OTSU, Japan – New world No. 1 Atthaya Thitikul of Thailand has a secret weapon in Japan which gives her the added fuel to surge up the leaderboard – Japanese food.
The 19-year-old, who moved ominously four shots behind leader Momoko Ueda of Japan after the second round of the LPGA Japan Classic on Friday, could not hide her delight when asked about what she enjoyed in the country.
“I just talked with my caddie,” she said. “We’re not going to eat the same thing every day, so we’re going to change every dinner. I think the first two days we had sushi, and then yesterday ramen, and today ramen, so I have to find something for tomorrow and the next day.”
The Thai teenager shot a five-under 67 to take her to six-under 138 and leave her well placed in her search for a third LPGA title of a stunning debut year.
Atthaya, who this week became the second-youngest world No. 1 in women’s golf history, said she played “a lot better than yesterday” after carding seven birdies and two bogeys.
“I still think this course is pretty challenging for us – pretty narrow fairways and pretty slopey greens,” she said. “I think it depends on the day because today it’s been my day.”
World No. 85 Ueda took the sole lead after carding a three-under 69 to move to 10-under overall at Seta Golf Course in western Shiga Prefecture, leading compatriots Miyu Yamashita (68) and Ai Suzuki (70) by one stroke.
Japanese players made up six of the top seven on the leaderboard as the LPGA tour returns to the country for the first time since 2019 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Ueda had five birdies and two bogeys to break clear of the pack and upstage some bigger names in the field.
Further back, world No. 5 Minjee Lee was in a tie for 24th, at three-under, after carding a second-round 69.
The Australian played with Japan’s Mao Saigo (72) and American Yealimi Noh (71) and said she was impressed by the atmosphere generated by the home fans.
“Because I was playing a little earlier today, I didn’t think there would be as big of a crowd,” said Lee.
“But I played with another Japanese player and an American and we still had a pretty nice following, which was really nice.” AFP