12 Sep 2020 | Professional golf |

Amateur Ruffels in pack chasing Korda

by Martin Blake

Gabi Ruffels ANA image
Gabi Ruffels drives during the second round at Rancho Mirage today. Photo: Getty

Nelly Korda proved dominant at the top, but at least three Australians are in the running at the second women’s major of the season, the ANA Inspiration in California after two rounds.

They include 20-year-old amateur Gabriela Ruffels, who has put on a stunning performance in just her third start in a major to be sitting tied-seventh at the halfway point in the heat at Rancho Mirage.

Mirage Korda (66-67) has a nice lead for the weekend but Ruffels, who shot four-under 68 today to go with her opening 71, Katherine Kirk (67 today to be tied-seventh) and Minjee Lee (69) are all well-placed and inside the top 20.

Perth’s Hannah Green, who opened with a 69 on Thursday, fell back with a 74 today including two double bogeys on the back nine.

Ruffels, who grew up in Florida before schooling in Melbourne, has had a star beside her name ever since she dropped tennis to pick up golf at 15, then won the 2019 US Amateur and took up a scholarship at the University of Southern California. Today she was outstanding with five birdies to go with the lone bogey at the 14th.

“It's my third major, but always as an ‘am’ you're going to have some nerves,” she said later. “I was just excited to get this week going. Definitely happy where I stand after two rounds.”

Ruffels, who is still pondering when to turn professional, said she was growing in confidence after also playing well at the women’s Open Championship at Royal Troon, where she missed the cut by a shot.

“You know, just getting more comfortable out here,” she said. “I'm used to playing amateur golf, and I'm used to watching these girls on TV. Just kind of getting more comfortable out here, and I feel like I've really been able to do that with my past experience of playing in the US Open and the British Open a couple weeks ago. Yeah, happy with how I'm doing.”

By day’s end she was at five-under and six shots back from the lead held by Korda, along with Kirk, whose rise toward the top of the leaderboard is not surprising. She was inside the top-10 in Arkansas last week and is playing some of the best golf of her life. The Queenslander, a 17-year veteran of the LPGA Tour, set up her round with an eagle on the par-five second hole where she hit a fairway wood approach to five metres and rolled in the putt.

“Yeah, it was pretty stress-free for the most part. I think I left myself one long par putt on six, but other than that, yeah, it was a fun round of golf,” she said. “I don't have too many bogey-free days, so I'm pretty happy, especially at this golf course, and as firm and it's getting out there. Yeah, nice to -- I guess anywhere to be bogey-free, but especially here.”

Korda, the world No. 3 and the 2019 ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, is chasing her first major with relish, putting together a second straight round of brilliance today. She leads by two shots at 11-under from Mirim Lee of South Korea.

MEANWHILE IN EUROPE, Aussie Steph Kyriacou shot a second-round 66 at the Ladies European Tour's Swiss Ladies Open to move into contention at six-under, four from the lead.

ANA Inspiration leaderboard

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