WALTON-ON-THE-HILL, England — There’s a golfer hailing from America’s South and with a passion for hunting who is running away with the British Open thanks to precise driving and a red-hot putter.
Ally Ewing is putting up a good impression of Brian Harman as she goes for a first major title this week at Walton Heath.
The No. 39-ranked Ewing rolled in six birdies in her first 11 holes and shot 6-under 66 Friday to establish a five-stroke lead after the second round of the Women’s British Open, the final major of the year.
Ewing is delivering a golfing clinic southwest of London three weeks after Harman did the same four hours north of England at Royal Liverpool in the men’s event to win his first major championship.
Harman was 10-under par after the second round and led by five from a home hope, Tommy Fleetwood. Ewing is on the same score, holds the same lead and is also being chased by a popular English player, with Charley Hull in a three-way tie for second place.
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“I think a lot of people, I wouldn’t say they were rooting against him but a lot of people were rooting for other people,” Ewing said. “I can kind of attest to that in some sense. But, yeah, certainly happy with where I am through 36 holes.”
The similarities with Harman don’t end there.
Ewing is from Mississippi, and Harman is from Georgia.
And then there’s the hunting — the favored pursuit of Harman and something which proved to be a fascination for the British media, who labeled him “Brian the Butcher.”
Yes, Ewing confirmed, she also likes to hunt.
“For the most part, my family, my husband and I, we do mostly deer hunting, so venison,” she said. “That’s most of what we do.”
The field will look to hunt down Ewing over the weekend but will need her to slow up. She is tied for the largest 36-hole lead at the Women’s British Open since it became a major in 2001.
At one stage Friday, she held a seven-shot lead and she felt like she was in a trance when making four straight birdies from No. 6.
“I didn’t really even know until I signed my scorecard that I had four birdies in a row,” Ewing said, “so I would probably say that stretch from like No. 6 to No. 11 is kind of a little bit of a blur.”
There was another birdie at No. 16 before a bogey at the last, after her worst swing of the day on the 18th tee, gave her rivals some hope. Ewing was 10 under overall.
The biggest names in women’s golf can’t keep up.
Top-ranked Nelly Korda shot 70 and was 1 under for the tournament — nine off the lead — like Rose Zhang, the 20-year-old American sensation in her first year of pro golf who also shot 71 in her second round.
Celine Boutier, the Frenchwoman who arrived as the hottest player in the game after back-to-back titles including the Evian Championship, also shot 71 and was two shots further back at 1 over for the tournament. That was one shot above the cut.
Former top-ranked player Lydia Ko, currently ranked No. 5, made five bogeys in the opening 10 holes of her 74 and missed the cut along with last year’s champion, Ashleigh Buhai of Australia.
Hull, England’s biggest hope of a home winner, had a bogey-free 68 to join Minami Katsu (69) of South Korea and Andrea Lee (68) of the United States in second place.
“I’m happy how I hit it off the tee and holed some long putts,” said Hull, who finished tied for second at the Women’s U.S. Open last month, “and I’m buzzing for the next few rounds.
“Seeing my nephew in the crowd, it’s really good. They are good crowds. There will be some big ones over the weekend.”
Alison Lee (69), Hyo Joo Kim (70), Lilia Vu (68) and Gaby Lopez (70) are a stroke further back, while second-ranked Jin Young Ko (68) was part of a large group one more shot adrift at 3 under.