Thai Pornanong in driver's seat with flawless golf

LYTHAM ST ANNES (England) • South Korea might be the dominant force in women's golf but their Thai counterparts are making their mark this year.

Led by world No. 1 Ariya Jutanugarn, the South-east Asians have won five times on the LPGA Tour in 2018, and the kingdom could celebrate a sixth at the Women's British Open thanks to Pornanong Phatlum.

The 28-year-old followed up her five-under 67 on Thursday with an identical score yesterday to move to 10-under 134. She had the clubhouse lead at press time, with the trio of England's Georgia Hall (68), Australian Minjee Lee (70) and Japan's Mamiko Higa (69) one stroke behind.

Pornanong, who has yet to win on Tour and is 97th in the world, played flawless golf over 36 holes. She has yet to drop a shot at Royal Lytham and St Annes.

The 22-year-old Hall, who has also signed for two bogey-free scorecards, is aiming to end England's 14-year wait to capture this Major after Karen Stupples' triumph in 2004.

Hall was in contention last year at Kingsbarns before finishing tied-third behind eventual winner Kim In-kyung.

The European No. 1 said the key was staying patient and "if I have a par and not a birdie I'm OK with that". She added: "It was an exciting time for me last year. I'm in the same position. I just feel very calm... there's still a lot of golf to play yet and anything can happen."

First-round leader Lee would agree with that assessment. The 22-year-old was on 12 under after a birdie on the 15th, before surrendering three shots on the next two par-four holes.

The world No. 8 said: "On No. 16, I hit the wrong shot, got the wrong line and I got stuffed in the bunkers and made double (bogey) there. Obviously wasn't a good hole.

"On No. 17, I hit it in the bunker again. Two bad holes today but the rest were pretty good... I feel like I'm putting it pretty good, hitting it pretty solidly."

Ariya, the 2016 champion, was on three-under 141. The Bangkok native has won three titles this term, including her second Major, the US Women's Open, in June.

Other Thai winners this year include her older sister Moriya (Hugel-JTBC LA Open) and Thidapa Suwannapura (Marathon Classic). The Koreans have combined to win seven of the 21 Tour events so far in 2018.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 04, 2018, with the headline 'Thai Pornanong in driver's seat with flawless golf'. Print Edition | Subscribe