Golf: Drive On leader Ally McDonald chases first LPGA Tour win on birthday

Ally McDonald fired a four-under-par 68 to stand on 10-under 134 after 36 holes.
Ally McDonald fired a four-under-par 68 to stand on 10-under 134 after 36 holes.PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (AFP) - American Ally McDonald, chasing her first LPGA title, reeled off five consecutive birdies to grab a one-stroke lead after Friday's (Oct 23) second round of the Drive On Championship.

McDonald, who turns 28 on Sunday, fired a four-under-par 68 to stand on 10-under 134 after 36 holes at Reynolds Lake Oconee in Greensboro, Georgia.

That was good enough for a one-stroke lead over fifth-ranked compatriot Danielle Kang and Filipino standout Bianca Pagdanganan with Thailand's Ariya Jutanugarn another shot adrift.

"Feel really good," McDonald said. "I put myself in a great position to hit some really good shots and it was really solid."

The tournament was created to fill in a gap between US events after the LPGA's usual Asian swing was wiped out by the coronavirus pandemic.

While no spectators were allowed on the course due to Covid-19 safety issues, a lakeside back nine allowed viewers aboard more than 20 boats to watch the action.

World No. 62 McDonald's best LPGA results have been a pair of third-place finishes, most recently at last year's ShopRite Classic.

"It's really easy as a person who has never won to get ahead of yourself," McDonald said. "We all really, really want to win. That's why we do this, that's why we compete, to put ourself in contention as much as we can.

"The next two days I'm just going to try to execute my game plan, stick to one shot at a time. If I find myself getting ahead, I need to regroup, back off, and be right in the moment, be present, and try to execute the shot I have."

That is even tougher with her parents at the resort, bringing a birthday cake to celebrate Sunday that would taste sweeter after a breakthrough victory.

"It would be pretty special. It would be a great birthday present," said McDonald.

McDonald, who started on the back nine, birdied the par-4 11th then ran off five birdies in a row starting at the par-3 17th.

After reaching 12-under with six holes remaining, McDonald suffered bogeys at the par-4 fifth and par-5 sixth before three pars to reach the clubhouse.

Pagdanganan birdied three of the first six holes, took her only bogey at the par-3 eighth, then birdied the 11th and par-5 12th and closed with another birdie to shoot 67 with a birdie sweep of four par-5 holes.

"I feel pretty good about my round," she said. "I guess off the tee I wasn't that confident, but my iron shots definitely saved me today."

Kang, who won the LPGA's first two Covid-19 return events in August, got up and down for birdie at 18 to shoot 70.

"I'm rolling it well," Kang said.

American Jennifer Song, who shared the 18-hole lead with Kang on 65, stumbled back with a 75 on Friday.