Diaz rallies to maintain lead at Marathon Classic
SYLVANIA, Ohio (AP) — Laura Diaz reveled in her return to the spotlight, sinking four late birdies to shoot a 2-under 69 and take a three-stroke lead over Lydia Ko and Lee-Anne Pace after Friday’s second round of the LPGA Tour’s Marathon Classic.
Diaz, who has devoted more time to her family than competition in recent years, led by four shots after shooting a bogey-free 62 in the opening round. She is at 11-under 131 at the tournament’s midpoint.
Ko, bidding for a second LPGA Tour title as a pro to go with the two she won as an amateur, shot a second consecutive 67 to share second with South Africa’s Pace, who had a 68.
Diaz almost chose to walk away from golf to spend more time at home with her family.
She was a rising star early in her career, winning twice in 2002 and playing on four Solheim Cup teams. After she married, Diaz found that she liked being a wife and mother more than traveling the world playing golf. She hasn’t been in the top 20 of a tournament since 2010.
Before the season she was torn between coming out on tour and staying home. In the end, she decided to keep playing.
″(It was) knowing that I could manage being a mom and play. I think that’s something I’ve struggled with, for, well eight years,” she said.
“It’s hard for me when I have to choose. So I made a list. My family is first, and then golf comes second and we work everything out in between.”
Diaz was pleased her game was sturdy enough to hang on to the lead despite being in the heat of contention for the first time in several years.
“It was just a challenge because I haven’t been in this position in a very long time,” Diaz said.
She had her first bogey of the tournament on the sixth hole to fall back into a tie with Pace and Ko, but then regained her touch after getting par on the next six holes.
Starting at the 13th, she birdied four of the next six, including the par-5 closing hole.
Pace is looking for a breakthrough win on American soil. After a 68, she couldn’t contain herself.
“I’m very happy about (my) position,” said Pace, who has won eight times on the Ladies European Tour. “I would like to be in contention on the weekend. That’s when the fun starts, right?”
The 17-year-old Ko is bidding for a second LPGA Tour title as a pro to go with the two she won as an amateur. She shot a second consecutive 67, turning in 1 under and then posting three birdies on the inward nine.
Lurking another shot back at 135 are 2012 Marathon winner So Yeon Ryu and Rebecca Lee-Bentham, both of whom shot 67s.
Ryu was grouped with U.S. Open winner Michelle Wie and last week’s Women’s British Open champion Mo Martin. A large gallery followed the threesome.
“It was really great to be playing with the two major champions,” Ryu said. “I felt like I was one of the other major champions.”
Brittany Lang had the day’s low round (66) and was at 136 along with Kayla Mortellaro. Cristie Kerr (67) led the pack of six golfers at 137.
Defending champ Beatriz Recari of Spain followed a 70 with a 68 and was at 138 along with Martin, who shot a 71. Wie missed the cut by seven strokes.