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Midway Through, Ko Setting Sprint-Like Pace at LPGA Marathon Classic

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Lydia Ko tees off Friday at the LPGA Marathon Classic in Sylvania, Ohio. (GETTY)

SYLVANIA, Ohio — Highland Meadows Golf Club has proven to be a course where even par will allow you to advance to weekend play, but when it comes to lifting a trophy, that simply is not going to happen.

Lydia Ko has maintained that aggression is important and after getting up-and-down from the greenside bunker on the par-5 18th hole to move to 13 under par, she leads by one over playing partner Jodi Ewart Shadoff at the LPGA Marathon Classic presented by Dana.

“We still have two more long days to go,” Ko said. “You never know what’s going to happen in the end. I think the goal for me is to keep playing my game and play aggressively and confidently out there.”

Already a two-time champion of the event, Ko got off to a fast start when she birdied each of the first four holes and her second-round 65 is the second-lowest score she has posted at this event.

Ko helped her cause by hitting 16 of 18 greens on the day.

“To me right now, score is a secondary thing,” said Ko. “It’s more important that I have belief in myself and that I’m going out there and hitting every single shot with confidence. To me, that is my biggest goal in my head. If I’m doing that and playing well on top of that, I think that things are clicking.”

Though by no means is she doing a Bryson DeChambeau impression with her protein shakes, but Ko has added seven pounds in recent weeks, all of it being muscle.

“My trainer has pretty much been feeding me as if I was walking out of a gym,” she said. “We’ve been doing well, making it more of a routine and even the days I don’t see him, going for a run, working out and then doing my Peloton. When you’re not playing in competitive situations you have to set a goal for yourself. The whole (management) team, we thought it would be good if I got stronger.”

Ewart Shadoff is in contention once again after coming off a fifth-place finish at the LPGA Drive On Championship down the road in Toledo at Inverness Club. She helped her own cause with an 8-under 63, the second-lowest round of her LPGA Tour career and her 36-hole score of 130 is the lowest in her career on Tour.

Admittedly, Ewart Shadoff did not set many expectations for last week, since the Tour had been off for the last five-plus months prior, but now with a positive result under her belt it was time to set goals.

“Playing well around Inverness where there are tough greens and it is really tight off the tee just gave me a lot of confidence in where I am with my ball striking,” said Ewart Shadoff. “I was a little bit disappointed pretty much throughout the whole week on how I was rolling the ball. I worked a little bit at the start of the week on my putting and clearly that kind of paid off.”

Danielle Kang continued to score well in Ohio and sits in third place with an 11-under par score.

She ended her round with her foot on the lip of the same greenside bunker on 18 that Ko had played out of just moments prior. She caught a break when her ball hit the flagstick and she made the birdie to end her day.

“I didn’t really feel much of any sand, so all I could do was just trust that there was sand under the ball and I tried to just pop it up,” Kang said. “It was actually less sand than I anticipated where it kind of jumped again. Thank goodness it hit the pin, but it was right at it, which was good.

“I think it would’ve sat regardless because it was on an up angle. It was just a good putt coming in and I needed that birdie.”

Maria Fassi started her day by nearly holing out on the first hole and closed her round with two birdies on the final three holes, finishing at 9-under par.

“I love this golf course, I loved it from last year I played it for the first time, itโ€™s been a great couple days for me,” said Fassi. “Iโ€™ve been able just get more comfortable going after some pins and hopefully I can keep it up during the weekend.”

Kristen Gillman is looking to break through in her second year on the LPGA Tour and was one of two morning-wave golfers to finish at 8 under with her scrambling being the difference Friday.

โ€œI think coming out here you just got to make sure that you believe in yourself and you’re good enough to
compete out here against the best players and the players who have been out here longer,โ€ she said. โ€œI feel like if you don’t have belief in yourself, then I don’t think it’ll ever work out. I think that’s one of the most important things: Just believing and trusting in your game that got you to this point.โ€

Megan Khang also is tied for fifth and hopes that having more trust in her swing will bode well for the weekend.

SHOTS OF THE DAY

Under normal circumstances there would be a clear shot, but two players — and three moments — make that list.

Hovering around the cutline, Louise Ridderstrom was hoping to gain some momentum before going to the par-3 eighth hole where a 138-yard shot awaited.

Admittedly Ridderstorm has not had the best tournament in the ball-striking department but a stock 8-iron not only did the trick, but it went in the hole, good for her first hole-in-one on the LPGA Tour.

“That was a little different for sure,” she said. “It would’ve been a nice experience to see what it would’ve been like with crowds, but still felt pretty awesome.”

Ridderstrom’s hole-in-one also means $20,000 will go to St. Jude’s because of the CME Group Cares Challenge. She will be playing the weekend as she has a 2-under total after 36 holes, comfortably inside of the cutline.

“I think that’s awesome,” said Ridderstrom. “I’m very happy that we have something like that. Knowing that I actually did something that can help people today, that feels amazing. I feel even better about it.”

Bianca Pagdanganan was experiencing an uneven round, trading two birdies with two bogeys entering holes 17 and 18, which both happen to be par-5’s.

On 17 she had a 10-foot putt for eagle which she buried, and then on 18 stuck a 7-iron from 177 yards out to 10 feet and dropped that putt for each as well.

“I feel like I kind of just flipped the switch,” Pagdanganan said “Throughout the whole round today I felt pretty confident with my putting. I dropped the putt and I was like, ‘Okay, that’s a good eagle. I needed something to get me going.’ So (then) I was like, ‘Okay, let’s keep it going’, and then I just dropped the putt.

“From then on I felt a lot more confident throughout the round. I felt more calm and just relaxed.”

Pagdanganan’s consecutive eagles mark just the 23rd time in LPGA Tour history this was done.

“That’s pretty cool,” she said. “I’m turning 23 this year, so what are the odds? (Laughter.) That’s so cool. That’s also the first time it’s ever happened to me, back-to-back eagles. I was like, Oh, that’s pretty rare. Of course I just like had to keep my cool throughout the round.”

Pagdanganan is now tied for eighth place at 6-under par.

There were a couple of round-ending shots also worth sharing, which are below.

19TH HOLE

The ANA Inspiration, a major which has been rescheduled for Sept. 10-13, announced Friday that it will hold its event without spectators, joining a list of sports and events to have already done the same.

MARATHON LPGA CLASSIC presented by DANA
SECOND ROUND LEADERBOARD

1. Lydia Ko -13

2. Jodi Ewart Shadoff -12

3. Danielle Kang -11

4. Maria Fassi -9

T5. Kristen Gillman -8

T5. Megan Khang -8

7. Minjee Lee -7

T8. Carlota Ciganda -6

T8. Bianca Pagdanganan -6

T8. Sophia Popov -6

T8. Lexi Thompson -6

A total of 81 players made the cut, which was at +1. Among those who missed the cut were Celine Boutier (+3, last week’s runner up), Bronte Law (+2), Madelene Sagstrom (+2, a winner on the LPGA Tour this season), Rachel Rohanna (+3, born in Morgantown, attendeded Waynesburg), Natalie Gulbis (+6) and Jennifer Kupcho (+8, 2019 Augusta National Women’s Amateur winner).

Tee times will be in twosomes Saturday beginning at 8:55 a.m. and concluding at 2:55 p.m. Golf Channel’s coverage will be pushed back by an hour to accommodate the U.S. Women’s Amateur.

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