Ding dong day for Jasmine in Maybank Championship

KUALA LUMPUR: Thailand's Jasmine Suwannapura rebounded from a shaky start, carding five birdies to retain a one-shot lead after the second round of the US$3 million (RM14.34 million) Maybank Championship today.

The 30-year-old, leading by one shot overnight following a flawless 63, faced two early bogeys but showcased her mental resilience at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club.

Her perseverance culminated in a solid three-under 69, putting her at a 12-under 132 halfway mark.

This kept her one shot ahead of American Rose Zhang, who clinched a spectacular lengthy birdie on the final hole, carding a 68 to end the day in sole second place.

French star Celine Boutier. who currently ranked first in the Race to CME Globe points standings, fired the day's best 64, tying for third with Taiwan's Chien Pei Yun (69) and Australia's Hannah Green (70).

National No. 1 Natasha Andrea Oon maintained her strong performance, carding a 71 to make her presence felt on the leaderboard.

She registered three birdies against two bogeys, placing her in a joint 37th spot on three-under 141, alongside nine others, including the Jutanugarn sisters, Ariya and Moriya of Thailand.

Chasing her third LPGA Tour title, Jasmine saw her overnight lead vanish as she recorded two quick bogeys on the first and third holes.

However, a birdie on the sixth marked the beginning of her comeback.

She added four more shots on the back nine, with birdies on the 11th, 12th, 16th, and 17th, allowing her to pull ahead of a crowded leaderboard where, at one point, as many as four players shared the lead.

Jasmine revealed that the competition was so fierce that she wasn't keeping track of how many birdies she made and was surprised to discover she ended the day with an outright lead.

"Happy to be still the leader," said a relieved Jasmine, who has yet to win since 2019.

"Well, on 18, after I missed the birdie putt I asked my caddie, like who is leading still? I didn't think I was still leading.

"It's been good fighting back on back nine, so he said, you know, you made four, five birdies on the back nine, which I don't know.

"I think I didn't really get stressed about the two bogeys, and I feel like today especially pin position was not that easy at all. I feel like a couple of bogeys, it makes sense."

Promising rookie Rose navigated a roller-coaster round, blending her scorecard with seven birdies, a bogey, and a double bogey.

Just one shot off the pace, this performance bolstered Rose's aspirations for a second LPGA Tour victory, merely four months after turning professional.

Rose made an immediate impact on the tour by clinching the Mizuho Americas Cup in June during her debut as a pro.

"It would be incredible (to win a second title). It's not really something that I think about a lot," said Rose.

"I feel like there are a lot of incredible players out there who can put up incredible numbers, so for me, it's just being able to take that step by step, being able to commit to every single shot, and then we'll go from there.

"If I end up in that position, I'll be working my hardest."

Natasha has vowed to build on her strong performance thus far and expressed confidence in her ability to finish the tournament in a much higher position than where she currently stands.

"The sky is the limit. There are two more days, 36 more holes, and plenty of opportunities for birdies.

"I'll just show up with a fresh mind, focusing not on the end goal, but on the process," said Natasha.

Natasha's best LPGA Tour finish to date was a tied-49th at last year's Dana Open, a tournament she received an invite to play, shortly after turning professional.

"I really hope so (finishing in better position). That was last year. Now I'm in a more comfortable position, so hopefully, it shows out here," she said.

Leading second round scores:

132: Jasmine Suwannapura (Tha) 63-69; 133: Rose Zhang (US) 65-68; 134: Celine Boutier (Fra) 70-64, Chien Pei Yun (Tai) 65-69, Hannah Green (Aus) 64-70; 135: Kim A Lim (Kor) 69-66, Gina Kim (US) 65-70; 136: Chanettee Wannasaen (Tha) 70-66, Kim Sei Young (Kor) 69-67, Yin Ruo Ning (Chn) 68-68, Gemma Dryburgh (Sco) 67-69, Linn Grant (Swe) 65-71.

Malaysians: 141: Natasha Andrea Oon 70-71; 143: Jeneath Wong (am) 72-71, Ashley Lau 72-71; 146: Alyaa Abdulghany 74-72; 147: Kelly Tan 71-76; 152: Ng Jing Xuen 74-78.

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