Ally Ewing will take a five-shot lead into the weekend after seizing control of the AIG Women’s Open on day two at Walton Heath.
The overnight leader flew out of the traps with five birdies on the front nine and sat seven shots clear at one stage, the only blemish on another memorable outing for the American coming when she bogeyed the 18th.
Ewing has equalled the biggest lead after 36 holes at an AIG Women’s Open since 1995 and those who have previously held this advantage at the halfway stage, Emilee Klein (1996) and Jiyai Shin (2012), both went on to lift the trophy.
The omens are promising for the Mississippi native but there are plenty in the chasing pack waiting to pounce should a weekend wobble occur – not least Charley Hull.
EWING CONTINUES TO SET THE PACE
Ewing arrived at Walton Heath on Friday morning with memories of the Evian Championship still fresh. She also sat on four-under after her opening round in France, only to end up missing the cut after shooting 80 on day two.
Any fears of a cross-channel repeat were quickly vanquished. Her first tee shot of the day found the heart of the fairway and a birdie was not long in coming, set up by a magnificent approach to within six feet on the 3rd.
Her tee-to-green play remained exemplary and opportunities just kept on presenting themselves. Having passed up birdie chances on 4 and 5, the 30-year-old was in no mood to miss out approaching the turn as a remarkable streak of four consecutive birdies carried her to nine-under.
She capitalised on the par-5s down the back nine, picking up further shots at 11 and 16, and the size of her lead allowed her to take a conservative approach after finding rough down the last, chipping out to the fairway rather than targeting the green and subsequently collecting bogey.
Ewing will have had a lengthy wait by the time she next tees off, but if this form continues into the weekend she will be very difficult to stop.
HULL HEADS HOME CHARGE
Chief among those looking to reel in the runaway leader is Hull, who is making the most of home comforts.
The Kettering native carded a bogey-free 68, her four birdies bringing some of the biggest cheers of the day and including some ruthless long-range putts.
She followed one of those on 7 with another on the 11th, when visits to the rough and a greenside bunker could not prevent her picking up a shot.
A successful putt from off the green on 15 was similarly well received by the sizable crowd following a star-studded group also including world number one Nelly Korda, whose round of 70 took her to one-under.
Jodi Ewart Shadoff is the only other English contender in the red, bouncing back from a bogey at the 1st to card a 69 which leaves her three-under for the Championship – five ahead of Georgia Hall, who only just made the cut.
THREE LEES AMONG CONTENDERS
It was a good day to be called Lee at Walton Heath.
The best placed of the trio in touch is Andrea Lee, who sunk a terrific putt at 17 on her way to a four-under 68 which leaves her five off the lead.
Her namesake and compatriot Alison is a stroke further back while Minjee Lee, boosted by an excellent par save at the third, is three-under and looks well set to build on her five top-10 AIG Women’s Open finishes.
Not that the surname was a prerequisite to be towards the top of the leaderboard.
Katsu again finished with a flourish, collecting three birdies in her final five holes to be part of the trio on five-under, while Lopez, Kim and Vu are each another stroke back.
Continuing a fine fightback, meanwhile, was Atthaya Thitikul, whose five-under 67 took her to three-under for the week having quadruple bogeyed her opening hole on Thursday.
REIGNING CHAMPION AMONG THOSE TO MISS CUT
Ashleigh Buhai’s putter was on fire at Muirfield 12 months ago but she could not find the same form with the flat stick this time around.
The South African missed several presentable chances around the greens and a total of three-over saw her become the fourth Champion in succession to miss the cut on the defence of their crown.
Another recent winner, Hinako Shibuno, also saw her bid for a second triumph end prematurely after finishing six-over while Brooke Henderson, Lydia Ko, Lexi Thompson have also hit their last shots at Walton Heath.