Leona Maguire will need something special if she is to shoot her way back into contention at the CME Group Tour Championship.
Maguire followed up her opening 68 with a second round of 71 to move to five-under-par but she lost ground on the leaders, falling nine shots adrift of Alison Lee and Nasa Hataoka in Tiburon.
Lee carded a second round of 65 to join Hataoka on fourteen-under. This is the first time since the 2015 Meijer LPGA Classic that the UCLA graduate has been in the lead after the second round, but she is not unfamiliar with being in the first-place position as of late. Lee has made headlines recently for tying with Minjee Lee at the BMW Ladies Championship, where she ultimately lost to the Aussie after a one-hole playoff.
After a bogey-free 66 on Thursday, Lee was sitting in a tie for fifth place headed into the second round. She quickly rose on the leaderboard, making back-to-back birdies on her first two holes of the day. On the par-4 4th, Lee made her first of three pars on the front nine before making a birdie on No. 4 that would then be balanced out with her sole bogey of the day on the 6th. The American made another pair of birdies on holes 6 and 7. Her last two holes on the front nine would be pars, and she continued to cruise at four-under par for the day until the par-5 14th hole. Lee made two more sets of back-to-back birdies in her last five holes to finish at eight-under par for the second round, and sit at 14-under par for the tournament.
“Over the last few weeks, putting myself in contention, playing four rounds of really good golf, and almost winning a few times, it’s definitely ignited a fire in me. Definitely given me a lot more motivation to work hard, and it’s shown me that I do still have what it takes to win out here,” said Lee. “That’s definitely the goal for this week. I mean, my last through finishes were second, first, second, and I really want that win really bad. I feel like I’ve been waiting so long. I’ve been working so hard for that. Yeah, still a lot of golf left. Hopefully I can keep my head down and keep grinding through to the weekend.”
One of the first-round leaders, Hataoka maintained her spot in first place after another round at Tiburón Golf Club. The Japanese player is again the second-round co-leader for the first time since the TOTO Japan Classic at the start of November. Her round got off to a slow start, making two pars and a bogey in her first three holes to fall a shot. Her bogey would be balanced out two holes later by a birdie on the par-4 4th hole before she would hit a string of pars until No. 9, where she made her second birdie of the day. Hataoka made the turn at one-under par, and would head into a back nine that would include just three pars, five birdies and one bogey. The Olympian made three birdies in her first five holes on the back nine, including Nos. 10, 12 and 14. She capped off her round with a pair of birdies on holes 17 and 18 to move into a share of the lead alongside Lee.
“On 17 of course I was trying to make a birdie, but it was tough chip shot from the left of the green. It was big break for me, but I hit a good chip shot and I made a good putt,” said Hataoka. “The 18th hole, I hit it okay, but my putting was really good, about like 30 feet.”
Three players sit in a tie for third behind the leaders including Amy Yang, M. Lee and Ruoning Yin. Yang had the round of the day, shooting the only 63 on Friday and tying her lowest 36-hole score that she previously set at the 2018 CPKC Women’s Open. Minjee Lee carded a 67 like Hataoka, recording her best 36-hole score since the first time she played at the event in 2015. 2023 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship winner, Yin shot a 68 with five birdies and one bogey in her first appearance at the CME Group Tour Championship.