Patience puts McDonald in contention at Reynolds



GREENSBORO -- Ally McDonald waited patiently at the rear of the ninth green, her final hole Friday, while the LPGA rustled up a rule’s official. Her two playing partners completed play while McDonald awaited an appeal for relief from a sprinkler head. The official nixed the request, so McDonald calmly cozied her approach up to the hole and tapped in for a par.

Just another example of how McDonald is learning patience.

Her willingness to wait and trust the process has served her well, and Friday’s 4-under 68 gave her the 36-hole lead at the LPGA Drive On Championship – Reynolds Lake Oconee at Great Waters.

McDonald holds a one-shot lead over first-round co-leader Danielle Kang and long-hitting Bianca Pagdanganari and a two-stroke edge over two-time major champion and former No. 1 Ariya Jutanugarn. Tied for fifth at 7 under are Mel Reid and Pernilla Lindberg.

Kang had a pair of bogeys Friday after a bogey-free first round and shot 70. Her putting improved on the front nine, when the greens began to dry out. Pagdanganari averaged 297 yards off the tee and had six birdies en route to her 67. Jutanugarn shot a 69, despite going bogey-double bogey to start the day.

“To be honest, after the first two holes, I felt like making the cut was going to be good enough for me this week,” Jutanugarn said.

Riverdale’s Mariah Stackhouse struggled to shoot 75 on Friday and stands at 1 over, tied for 54th.

McDonald, an All-American at Mississippi State, is in a position to win her first LPGA event. Parents Jamie and Angie McDonald made the five-hour drive from Mississippi to watch. They even brought a birthday cake to celebrate Ally’s 28th birthday Sunday. A victory in the South – on her birthday -- would be particularly meaningful.

“Every week I’m trying to put myself in position to win,” she said. “For the past couple of years, I might have overemphasized winning and let that be a little bit of a barrier and distractor for me. These next 36 holes, I’m going to do my best to put myself in that position and being close to home would obviously be incredible.”

McDonald’s star has been rising since she was at Mississippi State, where she won five times. She won the Mississippi Women’s Amateur twice and claimed the prestigious North-South Women’s Amateur in 2013. She turned pro in 2015 and earned full-time status on the LPGA Tour in 2017. She was chosen for the 2019 Solheim Cup team when Stacy Lewis was injured.

Now McDonald needs only a victory on her resume. She’s come close, finishing third twice, and knows how it feels to play with the lead. That happened last at the 2019 ANA Inspiration, where she wound up tied for sixth. But this is where her patience comes into play.

“It’s a calming thing to know I can trust my golf swing,” she said. “I may not have been in this position as much as other people around me, but I know the more I put myself in there, the more comfortable I’ll get.”


» Carlota Ciganda shot a 7-under 65 for the low round of the day, with six consecutive birdies on the front nine. Two birdies came on the par 5s, which she reached in two, and included a 20-footer on No. 6. “I’m just playing good, hitting lots of good shots,” she said. “I stopped on the back nine. I would’ve liked a couple more birdies, but 65 is always a great round.”

» Lindsey Weaver is using a push cart and acting as her own caddie this week. Must be giving herself some great yardages and reads on her putts, as she’s tied for 12th at 5 under.

» The cut fell at 2-over 146. Among those who missed were two-time winner Solheim Cup player Austin Ernst, former Big Break Great Waters participant Gerina Piller, and Hall of Famer Juli Inkster.