x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Mighty Kim leads as Hjorth struggles

South Korean thanks her caddie, Sorenstam's former adviser, for his inputs on the course that helped post record-equalling score of 65.

In-Kyung Kim, ranked 13 in the world, is a top contender now to win the title.
In-Kyung Kim, ranked 13 in the world, is a top contender now to win the title.

DUBAI // Annika Sorenstam may be missing from this year's Dubai Ladies Masters but her former caddie is here and he sprinkled some of the illustrious Swede's stardust on a grateful Korean yesterday to put her firmly in contention for the ?75,000 (Dh405,000) first prize.

In-Kyung Kim, ranked 13 in the world, benefited enormously from her bag man Terry McNamara's extensive knowledge of the Majlis course at Emirates Gold Club to post a record-equalling score of 65 on the second day of the tournament to claim a two-stroke lead at the halfway mark. McNamara assisted former world No 1 Sorenstam to victories in the first two stagings of this event and was her right-hand man last year when the finest women's player of all time played her last competitive round here.

Kim, making her first visit to Dubai, enthused: "I think I've got the best caddie. I'm very pleased because he did a good job for me today. I think he has a little different yardage to consider because Annika hits it further than I do but it worked out very well." A surge from two-under par overnight to nine-under after a bogey-free display tranformed Kim's four-stroke deficit on first round leader Maria Hjorth to an advantage of three stokes at the end of the morning session before Hjorth went out in the afternoon.

The Swede managed to get back on level terms with Kim by the 13th hole but a shocking eight at the last following a bogey at the 16th saw the Swede plummet down the leaderboard to finish four shots off the pace. Hjorth's late misfortunes allowed Michelle Wie to move menacingly into second place and be in a position to put pressure on Kim when they go out last this afternoon. Wie was another late starter yesterday and began her round six shots behind Kim. She was pleased to cut the deficit to only two.

"I made two stupid bogeys today [at the sixth and 13th] but I kept making birdies and that's what I have got to try to do over the next couple of days," said Wie. "I'm having a lot of fun here. It's pretty cool playing in Dubai. I feel I am playing pretty consistently. Wie had monitored the morning scores before setting out for her second round and concluded that she needed to improve on her 69 of the previous day. She managed that, despite a couple of missed putts from close range.

"I'm going away to work on that now and hopefully that won't happen again tomorrow," she added. One stroke behind Wie in a tie for third pace with another Korean Amy Yang is the Spaniard Tania Elosegui whose round of 66 featured a hole in one at the 160-yard seventh. It was Elosegui's second ace of her career and she had a bird's eye view of it going in. "It was a little bit down wind from the left," she said. "It went straight at the pin, pitched about a metre and a half short and just went in - it was brilliant."

Yang, playing in the same threeball as Kim, led the tournament in the early stages of their round but could not add to the four birdies she plundered going out and fell three shots back after suffering her second bogey of the day at the last. Only 26 out of the field of 108 are below par after two rounds and the halfway cut was made at three-over par. Defending champion Anja Monke, of Germany, thought the birdie she made at the last was crucial but in the end she had two shots to spare as she survived.