Denmark’s Emily Kristine Pederson shot a five-under 65 to seize a two-stroke lead at The Annika tournament on Friday.
Pederson, on 12 under overall, leads Japan’s Minami Katsu, with Jasmine Suwannapura of Thailand three shots off the lead.
South Africa’s Ashleigh Buhai is two under (T45) after carding 68 on Friday, while countrywomen Paula Reto (even par) missed the cut.
The event was rebranded this year to be named for Swedish legend Annika Sorenstam, who won 72 LPGA Tour titles, including 10 Major crowns.
And, heading a strong field, Pederson has a chance to become the first Scandinavian to win the event at Belleair, Florida.
The 27-year-old from Copenhagen had an eventful round at the Pelican Golf Club, with eight birdies and three bogeys.
Pederson, who grabbed attention with only the second hole-in-one in Solheim Cup history in September in helping Europe retain their title, again showed her ability to rise to the big occasion.
“I think maybe when the gun is to my head a little bit it sharpens my focus and I can’t think too far ahead, about what’s happened in the past and what’s going to happen,” she said.
“I can think a little bit more about what is right in front of me. When I get nervous I try to break my day down and break the holes down and I think that’s maybe what helps me.”
Pederson, whose six professional wins have all come in Europe, said she had been impacted by increased wind on the back nine.
“I started really well, five under on the front nine. Holed some good putts … I had a few good rolls to start with.
“Then I think it got a little bit more windy out there and my back nine was not as I hoped. I hit a few uncommitted golf shots that I’m a little bit mad at myself about – that happens.
Hopefully I can commit a bit more tomorrow and keep it going on the whole round,” she said.
Katsu, an eight-time winner on the LPGA Japan Tour, made five birdies but was slightly undone by bogeys on the par-four eighth and 16th.
Suwannapura, searching for her third win on the LPGA Tour, got in trouble with bogeys on the 11th and 12th but delivered three birdies on the last six holes to card a five-under 65.
American Nelly Korda, the reigning Olympic champion, is seeking to win the tournament for a third consecutive year but trails by seven strokes after a two-under 68.
Her compatriot Lindy Duncan was one of six players tied four strokes off the lead after shooting 65.
France’s third-ranked Celine Boutier, a four-time LPGA Tour winner this season who came into the event as leader in the fight for the LPGA Player of the Year award, missed the cut after a two-over 72 left her on even par.
© Agence France-Presse
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