Canadian Open all about Chois

Chella Choi of South Korea reacts after her par saving putt on the 18th green to finish eight under...

Chella Choi of South Korea reacts after her par saving putt on the 18th green to finish eight under par during round two of the Canadian Women's Open at The Vancouver Golf Club on August 24, 2012 in Coquitlam, Canada. (Harry How/Getty Images/AFP)

TODD SAELHOF, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:05 PM ET

COQUITLAM, B.C. - With 48 of the top 50 players on tour, it's a choice field at the Vancouver Golf Club.

The Chois, however, are threatening to make the track their own.

Chella Choi put up a career-best 8-under round Friday to bounce to the top of the leaderboard at the 2012 CN Canadian Women's Open. It came one day after Na Yeon Choi — no relation —posted a 5-under first day Thursday at the US$2-million LPGA Tour stop.

That leaves both South Koreans in prime position to chase the $300,000 first place prize and, of course, the title of Canada's national open queen.

"I know Chella," said Na Yeon Choi following her even-par-72 round Friday. "She's a little younger than me, and I think I met her when she was 13 or 14. We had the same winter training in Thailand.

"I know her father, too. He really worked hard, and I think they deserve (to do well)."

Well, Chella's right there at the top, matched only by 15-year-old phenom Lydia Ko, also South Korean-born.

Because she's an amateur, Ko can't collect money from the event, meaning a win would give the top money to the second-place finisher. No amateur has ever won an LPGA event, with the highest placing ninth Canadian legend Marlene Streit back in 1968.

"I am actually playing pretty good," said the giggly Ko, who was raised and honed her golf game in New Zealand and is fresh off winning the 2012 U.S. Women's Amateur.

"I played three events in the States, and I've got a medal for each one of them. So hopefully, I will bring home the medal in this tournament."

Ko and Chella Choi hold a three-shot edge on the older Choi, compatriot Inbee Park and American veteran Angela Stanford — all at 5-under.

"I'm still in good position, and I have good patience," said Na Yeon Choi, who is ranked fourth among women in the world golf rankings. "My shot, my putter wasn't great like (Thursday). So hopefully, a couple more will drop (Saturday) and Sunday.

"I'm not going to try (to match Friday's 8-under posted by Chella Choi). I'm just going to play one shot at a time, especially on this golf course."

For Chella, simply getting to the weekend in this event is a big deal.

In fact, it's a big birthday gift, given she turns 22 Friday.

"I'm very happy because a couple of years ago and last year, I'm very unhappy," Chella said. "I missed the cut the last two years, so I'm happy this year."

At 4-under and still in contention is 2009 CN Canadian Women's Open champion Suzanne Pettersen of Norway, South Korean Jiyai Shin and Americans Vicky Hurst, Moira Dunn and Jane Rah.

At one point, Pettersen, who won the '09 event at Priddis Greens near Calgary, grinded her way to 5-under but fell back with a six-hole string of two bogeys and four pars midway through the final nine.

"This was a round with a little bit of everything," Pettersen said. "I had some good stuff. I hit a few loose ones, so there are two more rounds, and I feel like I can get in position and get more and more comfortable with the speed of the greens on at least the front but also on the back.

"Hopefully, we can make a charge."

todd.saelhof@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SUNToddSaelhof


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