England’s Holly Clyburn fired a second round of eight under par 65 on the Blackstone Course at Mission Hills Resort Haikou in Hainan, China, on Friday to get within one stroke of the defending champion Inbee Park of South Korea.
World No.2 Park leads on eight under par after successive opening rounds of 69, with Clyburn and China’s No.2 Xiyu Lin tied for second.
Welsh golfer Becky Morgan, who held a share of the lead with Park overnight, had a one over par 74 and slipped back into a three-way share of fourth place with Frenchwoman Alexandra Vilatte and Ladies European Tour rookie Jienalin Zhang of China.
The benign conditions on Friday morning were conducive to low scoring, with soft greens after overnight rainfall and high humidity. Clyburn made the most of her opportunity and fired nine birdies – including seven on the back nine – against a solo bogey, at the par-3 11th hole.
The winner of the New South Wales Open on the Australian Ladies’ Professional Golf tour on Sunday, Clyburn said: “I got a fast start with two birdies on the first two and then settled in and made a nice birdie on four and then played nicely for the last six holes on the front nine. I birdied the par fives when I needed to and played nicely on that back nine. My short game was fantastic today, my pitching especially. I laid up on most of the par fives and made myself have a nice birdie chance.”
The 24-year-old from Cleethorpes in Lincolnshire recorded her career low round of nine under par 64 in the third round of the 2014 World Ladies Championship on the same golf course, when she also reeled off nine birdies.
“I love coming back to Mission Hills. Last year was my first year and I really enjoyed it. I’m enjoying it even more this year,” she said. “Everything about it is laid back, you can do whatever you want. The golf course facilities are fantastic and you’ve got the spa, the gym and the hotel, which are second to none.”
Park, who played with Clyburn for the first two rounds, commented: “Holly played great today and she made a lot of putts. She hit a lot of shots close and it’s my first time playing with her.”
Park had six birdies and two bogeys in her own round of four under. The former World No.1 uncharacteristically struggled with her putting by her own lofty standards and said: “The last two days have been good and very consistent with my ball striking. I had a couple of bogeys every day and those are the mistakes that I can avoid the next two days. The speed of the greens wasn’t as good as last year and I hit a lot past the hole today so I’m going to try to have the speed right so I can make more putts tomorrow and the day after.
“Yesterday was the toughest day we’ve played here with the wind and heavy conditions. Today there were much better conditions so I thought I could post a better round. It was the same as yesterday, so I feel like I left a few out there but I still have two more days to play so it’s very exciting.”
The 2013 champion Pettersen, who played with Clyburn and Park for the first two days, fired a second round of one under par 72 to lie in a share of 10th position. She was seven shots off the pace going into the weekend, with the cut falling to 55 players and those tied on four over par.
The World Ladies Championship is unique in professional golf in that it comprises three events in one – an individual professional competition, a team championship in which countries are represented by teams of two, and an individual amateur tournament.
After a cut to the leading 10 teams for the first time in the four year history of the event, defending champions South Korea lead by three shots over the China A pair of Xiyu Lin and Wanyao Lu, with English pair Clyburn and Florentyna Parker in third, two shots behind China.
Only one of the five amateurs made the cut: China’s Lei Ye, 13, from Shanghai, who shares 47th place on four over par, just inside the cut line.