By Mike Dougherty
HARRISON – A more familiar setup brought scores in line with expectations and got the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship back on script.
The weekend now includes the promise of drama.
Westchester Country Club was left exposed in the opening round, but tournament officials tucked a majority of the pins into places only the fearless considered targeting on Friday and the West Course immediately began to reclaim strokes.
Only three players signed for scores in the 60s.
“I think the officials didn’t quite like the 7-under they saw Thursday, so the golf course was set up a lot tougher and it played more like I thought it would play this week,” Stacy Lewis said. “I think we all got out there Thursday and saw some of the hole locations and you could fire away. So it was playing harder today, more like a major, which I like.”
There is no shortage of marquee value here.
Sei Young Kim charged up the leaderboard with a 68 on Friday, and is holding a one-shot lead after two rounds at 8-under 138. The 23-year-old South Korean is an LPGA rookie with two wins already. She holed a flop shot for eagle at the 15th hole to leap-frog Karrie Webb and closed with three straight pars.
There’s no way to rest easy on the lead with so much talent in striking distance.“I believe in the situation I’m in right now, leading the tournament, it’s going to be another challenge for me,” Kim said. “More pressure comes in, I’ll play better.”
Wiggle room is pretty scarce.
Inbee Park is looking to win this event for a third consecutive year and quietly carded a 68 in the second round to get within a shot of the lead. Her methodical approach works very well here. Webb is looking to collect an eighth major title stayed close with a 71 on Friday. Her ability to stay patient kept the round together and left the 40-year-old in a second-place tie with the defending champion.
Getting the stars to shine usually helps bring spectators to the course, and the crowds on Day 2 did grow exponentially.
“It’s more challenging to get the ball close,” Webb said of the course. “I think it demands good golf to be played, so you would seem to think that the top players in the world will be on the leaderboard throughout the weekend.”
There’s a pair of noteworthy competitors in fourth place, too.
Brooke Henderson stayed in contention with a 73. The 17-year-old is very much in position to become the youngest player ever to win a major. Suzann Pettersen had the best round of the day with a 66. She picked up her 15th LPGA win last week.
Wait, there’s more.
Lewis is sitting three shots back at 5-under. It’s been a struggle of late for the No. 1 American, but she believes a turnaround is close. Cristie Kerr also battled in the second round. The 17-time winner is lurking four shots back at 4-under.
Getting that kind of talent on display with a major network broadcasting the championship is a promotional windfall.
“I think the most important thing is we’re on a hard golf course,” Lewis said. “And on a golf course like this, your best players are going to rise to the top. Being on NBC this weekend is going to be huge for us, and the best part is we’ve got our best players playing well. So you really couldn’t ask for more.”
“It’s pretty exciting being able to play against the best in the world on one of the best golf courses and in the one of best-run tournaments,” Henderson said. “It’s really exciting seeing my name up there with Stacy Lewis and Karrie Webb and all the big names. It’s awesome.”
By the numbers
The firm greens and tricky pins made the West Course at Westchester Country Club play nearly a full stroke harder on Friday during the second round of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.
Stroke average: 73.85
Players under par: 59
Stroke average: 74.94
Players under par: 46