Japan’s Hinako Shibuno fired seven birdies in a six-under-par 66 to seize a one-shot second-round lead on Friday in the Chevron Championship.
In calm morning conditions, Shibuno tapped in for birdie at the par-four 1st, one of her five birdies on the front nine.
She opened the back nine with another short birdie at the 10th.
“That makes it easier to play golf,” said the 23-year-old, who added another birdie at the 13th before closing with five straight pars for a nine-under total of 135.
The 2019 Women’s Open champion was one stroke in front of a trio of players that included defending champion Patty Tavatanakit of Thailand, along with American Annie Park and overnight co-leader Michelle Kupcho.
Patty, whose dominant victory in 2021 helped propel her to Rookie of the Year honours, finished with back-to-back birdies in her three under 69.
She was pleased with the finish on a day when she said she left a few shots on the course.
“I think 17 was definitely a bonus,” Patty said after rolling in a 20-foot birdie putt at the par-three penultimate hole. “That pin position was just taking it one shot at a time, and it ended up being a great shot.”
She missed the green at the par-five 18th, but chipped within three feet for another birdie, noting that it’s “always a cheery feeling” to make a birdie at the last.
At the weekend, Patty will be chasing a rare title defence. Only two players – Sandra Post in 1978-79 and Swedish great Annika Sorenstam in 2001-02 – have won at Mission Hills in consecutive years.
She’ll be the last player to have a chance at back-to-back leaps into Poppie’s Pond – the traditional victor’s celebration at Mission Hills in the California desert east of Los Angeles.
The prestigious Major championship, renamed with a new sponsor this year, is being held on the Dinah Shore course for the last time, before a move to Houston next year.
Park played on her own for the second straight day as the odd woman out in a 115-player field grouped in twosomes.
“Playing by myself was kind of weird yesterday, but today I kind of got used to it,” Park said after a five-under-par 67. “I think when I made the turn and started waiting on players in the group in front of me, kind of just started to feel like normal golf.
“Just overall it was a great day and I feel a lot better about my long game,” added the American, who has never finished inside the top 15 in 23 prior Major championship starts.
“I’ve been putting a lot better. Made some really good putts out there. Did leave some out there, but overall I’m stroking it pretty solid.”
Kupcho started the day tied for the lead alongside Australian Minjee Lee. Patience was the key to her two under 70, in which she didn’t make a birdie until her 16th hole of the day, the 7th.
She added another birdie at the 9th to cap her round and claim a share of second.
Lee, meanwhile, carded a one over 73 to fall into a group on 139.
World No 1 Ko Jin-young, however, moved up the leaderboard after a surprising two over 74 on Thursday.
Ko, winner of six of her last 12 events, saw her streak of 34 consecutive LPGA rounds under par come to an end.
In danger of missing the cut, she responded Friday with a four-under-par 68 that left her tied for 29th.
© Agence France-Presse