Australian star Minjee Lee seized a 36-hole lead at the lone LPGA tournament in South Korea on Friday.
Lee, born in Perth to Korean parents, shot a three-under 69 to reach 11-under at the BMW Ladies Championship at Seowon Hills at Seowon Valley Country Club in Paju, northwest of Seoul in Gyeonggi Province.
Lee, who counts two majors among her nine LPGA titles, recorded four birdies against one bogey. She sits two strokes ahead of Alison Lee of the United States and Ashleigh Buhai of South Africa.
Minjee Lee said her experience of battling for titles on weekends should help her this week.
"It's always nice to be at the top of the leaderboard. Obviously, contending is always my goal every week. I just feel like I kind of know what to do now in that situation," she said.
"My motto is always play my game and do whatever I can control. So I'm just going to take one shot at a time. And if the wind blows again like today, I think that's really, really important. So I'm just going to go out there and try and have as much fun as possible."
As for the prospects of winning in the land of her parents' birth, Lee said: "I have a really deep heritage here. So I always love coming back and playing. Hopefully, I can have a great weekend."
Two South Koreans, Lee Jeong-eun and Ryu Hae-ran, are another shot back in a tie for fourth place, along with defending champion Lydia Ko. Lee Jeong-eun matched two Americans, Angel Yin and Nelly Korda, for the low round of the day at 68.
Lee Jeong-eun and Ryu are the only South Korean players inside the top 10.
In windier and cooler conditions Friday, birdies were much harder to come by Friday compared with the previous day, when Buhai jumped to the top of the leaderboard with a 10-under 62.
Buhai followed that excellent round with 73 on Friday, after making four bogeys over her final six holes. Alison Lee opened with 63 but shot 72 in the second round, trading two birdies with two bogeys.
Alison Lee said she was "obviously a little disappointed" to shoot an even par round Friday and rued some wasted birdie opportunities.
"I feel like I could have played so much better than even (par)," Lee, born in Los Angeles to Korean parents, said. "But still so much golf left. And I feel like I'm hitting the ball really well. So hopefully I could just continue that on into the weekend and make a few more putts."
Only eight out of 77 players in the field broke 70 in the second round, while Anna Nordqvist of Sweden withdrew after one round.
The US$2.2 million tournament is the only LPGA stop in South Korea each fall. The winner will take home $330,000. (Yonhap)