(Reuters) – Shanshan Feng put herself in a prime position for a successful title defense at the LPGA’s TOTO Japan Classic after grabbing the sole lead with a stellar second round of nine-under-par 63 on Saturday.
The Chinese came into the tournament with top-seven finishes in the five of her last six starts and, wielding a hot putter, continued that imperious form to lead Japan’s Ai Suzuki by two shots after a bogey-free second round.
Feng was part of a seven-way tie at the top after the opening round in Ibaraki and the 28-year-old broke loose early on Saturday, birdying five of her opening seven holes in a spectacular front nine.
“I did not use my 5-iron much today. I think what was working was my putting today,” Feng said of her scintillating front nine.
“The first three holes, those birdies were not very short,” she smiled. “After that, I just kept that good putting going on and finished nine-under.”
The Rio Olympics bronze medalist eagled the par-five 12th and picked up two more shots in her spotless round to move to 15-under for the tournament.
Overnight joint leader Suzuki made a slow start but had a spectacular back nine – picking up six shots in a seven-hole burst – to card a 65 and stay three shots clear of England’s Charley Hull (64) and Min-Young Lee of South Korea (68).
Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist, who has won twice on the LPGA Tour this year, was a further shot behind in a share of fifth after shooting a 68.
(Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; editing by Nick Mulvenney)