Jenny Shin of South Korea had a run of five straight birdies to close out her front nine on the way to a 5-under 67 on Friday and shared the lead with Maddie Szeryk of Canada and Moriya Jutanugarn of Thailand after two rounds of the LPGA Drive on Championship.
Jutanugarn raced up the leaderboard, following an opening 67 with a bogey-free 7-under 65 that included an eagle and five birdies. Szeryk, of London, Ont., pieced together a round that included an eagle and six birdies, including one on her final hole, while Shin used seven birdies to offset two bogeys to get to 12-under 132 at Superstition Mountain Golf and Country Club in the LPGA’s first full-field event of the year.
American Lilia Vu shot a 6 under and was a stroke off the lead, while South Korea’s Na Rin An (67) and American Alison Lee (69) were tied for fifth place at 10 under.
No. 3-ranked Jin Young Ko, a winner two weeks ago in Singapore, had a second-round 65 and was among eight players tied for seventh place at 9 under on the crowded leaderboard.
Maude-Aimee Leblanc of Sherbrooke, Que., is tied for 65th at 3-under.
The event marks the debut of the tour’s new cut policy. The cutline after 36 holes includes the top 65 players and ties advancing to the weekend. Previously, the top 70 players and ties advanced to the final rounds.
The cutline fell at 3 under, with 76 players advancing. Two of the big names missing the cut included three-time major winner Anna Nordqvist of Sweden and two-time major champion Brook Henderson of Canada, both at 1-under.
Shin, looking for her first win since 2016, overcame a sluggish bogey-birdie-par-bogey start to the second round and then went on a birdie tear on Nos. 14 through 18, her front nine, to get to 11 under. She went bogey free on her back nine and added a birdie at the par-4 third hole to get to 12 under.
Shin said she was surprised by unexpected swirling wind at the start of her round, and didn’t immediately realize her string of birdies.
“The bogey on the first hole didn’t help,” the 30-year-old said. “I was like, `Oh, no. Here we go again.’ I stayed calm. I try not to get in my head too much. So I didn’t know I was doing five in a row until I just checked the scorecard. So it’s a good thing that I didn’t know.”
The 26-year-old Szeryk, in her second year on tour after a rookie campaign that included making five cuts in 14 events in 2022, sees being tied for the lead after 36 holes – and whatever follows – as a learning experience.
“It’s so amazing to be back in this position because I love being out here and I’m just so thankful to God to have another opportunity to be out here and to really compete with the best players, she said. “But I’m just on such a high.
“Just really excited for what the weekend has in store. But it was great to see those putts go in and make those birdies coming down the stretch.”
The highlight of Jutanugarn’s round was her eagle at No. 7, where she hit a good drive that finished on the cart path. After a drop, she got a favourable bounce on her second shot that settled on the back of the green, and she made the putt for an eagle 3.
“The next two days just trying to go out and have fun and do what I should do, what is under my control,” the 2013 rookie of the year and two-time tour winner said. “I think, of course, it’s more fun when you feel like you’re in contention.”
Second-ranked Nelly Korda, the highest-ranked player in the field with No. 1 Lydia Ko not competing, followed an opening 70 with a 66 and was among those tied for 15th at 8 under.
Also at 8 under was Yuka Saso, but her route to a tie for 15th was highlighted by her first albatross, when she made a 2 on the 492-yard, par-5 second hole.
Saso used a hybrid from 217 yards out on her second shot and knew the approach was online with the pin.
“I mean, we didn’t really know where it landed and where it finishes, so we were just walking to the green and everyone started clapping,” she said. “But my ball wasn’t on the green so I was like, why are they clapping? Is it over? Why is everyone clapping if it’s not on the green?”
It turns out her playing partner, Sei Young Kim, looked into the hole and let her know it was in.
“It was one of my dreams to get one, but we all know how hard it is to get one,” Saso said. “They say you’re lucky if you ever get one in your golf career. I guess I was very lucky to have it.”