Denmark’s Nanna Koerstz Madsen is feeling loose. After becoming a Rolex First-Time winner on March 13th after her playoff victory at the Honda LPGA Thailand, the 27-year-old remains in form at the JTBC Classic presented by Barbasol. Koerstz Madsen backed up her first-round 66 with a 5-under 67 on Friday, carding seven birdies and two bogeys on the day. Players often say that getting that first win really helps them relax and trust their ability inside the ropes and for Koerstz Madsen, it’s obvious that the sentiment rings true.
“I figured (Aviara Golf Club) out this year; I haven't figured out the other years,” said the Rolex Rankings No. 32. “I'm definitely playing better this year than I've done previous years I played. In the beginning, I hit a lot of shots really close so there were a couple of easy birdies. I have confidence out there winning two weeks ago. It just changes you a little bit I guess having a win off your back, especially so recently. Definitely took some pressure off.”
Koerstz Madsen is making birdie or better on 37% of holes played in her last seven LPGA rounds, according to KPMG Performance Insights. This is also the first time she has held the lead or co-led after 36 holes and while the territory isn’t super familiar, she’s brimming with newfound confidence and a positive attitude, something that Nanna has had to emphasize in recent years.
“The last year and a half I've worked a lot with my mental coach back in Denmark,” she said. “Everything is about being positive, having good energy out there, trying to smile as much as you can. If you are smiling, it's really impossible actually be mad. I need to stay a little bit more positive than I've done today. Try not to get too emotional out there, then I'll be fine.”
Tour Rookie Hye-Jin Choi and Rolex Rankings No. 3 Lydia Ko sit in a tie for second at -9. This is Choi’s third start of her first season as an official Tour Member, and she’s quickly becoming a player to watch considering she already has a top-10 finish – a T8 at the Gainbridge LPGA Boca Rio. Ko, who won the event in South Florida, notched a 67 in round two, making six birdies and only needing 25 putts to get the job done.
“I gave myself a few more opportunities for birdies today,” she said. “The front nine yesterday I struggled to get my club selection on and that just set up a lot of mid-to-long range putts. I was able to get the hang of things when the temperature got warmer. Unless I had missed the green due to a poor shot, I think that was much better. I felt like I left a few putts out there. At the same time, it's not easy. I think I played pretty solid the last couple days and hopefully that's good momentum into the weekend.”
Three players are tied for fourth at -8. Canada’s Maude-Aimee Leblanc had a calmer day at Aviara Golf Club with a bogey-free, 4-under 68, and Korean rookie Na Rin An fired a 5 under 67 on Friday. Rolex Rankings No. 1 Jin Young Ko continued her under-par streak with a 71 to make it 32 straight rounds, though her official consecutive rounds in the 60s streak ended at 16, the Tour record.
“I tried to hit it 60s, but I couldn't,” said Ko, whose bogeys on Nos. 2 and 3 was her first back-to-back recorded bogeys in 526 holes. “I don't know what happened. But greens are a little tricky to me so I missed a lot of putts, so the reason why I couldn't hit it 60s today. Before the tee off I really don't want to play golf. I don't know what happened to me, but like I really want to go on the beach. I lose focus a little bit and it happens sometimes so it will be fine.”
Thailand’s Pajaree Anannarukarn is solo seventh at -7 followed by University of Alabama alum Janie Jackson who sits in eighth. Seven players are tied for ninth at 5-under including defending champion Inbee Park, LPGA Drive On Championship at Crown Colony winner Leona Maguire, and five-time LPGA Tour winner Nasa Hataoka. A total of 81 players including Lexi Thompson who holed out on the 9th hole to finish at -1 through two rounds.