She has rolled in putts from all over the place for two days but Tiffany Joh also reckons some good deeds have helped her establish a commanding position at the halfway stage in the $1.5 million Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open at Gullane.
“They were all those bombs that are just total gifts that you just never expect to make,” said the 31-year-old American of holing her fair share of long putts so far. “But I did take out some recycling last night. I also saved a ladybird on one of the greens, so I feel like I’m putting out some really good karma points.”
Joh was speaking after backing up her sensational 62 in the opening round with a 67. On 13 under par, she leads by three shots from Ariya Jutanugarn, the world No 3 from Thailand, and three-time LPGA winner Amy Yang from Korea. The chasing pack also includes Sung Hung Park and So Yeon Ryu, the world No 2 and world No 4 respectively. Joh is certainly going to have to work hard for a breakthrough LPGA triumph, but she is up for the challenge over the weekend on the East Lothian coast.
“It would be great,” said the two-time Symetra Tour winner of having set up that opportunity after two polished performances so far on a fast-running course. “I’m such a fan of links golf. I’ve always loved playing links golf. It would be huge, but, at the same time, I try not to get ahead of myself, and regardless what happens, my caddie and I are having a blast out there.”
In conditions that seemed slightly easier than the opening day but proved otherwise based on the overall scoring, Joh quickly extended her four-shot overnight advantage with an opening birdie. “I had pretty low expectations for today, to be honest,” she admitted afterwards. “I honestly probably would have taken anything under par, but, on the first hole right away, I made a 45-footer, and I just started laughing. It was a really good start, and I guess I just kept rolling with it.”
She had only 24 putts on day one and 28 on this occasion. From off the green at the tenth, she rolled in a monster for a birdie. “They were all pretty long putts, to be honest,” she said of the five birdies on her card. “There were only maybe like one or two putts that were like inside ten feet.
“I think there are so many little subtle breaks on these greens that you’re almost better off taking a really generalised approach to green reading and not really overthinking it, which is perfect because I never overthink anything. I normally under-think things, so maybe they just fit my eye really well.”
The leader has shin splints from trying to copy in practice some of the awkward spots that players such as Masters champion Patrick Reed found in bunkers in the men’s version a fortnight ago. Much more worrying, though, was a cancer scare earlier this year. “I had developed this kind of weird nervous habit of touching this spot on my scalp that was like a little raised but it was underneath a ton of hair, like no one could have ever seen it,” said Joh.
“It was after a friend was telling me of her own melanoma scare, and I caught it early enough and I was able to treat it with surgery and didn’t have to do chemo or any of that stuff. I feel like that’s just one of those instances where I got incredibly lucky. And although the situation was really scary, I really caught the good end of it. I was really fortunate.”
Jutanugarn, above, who became the first Thai player, male or female, to win a major when she claimed the 2016 Women’s British Open at Woburn, made an ominous upward thrust on the back of a bogey-free 65. The 22-year-old has already won twice this season, including the US Women’s Open last month, but isn’t overly confident about making it a title hat-trick here.
“I don’t really like links golf because it’s so tough,” she said. “It’s a challenge and I always have so much fun. But I just feel like everything is so tough. Maybe after this week I might feel better. I’m also a little surprised because I didn’t play golf for two weeks. I didn’t practise at all. I don’t know about winning, but I feel pretty good.”
On a leaderboard dominated by players from the Far East, Germany’s Caroline Masson is flying the European flag in the top ten. She is ready to rumble with Joh, Jutanugarn, Park and Ryu over the closing two circuits. “I have a lot of respect for them as they’re great players, but I take them on every week so I’m not intimidated. I feel like I can beat them any day and any week,” said the 29-year-old after also being bogey-free for a 65. A winner on both the LET and LPGA Tours, she said of links golf: “I’ve learned to love it.”
Despite slipping from joint-fifth overnight to around 50th following a second-round 75, it was mission accomplished for Kelsey MacDonald as she made the cut. Like so many of the LET players in the field, she has been lightly raced this season due to a threadbare schedule and admitted: “I’m happy. Today was quite tough with the wind and there were a few tricky pin positions, so it was tough and I struggled a little. But I’m hoping to be a bit more relaxed going into the weekend.”
Kylie Henry birdied three of the last four holes to progress along with MacDonald but the five other Scots all bowed out, including two-time winner Catriona Matthew. “Pretty awful, really,” said the Gullane member after signing for a 79 and a six-over total. “Obviously disappointing to miss the cut here, but I just played poorly today.”