Suzann Pettersen playing on the Blackstone Course in Round Two

Defending champion Suzann Pettersen fired a second round five-under-par 68 on the Blackstone Course at Mission Hills Resort Haikou in China on Friday to keep her lead at the World Ladies Championship.

The World No.2 from Norway was sitting at 11-under-par at the halfway stage of the individual 72-hole stroke play tournament, two clear of five other players.

Australian Nikki Campbell (67), England’s Trish Johnson (68), South Koreans and So Yeon Ryu (67) and Ye Na Chung (69) and Valentine Derrey of France (68) were all on nine-under-par after a warm and overcast day in tropical Hainan.

Pettersen’s score card was flawless with four birdies on the par fives and another on the driveable par-4 16th, a dog-leg playing over a lake.

“Today was a little windy as we started,” said Pettersen. “Overall it was pretty decent. I feel like the par fives are playing like long par fours so five under today is certainly where I should be.”

With some low scoring on the second day – including a career-best round of nine-under-par 64 from Italian Diana Luna – Pettersen felt that she would need to dig deep and produce some phenomenal golf to maintain her lead and successfully defend.  

She said: “You can really go low out here. There were a couple of really low ones out here today. It’s impossible to say. I think you’ve got to be at least 16-under-par for the next two rounds; then I think you’re in good shape.”

One of her closest competitors is Ryu, the World No.5 who recorded two eagles in her second round. The 2011 US Women’s Open champion said: “The first was on hole six. I hit a three-wood and then a three-wood again the second shot. My eagle putt was just three feet. On hole 16 I hit a driver on the green and it was an eight foot eagle putt and I made it. I think it was 260 to the pin.”

Johnson, another player just two strokes behind Pettersen, was feeling much better after recovering from an illness. She started with a pair of bogeys on holes 10 and 11 but picked up seven birdies and also felt that low scoring was required over the weekend.

“Obviously there are two or three people in the field who can shoot anything under so it’s a case of wait and see what happens,” said Johnson. “I would imagine you’ve got to be 20 to 24 under to win, so it’s going to be a hell of a weekend.”

Derrey also mixed seven birdies with two bogeys in a 68 and said: “I started pretty well making birdies on the par fives. They are reachable in two so I think that’s easy and I just made a couple of putts and hit really good shots and shot five under.”

Korean LPGA player Chung, who led the Sanya Ladies Open in Hainan in October last year, had six birdies and two bogeys in a four-under 69. She said: “I tried not to be greedy today, so I focused on making a par on every hole and I think that was the reason for my score.”

Luna was feeling at home on the moonscape-like black lava volcanic golf course. Her personal low round of 64 included two eagles on the second and 16th holes, as well as seven birdies and two bogeys. She said: “I think I was in a very good mood today. I was smiling all the time and pretty relaxed. It worked out pretty well.”

In the team event running concurrently, where scores are determined by the lowest aggregate for each pair representing their country, France and South Korea were tied for the lead on 276 at the halfway point.

However, with new tournament conditions this year, Norway was out of the race as Pettersen’s partner, Marianne Skarpnord, missed the cut by one stroke and will not play the weekend.  

The cut fell at 149, three-over-par and 55 players, including four amateurs, will compete for the three individual, team and amateur titles being contested simultaneously over the weekend.