Jutanugarn sisters shoot best-ball 59 to take LPGA Tour lead

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MIDLAND, Mich. (AP) — Thai sisters Ariya and Moriya Jutanugarn shot an 11-under 59 in best-ball play Thursday to take a two-stroke lead in the Dow Great Lakes Bay Invitational.

The Jutanugarns had a 14-under 126 total at rainy Midland Country Club after opening with a 67 on Wednesday in alternate-shot play. They will play alternate shot Friday and close with best ball Saturday.

“I think just playing together with my sister makes it more comfortable because we can support each other,” Moriya said. “Like when I had trouble or like hit a bad shot she’d cover it, or when she doesn’t hit a good shot, I’m just trying to cover it. It seems like that’s how you should play the best-ball format.”

Two-time major champion Ariya got things going, birdieing the first two holes and four of the first five. Moriya added birdies on Nos. 6, 7 and 12, Ariya birdied No. 14, they both birdied Nos. 15 and 17, and Moriya birdied 18.

“She’s really solid, really consistent,” Ariya said. “Every time she hits the ball I feel like I have no worry, so I know where the ball is going to go. Even if she misses, it’s going to be fine. When you have partners, you have really solid golf, you kind of just go for it, go for the pin and hit it hard, so you have no fear.”

Fellow Thai player Pajaree Anannarukarn and India’s Aditi Ashok were second after a 63. Anannarukarn eagled the par-4 12th.

“It got really soft, so whatever irons or wedges I had, I was just trying to go straight at the pin pretty much,” Ashok said. “I think that helped make a few birdies toward the end after the rain.”

Mi Jung Hur and Jeongeun Lee6 shot a 62 to join Wichanee Meechai and Pavarisa Yoktuan (63) at 11 under.

“She just plays everything perfect. I love her swing,” Hur said. “When I met her first time was like three years ago, and her swing was so perfect and lovely. I told her right away, even we don’t know each other, `Hey, 6, your swings are perfect.’ And she was embarrassed.”

Defending champions Cydney Clanton and Jasmine Suwannapura had their second straight 65 to join Carlota Ciganda and Mel Reid (64) at 10 under.

“I’m not going to lie, it was a little bit more of a grind,” Clanton said. “I think we had to stay really patient, which I think we did. We made a couple birdies on the front, but they weren’t really easy birdies.”

Suwannapura and Clanton won the inaugural event by six shots in 2019. The tournament was canceled last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Danielle Kang and Lydia Ko topped the group at 9 under after a 63.

Lexi Thompson and Nasa Hataoka had a 63 to get to 8 under. Hataoka won the Marathon LPGA Classic last week in Ohio.

Inbee Park and So Yeon Ryu also were 8 under after a 65.

Nelly and Jessica Korda, tied for the first-round lead after a 65, were eight strokes back at 6 under after a 69. Nelly Korda is making her first start since winning the Meijer LPGA Classic and the KPMG Women’s PGA in consecutive weeks to take the No. 1 spot in the world. The sisters will represent the U.S. in the Olympics, joining Kang and Thompson in Tokyo.

The Evian Championship, the fourth major of the year, is next week in France.

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