Drive On leader McDonald chases first LPGA win

WASHINGTON (AFP) – American Ally McDonald, chasing her first LPGA title, reeled off five consecutive birdies to grab a one-stroke lead after Friday’s second round of the Drive
On Championship.

McDonald, who turns 28 today, fired a four-under-par 68 to stand on 10-under 134 after 36 holes at Reynolds Lake Oconee in Greensboro, Georgia.

That was good enough for a one-stroke lead over fifth-ranked compatriot Danielle Kang and Filipino standout Bianca Pagdanganan with Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn another shot adrift.

“Feel really good,” McDonald said. “I put myself in a great position to hit some really good shots and it was really solid.”

The tournament was created to fill in a gap between United States (US) events after the LPGA’s usual Asian swing was wiped out by the coronavirus pandemic.

While no spectators were allowed on the course due to COVID-19 safety issues, a lakeside back nine allowed viewers aboard more than 20 boats to watch the action.

World number 62 McDonald’s best LPGA results have been a pair of third-place finishes, most recently at last year’s ShopRite Classic.

“It’s really easy as a person who has never won to get ahead of yourself,” McDonald said. “We all really, really want to win. That’s why we do this, that’s why we compete, to put ourself in contention as much as we can.

“The next two days I’m just going to try to execute my game plan, stick to one shot at a time. If I find myself getting ahead, I need to regroup, back off, and be right in the moment, be present, and try to execute the shot I have.”

McDonald, who started on the back nine, birdied the par-four 11th then ran off five birdies in a row starting at the par-three 17th.

After reaching 12-under with six holes remaining, McDonald suffered bogeys at the par-four fifth and par-five sixth before three pars to reach the clubhouse.

Pagdanganan birdied three of the first six holes, took her only bogey at the par-three eighth, then birdied the 11th and par-five 12th and closed with another birdie to shoot 67 with a birdie sweep of four par-five holes.

“I feel pretty good about my round,” she said. “I guess off the tee I wasn’t that confident, but my iron shots definitely saved me today.”

Kang, who won the LPGA’s first two COVID-19 return events in August, got up and down for birdie at 18 to shoot 70.

“I’m rolling it well,” Kang said.

American Jennifer Song, who shared the 18-hole lead with Kang on 65, stumbled back with a 75 on Friday.