Golfing sensation Lydia Ko survived some anxious moments during a challenging second round at the Australian Open in Canberra today to remain in contention for back-to-back victories.
A history-making winner of the New Zealand Open at Clearwater last Sunday, the 15-year-old is set for another tense weekend after maintaining her extraordinary form in the $US1.2 million LGPA Tour-opening event.
The diminutive Kiwi could not reach the lofty heights of yesterday's career-best 10-under 63 at Royal Canberra, but the world's leading amateur still produced a high quality round of 69 in esteemed company.
Ko led Colombia's Mariajo Uribe by one stroke overnight but the South American's second bogey-free round - an impressive 6-under 67 -- enabled her to replace the precocious teen as outright leader at the midway point.
The 2007 US Amateur champion avoided the limelight by starting on the back nine but gained prominence when a birdie pushed her in front at 15-under with three holes to negotiate.
A quietly confident Ko is just one shot behind Uribe alongside South Korean Jiyai Shin.
"I played good golf, I'm pretty happy about the last two days and hopefully I can carry that on," she said.
Ko denied feeling added pressure after her stunning opening round, but was mystified by some errant putts.
"Four-under is a pretty good score but after a really good round the putts didn't go in. I was like 'Oh why aren't they going in?'"
Delays from the 13th tee onwards also disrupted her rhythm, but were par for the course.
"It's not something we can control," she shrugged.
"I did a few stretches along the way."
Ko faced a four shot deficit when she teed off in the afternoon alongside her American idol Michelle Wie and reigning world No 1 Yani Tseng as Shin was setting the early benchmark.
She constructed the bulk of a cool 67 while Ko was warming up on the practice range to surge into the lead.
The world No 8 made the most of placid morning conditions to post eight birdies and improve to 14-under and then watched from the clubhouse, mainly in trepidation, as the Korean-born Aucklander set about bridging the gap with metronomic efficiency.
Starting on the front nine, Ko recorded consecutive pars before reeling off four birdies in five holes to erase the deficit.
The bespectacled right hander recorded a staggering 11 birdies and an eagle yesterday and had beaten par on another four occasions before making the turn in 33.
Ko slipped into the groove with a two on the par-3 third, she parred the next and then reeled off three birdies in a row to erase the former world No 1s advantage.
A Halberg Award winner in Auckland last night, New Zealand sport's "emerging" talent always had a hard act to follow after hitting 12 of 14 fairways - and needing just 21 putts - during her opening round.
Ko settled into a holding pattern with four consecutive pars before taking the outright lead, albeit briefly, with a birdie on the 12th.
The tournament's marquee grouping then got slowed by traffic and irritating delays impacted on Ko's concentration.A heavy 6-iron out the back of the 14th green culminated in solitary bogey -- a delicate chip got her within range of the pin but her putt was unusually astray.
A heavy 6-iron out the back of the 14th green culminated in solitary bogey -- a delicate chip got her within range of the pin but her putt was unusually astray.
Ko encountered more trouble on the next tee as an unpredictable breeze came into play.
She drove into the tree line for the first time on the 428-metre par-5 - a test of her ability to extricate herself from a tricky predicament.Typically, Ko was unfazed by a restricted backswing, rediscovered the fairway and surprisingly set herself up for a birdie before being content with a par.
Tseng was seven shots adrift of Ko at 7-under while Wie's year started on a glum note when she missed the cut after rounds of 74 and 73 left her languishing at 1-over.
- © Fairfax NZ News