Date: September 16, 2016
Author: Mark Hayes

Koreans put world to sword

Could the women’s World Amateur Team Championship be effectively decided at halfway?

That’s the very real prospect facing a record field today as they look at the powerhouse Korean unit scoot almost implausibly clear after the second round in Mexico.

Defending champion Australian team is in the ruck and tied 11th at six over, but already 19 strokes behind their Asian neighbours, who look a cut above the pack.

Hannah Green turned in the best Australian round at the Iberostar course near the Caribbean coast, carding a 73, teaming with Karis Davidson’s 74 for another +3 daily total to leave the team at six over after two days, alongside New Zealand.

Robyn Choi fired a 75 after her opening 73, so her score didn’t count today. But the Queenslander remains handy in the individual standings at four over, one behind Green and one in front of Davidson.

Australian coach Virginia Irwin said the scores belied the opportunities the women had worked so hard to achieve during the round with a rash of late bogeys spoiling the scores.

“Both Hannah and Karis were under par midway through their rounds but just couldn’t finish it off and they’re very disappointed they let an opportunity slip through their fingers,” Irwin said.

“We played the back nine first and were going OK, but all three girls on the front nine were making birdies, but then giving shots back.

“Then it’s a tough finish on the par-three eighth and par-five ninth with a couple of tough greens and all three made bogey on each hole.

“You can’t look back and say ‘What if?’, but that’s four shots dropped from the team score in two holes and that makes a big difference on that leaderboard.”

Irwin said, though, that the women had proven to themselves that their best was more than competitive against the world’s best.

“They saw that they’re quite capable of shooting four or five under as a team and getting us back to our goal of even par pretty quickly,” she said.

“They haven’t played their best golf yet, but there were signs today.

“A podium finish is still well within reach if we can get into those red figures tomorrow.”

Irwin admitted that catching Korea was almost a forlorn hope, not just for the Aussies, but all 54 chasing teams.

“It’s hard at halfway, but you’d have to say it would take something extraordinary for anyone to catch Korea.”

Switzerland is second at six under (+1 today), with Ireland (-3 today) the only other team in red figures at one under.

“So we think that if we can get back to that even-par figure, especially tomorrow, we’ll be right in the hunt for a podium finish still,” Irwin said.

But it’s Korea’s to lose.

The Asia-Pacific champions posted a second-round 137 with a 68 from Min Ji Park and a 69 from Hye Jin Choi for a 36-hole total of 275.

The Koreans are seeking their fourth victory in the event having first claimed the Espirito Santo Trophy in 1996. In 2012 in Turkey, Korea made a similar surge in the second round, moving from eighth-position into a five-stroke lead, and in 2010 in Argentina, they shot a record 128 to move from a tie for 13th into first place.

“I’m very happy that we are leading at the moment and I’m very proud of the players,” said Korean captain Sang-Won Ko.

“It was a little different from yesterday. We struggled in the front nine yesterday but today everyone seemed very calm.I feel that they really enjoyed playing and that’s why the score is very good.”

Park, the 16-year-old Australian Amateur champion, posted six birdies and two bogeys for a 4-under-par 68 and Choi, 16, the low amateur at the 2016 U.S. Women’s Open, tallied four birdies and one bogey for her 3-under 69 on the Mayakoba course.