Tavatanakit Shares Half-Way Lead at Honda LPGA Thailand

(Chonburi, Thailand – 23 February 2024) – Cheered on by her home fans, Patty Tavatanakit fired a second successive five-under-par 67 to claim a share of the half-way lead at the Honda LPGA Thailand 2024.

Joining the Thailand favourite on top of the leaderboard at the Siam Country Club’s Old Course were Korean Kim Sei-young and Sweden’s Madelene Sagstrom.

Heading into the weekend of the 17th edition of the showpiece LPGA Tour event, just two strokes separate the top nine players.

One shot off the pace in joint fourth on nine-under 135 are Thai Jaravee Boonchant, Korean Kim Hyo-joo and Switzerland’s Albane Valenzuela.

A further stroke back in tied seventh are German Esther Henseleit, Japan’s Ayake Furue and Chinese Taipei’s Chien Peiyun, the overnight leader who followed up her first-day 64 with a 72.

Matching Valenzuela for the round of the day was Ariya Jutanugarn, whose barnstorming 65 contained nine birdies and catapulted her from 51st place at the start of the day to equal 10th on 137.

Ariya won the Honda LPGA Thailand in 2021, to date the only home player to triumph in the US$1.7 million tournament that acts as the first stop on a three-leg LPGA Tour Asian Swing.

Over the next 48 hours, Tavatanakit and Jaravee will be hoping to follow in Ariya’s footsteps by winning on home soil.

Maintaining the momentum gained from her victory on the Ladies European Tour in Saudi Arabia last week, 24-year-old Tavatanakit recovered from an opening-hole bogey to make six birdies, including a 15-footer on the final green.

She said: “It was a really solid day again. I feel like putts were rolling in early during the round, which helped a lot. I got a little stalled on the back nine, but managed to score on the par-fives, which I’m really happy about.

“I feel a little bit more fatigue coming off last week. I used a lot of the adrenalin there. It’s only Friday and it’s really hot and my body feels like it needs a lot of rest, so I’m going to go ahead and do that. I am sure the golf will just take care of itself.”

For her part, Jaravee’s patient approach paid off handsomely as she surged into contention on the back of four birdies in the final five holes, kick-started by a chip-in at 14.

A bogey on 10 had proved a fleeting setback. “I kept missing birdie opportunities. I was just trying to stay as patient and possible and was hoping for the ball to eventually drop … and it did on 14. That kept the momentum going and the long putt on 15 bumped up my confidence,” said Jaravee, in her second year on the LPGA Tour.

While Tavatanakit and Jaravee both finished their rounds strongly, Kim Sei-young stumbled on the home stretch.

Chasing a 13th LPGA Tour title and a first since November 2020, Kim appeared in cruise control when going to six-under for the day and a two-shot lead after 11 holes.

But she dropped shots at the 13th and 17th and failed to birdie 18 after a wayward drive left her out of position.

After signing for a 68 she said: “The last three holes I wasn’t good, so I’m a little bit disappointed. I think I lost my focus when I was putting – I missed a short putt on 17. On 18, I missed the tee shot (to the right). My ball was in the rough and I just made par. We start again tomorrow.”

Like Tavatanakit, big-hitting Sagstrom has returned back-to-back 67s. On Friday, she made her move with four birdies in a five-hole stretch from the fourth.

Sagstrom, a member of the triumphant European Solheim Cup team last year, said: “Like yesterday, I felt that I had a good game in me. Today I hit some really good shots and made some good putts.

“After making putts on four, five and six, it was like trying to stay out of my own way a little bit. I was playing well enough, and then in the end I just dropped a little bit of energy.”

Teenage Thai amateurs Eila Galitsky and Suvichaya Vinijchaitham continued to give a good account of themselves.

Galitsky, last year’s Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific (WAAP) champion, made five birdies in a round of 68, while Suvichaya, winner of last month’s Honda LPGA Thailand 2024 National Qualifier, signed for a 70. They are in a share of 17th place on six-under 138.

Galitsky is enjoying the fact that the spotlight has not fallen on her this week as it did at Siam Country Club’s neighbouring Waterside Course a fortnight ago when she made an unsuccessful defence of her WAAP title.

“I don’t feel like all the eyes are on me. I feel like they’re on Ko Jin-young and Lilia Vu. There’s not as much pressure on me,” she said.

World number one and defending Hong LPGA Thailand champion Vu bounced back from her opening 73 with a 67 that saw her rise 30 spots into a tie for 30th place on 140.

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