Aditi Ashok Holes out Twice to take the 36-Hole Lead at the JM Eagle LA Championship
By Amy Rogers
Aditi Ashok holed out twice during a rollercoaster day to take the lead heading into the weekend at the JM Eagle LA Championship presented by Plastpro. Ashok’s round of 70 was made all the more impressive given the tough conditions Wilshire Country Club served up during round two in which players were perplexed by the poa annua greens, challenged by swirling winds, and tested by tough pin locations.
Ashok began her day on the back nine and jump started her round with back-to-back birdies at Nos. 13 and 14. Then, she holed her approach from the fairway at the par 5 15th with a wedge from 85 yards to go four under par on a three-hole stretch.
“Actually me and my dad, we were talking, like going back and forth because it was kind of an in-between number,” Ashok said about figuring out with her father and caddie which club to hit at the 15th hole. “We were almost trying to hit the next wedge because there's water short of the green, but I decided to hit that one a little more full, and we got the number exactly right because it landed in the hole, so we're like, okay, maybe it's not a bad number.”
But Ashok struggled at the turn, giving back two shots with bogeys on Nos. 17 and No. 18. She ran into trouble again at the par 3 fourth hole where she drew an awkward stance in the greenside bunker that forced her to stand with one foot outside the sand. The ball ran through the putting surface and into another greenside bunker on the opposite side of the green. Ashok dropped another shot and then holed her chip for birdie at the par 4 fifth hole for a bounce back birdie. She recorded one more birdie on her inward stretch, offset by two more bogeys to finish her day with a round of one under par.
“As the day progressed, the greens just got slower, and I didn't really catch on, so I left a few putts short, a couple birdie putts which probably would have gone in, but I left them short,” Ashok said on Friday. “I mean, it happens, especially being one of the last groups. You're playing -- the greens are going to be pretty slow, and a lot of people have walked on these greens and they get a little bumpy sometimes. I think it's part of the challenge.”
Ashok’s season has been a tale of two tours. She is making her fourth start of the season on the LPGA Tour this week in Los Angeles. She missed the cut in her first three starts. But it’s been a much different story for Ashok on the Ladies European Tour, where she won her first start of the year and hasn't finished worse than third in three starts. She also leads the season-long Race to Costa del Sol.
But the 25-year old from India may be finally finding the same success she’s had on the LET this week in L.A. thanks to a putter change. Ashok says she has the same Odyssey putter in her bag, but earlier this week simply made the switch to a lighter version. The change has helped her better get the ball to the hole, which she desperately needs on the difficult poa annua greens at Wilshire.
“The last three weeks I didn't actually putt very good, so I have a new putter this week that's giving me some confidence,” Ashok said about her equipment change. “I'm just focusing on making a good stroke, and I am kind of hitting my lines most of the time, so yeah, it's just getting the speed right out here.”
Cheyenne Knight sits one back of the lead at five under par along with major champions Pernilla Lindberg and Hannah Green. While many struggled on Friday, Green leaned on the success she’s found in L.A. with a runner-up finish last season and a third place finish in 2021.
“You have to hit the ball really well. Obviously you have to do that most weeks, but I think you have to make sure you're positioned and leave it in the correct place, otherwise you can make pretty soft bogeys,” Green said after shooting a 69 on Friday. “Staying patient and sometimes not being as aggressive as you may have been in the previous day or in the past is quite important.”
First round leader Linnea Johansson closed with a double bogey at the par 3 18th hole to shoot 75 and drop to three under par for the championship.
World No. 1 Nelly Korda followed an opening round of 69 with an Even par round of 71 on Friday to sit five strokes off the lead heading into the weekend.
Wilshire Country Club played tough on day two, which resulted in several top names failing to advance to the weekend as the cut line reduced the field to the top 65 players and ties and fell at one over par. Brooke Henderson, Grace Kim, Jessica Korda, Jennifer Kupcho, and Leona Maguire are among those who missed the cut at Wilshire Country Club.