CHON BURI- Former LPGA Championship winner Anna Nordqvist of Sweden shot an even-par 72 on Friday, but that was good enough to maintain her 1-stroke lead at the Honda LPGA Thailand.
Nordqvist, who is seeking her third career win on the LPGA Tour, finished 36 holes on the Pattaya Old Course at Siam Country Club at 6-under-par 138.
“This is a position I been practicing to be in,” said Nordqvist. “Halfway through and there are 36 more holes, but I’m happy with the way I’m playing. Hopefully can make a couple more putts over the weekend and that should take care of it.”
World number one Park In-Bee is under severe threat of losing the top ranking as she makes a delayed start to the season.
Park, 25, skipped the year’s first two events in the Bahamas and Australia, but she will be hoping her luck holds in Pattaya where she was handed last year’s win on a silver platter.
However, she has not managed a win since the US Women’s Open in June, and will need to re-assert herself quickly if she is to stay at the top of the rankings.
Park will be acutely aware she is being chased by Pettersen and third-ranked Stacy Lewis of the United States, who have both made it clear that they are after the number one spot.
And she will be anxious to avoid the fate of former world number one Tseng Ya-ni, who spent 109 weeks at the top – and won in Thailand in 2011 and 2012 – but is now ranked 43rd.
However, Park appeared relaxed about the prospect of defending her ranking and said she had set high goals for the season, hoping to do even better than last year.
“I feel comfortable at the moment. My game is in good shape,” Park told reporters, adding: “I want to do better (this year) than last year.”
Australian veteran Karrie Webb, 39, will be on a high after coming from nowhere to win last week’s Women’s Australian Open, a result which pushed her to seventh in the rankings.
As for last year’s runner-up, Ariya, she has only just started playing again after a long spell out with a serious shoulder injury.
Local hopes will more likely rest on Pornanong Phatlum at the par-72 Siam Country Club Old Course.
Azahara Munoz (68), Julieta Granada (68) and Sandra Gal (70) shared second place at 5-under, while Stacy Lewis (69) and Michelle Wie (73) are tied for fifth at minus-4.
Last week’s Women’s Australian Open winner Karrie Webb (70), So Yeon Ryu (72), Jennifer Johnson (73) and Angela Stanford (73) shared seventh place at 3-under 141.
Lexi Thompson was the first to meet Nordqvist at the top of the leaderboard when she eagled the first to move to 6-under.
Johnson birdied the first and second before Ryu recorded birdies at Nos. 1, 2 and 4 to make it a four-way tie for the lead.
Thompson lost her share of the lead with a bogey at the fourth and Johnson followed with a bogey at the same hole to also drop to 5-under.
Gal, meanwhile, capped an outward 33 with her third birdie of the day at the ninth to join Ryu and Nordqvist at minus-6.
Ryu broke out of the pack with a birdie at the 10th to claim the outright lead, but was soon joined by Nordqvist following her birdie at the ninth.
Nordqvist made it two gains in a row at the 10th to move to 8-under and grab sole possession of first place.
She briefly lost the lead with a bogey at the 11th, but bounced right back with a birdie at the 12th to again reach 8-under.
Ryu fell apart, tripping to a double-bogey 6 at the 14th to drop to 5-under and hand Nordqvist a 2-stroke lead over Gal. Ryu then bogeyed the next two holes to fall well off the pace.
Gal bogeyed the 16th to drop three shots behind Nordqvist. The German parred her final two holes to remain there.
Nordqvist, however, would lose her cushion as she also bogeyed the 16th before dropping another shot at the 18th to finish at 6-under.
“There were some tough pins out there,” Nordqvist said. “A little disappointed to finish with a bogey on the last. Overall been hitting it great this week. Today I felt like all things were good. Just couldn’t get any putts to drop.”
Granada posted four birdies in a bogey-free round to claim her share of second place, while Munoz countered a lone bogey with five birdies to join the group at 5-under.