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Choi still on course to defend title
October 12, 2012

Na Yeon Choi, -10, Rolex Rankings No. 4 & defending champion
Sydnee Michaels, -8, Rolex Rankings No. 147
Suzann Pettersen, -7, Rolex Rankings No. 8

Rolex Rankings No. 4 Na Yeon Choi continued her campaign to defend her title at the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia and heads into the weekend at 10-under par with a two-shot lead over American rookie. Choi shot 4-under 67 on Friday, carding four of her six birdies on the front nine and two bogeys on the back. Rolex Rankings No. 8 Suzann Pettersen followed up a first-round 71 with the low round on Friday of 7-under par and sits three shots off the lead. Pettersen’s round of 64 set a new tournament record. Momoko Ueda, Lizette Salas and Mika Miyazato join Pettersen in a tie for third after 36 holes of play.

Na Yeon Choi started the week in Malaysia with high expectations to defend her title at the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia, not only from the Malay fans but also with the pressure she has put on herself. With a win this week, Choi will become only the second player this season to successfully break into the winner’s circle at the same event as in 2011. Rolex Rankings No. 1 Yani Tseng won back-to-back at the Honda LPGA Thailand back in February. With a second-round 4-under 67 and a two-stroke lead heading into the weekend, Choi has all the confidence for a repeat.

“I think I had a pretty good round today,” said Choi. “I got two bogeys, but I think I'm still in pretty good position. I really like to play this golf course. I have a lot of confidence. Today I hit a lot of good shot with my irons. I really looked forward to this week, to get good results like last year.”

The South Korean defended a win once before at the 2010 HanaBank Championship. She was pleased with her first two rounds but knows a two-shot lead is nothing to be too comfortable with.

“I don't know. I mean, we still have to play two more rounds,” said Choi. “You know, a lot of people, all the players, can play like 6‑, 7‑under par a day. Nobody knows. I still think I'm good position. I will keep trying hard and make some good results.”

LPGA rookie Sydnee Michaels is making her Asian debut on Tour this week and has been coming to form at the end of the season. Michaels has had some rookie inconsistencies throughout 2012 but has posted three top-20’s in her last five starts.

“I think the beginning of my year was a little bit of a hit‑or‑miss,” said Michaels. “I'd either be way up there in contention or I would miss the cut. Then I would say the last like six, seven weeks or so, more than that, I've really kind of calmed down a little bit, and it's been much more consistent. So it's been fun.”

Michaels ranks fourth on Tour in Rookie of the Year points and had a career-best finish 7th at the Safeway Classic presented by Coca-Cola. After being in contention in several tournaments she said those experiences should help her down the stretch.

“You know, I've had some good practice this year being in contention going into the weekend, so I'm hoping I can learn from those experiences I have,” said Michaels. “Hopefully it will be my week.”

The California native opened her second round with two birdies and a bogey on the front nine then converted on every opportunity with her putter on the back nine, posting a string of five-consecutive birdies on holes 11-15.

“I had a couple like 25‑footers that were good, solid putts. Yeah, those five holes, I gave myself a birdie chance, and I took advantage of it.”

Fellow LPGA Tour rookie Lizette Salas had some back-nine recovery to salvage what looked like to be a mediocre round through 12 holes. Salas opened her round with four birdies on the front nine, making the turn at 7-under par. But the California native posted three-consecutive bogeys on Nos. 10, 11 and 12, quickly digging herself into a mid-round hole.

“There’s something about 10, I don’t know,” said Salas. “It just doesn’t like me. I made a few mistakes on 10, 11 and 12 but I was thinking it could’ve been worse. We couldn’t find my ball on 12. I hit it in the left rough off the tee then hit into a big rose bush. We finally found it and hit it on the green. I was trying to get in my rhythm the next couple holes.”

She found the perfect rhythm with her nine-iron on the par 3 15th and struck gold when she holed out from 130 yards. Salas’ timely hole-in-one was her first on Tour and third in her playing career. Had she done so on the 17th, she’d be heading back to the States with a brand-new BMW. She didn’t seem to be bothered with the commemorative trophy she received instead.

“I’ll take it,” said Salas. “It’s only my third hole in one, first on Tour. You don’t get to hear that all too often, a hole in one in Malaysia. So that’s pretty cool. I’m just having fun.”

Suzann Pettersen’s second-round 64 set a new tournament record at the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia and the nine-year veteran has found some new confidence in her putter, in attempt to finish out the 2012 season on a high note.

“Yesterday felt like I just had to flush through a round of golf after a long week in Africa last week,” said Pettersen. “I've been feeling really good with my putter starting in Alabama a couple, three weeks ago. It's just continuing. I feel like I can be aggressive, trust my instinct, just really try to push every green with a lot of confidence.”

The eight-time LPGA Tour winner and major champion has yet to break into the winner’s circle in 2012 and trying to best her top finish this year of T2 at the Wegmans LPGA Championship. The former Rolex Rankings No. 2 player’s last win came at the Safeway Classic Presented by Coca-Cola in August of last year.

“Well, this year has been kind of a little bit of an odd year, I feel like,” said Pettersen. “I feel like I've done some really good stuff and then a little bit more inconsistent year than recent years in the past. At the same time I've been feeling good.

“My game has been feeling right there, but I haven't been able to fire on all cylinders at the same time,” said Pettersen. “Today was nice to get a low round, back in the tournament, two more rounds to go.”

“I bought like so many clothes (laughter). I found this one store in the mall that's attached to our hotel. I think they were looking at me like, Are you crazy?” –Sydnee Michaels on her off-course activities during her first trip to Malaysia.

First-round co-leader Karrie Webb shot even-par 71 on Friday and moved to a tie for 7th at 6-under par. Rolex Rankings No. 2 Stacy Lewis carded a second-round 2-under 69 and sits seven shots off the lead at 3-under par. Se Ri Pak withdrew after nine holes of play in the second round due to injury. Taiwanese amateur Min Lee was disqualified after her round for signing an incorrect scorecard.

SIME DARBY LPGA MALAYSIA
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