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AIG Women’s Open: Muirfield’s sting in the tail leaves In Gee Chun the halfway leader

Korea's In Gee Chun leads at halfway at Muirfield.

Muirfield briefly softened to let South Africa’s Ashleigh Buhai profit, but there was the predictable sting in the tail that left Korea’s Grand-Slam chasing In Gee Chun leading the AIG Women’s Open.

Buhai’s bogey at the last was the only blemish in a brilliant round of 65 compiled largely when the wind dropped away from the afternoon play. Chun also shot 66 in this time as the draw proved particularly kind to the ‘early-late’ section of the draw.

15 of the top 18 players tied tenth or better played in this section. The exceptions closest to the lead are two in-form players, the World No 2 from Australia Minjee Lee and Celine Boutier of France.

‘Dumbo’ flies into the lead

But they’re now four behind Chun, or Dumbo as she is universally known – because of her acute sense of hearing. She went round in 66, her back nine of four-under 31 coming at the brief interlude of calm in the air.

Madelene Sagstrom was the last notable victim of Carnoustie’s 18th in elite play when she bogeyed via the greenside bunker to lose by a shot to Anna Norqvist.

The Swede rebounded to be a Solheim Cup star for Catriona Matthew and finished with three birdies in the last four holes to be joint second on seven-under.

Former champion Inbee Park – still hitting the ball beautifully without apparent effort – is handily placed alone in fourth. First round leader Hinako Shibuno lost a little ground, but is close by at four-under.

The leader, after her PGA Championship win in June,  is seeking what the women’s game calls a Grand Slam – four of their five majors. All five is called a Super Grand Slam.

Chun’s key birdie at 17 came after he badly lost her second shot short and right of the amphitheatre green. It was a tricky pitch that went 15 feet by the pin, but she holed the return for the four that ultimately gave her the halfway lead.

‘He’s going to pay for dinner and pay me $100’

She and her caddie Dean Herden decided on a little wager at the start of the week to get her in the right frame of mind.

“If I have a bogey-free round he’s going to pay for dinner and pay me $100,” she said. “It’s fun, but it puts me in the right mindset to play this course.

“I had a couple of bogeys yesterday and just one today, but I’m going to keep trying to have a bogey-free round, that’s my goal.”

Buhai wasn’t too disappointed with bunkering her approach from the fairway and taking a five at the last. She’s been here before – she led by three at Woburn in 2019 but was overhauled on the weekend.

“Super chuffed with how I played,” she said. “It was disappointing to end with a bogey, but I hit it in a place in the fairway that was softer than I thought.

“I had to check with myself to see I was five-under at the turn! That’s good, because it shows I was staying in the moment.”

Practising Ernie’s greatest shot

Ernie Els is her hero, and she called up a Youtube video of his famous bunker shot at 13 in 2002 when he won at Muirfield.

“I was trying the shot to see if I could do it,” she laughed. “I haven’t spoken to him recently but I’m living in Florida now so I’m going to play with him some.”

Sagstrom parked the final hole at Carnoustie long ago, and she stills feels it was a career highlight.

“If somebody would have told me I would have finished second, I would have taken it all week,” she said of last year.

“Anna defeated us all, so it’s one of those things that anything can happen in links golf. I made a good run for it but I was really pleased with my second place.”

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