Golf: Thai golfer Patty Tavatanakit hangs on to ANA Inspiration lead ahead of Feng at midpoint

Patty Tavatanakit had a hole-out for eagle, three birdies and two bogeys in her three-under 69.
Patty Tavatanakit had a hole-out for eagle, three birdies and two bogeys in her three-under 69.PHOTO: AFP

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Thailand's Patty Tavatanakit maintained her one-shot lead at the LPGA's ANA Inspiration ahead of Chinese veteran Feng Shanshan on Friday (April 2), with a host of big names within striking distance.

Patty, a 21-year-old in her second season on the LPGA Tour after a rookie campaign disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, had a hole-out for eagle, three birdies and two bogeys in her three-under 69.

Her nine-under total of 135 at Mission Hills in Rancho Mirage, California, put her where she started the day - with a one-shot lead in pursuit of a first Major title.

Feng, a 10-time LPGA winner including one Major, who is playing for the first time since November 2019, had six birdies in her 69 for 136.

Thailand's Moriya Jutanugarn was alone in third after a 69 for 137, while Sweden's two-time Major winner Anna Nordqvist (70) and England's Charley Hull (69) shared fourth spot on 138.

A group on 139 included world No. 1 Ko Jin-young of South Korea, former No. 1s Lydia Ko of New Zealand and Park In-bee of South Korea, Major winner Sophia Popov of Germany and defending champion Lee Mi-rim of South Korea - who won the rescheduled 2020 edition last September.

Patty, who played college golf at the University of California, got off to a stuttering start with a bogey at the 10th hole.

But she rebounded with a hole-out for eagle at the par-four 15th - what she called a "slam dunk" - and a birdie at No. 16.

With birdies at the second and fourth she reached 10 under, giving a stroke back with a bogey at the seventh before finishing her round with two straight pars.

She said the key was focusing on her game, and not on the magnitude of the event or the reputations of those chasing her.

"I didn't want to take it like, 'Oh, I'm leading a Major championship," she said of the year's first Major event.

"I just want to look at it like it's another round, it's another tournament. Even though it is a big tournament, I don't want to put emphasis on it like it's a Major."

In a hot, breezy day in the California desert east of Los Angeles, Feng endured a roller-coaster front nine with four birdies and three bogeys.

"I missed a few fairways on the front," she said. "On this course if you're in the rough then it's hard to get the ball onto the green in regulation."

Feng having fun

A birdie-birdie finish gave her sole possession of second place, impressive for a player who hasn't competed for more than a year.

"You know what? My plan was to come back and enjoy the whole time that I'm on the course, and now I have two more days that I can enjoy with my team, my boss, and also my playing partners in the group," Feng said of her aims for the weekend.

"Result wise it doesn't really matter because I'm very happy about what I'm doing as the first tournament coming back."

Moriya, whose younger sister Ariya Jutanugarn is a twice Major champion, had set an early target with her morning 69. She had reached eight under for the tournament before a bogey at No. 15, but regained her momentum with an eight-foot par-saving putt at the 16th.

"It's just about (being) patient out there," said the Thai, who is looking for her second LPGA victory and her first Major title.

"I mean, I'm not a long hitter so I just have to take what I can and just try to play smart and put myself into places I can have a good chance."