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Honda LPGA Thailand Chonburi, Thailand Second-Round Notes February 26, 2016

Defending champion Amy Yang has gotten off to a strong start in her title defense at the Honda LPGA Thailand and holds the 36-hole lead at 9-under par. Yang shot 3-under 69 on Friday to finish atop the leaderboard one shot clear of Americans Lexi Thompson (72) and Jessica Korda (66) and Q Baek (71) of South Korea.

Yang struggled a bit on the front nine with back-to-back bogeys on Nos. 5 and 6 and went out in 36.

“I mean, I struggled a little bit on the front, two bogeys straight, but I think I stayed patient well, got through it well,” said Yang. “I’m happy with today’s round.”

A bogey-free back nine with three birdies pushed Yang out in front and took the outright lead at 9-under with a six-foot birdie putt on No. 15. She lipped out her birdie putt from five feet on the 18th hole to keep the lead to just one.

This marks the fourth time in her career Yang has held the 36-hole lead and the first time since the 2015 U.S. Women’s Open. Each of the three previous times Yang finished run-ner-up. She’s playing for her third LPGA title and first since her victory here a year ago. Pleased with her play so far, Yang still knows there is a lot of golf to be played.

“You know, one shot is not much, and two more rounds is still a lot of golf,” said Yang. “I’ll just keep patient. It might be a challenge, but I’ll do my best.”

Yang has a dangerous group of pursuers behind her including two major champions (Thompson and In Gee Chun). All seven players within three shots of Yang have won on Tour. Thompson followed her first-round 64 with an even-par 72 to stay within striking distance.

“Yeah, it wasn’t as solid, obviously, as yesterday. I hit a lot of good, solid iron shots, but probably just didn’t aim at pins like I did yesterday and getting it to them as well,” said Thompson.

Jessica Korda and last week’s winner in Australia Haru Nomura shot the low rounds of the day, 6-under 66 to make signifi-cant moves up the leaderboard. Korda ranks second in the field this week in greens in regulation (86%) behind Thompson but said the greens’ firmness really started coming into play later in the day on Friday.

“Anything really above the hole is lightning speeds,” said Korda. “It’s really tough to judge, and then I think that the greens are starting to firm up, as well. Chella and I both hit really good shots into 17, and they landed short of the hole, which nor-mally would stop, and they ended up over the green in almost an impossible shot. It’s just hard coming in with certain -- I think if you’re hitting longer irons, then it’s hard to stop the golf ball.”

LEADERBOARD AFTER ROUND TWO

Pos.           Player                           Scores

1            Amy Yang                       66-69 (-9)

T2           Q Baek                          65-71 (-8)

T2      Lexi Thompson                  64-72 (-8)

T2        Jessica Korda                   70-66 (-8)

T5        Haru Nomura                   72-66 (-6)

T5         Chella Choi                     70-68 (-6)

T5        In Gee Chun                     69-69 (-6)

T5          Ha Na Jang                     69-69 (-6)

BELATED BIRTHDAY PRESENT FOR XI YU LIN
Xi Yu Lin celebrated her 20th birthday yesterday with a dinner in Thailand with some Tour mates and caddie, Mardi Lunn. The China native said she did receive a few presents but gave herself the biggest gift of all a day later.

With a stroke of her 22 degree hybrid from 179 yards on the par 3 16th hole, Lin won a 2016 Honda Accord 2.4EL 5AT for her second-career hole-in-one. Her shot landed 35 feet past the hole and slowly rolled back toward the pin but out of sight from Lin, her playing partners and spectators.

“No, I didn’t, because I saw my ball land on the slope, and I saw it start coming back, and I thought, hmm, it’s going to be close to the pin, and I hear my caddie saying, ‘Let’s just get in the hole,’” said Lin. “I’m like, ‘no way.’ Then when I picked the tee up and walked to the back, and I really just couldn’t believe it.”

Lin becomes the first player in the tournament’s 10-year history to walk away with the hole-in-one prize.

“Oh, that’s my honor,” said Lin. “It’s funny, yesterday I hit the same club, and my ball finished, I think, like a yard from the hole today, so I was thinking, okay, tomorrow it’s going to be the same strategy for me, so I just hit exactly the same club, the same way to hit it, and it’s the same way, so it did go in. It worked.”

Lin’s first hole-in-one came in the second round of the Canadian Pacific Women’s Open last year. She didn’t want to believe it went in today until she was standing over the hole and said she’s going to make sure to get a good look at her new wheels tomorrow in the third round. Lin just got her driver’s license in the U.S. last year and has yet to purchase her own car.

“I’m going to go have a look tomorrow,” said Lin. “When I walked off the tee, I just didn’t believe. I was thinking they were kidding, so I didn’t really look at the car, but it’s funny, like then on the 17th hole I see the group behind coming in, and I was thinking, okay, don’t touch my car, that’s my car.”

(NO. 1) AMERICAN WOMAN
Lexi Thompson has a chance to improve on her goal of getting to the No. 1 spot in the world but could first take another coveted title with a strong finish this week in Thailand. Thompson could pass Stacy Lewis this week for the top-ranked American designation but it’s not something that is top of mind.

“You know, it’s not really on my mind, obviously,” said Thompson. “This tournament is just on my mind right now. My No. 1 goal going into this week was to win, but being the top American in the world is a big deal. But I’m just going to play my game and just try to do my best. If it happens, it happens.”

Thompson can jump Lewis if she wins and Lewis finishes in a tie for second or worse. Thompson could also make the move if she finishes in solo second and Lewis finishes in a solo 21st place or worse. Other scenarios depend on Lewis’ finishing position taking ties into account.

Lewis has been the top-ranked American since June 4, 2012 when she took over for Cristie Kerr. She shot 5-under 67 on Friday to move up the leaderboard into a tie for 16th after shooting 75 in the first round.