Jennifer Kupcho warmed up late on the way to a five-under-par 67 that gave her a two-shot lead over defending champion Nelly Korda in Friday’s second round of the Meijer LPGA Classic in Michigan.
Kupcho, who torched the Blythefield Country Club course near Grand Rapids on Thursday for a nine-under-par 63, said she didn’t expect things to be so easy on Friday.
So she stayed patient through eight opening pars, a run that ended with a birdie at the 18th before she picked up four more birdies in her last nine holes for a 14-under par total of 130.
“I started out not hitting it great, was really just trying to stay patient,” Kupcho said. “Couple of holes (I) saved par, so I actually got out of the holes pretty well.”
She said an up and down for par at 17 “really boosted my confidence for the rest of the round.”
She followed with birdies at the first, second, fifth and eighth to stay atop the leaderboard as Korda, playing her second tournament since returning from a four-month break because of a blood clot in her left arm, gained ground with a seven-under -par 65.
Korda, ranked second in the world behind South Korean Ko Jin-young, also teed off on 10, opening with a birdie.
Her shot of the day came at the 14th, where she was in the rough off the tee and laid up, then saw her shot from about 82 yards out hit the green and spin back into the cup for an eagle.
“It was fun,” Korda said, her only sight regret the fact that it came on a part of the course with few spectators.
Korda added birdies at the 17th and 18th and the third and fifth holes in a bogey-free effort that put her on 12-under 132.
“Hopefully I can put together a solid 36 holes over the weekend and we’ll see what happens,” said the American, who is also the defending champion at next week’s Women’s PGA Championship at Congressional near Washington.
For the second straight day, gusty winds made for tricky conditions, but Korda and Kupcho both said they liked the challenge.
“The creativity comes out,” said Korda, as Kupcho added: “You definitely have to use your brain a lot.”
Carlota Ciganda was alone in third on 11-under 133 after a roller-coaster of a seven-under 65.
The Spaniard, a five-time winner on the Ladies European Tour who claimed both of her LPGA titles in 2016, had two eagles, six birdies and three bogeys.
It left her a stroke in front of a trio sharing fourth — Canadian Brooke Henderson, American Lexi Thompson and Sweden’s Madelene Sagstrom.