In Gee Chun remains leader heading into the weekend at Congressional
A pair of familiar faces shared the honour of recording the low score for Friday’s round as Lydia Ko and Lexi Thompson both finished with scores of 67 (-5 under). The scores saw them climb the leaderboard as Thompson finished the day with a share of 9th place while Ko finished in 2nd place along with Jennifer Kupcho.
For Lexi Thompson, her round of 67 today helped her shake off her score of 74 yesterday, advancing from 50th place all the way up to a share of 9th with four other players — a jump of 44 spots. The margin of difference between Thursday and today was a very fine one as Lexi’s ball striking was very solid yesterday and again today. For Thompson it came down to keeping a level-headed focus on her golf and not on the results.
“I hit it amazing yesterday. I just stroked it well too. Just nothing went in. I knew if I just didn’t let that bother me, which I didn’t. I walked off the golf course and thought I really don’t feel like I shot 2-over. You have days like that. I just too that coming into today and said, ‘okay, if I hit that good again and just get a few putts to drop, I just have to stay patient.’ That’s what I did. That’s golf for you.”
Heading into the weekend, Thompson’s game seems to be in fine shape – her driving has been very “Lexi – like” hitting a total of 22 out of 28 Fairways from the tee box and her approach game has been stellar, hitting a total of 30 out of 36 Greens In Regulation. Her putts per round improved over yesterday as she recorded only 28 putts today compared to yesterday’s 35. Her hard work over the year has been paying off for Thompson and is something that she draws confidence from as she heads into Saturday.
“I’ve put in a lot of hours. A lot of hard work. I have a putting green in my house that I do a few hours a night sometimes. The work is not lacking, that’s for sure. I would say since the end of last year my game has always felt in a good spot. It’s all a matter of going out there and believing in it.”
Lexi will be in Group #9 tomorrow, along with Hye-Jin Choi and Xiyu Janet Lin. They tee off at 10:12 a.m. from the first tee box.
The other low score today was posted by Lydia Ko, as she played a near blemish free round, recording 5-birdies on the front nine going out in 31 strokes. Her second nine was fairly uneventful by comparison as her bogey on the Par 4, 15th hole was offset by a birdie on the next hole. The 436 yard, 15th hole played the most difficult today, averaging 0.368 strokes above par. After stroking her tee shot into the fairway, Ko’s second shot came up short of the green – some 10-20 yards short. Forced to scramble to save par, her chip shot came up short, leading to a two-putt. Ko couldn’t quite control the spin with her wedge as the ball checked up briefly as it landed on the green before releasing and trickling towards the hole. Her testy 6-foot putt slid past the hole for a tap-in bogey.
As for Ko, it was another solid performance as she has become a consistent contender again, reminiscent of her days as the number one player in the world. In second spot along with Jennifer Kupcho, she heads into the weekend with the mindset of staying focused on the task at hand and not letting herself get too far ahead in her thinking. It is a task that she admits is a little bit more challenging at the end of a 4-week playing stretch.
“This is my fourth week in a row, and I try not to play more than three, four weeks in a row, and this is the first of that four-week stretch for me this year. I know that sometimes when you are fatigues, you could lose focus and then hit some mistakes that you normally wouldn’t if you were a bit more sharp. I think being rested is important for the weekend. Definitely I think two solid days of golf (Rounds 1 &2) and hopefully I better cap off these next two days in a solid way and have a great three weeks off.”
Lydia will be playing in the final group tomorrow along with Jennifer Kupcho (-5 under) and the leader, In Gee Chun. The group is due to tee off at 10:45 a.m. Eastern time.
Leader, In Gee Chun capped off her second round in style, with a birdie - 3 on 18th hole. The 18th was the second most difficult hole today as the difficult 433 yard, Par 4 gave up only 8-birdies all day, playing an average of 0.303 strokes over par. She finished her round with a score of 69 to extend her score to -11 under, maintaining her 6-shot lead over her closest challengers. For In Gee Chun, the birdie finish on the 18th hole was a terrific way to cap off her round.
“I’m so happy I finish with a birdie on the 18th. I hit the driver, then I had 7-iron on the second shot. I made a really good shot. The birdie putt was almost 10 feet. I really want to finish with birdie so I try (to) focus. I did everything on that putt. That’s why I say I’m so happy I made it.”
Heading into the weekend with a 6-shot lead definitely puts her in the driver’s seat, a position in which she has some experience with having won the Evian Championship in 2016 after leading from start to finish. It was a dominating performance from her as her winning score of -21under set the record for the lowest score under par in a major – whether it be the men’s or women’s. She broke Jason Day’s record of -20 under set the season before in winning the PGA Championship.
At the Evian, Chun completed her first round with a score of -8 under, the same score that she posted in yesterday’s opening round. It was an experience that was not lost on her.
“I thought about it (Evian in 2016) after I finished yesterday because the last hole, I really wanted to make par because I remember at Evian I started with 8-under. So ‘In Gee, you can make another 8-under today. Just try to focus on last putt’. Then after I made it, I feel really happy to have finished with the 8-under. It felt different (compared to 2016) my golf game really grew a lot so I am getting more mature on the course.”
As for heading into the weekend and dealing with the pressure of leading, Chun showed a glimpse of the maturity that she was talking about when responding to a question about the pressure at Evian and how she will deal with it on a difficult Blue Course at Congressional.
“So before the final round I knew if I shot 70 (2-under), then I can make history for the lowest score in a major. It was a lot of pressure. Then I made it, so I was pumped up to have more confidence, but at the same time my expectation is going up and up. That’s how I got a lot of pressure. (Now) I don’t want to get more stressed, or I don’t want to try to make a perfect game on the course. I just want to enjoy my golf game. That’s the key.”
Even with a 6-shot lead, Chun will need to keep herself composed as there are 5 major champions within 7-shots chasing her. Two other major champions, Lexi Thompson and Minjee Lee sit another shot back. With two rounds left, nothing is final, but it would seem at this point that the challengers will need In Gee Chun to slip up a little to allow one or more of them to close the gap. It is not impossible, but this version of In Gee Chun projects a maturity and composure that should hold her in good stead.