KPMG Women's PGA Championship
In Women's PGA, Leona Maguire is a GIR machine, Mel Reid's resurgence continues and Rose Zhang has an un-Rose-like round
Leona Maguire tees off on the first hole in the second round of the Women's PGA Championship.
The scores atop the KPMG Women's PGA Championship leaderboard mostly stayed the same from Thursday to Friday. Leona Maguire’s five under remains the lead at Baltusrol, and 15 players are under par heading into the weekend, instead of 16 players following the opening round. The on-and-off rain of Springfield, N.J., remain another constant.
The names near the lead, however, have changed. Maguire, seeking back-to-back LPGA Tour victories, and Celine Borge, in a three-way tie at four under par, are the only two players to post consecutive rounds in the 60s. Two of the three 67s Friday, the best rounds of the day, were scored by Mel Reid, who’s T-2, and Minjee Lee, two behind at T-5.
As the second major of the LPGA season heads to the weekend, here are six takeaways ahead of the third round.
Maguire is a GIR Machine
As expected, Baltusrol's Lower Course has proven quite challenging, with the 6,621-yard setup's difficulty compounded by rain. Overall, the field is hitting 66.5 percent of greens in regulation.
Maguire, however, has only missed two greens through two rounds. It’s fitting that the leader noted her approaches were the best part of her game Friday as part of a three-under-par 68.
"I think this golf course demands that," Maguire said. "I think you can't think more than one shot ahead, let alone a hole or a round ahead. Just really taking it shot by shot and trying to hit as good of shots as I can."
Consistently reaching greens in regulation isn't a new development for the Irishwoman. Maguire hit 81 percent of greens last week in her victory at the Meijer LPGA Classic. Her stellar ball-striking is fueling a run of seven straight rounds in the 60s, dating back to a 67 on the final day of the Mizuho Americas Open.
Lee-Anne Pace maintains her out-of-nowhere run
Seemingly, everything would work against the profile of Lee-Anne Pace, 42, maintaining her cadence near the top of the leaderboard with a two-over-par 73 to sit at three under for the championship. The South African primarily plays on the Ladies European Tour, with her only start of the 2023 LPGA season a T-30 at the Shoprite LPGA Classic two weeks ago. In Pace’s six previous starts in the Women's PGA, her best career finish is a T-62 in 2015. Her last LPGA top-10 was in 2018 at the ASI Scottish Open.
Yet, Pace explained Thursday evening she felt confident because over the COVID-19 pandemic, she rediscovered her passion for competition.
"Now I'm to the point where I love it," Pace said. "I love being out here. I find it a challenge. It's much better."
That confidence got tested multiple times Friday. Pace faced a quick turnaround following walking off the course at 8 p.m. ET to complete the one-time LPGA winner's first round, and Friday’s cool temperatures impacted her. There was also an unfortunate break on the 15th, her ball finding a lone divot in the heart of the fairway. The punch shot stung her wrists and she had to shake it off as her ball ran up toward the green. She made par there but ended up three over on her closing side to finish with a 73 and in a tie for second.
Rose Zhang walks off the first tee.
Rose Zhang closes with colorful scorecard
Zhang, starting on the 10th hole in Round 2 after opening with a 70, continued holding steady at the Baltusrol test through her opening side, posting a birdie and a bogey.
However, Zhang’s round turned chaotic following her final par of the day on No. 4. The rookie who won in her pro debut at Liberty National three weeks ago closed bogey-birdie-bogey-double bogey-birdie, ending up with a scrambling three-over-par 74. While Zhang discussed viewing each day as a learning opportunity, she plans to change her strategy going into the weekend, tied for 29th and trailing by eight.
"I do want to make a couple of adjustments, just because I feel like the game plans that I've been having the past two days have been a little iffy," Zhang said.
Mel Reid tees off at No. 1.
Reid turns from pondering retirement to major contention
Reid turned to her wife, Carly Reid, last September while fighting through a wrist injury and trying to save her LPGA card, and said she was considering quitting. Now, 10 months after choosing to give professional golf one more go, Reid tied for the low round of the day with a 67 to sit T-2.
Reid credited not fighting her tendencies anymore, playing a cut that led the 35-year-old to hit all 18 greens Friday. Last year, she returned to work with longtime coach Jorge Parada, who is based at Liberty National.
After struggling to start 2023, Reid's work with Parada paid off by stringing together four top-30 finishes leading into this week. Reid, however, isn't trying to get ahead of what a win could mean for staving off retirement.
"It's only halfway, isn't it, so just try to stick to the game plan the next couple days and see what happens," Reid said.
Lexi Thompson's charge gets her into weekend
The 2022 Women's PGA runner-up's challenging season seemed likely to continue with eight holes to play. Having made one cut in just four starts, Thompson sat at eight over par with the cutline at five over.
But as the streaky Thompson has done throughout her career, she strung together a four-straight birdie surge from the fifth to the eighth to get inside the number and advance to the weekend.
"I've been working probably harder than ever in my whole life on the golf course and when I'm home practicing," Thompson said. "Just to be able to come through towards the end and make those birdies, it's nice to see hard work pay off, even though I'm still at four over. I'm taking it. I'm taking the small win right now and building it."
Marquee names miss the cut
The 12th major hosted by Baltusrol figured to be a clash of the game’s top golfers. It still may be. But multiple past champions and top players won't be around for the finish, and some weren't particularly close.
Headlining the surprises was Nelly Korda's 76-77, 11-over-par performance. Korda returned this week after a month away from the LPGA due to a back injury, and now she has her first missed cut ever in the Women's PGA. It marks back-to-back missed cuts for the top American in the world.
Joining Korda were this year's Chevron Championship winner, Lilia Vu (+6), past Women's PGA winners Anna Nordqvist (+6) and Sei Young Kim (+8), major champions A Lim Kim (+6), Jennifer Kupcho (+6), Patty Tavatanakit (+8) and Georgia Hall (+9), and former World No. 1 Atthaya Thitikul (+10).