Stephanie Meadow and Leona Maguire safely advanced to another weekend on the LPGA Tour, however neither player will be content after dropping off the pace at the halfway stage of the Kia Classic.
Having started the day two shots off the lead, Meadow finished it eight strokes back of Inbee Park as the South Korean added a 69 to her opening 66 to head Germany’s Sophia Popov by one atop the board at nine-under par.
Jordanstown professional Meadow was looking to build on a superb 68 on the opening day but four bogeys in an outward half of 40 saw her drop to even par. Meadow rallied with a run of pars before picking up a birdie at the seventh, her 16th hole of the day, but all up it was a round of 75 for Meadow who shares 17th at one-under having found 11 of 18 greens in reg and needed 32 putts on Friday.
Cavan professional Maguire had also found herself in a great position on Friday before coming unstuck around Avaria Golf Club. Having enjoyed a share of 16th at the Gainbridge LPGA before grabbing a first top-10 with a tie for 6th at the Drive On Championship, Maguire will have her work cut out to better those finishes this week after a round of 74 saw her drop to two-over par and into a share of 50th.
Maguire was two-under par through 12 holes of her second round before a bogey at 13 was followed by one more and a double in a homeward half of 40 having hit just 10 of 18 greens in reg.
Meanwhile, 20-time LPGA Tour champion Park said she was only warming up in an ominous warning to the rest of the field.
“I think I will be warming up for probably the next couple of weeks,” said Park, who found her way to four birdies in the second round. “I haven’t played tournament golf in three months and after not touching the golf clubs that much, it’s different coming out here trying to contact the ball. It sometimes looks weird. I feel like I’m doing it very well [though].”
Park pointed out the challenge she faced putting on the greens this afternoon, a facet of the game she thinks will have a resounding impact on the outcome of the weekend.
“I hit good shots and it’s just weird on these greens because I hit the shots really close and I didn’t make the birdie putts, but I hit it to 15, 20 feet and I made those birdie putts,” said Park, a seven-time major championship winner. “The holes I made today was pretty much 10- to 20-footers. Coming in, the last three holes I missed from probably inside 5, 6 feet. Really need patience.”
A major champion in her own right, Sophia Popov is -8 at the halfway point of the Kia Classic and hot on Park’s heels. The two will be joined in Saturday’s final grouping by Mel Reid, a Rolex First-Time Winner at the 2020 ShopRite LPGA Classic.
“I’m obviously going to have to play well to get the job done over the weekend having a couple of major champions ahead of me,” said Reid, who is solo third at -6 following a bogey-free 70 in round two. “Inbee, arguably one of the best golfers that has ever played our game. Good friends with Sophia. Should be a fun weekend, I’m looking forward to it.”
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