Leona Maguire and Stephanie Meadow comfortably advanced to the weekend rounds of the Evian Championship but the pair have a monumental task on their hands if they’re to catch Jeongeun Lee6 after the South Korean’s blistering 61 on Friday.
Cavan professional Maguire could only add a one-under 70 to her opening 69 despite flashes of second round brilliance, not least an eagle ‘2’ at the par-4 fourth. Four bogeys plagued any real momentum for the 26-year old who has Meadow for company in a tie for 25th after the Jordanstown player produced seven birdies in a 68 that moved her to three-under par at the halfway stage in France.
Despite rock-solid playing from the Irish pair, they now trail Lee6 by a whopping dozen strokes after she added her name to the all-time golf record book. Her bogey-free 10-under 61 in the second round ties fellow Korean star Hyo Joo Kim’s first round here in 2014 for the lowest round ever at a major championship, male or female.
“I had a lot of birdie chances,” said Lee6. “I could play easily. My putting was really, really good, so, yeah, that’s it.”
After starting on No. 10, Lee6 made the turn at 4-under 32. She added birdies at 1 and 4, then inked her name into golf history with a run of four consecutive birdies to close her round, including a chip-in from the greenside rough at No. 8. With 61 on the line, she laid up to 105 yards and with a 50-wedge, spun the ball back to 16 feet. And without a bit of hesitation or nerves, Lee6 calmly stroked in the birdie putt, punctuating the moment with a small fist pump and a hug of appreciation from her caddie David Buhai.
Kim initially set the mark of 61 in the first round at Evian in 2014 in route to her first LPGA Tour victory. Lee’s 36-hole score of 127 is also the lowest 36-hole total in men’s or women’s major championship history, passing the 128 turned in by Brooks Koepka at the 2019 PGA Championship and the 129s turned in by In Gee Chun at the 2016 Amundi Evian Championship and Louis Oosthuizen at the 2021 Open Championship.
As amazing as it is to see a 61 on her scorecard, Lee6 has shot a lower score in competition. She set the KLPGA Tour’s scoring record with a 60 in the second round of the 2017 OK! Savings Bank Se Ri Pak Invitational, earning the fourth of her six KLPGA wins. But 61 at a major is a different sort of record-setting.
Lee6 certainly plans to celebrate tonight, perhaps with a glass of the Veuve Cliquot that overflows at Evian. She tucked right into a ham-and-cheese baguette, Evian’s annual lunch of choice in Player Dining, after her round. And ever the humble athlete, Lee6 kept her thoughts simple when asked the key to her record-setting round: “I try to keep it on the fairway and keep it on the green and I focused on putting speed,” she said. “That’s it.”
Perhaps Buhai said it best, after being an up-close-and-personal witness to one of the greatest rounds in major history. “I caddied in a 9-under, but it was just in a small tournament. To do it under this, and every putt looked like it was going to go in. It was incredible. Not one nerve. Speed was just perfect,” he said. “I had the best seat in the house. And I just kept my mouth shut. I wasn’t getting involved because she was that focused. It was just incredible.”
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