RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. — The ANA Inspiration is meant to be an extended hitter’s paradise, with the LPGA’s largest hitters taking benefit of the par-5s on the Dinah Shore Tournament Course at Mission Hills Country Club.
Which doesn’t clarify how Thailand’s Moriya Jutanugarn, one of the tour’s shortest hitters, discovered her solution to the highest of the leaderboard halfway by way of Friday’s second spherical.
Jutanugarn, ranked 131st on the LPGA common driving distance stats at a fraction below 204 yards, fired an 3-under 69 Friday to maneuver to 7-under for the event. She took sole possession of the lead at the primary main championship of the 12 months because the morning wave of tee occasions completed their spherical. Jutanugarn had 4 birdies within the spherical, however simply one on a par-5, that being the second gap on the Shore Course.
“It’s just about patient out there,” Jutanugarn stated. “I mean, I’m not a long hitter so I just have to take what I can and just trying to play smart and put myself into, you know, like places I can have a good chance.”
Jutanugarn reached 8-under for the event earlier than a bogey on the par-4 fifteenth, however stored the spherical going with a clutch eight-foot par putt on the sixteenth gap.
She ended her spherical moments earlier than in a single day chief Patty Tavatanakit started her second spherical. Jutanugarn was 6-under coming into the spherical, however two different gamers, Shanshan Feng and Anna Nordqvist, have been additionally at 6 below.
Nordqvist’s spherical of 70 got here when winds have been gusty within the morning. The breeze calmed down throughout the mid-morning. Feng birdied her first two holes within the afternoon to achieve 7-under however then misplaced a shot on the third gap.
“I feel like we are always going to play in the wind here,” Jutanugarn stated. “You know, like every time, every year we come it’s always going to be kind of windy.”
Major champions transferring up the board
Other main champions close to the lead halfway by way of the day included 2020 ANA Inspiration champion Mirim Lee, 2019 ANA champion Jin Young Ko and 2020 AIG Women’s Open Sophia Popov, making her first begin within the Coachella Valley, all at 5-under.
“Obviously, so far so good,” stated Popov, whose absence from the event final 12 months after she had gained the AIG Women’s Open spurred the LPGA to vary its guidelines about main winners mechanically stepping into tournaments. “You know, with good play you’re actually having fun, so, so far it’s been awesome. It’s kind of what I hoped for. I watched this tournament so many times. Been here, watched my former teammates (from USC) play.”
Popov wasn’t within the discipline as a result of the event and LPGA had frozen the ANA Inspiration discipline at its April standing, though thee event was postponed to September, after the AIG Women’s open, as a result of of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jutaqnugarn, the older sister of Ariya, is searching for her second LPGA win and her first main championship. Her sister has 10 wins, together with two majors.