New leader Mariajo Uribe in action on Friday. Photo: Colleen Petch
She was overshadowed by a 15-year-old on day one, but Mariajo Uribe doesn't plan on letting Lydia Ko hog the limelight at the Australian Open this weekend.
The little-known Colombian (64-67) is the woman to beat at the halfway mark at Royal Canberra, storming to the outright lead at 15-under after two bogey-free rounds. Ko is lurking at 14-under after a second-round 69, and is tied for second with Korean world No.8 Jiyai Shin (65-67).
Uribe's nine-under 64 on Thursday was career-best golf, but she was content to let Ko lap up the attention after the New Zealand amateur pipped her with a 63.
Before the emergence of compatriot Camilo Villegas on the men's tour, Colombia didn't have any public courses, but, Uribe says, it now has ''two or three''. The bubbly 22-year-old has a golden opportunity to help put her country on the golfing map. Not that the world No.125 is feeling the pressure.
''I'm a pretty relaxed player. I never feel a lot of nerves or pressure, I just do my thing,'' she said.
"I haven't been hitting the ball that well, but I've been putting great.
"Camillo is a bit older than me. I grew up with him as a hero back home, he has helped a lot. Now we have three LPGA players from Colombia, so we're getting there.''
Korean star Shin's long-term goal is to reclaim the world No. 1 ranking.
But this weekend, her hands will be full enough trying to outwit a teenager who began crafting her game in the same country.
Their Korean heritage isn't the only thing Shin and Ko share. Shin was world No.1 for a short period in 2010, and most predict Ko will scale those lofty heights in time.
Having won 36 professional events already, Shin is renowned for her street-fighter mentality, and will relish the pressure of the back nine on Sunday. And the 24-year-old knows from first-hand experience Ko possesses the same killer instinct.
Shin played alongside Ko when she became the youngest LPGA winner at last year's Canadian Open.
With that in mind, she's bracing herself for a battle on the Royal Canberra layout.
"I was very surprised when I played with her in Canada because she hit it so straight and her putting is really good, and then still good work this week, too,'' Shin said.
"I asked Lydia how old are you, she's nine years younger than me.
"It makes it a little sad for me, because I still feel like I'm still young, but when I play with her, not any more. The Canadian Open is also a pretty big event on the LPGA, but she was never nervous.
"She really enjoyed playing and she really enjoyed the crowd, too.''
On Friday morning world No.8 Shin shot a six-under 67 to leap to 14-under, setting overnight leader Ko (10-under) a challenge.
She passed with flying colours, her four-under 69 putting her into contention to back up her New Zealand Open win last week.
While she admits she feels less pressure now she's no longer No.1, it's a summit Shin ''absolutely'' wants to climb again.
Ko has long admired Shin, and believes the qualities in their game are quite similar.
"Of course [I look up to her] I played with her at the Canadian Open and I learnt a few things along the way,'' Ko said.
"I think she's a really good player and you can see by the last two days that she is shooting some low scores.''
She says her game is nearly back to its best after taking two months off following hand surgery in May.
Kristie Smith, a winner of the 2010 Canberra Ladies Classic on the course, is the best placed Australian at the halfway mark.
The West Australian has carded back-to-back rounds of 68 to sit in outright fourth at 10-under, five behind leader Uribe.
World No. 1 Yani Tseng (68-71) is in a tie for eighth at seven-under, while Australian legend Karrie Webb (71-74) has just survived the 70-player cut.