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The Thai leads at the start of the ShopRite LPGA Classic in New Jersey

Azahara is close to the top 10 and Yubol flirts with Sörenstam’s historic 59

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Arpichaya Yubol, líder de la clasificación © LPGA
Arpichaya Yubol, líder de la clasificación © LPGA

A week after Arpichaya Yubol (-10) flirted with the lead in a major, today she shone with an impressive round of 61 strokes at the start of the ShopRite LPGA Classic, a LPGA tournament being held at the Seaview’s Bay Course in Galloway, New Jersey. In the morning round, playing from the 10th, she put on a real show: she finished her first nine with four consecutive birdies and an eagle and completed her round with four more flawless birdies in the second half, just two strokes short of matching the only 59 in LPGA history, signed by Annika Sorenstam in 2001.

The Thai had the opportunity to do so on the par five of the 9th, 477 yards, with which she closed her round. But her second shot did not reach the green, closing her chances of achieving an eagle to match the Swedish golfer’s record. A third approach shot and two putts for par left her round at 61 strokes, a brutal result in any case, to tie the tournament record and lead the standings with a two-stroke lead and two rounds to go.

“On the last two holes I was already 10 under par, so I did think about the possibility of making birdie and birdie for 59,” she acknowledged after her great start to the tournament. A solid performance that comes after rounds of 68 and 69 strokes last weekend at the US Women’s Open. “I feel like my confidence is back after last week, which was the best of my life. I spoke with my agent and got an even bigger boost, doing it also in a Major has made me happy, my golf is back,” she added.

Yubol said she spent two or three hours talking to her manager each day of last week’s tournament and that it helped her regain the inner confidence she had been lacking since she missed the cut in seven of her nine outings this season. Arpichaya’s agent reminded her to think more positively, not to play with fear of not making the cut but to focus on making it to the weekend and finishing in the top 10 or even the top 5. “When I have bad thoughts, he clears my mind. He believes a lot in me and talks to me like ‘I believe in you, so you should believe too’,” she concluded.

That renewed confidence has allowed her to start this week’s tournament with 61 strokes, matching the 10 under par that the young player, 22 years old, had achieved once in a tournament in her home country. Behind her are South Koreans Jenny Shin (-8) and Narin An (-7), with a group of seven players four strokes behind, six under par, including Megan Khang, Brittany Lincicome, Jeongeun Lee 5 or Nasa Hataoka, and another six at five less, with names like Brooke Henderson, Hinako Shibuno… or Azahara Muñoz.

The Malaga-born player has signed a fantastic card of 66 strokes, with six birdies and a single bogey, to be tied in 11th position, five strokes off the lead and just one from the top 10. Ana Peláez (-2), close to the top 50, will still have work tomorrow to make the cut (which the top 65 and ties surpass) and give herself a chance at the weekend. Remember that this ShopRite LPGA is played over three rounds and awards 1.75 million dollars in prizes, with more than 260,000 reserved for Sunday’s winner.

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