NAPLES, Fla — Lydia Ko set a new tournament course record and recorded a career-best score to par for a single round by shooting a 10-under 62 on Friday at the CME Group Tour Championship. Ko holds a three-shot lead over Ryann O’Toole and So Yeon Ryu after two rounds of play.
The No. 1 player in the world was the best player on the course Friday, holing eleven birdies in a round that was four shots better than any other player. It was her second 62 of the year (Walmart NW Arkansas Championship Presented by P&G, Rd. 2) tying the lowest score on Tour this season.
“Going into today definitely my goal wasn’t the 62,” said Ko. “The first three holes made great birdies. I was going in with really good momentum, and I was able to carry that for pretty much the rest of my round. I think I was putting good, so if I was within a distance that I felt comfortable I felt like, Hey, I could hole this.”
Ko took a huge step in her quest to capture a third consecutive Race to the CME Globe title and second CME Group Tour Championship. She also must win this week in order to overtake Ariya Jutanugarn in the Rolex Player of the Year Race.
“I think the big key mindset for me is that I’ve been not really thinking about everything that could happen,” Ko said. “For me to win Player of the Year I know I need to win this championship. A lot of things come with that. So to me, it’s more important to finish off my season strong. I think that way I don’t feel more pressure about everything that’s going on.”
A win this week would be Ko’s fifth of the season, tying the season-high mark she set last year and putting her in a tie for most on Tour in 2016 with Jutanugarn.
Sei Young Kim and Beatriz Recari stand in a tie for fourth four shots behind Ko at -8, and four players are tied at -7.
Ryan O’Toole is tied for second place with So Yeon Ryu after two solid rounds (68, 67), but still only grades herself a B+.
“There is always different aspects of your game,” said O’Toole. “You got the putting, the chipping, the iron play, driving off the tee. So I think usually my drives are my strong point. Right now I’m hitting these little cuts that aren’t going as far as they could. Definitely could give me shorter irons in. But I’m striking my irons well, putting myself in position, and I’m making work. If that’s the case I have to take the rest of the week, then so be it. I mean, I’ve gotten it done so far.”
Regardless of the grade, her play has put her in the final group on Saturday and she will be paired with Rolex Ranking No. 1 Lydia Ko for the first time in her career. Asked if it will bring out her competitive spirit, O’Toole knows she just has to play her own game.
“Maybe it’ll be good, said O’Toole. “I know I’ll outdrive her, so at least I have that advantage. Just, yeah, still stick to my own game plan. She’s going to make birdies. I don’t doubt that. She might take it deep again. Just going to be what it is. At the end of the day, I can’t underestimate Shanshan Feng who’s 5-under. She’s been playing great the last couple months and she’s known to put that third round together. Yeah, this is comfortable zone for [Lydia]. At the same time, who is more hungry? I think I’m going to kind of go with that. Who wants it?”
So Yeon Ryu backed up an opening-round 67 with a day-two 68 to play her way into the final group entering the weekend at the CME Group Tour Championship.
“Definitely today playing was much better than yesterday,” Ryu said. “I’ve done some more with my physio yesterday. My back was really tight. I figured out that maybe my rotation was not good enough, so maybe that’s why.”
Ryu will be looking for her first win since the 2014 Canadian Pacific Women’s Open. She has finishes of T3 and T5 in her previous two starts.
“Like a lot of people saying if someone haven’t really won the tournament they are not really having a success year,” Ryu said. “But finish second is still — finish fifth is still great result on the LPGA. I just keep trying to having a positive attitude. Okay, I’m capable to win the tournament. I’m capable to being in contention. I’m capable to competing great players on the tour. I think that attitude definitely help me out.”
To pick up the win Ryu will have to go through Rolex Rankings No. 1 Lydia Ko who she trails by three-shots.
“It’s think it’s definitely going to be really fun to competing with world No. 1 player,” Ryu said. “And then, you know, like she is not only great player, she’s really great person.”