July 27, 2019: Mi Hyang Lee went to school last week and through 36 holes she’s schooled the field at the Evian Championship. Showing remarkable resiliency and riding a reliable putter, Lee bounced back from a double bogey on No. 9 Friday to shoot 67 for the lead at 10-under-par 132 going into the weekend. But it won’t be a walk in the park for her.
One stroke back at 133 is Rolex Ranking No. 1 Sung Hyun Park, Inbee Park, a seven-time major champion, and Hyo Joo Kim, who won here in 2014 in her first major championship appearance. At 135 is Shanshan Feng, another major champion.
Paula Creamer, who shot 64 on Thursday and played her first 30 holes without a bogey – the only player in the field with a flawless scorecard – came out of the one-hour lightning delay and missed a 6-foot par putt on No. 13 that triggered a disastrous run in which she played the last six holes six over par. She’s at 140 after a 76.
“Yeah, sometimes rain delays get you, sometimes they don’t,” Creamer said. “Unfortunately, this time it got me. I’ve been playing really well. It’s unfortunate, obviously, but today is not Sunday. Today is Friday.”
Joining the two Parks, Feng and Kim in their pursuit of Lee are Amy Olson, Sei Young Kim, Pajaree Anannarukarn, Caroline Hedwall, Jennifer Kupcho and Jin Young Ko at 136. Chella Choi is at 137.
In addition to the lightning delay Friday, forecasted storms for Saturday moved third-round starting times to 7 a.m. off the first and 10th tees. But the play the first two days at the Evian Resort Golf Club has been as hot as the weather and it’s doubtful even nature can dampen this major party.
Hyo Joo Kim jumped into the three-way tie for second with an eagle on the last hole that gave her a 64. Sung Hyun Park’s 66 could have been lower but she three-putted for par from inside 20 feet on the last hole. And Inbee Park played the first six holes one over par but birdied three of the last four holes for a 68.
“Overall I’m really happy with my score,” said Hyo Joo Kim. “I honestly did not know how low I shot until I was finished. I didn’t know I went bogey-free until after the round. There were a lot of situations where I could have bogeyed, but I kept thinking to do my best. It helped that what my putter was working really well.”
If Inbee Park wins her eighth major she’d join Karrie Webb as the only players with victories in five different majors, completing the Super Slam. With her vast experience on the big stage – she won the gold medal in the 2016 Olympics – Park is well prepared for the challenge ahead.
“Nothing really changes,” she said about preparing for the weekend. “No different mindset. I’m actually looking forward to a little bit cooler weather, because this has been just really hot. I lost my concentration there a little bit in the beginning because of the heat.”
Lee, who had her first Vision 54 session with coaches Lynn Marriott and Pia Nilsson in Phoenix before flying to France, put their peak-performance teaching to immediate use She ended her round birdie, birdie, eagle, the eagle on No. 18 more than erasing the bogey there Thursday that cost her a share of the lead.
Asked how she rebounded from the 7 on No. 9, Lee used words right out of the Vision 54 playbook. “I just like try to control my mind by myself,” she said. “I think it worked. Good finish 16, 17, 18.” She’s missed eight fairways and 10 greens in two rounds but has scrambled admirably.
“Just keep trying to [stay] calm and be nice and it works,” said Lee, who has won twice on the LPGA and was second in the ANA Inspiration this year. “I missed a lot of greens today, but was trying to think simple and just go shot by shot.”
Lee’s camp reached out to Nilsson and Marriott at the KPMG Women’s PGA and she traveled to Arizona last week for her first Vision 54 session.
“We worked with her on the basics of Vision 54,” said Nilsson. “We talked about having a purpose for every shot. We talked about having a plan for every shot and being 100 percent committed to your decision.”
So far her vision has been perfect.
Sung Hyun Park, who won the 2017 U.S. Women’s Open and the 2018 KPMG Women’s PGA, is trying to win a major for the third consecutive year, a feat last accomplished by Inbee Park when she won six majors from 2013 through 2015.
“Overall I think I played really well,” Sung Hyun said. “I’m not 100 percent satisfied with the way I played on the last hole. Just like yesterday, I made a three-putt on the last hole. It was a short eagle putt but I missed it. I definitely want win another major.”
Mi Hyang Lee is clearly on top of her game, but the four names closest to her – the two Parks, Kim and Feng – are all major champions. That sets the stage for what should be an electric weekend – lightning or not.