Twenty years after she won the ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open to kickstart her wonderful career, Scotland's Catriona Matthew is in the mix to win the tournament again, but it is a packed leaderboard at The Grange in Adelaide.
The 46-year-old Matthew shares the lead at eight-under par through two rounds with England's Holly Clyburn, 25, a rookie on the LPGA Tour in 2016. China's Si Yu Lin, Germany's Caroline Masson, South Korean Jenny Shin and Japan's Haru Nomura are next-best at seven-under on a highly international leaderboard.
A host of top-line players remain in contention, with local hopes headed by five-time winner Karrie Webb at six-under, just two shots from the lead. Webb played before enormous, adoring crowds in her first visit to play in Adelaide since she was a teenage amateur, but Australia's top-ranked player Minjee Lee endured a tough day and a 76 left her just inside the cut line.
World No. 1 Lydia Ko is four shots back after a second-round 70, still nicely poised after what she regarded as a "tough day'' on the course. Ko, the defending champion, said the breezy conditions made it tough to decide whether to attack or play safe. "Either way it was playing really tough but I see there are some lower scores out there so they must have played some pretty superb golf.''
World No. 9 Ha Na Jang of South Korea is three from the lead after a 70, and world No. 11 Brooke Henderson of Canada also has remained in contention at three-under.
First-round leader SooBin Kim fell away calamitously, adding a 77 to her opening course record 63. Among those prominent players to miss the cut were American Cheyenne Woods and Briton Laura Davies.
Matthew, the mother-of-two who has been a fixture on the tour for many years, had husband Graeme on the bag. A winner of 11 tournaments as a pro including the 2009 Women's British Open, she remains a force in golf two full decades since she won the Women's Australian Open at Yarra Yarra in 1996.
"I think that's the beauty of golf, you can play, it doesn't matter what your age is as long as you can hit the golf ball and still get it in the hole,'' she said. "Age isn't a barrier.''
She said she did not think about her age, even though many of her competitors are half her age, or even less. She is the same age as Jack Nicklaus famously won the Masters at Augusta National and more than twice as old as Ko, for example. The Golden Bear tweeted his support for Matthew: "Hang in there and don't give up, finish strong! Everyone wrote me off at 46!"
— Jack Nicklaus (@jacknicklaus) February 19, 2016
Matthew thinks she is holding on nicely. "I would say my game is getting better actually, I mean it has to, the standard's improved so much over the 20 years. You're always working on something, you're never happy as a golfer.''
Clyburn, 25, has finally found her way to the LPGA Tour after a disaster in 2014 when her marker did not sign her card at Q-school, meaning she was disqualified. Nowadays she believes it was the best thing for her, because she has improved as a player and passed through qualifying in 2015 to join the tour as a full member.
''It means the world to me, out here, it’s where I want to be and now I’m here I’ve just got to enjoy the ride,'' she said.
The Englishwoman began her day with an eagle at the par-five first hole, turned in 30 and book-ended her round with a birdie at the 18th for a 65, the day's low round.
Webb 71 battled hard on a day when her ball-striking was below its usual standards, but she was happy with her position. "I don’t think four low scores is going to win this tournament,'' said the Australian. "The course is challenging enough that you’re not going to go out there and shoot mid 60s every day. I just feel like I’m in a good position and I think Sunday is still forecast to be quite breezy and opposite direction wind, so it will be a challenging weekend.''
LEADING SCORES THROUGH 2 ROUNDS
-8 Catriona Matthew, Holly Clyburn
-7 Caroline Masson
-6 Karrie Webb
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