South Korea’s Kim Sei-young, seeking her first major title, birdied five of her last six holes to seize a one-stroke lead after Friday’s second round of the Women’s PGA Championship.
The 27-year-old from Seoul fired a five-under par 65, including an event record-tying 29 for the front nine, to stand on four-under 136 after 36 holes at Aronimink in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania.
“Just strategizing to attack the greens. I’d try to land it a little short so I can have some release, but it really helped me out,” Kim said.
“I tried to focus on my game. Honestly I didn’t look at the leaderboard. I was in a good momentum so I just wanted to ride on that.”
Seventh-ranked Kim has had six top-five major finishes without a victory, her closest calls being a runner-up finish at the 2015 Women’s PGA and a share of second at the 2018 Evian Championship.
Asked if she felt ready for a major win, Kim said, “It’s always my goal.”
Lurking one stroke off the pace were Spain’s Carlota Ciganda, Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist and Americans Danielle Kang and Jennifer Kupcho.
Kim began on the back nine and made bogeys at 11 and 12 to stumble back, but she answered with a birdie at the par-5 16th, then opened and closed the front nine with birdies around a run of four consecutive birdies starting with a 30-foot putt at the par-4 fourth.
– finishing strong –
“That really helped me with momentum and finishing strong,” Kim said.
“The wind fluctuated on the back nine, so I struggled with my iron game, but when we entered the front nine, the wind slowed down and it was easier to attack with my irons.
“I made a few three-putts, which I regret, but overall I had a good round.”
Kupcho, who also fired a 65, was second to England’s Mel Reid last week in Atlantic City. She returned to the irons that made her a college star but admits she didn’t feel ready to push for her first LPGA title.
“Going into last week, I was not prepared. I felt completely unprepared, and honestly, I felt the same way coming into this week,” Kupcho said.
“Not being prepared brings another challenge for me, and I think that’s what helps me play well, just not feeling comfortable with the course.”
Third-ranked Kang answered a bogey at the fourth with a birdie at the par-3 fifth, then followed a bogey at the par-3 eighth with a birdie at the par-4 12th and birdied the par-5 16th to match the leaders.
“There are a lot of opportunities that I gave myself but I didn’t capitalize on them,” Kang said. “But I made some good up-and-downs and some good birdies. It’s always good to shoot in the 60s.”
Ciganda, another back-nine starter, birdied the par-4 12th from 20 feet and tapped in to birdie the par-5 16th but stumbled back to the pack with a bogey at the par-4 fourth.
“The game felt good. I played very solid,” she said. “I had a good three, four chances at the end that I didn’t make, but I think I am where I want to be for the weekend and very happy with the result.”
Nordqvist followed birdies at the second and ninth holes with bogeys at the fifth and 10th, then surged late with birdies at the par-3 14th and 16 to join the lead group.
World number two Nelly Korda of the United States withdrew after an opening 71 due to a back injury. South Korean Lee Mi-rim withdrew with an injury after nine holes Friday.