Australia’s Minjee Lee matched her career low with a nine-under-par 63 to seize a three-stroke lead after Friday’s second round of the Founders Cup.
The world No 5 stood on 14 under 130 after 36 holes at Upper Montclair Country Club in Clifton, New Jersey.
The 25-year-old needed only 23 putts and fired eight birdies and an eagle against a lone bogey to surge ahead of 18-hole leader Madelene Sagstrom of Sweden and Americans Ally Ewing and Lexi Thompson on 133.
“I go pretty much shot by shot and not get too far ahead of myself. When I had a putt I tried to hole it. When I had a shot I tried to hit it close,” Lee said.
“Hitting it close really helps you, really just frees you up. Even with the short putts, it’s like a little confidence boost.
“I did hole a few long birdie putts as well, so that was nice, to keep the momentum going.”
Lee seeks her seventh career LPGA Tour victory and the first since taking her first Major crown last year at the Evian Championship in France. She shared second in Singapore in March and third in April in Los Angeles.
“Maybe this will be the first one [in 2022] and it’ll kickstart the rest of the year,” Lee said. “I’m just going to go in with the same mindset, just go shot by shot.
“I’ll just be pretty aggressive I think and just do my best.”
Lee led the field in strokes gained tee to green, something she attributed to greater short-game belief.
“Over the years I’ve gotten a lot more confidence in my iron play,” Lee said. “I’m really dialled in.
“I’ve been trying to work on my putting a little bit. I have a little bit more work to do, but been going pretty well.
“If you’re hitting it well it also frees you up to putt better, too.”
Lee opened with back-to-back birdies and added another set at the par-four 5th and par-three 6th.
“I just tried to take all my good play from the front nine into the back nine,” Lee said.
She began the back nine with back-to-back birdies and followed with an eagle at the par-five 12th.
“I was just riding momentum pretty much,” Lee said. “That was really nice.”
Birdies at the par-five 14th and par-three 15th had the Aussie within reach of a 59, but she said she didn’t realise that as she made bogey at 16 and finished with consecutive pars.
“I thought it was going to be like 10 under the winning score,” Lee said. “We’ve already exceeded that.”
Thompson fired six birdies in a bogey-free round of 66 while Sagstrom closed with a birdie to shoot 70 and Ewing made six birdies in eight holes from the 7th to 14th but took her lone bogey at the par-three 17th and fired a 66.
© Agence France-Presse