Grace Kim’s front-running quest for the Karrie Webb Cup has been fortified by the level emotions and short game expertise of former US Open champion Geoff Ogilvy.
The young Sydneysider absorbed both as big lessons from her 36 holes playing beside the former PGA Tour star at the Fortinet WPGA Championship at Royal Queensland today.
Kim (69-68) took over as a one-stroke leader from Su Oh (66-72) after Friday’s second round, but she admits she is in heavy learning mode every day as a rookie pro of just four-months’ standing. Kim grabbed four birdies in her three-under-par 68 when the breeze was down in the morning to reach five under par overall.
LPGA Tour regular Sarah Jane Smith (71-68) made it a tight race-in-three at the top with five birdies of her own in her excellent Friday round to sit three-under and outright third at the halfway point.
Ogilvy (72-73) will miss the cut in the men’s event but his poise still left a significant mark on the 21-year-old Kim watching him from close range.
“I think the biggest lesson is just to be calm and collected on the course,” Kim said.
“Geoff might not be that happy with himself (after his round) but I thought he did really good to just keep in the game and not go too emotional.
“I think towards the end of my (amateur) career I definitely was a bit too emotional with my shots. It was nice to see, even with his career, he’s still able to stay in the present, one shot at a time.
“And his short game…wow. I wish I had a short game (like that).”
Ogilvy’s two rounds included just two birdies yet any number of par saves with elite up-and-downs using little three wood bump-and-runs, pitches to the pin and chips out of the rough.
Kim is renowned as one of the straightest hitters in the 24-strong women’s field this week, but good positions off the tee are only part of taming a tough course.
“Yes, you’ve got to be strategic around this course but I let a couple (of shots) slip putting with a few loose pars,” Kim said.
The 21-year-old from Avondale Golf Club in New South Wales has readjusted her prediction on a winning score having seen how tough Royal Queensland can play with the firm greens, tricky bunkers and the breeze.
“Honestly, seeing how hard the course is I’m not expecting anything too low. Probably between 10-to-15-under I think would be solid for the girls,” Kim said.
Her biggest event as a pro is invaluable preparation for a mid-year jump to the United States when she hopes to gain a good number of starts on the second-tier Symetra Tour.
“I’ve got the majority of the Aussie tournaments coming up, I’ll play all The Players Series and then hopefully head to the US around mid-April or May and start my Symetra schedule,” she said.
Oh followed up her 66 on Thursday by rolling in Friday’s first birdie from off the green on the second hole.
It was an uncharacteristically ragged round from there. She three-putted for par on the seventh and took a bogey on the par three 11th when her three-quarter swing tee shot ran off the back of the green and left her a tricky chip from the rough.
Oh found testing cross-winds hard to judge at times. “I really couldn’t get much going,” she said. “You don’t have to be far off here to miss the green and I probably missed two short putts.
“It’s a scoreable golf course if you get the right shots into the green so I’ll just sort of see what I get and if I have a birdie chance then I better get them on the weekend.”
Smith was in the groove from the outset with three birdies back-to-back from the third with well-made putts after pinpoint irons.
Gold Coast’s Karis Davidson (70-71) saluted the memory of the late Jarrod Lyle on Yellow Day with bold socks and shirt in that colour.