Aussie Kim extends lead at LPGA LA Championship

golf27 April 2024 04:10| © AFP
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Grace Kim © Gallo Images

Australian Grace Kim fired an eagle and four birdies in a five-under par 66 on Friday to stretch her lead in the LPGA Los Angeles Championship to four strokes over Sweden's Maja Stark.

Kim, 23 and ranked 83rd in the world, teed off on 10 at windy Wilshire Country Club and shook off a bogey at the 12th with an eagle at 13, where her five-wood second shot from the fairway left her 10 feet from the pin.

She followed up with a birdie at 14, and added three more birdies on her second nine as she continued her resurgence after missing the cut at last week's Chevron Championship, the first women's major of the year.

Kim said blocking out distractions and nerves would be crucial at the weekend as she vies for a second LPGA title to go with her victory at the Lotte Championship in April of last year.

She'll try to do that by focusing on her course management and "whatever you need to do to get the ball close to the hole."

"I think I've got to breathe a little bit," Kim said.

"I did get a little bit nervous on my back nine, so making sure I don't rush too much and just staying in the present" will be key, she added.

Kim is trying to become the second straight Australian to win the LA Championship, after Hannah Green last year.

Stark, who started the day tied for second one shot off the lead, had three birdies and a bogey in her two-under 69 for 134.

She said "a big step up" in her putting from six through 15 feet was key to her success over the first two rounds.

"I feel way more comfortable on the greens right now," said Stark.

She was trying to maintain that confidence despite the fact that Wilshire Country Club's Poa annua greens can get bumpy late in the day.

"I feel like maybe not taking everything so personal because they are a little bit wobbly," she said, adding that she was surprised that Kim was able to separate herself from the field.

"Obviously she's doing something amazing," Stark said. "I didn't really know that 12-under through two rounds was possible out here."

Green kept herself in the hunt for a title repeat with a two-under par 69 that left her tied for third on 136 alongside Germany's Esther Henseleit, who signed for a 68.

American Auston Kim had a hole in one at the par-three 18th in a 71 and was tied with Denmark's Emily Kristine Pedersen (67) on 137.

LEADING SECOND-ROUND SCORES (USA unless noted, par-71):

130 - Grace Kim (AUS) 64-66

134 - Maja Stark (SWE) 65-69

136 - Esther Henseleit (GER) 68-68, Hannah Green (AUS) 67-69

137 - Auston Kim 66-71, Emily Kristine Pedersen (DEN) 70-67

138 - Rose Zhang 69-69, Chanettee Wannasaen (THA) 65-73, Kim Sei-young (KOR) 65-73, Ryu Hae-ran (KOR) 66-72

139 - Wichanee Meechai (THA) 72-67, Jennifer Kupcho 70-69, Nataliya Guseva (RUS) 66-73