Lee, Hataoka lead by one at LPGA Tour Championship

By AFP   November 17, 2023 | 05:31 pm PT
Lee, Hataoka lead by one at LPGA Tour Championship
Alison Lee of the United States lines up a putt on her way to taking a share of the lead at the LPGA Tour Championship on Florida on Nov. 17, 2023. Photo by AFP/Douglas P. DeFelice
Alison Lee of the United States fired a blistering eight-under-par 64 to vault into a share of the lead at the halfway stage of the LPGA Tour Championship on Friday.

World number 27 Lee followed up her first-round 66 by rattling in nine birdies and just one bogey to move to 14 under after 36 holes at the rain-softened Tiburon Golf Club course in Naples, Florida.

That left her tied in the lead alongside overnight co-leader Nasa Hataoka, who produced a solid five-under-par 67 in the second round on Friday following her dazzling nine-under-par first round.

Lee got off to a fast start, with three birdies on her opening four holes, and while she bogeyed the fifth, she regained that stroke with two more birdies on the sixth and seventh holes.

A run of six pars followed before she then drained four more birdies in the final five holes to move to the top of the leaderboard.

"When golf is going your way and you're making putts, making birdies, it's so much fun," Lee said.

"So trying not to get too ahead of myself. Trying not to stare too much at the leaderboard too long and think about Sunday and just think about what's happening right now and what's happening in front of me."

Hataoka, meanwhile, was unable to reproduce her spectacular first round 63, and needed a back-nine birdie spree to retain her share of the lead.

The world number 18 made five birdies on the back nine to stay in touch, including back-to-back birdies on the 17th and 18th holes.

Lee and Hataoka are one clear of a group of three players tied for third place on 13 under -- first round co-leader Yin Ruoning of China, Australia's Minjee Lee and South Korea's Amy Yang, who conjured a bogey-free nine-under-par 63 to move into contention.

Yang's round erupted after the turn, with six birdies in seven holes from the 11th onwards. Yang said the benign course conditions had encouraged her to play more aggressively.

"The course is playing really soft," she said. "The balls, especially on the greens, are stopping really quick. We can go more aggressively to the pin."

China's Lin Xiyu and Thailand's Atthaya Thitikul are three shots off the lead on 11 under, with Japan's Ayaka Furue alone in eighth on 10 under and Thailand's Patty Tavatakanit ninth on nine under.

World number one Lilia Vu meanwhile moved stealthily up the leaderboard following her disappointing opening 70 with a six-under-par 66. Vu is tied for 10th place with five other players on eight under.

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