Unheralded Thai on top at Women's British Open

The Associated Press

Mamiko Higa lines up a putt on the second green during the second round of the Women’s British Open in Lytham St. Annes, England, on Friday.

The Associated PressLYTHAM ST. ANNES, England (AP) — Pornanong Phatlum of Thailand is standing out at the Women’s British Open for more than just her pink golf ball.

The 97th-ranked player has yet to drop a shot in two straight rounds of 5-under 67 that will give her a one-stroke lead heading into the weekend at the year’s fourth major.

While first-round leader Minjee Lee and Mamiko Higa encountered problems down the stretch at a rainy Royal Lytham to give up two-shot leads on Friday, Pornanong played a steady hand and put her pink ball in all the right places — explicitly, out of the many bunkers that define the course.

The 28-year-old Thai missed a 10-foot putt for birdie in front of the clubhouse on the 18th green, but that didn’t get her down. She was 10 under par overall.

“I’ve had a game plan,” Pornanong said. “I try to plan every shot, every hole.”

It’s given her a great chance of winning a first major title, and claiming a first victory on the LPGA Tour. Her last win was on the Asian Tour in January 2015 and she has only one top-10 finish all year.

She has already put some distance between many of the big names in women’s golf.

Top-ranked Ariya Jutanugarn was seven shots back after rounds of 71 and 70, No. 6 Shanshan Feng (71-71) was one stroke further back, and No. 2 Park Inbee (76-74) missed the cut.

Only six players were inside five shots of Pornanong. They have pedigree, though.

In a three-way share of second place on 9 under is Lee, who was clear at 12 under before she double-bogeyed No. 16 and dropped another shot at No. 17 to post a 70.

Lee, the Australian at a career-high ranking of No. 8, was runner-up on the Gullane links in the Ladies Scottish Open last week.

Home favorite Georgia Hall (68) was in the tie for second place along with Higa, who was leading by two strokes on 11 under when she lost her ball in a gorse bush at No. 17 and wound up with a double-bogey 6.

Third-ranked Park Sung Hyun, who won the Women’s PGA Championship last month, is lurking in sixth place on 7 under after rounds of 67 and 70. Seventh-ranked Ryu So Yeon, a two-time major champion, is on 6 under after two rounds of 69.

Brooke Henderson of Canada aced the par-3 ninth hole on her way to a 70, which put her in a six-way tie for eighth place on 5 under.

Trio shares Bridgestone lead

AKRON, Ohio (AP) — Tommy Fleetwood was as familiar with Firestone as most regular American golf tournaments, mainly because of the iconic water tower 120 feet tall in the shape of a golf ball on a red tee. He said the Bridgestone Invitational was among his father’s favorite tournaments.

“He came last year because he always wanted to have a picture in front of the Firestone golf ball, so I’ve always watched this one,” Fleetwood said.

Fleetwood is playing pretty well in it, too. The 27-year-old from England capped off a clean round Friday with a 7-under 63 that gave him a share of the early lead with PGA champion Justin Thomas and Ian Poulter at 11-under 129.

“My irons, I just tended to hit exactly where we were picking the spots and I holed a few putts,” Fleetwood said. “You got days like that where it’s going well and you’ve just got to make the most of them.”

Dustin Johnson, coming off a victory at the Canadian Open for his third PGA Tour title this season, had a much tougher round with the putter, and the first round wasn’t all that great. Johnson shot a 71 and was 11 back.

Tigers Woods was five shots off the lead after carding a 68.Speech

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