CARLSBAD, CA – While the youth movement has dominated headlines in recent months, this week it’s veteran Cristie Kerr who holds the 36-hole lead in Carlsbad. Two of those young stars, Lydia Ko and Brooke Henderson, failed to make the cut this weekend for just the second time since joining the LPGA Tour. Ko, who was also defending champion this week, opened with rounds of 74 -72 to miss the cut by one stroke at two-over par. This is just her second missed cut in 91 starts on Tour.
“Ball striking wasn't very good today,” Ko told the media. “I'm hitting my drives really well, but like the birdie opportunities I had I was missing quite a few of them. I was putting so much better today until the last few holes.”
Kerr held a share of the first round lead with Mo Martin and In Gee Chun but she pulled away from the pack. The major champion started her day on the back nine and led by as many as three-strokes before getting weary on the inward stretch.
“I think it's a course that demands a lot of you. When you hit a bad shot you have to be able to recover and really stay focused the whole day,” Kerr told the media. “It was a very long day. I feel like my focus left me a little bit at the end, but I played really well.”
Kerr made two bogeys in her last four holes to cut her lead to one. She posted a three-under par, 69 to hold the 36-hole lead at nine-under par. She leads by one-stroke ahead of Martin and Mirim Lee. An 18-time winner on Tour, Kerr also won this event in 2015 for her first of two victories that season.
Martin remained steady throughout the day, bouncing back from her only bogey of the week with back-to-back birdies to post a two-under par, 70 and remain within one-stroke of the lead.
“The bogey, I had a big ball mark and these Poa greens get super bumpy in the afternoons, and it just stuck in the ball mark and went left,” Martin told the media. “I mean, I didn't take that too personally. That happens out here, especially in the afternoon, especially on a Friday after you have the whole field in front of you on the Poa greens. And then, yeah, it was fun to rally and obviously great to finish with a couple birdies.”
Mi Jung Hur carded a 67 on Friday to climb to six-under par, three-strokes back of Kerr. The round is just the latest in a series of strong showings from Hur who is off to the best start of her career with three top-30 finishes to start the season. Although she was disappointed with her putting on day two, making it around in 29 putts, Hur remained patient and relied on her iron play to hit 16 of 18 greens and 11 of 14 fairways.
“I have good iron shot today and yesterday as well. I hit some greens but I missed short birdie opportunities because the wind here,” Hur told the media. “I'm satisfied with my round today.”
Hur has had mixed success in Carlsbad where she’s missed three of five cuts, but finished T-12 last season. The world No. 31 is a two-time winner on Tour and is looking to pick up her first victory on Tour since 2014. Hur is T-4 with Austin Ernst, Jackie Stoelting and Karine Icher.
Several notables won’t be playing the weekend in California with the cut line falling at one-over par. Ko arrived at the 18th at one-over par, and needed two putts from long range in order to save par. She three-putted to fall to two-over par, but with 71 players at one-over par or better, her status remained uncertain until all players completed their round. If two players dropped to two-over, Ko would have played the weekend. The missed cut is just the second of Ko’s career and first since the 2015 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. Ko now turns her focus to next week’s ANA Inspiration where she will also defend her title.
Henderson finished at 5-over par through 36-holes to miss just the second cut of her career on the LPGA Tour. Her first missed cut came at the 2016 Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.