The only thing missing from Minjee Lee’s resume this year is a win and the LPGA Tour’s top scorer took a big step towards that in the second round of the Cognizant Founders Cup.
Lee flirted with the fastest lap on the tour this season before settling for a 9-under 63 and a three-stroke lead Friday halfway through the event that honors the 13 founding members of the women’s tour. . The Australian had a total of 14 under 130 at Upper Montclair Country Club.
“Hitting close really helps you, just like I said before, really frees you up,” said Lee, who has twice top-five finishes in six events. “Even with the short putts, it’s just like a little more confidence.”
First lap leader Madelene Sagstrom, Lexi Thompson and Ally Ewing tied for second after the lap played under cloudy skies with sporadic light rain within 10 miles of New York. Sagstrom had a 70, while Thompson and Ewing had 66 finishing at 11 under.
Lee came in at 10 under with three holes to play but missed the 16th and failed to tie the tour low round of 62 by Yuka Saso of Japan at the Honda event in Thailand.
Lee, who started the week averaging 69.167 points, tied for second at the HSBC Women’s World Championship in March and tied for third at the Los Angeles Open last month.
“Maybe it will be the first and kick off the rest of the year,” she said.
Sagstrom, who had a 63 on Thursday, got off to a slow start trying to come back down.
“A lot of things can happen,” Sagstrom said. “A lot of things can happen to the golf course, the way it is laid out and all that. So giving myself a chance is all I can about myself, and my best today was 2 cents, so I was really happy.
Thompson, 27, has won 11 LPGA titles, including a major, but hasn’t won on tour since the ShopRite Classic in New Jersey three years ago.
She was not happy to be asked about the drought.
“The talent here is truly amazing. I mean, it’s hard to win,” she said. “All I can do is control my emotions and the hard work I put into it, and I know how much work I put into it, so if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. This is not the end of my life.
Ewing, who missed the cut in three of seven events, said she tends to start the season slowly. She had a bogey and seven birdies, including four on her first five holes.
“It’s exciting to see my game trending, and overall I’m looking forward to the weekend and hopefully I can continue to produce the same results,” said Ewing, who won twice on tour.
Sanna Nuutinen, a 31-year-old Finn playing her first season on the LPGA Tour, had a 68 and was only fifth at 135.
Carlota Ciganda, Paula Reto and Megan Khang, who was one shot behind Sagstrom after the first round, were tied at 136.
Nasa Hataoka, who had a first-round 65, had a 73 and was in a big group at 6 under, one shot ahead of two-time defending champion and No. 1 ranked Jin Young Ko of South Korea, who had in another big group at 5 under after a second round of 70.
Anna Davis, the 16-year-old who won the recent Augusta National Women’s Amateur, made her second straight cut while playing on a sponsor’s exemption. She was 140 after two consecutive 70s.
Eighty out of 144 players made the cut at 1 under. Absentees included Marina Alex, the New Jersey native who won in Palos Verdes last month, Solheim Cup captain Stacy Lewis and Ireland’s Leona Maguire, who won this year’s LPGA Drive On Championship.
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