one shot heading into the weekend.

“I doing exactly the same thing as yesterday – just try to aim for three-under every day. But I putted good and made more, so it was fun,” said the 25-year-old.

Lee, who dropped her only bogey in 36 holes at the 16th, credited her putter for making up for her poor ball striking. “I did mistakes a lot, actually,” said Lee. “I missed shots a little bit, but the putt was good, so I saved a lot,” said Lee, who is playing for her second-career win.

“It was all about momentum,” said Thompson. “On the back nine I made a few birdies and then I had that eagle, so I pretty much just had it going my way. I just tried to keep confident out there. Focused on one shot at a time,” she noted.

Still buzzing from her thrilling home victory at the Reignwood LPGA Classic last week, Feng admitted that the good vibes from the win are still flowing through.

“Well, I’ve had some good finishes on this course and I really like the course because you need to be really accurate. If you get in rough or you get in bunkers, then you actually have chances to drop bogeys. But I think what I’ve done well these two days were my driving and my iron shots were pretty accurate, so I’m very comfortable and confident,” shared the Chinese Major champion.

Leading second round scores:
129 – Ilhee Lee (KOR) 64-65
130 – Lexi Thompson (USA) 67-63
132 – Shanshan Feng 67-65
133 – IK Kim (KOR) 67-66, Paula Creamer (USA) 66-67
134 – Amy Yang 72-62, Mamiko Higa (JPN) 68-66
135 – Ryu So Yeon (KOR) 70-65, Cristie Kerr (USA) 67-68, Suzann Pettersen 67-68