SINGAPORE: Rising American star Danielle Kang fired a record-equalling eight-under-par 64 to take the halfway lead in the HSBC Women’s World Championship Friday but there was little respite for the world’s top golfers.
Former world number ones Lydia Ko of New Zealand and Park Inbee of South Korea continued to struggle at the Sentosa Golf Club, finishing tied for 27th and 36th respectively.
Kang showed the benefits of an off-season gym routine that seemingly has her ready to take on the world as she ended the day on 12-under-par 132, with her 64 matching the tournament record for a round set by Park when she won the event last year.
It was enough for a four-stroke lead over fellow Americans Nelly Korda and Marina Alex.
Kang broke through last season with a first Major win at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.
She has brushed off the stifling tropical conditions this week as easily as she dismissed an unfortunate incident on opening day when she broke a back tooth while tucking into her breakfast.
“Every time I hit a shot, I’m like, it keeps scratching,” she said. “It’s raw here, but it’s okay. I just don’t chew on that side. I’ll be fine.”
The two-time US Amateur champion’s eight-under round came bogey-free and with eight birdies, and placed some breathing distance between Kang and the field.
Chasing Kang’s heels is another of the game’s burgeoning talents —19-year-old Korda, fresh off her rookie year on the LPGA Tour and from watching her elder sister Jessica win the Honda LPGA Thailand at the weekend.
Korda shot a six-under 66 that left her tied for second place on eight-under 136 with Alex, and one shot in front of three players on seven-under, including 40-year-old American former world number one Cristie Kerr, who shot a five-under 67.
If the younger Korda should prevail come Sunday it would only be the second time in the 68-year history of the LPGA that sisters have both won tournaments, following the exploits of Sweden’s Sorenstam sisters Annika and Charlotta.
“We obviously have a little bit of a sibling rivalry, but everything is very friendly,” said Korda.
China’s world number one Feng Shanshan was left flying the flag for the more fancied players again, backing up a solid opening round with a matching two-under 70 that was more about grind than glory.
It left the 28-year-old tied for 15th and eight shots off the pace set by Kang heading into the weekend.
“Yesterday, my putting wasn’t really working and today my iron shot wasn’t very good,” said Feng.
“We still have two days, and hopefully I can get everything together.”