Marathon Classic at Highland Meadows Golf Club, Sylvania, Ohio - Friday – Second Round Notes, July 18, 2014
Just when it appeared like 39-year-old Laura Diaz’s return to the top of an LPGA leaderboard after a first-round 62 might be a temporary blip in a nice early week story, she birdied three of her final four holes to emerge from a three-way tie for the lead with a three-shot lead after the second round at the Marathon Classic Presented by Owens Corning and O-I. Diaz’s 2-under 69 has her at 11-under-par with world No. 2 Lydia Ko and Lee-Anne Pace chasing at 8-under.
The 2012 winner here So Yeon Ryu and Rebecca Lee-Bentham are four shots back of the lead in a tie for fourth at 7-under.
Three other times Diaz has led this event after two rounds – 2009, 2003 and 2002 – but faded on the weekend and finished tied for 42, tied for 8th, and tied for 3rd those years, respectively. That 2009 lead was the last time she’s been in this position heading into a round on Saturday and she was admittedly nervous in that position on Friday.
“For me, it was just a challenge because I haven’t been in this position in a very long time. For sure haven’t had cameras on me in a long time,” she said. “So I was anxious for them to go away I think in a funny kind of way.”
Keep playing like she has so far and there’s no chance the cameras are departing. The mother of two has two career victories – both in 2002 – and her last top-10 finish came four years ago at the 2010 LPGA Tour Championship where she tied for fifth.
More unnerving than the cameras for Diaz should be the presence of Ko on her heels. The precocious 17-year-old three-time tour winner has watched as fellow members of the Rolex Rankings top-three Stacy Lewis and Inbee Park have racked up victories – three for Lewis and one for Park – since Ko’s win in late April at the Swinging Skirts LPGA Classic. If this star-studded season of winners so far is any indication, Ko’s about to provide an answer to Lewis and Park this week after back-to-back rounds of 4-under 67.
“Yeah, you know what? Yeah, I had two solid rounds. I thought I played pretty solid today and yesterday,” Ko said. “Hopefully I can continue that through the weekend.”
Defending champion Beatriz Racari shot a 3-under 68 Friday and is seven shots back of Diaz’s lead at 4-under-par for the tournament. World No. 1 Stacy Lewis, who was born in Toledo, is nine back at 2-under-par for the tournament.
FINDING HER PACE
South Africa’s Lee-Ann Pace finds herself in unfamiliar territory on the LPGA Tour this week: on the leaderboard on the LPGA Tour. Pace has honed her game in recent years on the Ladies European Tour and has learned how to win. She has eight career victories on the LET and finished first on the Tour’s money list in 2010.
Pace carded six birdies and three bogeys en route to a second-round 68 on Friday and sits three back of the lead.
“I felt like I played really well,” said Pace. “Yeah, I’m very happy about the position. I would like to be in contention on the weekend. That’s when the fun starts, right? So hopefully I can keep hitting the ball like I am and make a couple of putts on the weekend, and you never know.”
Pace picked up bogeys on the 11th and 15th holes to test her confidence late in the round, but the 33-year old said finishing birdie-birdie on Nos. 17 and 18 was all the momentum she needed heading into the weekend.
“After that rollercoaster, like you said, it makes a big difference finishing birdie birdie,” said Pace. “Makes you feel a lot better going into tomorrow. I think back nine is definitely a little bit easier, more scorable, so very happy about this finish.”
After finishing T22 at the 2013 LPGA Final Qualifying School, Pace earned conditional status for the 2014 season. The South African has made eight LPGA starts this year with her best finish coming last week at the Women’s British Open, a T29.
“I think my driver is very straight. I hit a lot of fairways. That’s been going on for quite sometime now. Last five weeks I’ve been progressively getting better and better,” said Pace.
She’s ranked tied for fourth in the field this week in greens in regulation (83.3%) and gave credit to her iron play.
“My iron play is really good this week, but obviously got this very nice, lovely green grass after the British Open,” said Pace. “It makes a big difference. Yeah, the greens are more receptive in the morning.”
The unusual par 34-37 layout at Highland Meadows can tax a player early on the front nine with only one par-5 and three par-3s, so Rebecca Lee-Bentham was happy to take off on the back nine Friday.
She birdied the 10th hole (her first), reeled off three straight pars and then proceeded to really get it going. She birdied No. 14, 16, 17 and 18 to get within one of the lead making the turn. She would tie Laura Diaz, who hadn’t teed off yet, with a birdie on No. 2 but wasn’t able to hold it on the way in. She bogeyed No. 3 and then three-putted on the par-5 7th to finish with a 4-under 67 and just one shot back of the lead. Still, when it’s her first time on the leaderboard this season, it was hard to do anything but smile exiting the scoring tent Friday.
“I’m playing well. This is the first tournament I kind of got my name up on the leaderboard. Kind of a new experience for me,” she said.
She made the cut in her last start but had missed seven in a row coming into that event and had struggled this year. The Canadian’s best finish on tour up to this point was a tie for 28th at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open.
However, she’ll think back to last year for the weekend.
“Finishing last year at the Evian Championship tied for 11th is kind of what I’m drawing back on, being on the leaderboard, staying focused,” she said.
I SEE NO CHANGES
Women’s British Open champion Mo Martin knew she needed to make one thing a priority early on this week: a good night’s sleep. The 31-year old continued her solid play in Friday’s second round and kept herself in contention for the weekend with an even-par 71. She’s in a tie for 14th at 4-under par and sits seven shots off the lead.
“I left a few more birdie putts out there than I did yesterday,” said Martin. “Hit a few edges and maybe misread a few. Still solid round.”
Martin said she received a few looks in the airport during her travels from England to Toledo following her first LPGA win and major victory but said nothing has seemed to changed.
“Nope. Nothing has changed,” said Martin. “Signed a few more autographs.”
But someone at Highland Meadows wanted to make sure she knew about her fan club in northwest Ohio.
“Somebody yelled, ‘You’re the queen on the green!’” said Martin. “That was a first. Made me laugh.”
20 INCH BLADES ON THE IMPALA
With one swing, Haru Nomura became the owner of a new car Friday. Any player that scores a hole-in-one on the 14th hole this week will become the winner of a new 2015 Chevrolet Impala, and when Nomura grabbed a 6-iron and swung, the ball ended up 175 yards away in the bottom of the hole.
CHEERS TO THE WEEKEND
A total of 77 players made the cut which fell at 1-over-par 143.
MISSING THE CUT
Highland Meadows was not kind to some of the game’s biggest names this week. Michelle Wie missed her second-consecutive cut after missing the weekend at the Women’s British Open last week. Wie posted rounds of 74-76 and missed the cut by seven strokes. Other notables to miss the cut: Angela Stanford (72-72, +2); Gerina Piller (72-74, +4); Azahara Munoz (77-74, +8)
IN FORM FOR THE CROWN
The inaugural International Crown will be staged next week outside of Baltimore at Caves Valley Golf Club and many players in the field are sharpening their games this week in Toledo. Nine players who will be representing their respective countries are currently in the top-30 after 36 holes and within eight shots of the lead.
So Yeon Ryu/Republic of Korea (-7)
Lindsey Wright/Australia (-5)
Katherine Kirk/Australia (-5)
Caroline Hedwall/Sweden (-5)
Cristie Kerr/United States (-5)
Candie Kung/Chinese Taipei (-5)
Beatriz Recari/Spain (-4)
Belen Mozo/Spain (-3)
Pernilla Lindberg/Sweden (-3)
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“A lot of the Golf Channel cameras were out and I was waving. They get in my face and I don’t really know what to do. I say, ‘Hi, kiddos, I love you.’ That kind of stuff.”
- Laura Diaz on trying to wave to her kids