March 21, 2023

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Top-ranked Ko shares Los Angeles LPGA lead with Hataoka

Top-ranked Ko shares Los Angeles LPGA lead with Hataoka

World number one Ko Jin-young fired eight birdies in a seven-under par 64 on Friday to grab a share of the second-round lead alongside Japan’s Nasa Hataoka in the LPGA’s Los Angeles Open.

Ko, aiming to bounce back from a disappointing finish in the first major of the year at Rancho Mirage two weeks ago, reeled off four birdies in a row from the 11th through the 14th at Wilshire Country Club to power up the leaderboard.

She shot a seven-under 135, tied with Hataoka, whose three-under 67 included birdies on her last three holes.

“My putting was so good today,” Ko said. “I wasn’t expecting to play really well today, because in the afternoon it’s always hard to play this course. But my putting was good, so I’m happy with it.”

Ko, who added her fifth back-nine birdie on the 17th, said she didn’t even realize she’d played the back nine in five-under.

“I didn’t know that, I was in the zone,” she said.

The 26-year-old South Korean, who won five times last year and added her 13th LPGA title in Singapore last month, is coming off a disappointing share of 53rd at the Chevron Championship.

“I have two more rounds and nobody knows how it goes,” she said. “So (I’m) working hard and focusing on it and go get it.”

Hataoka, chasing her sixth LPGA title, said the breezy weather again made things tricky.

“The wind was pretty strong,” she said. “The greens are pretty tight, narrow. So my plan was to hit the green, not try to be too aggressive.

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“On the back nine, the wind kind of got weaker, so I was able to hit at the pin.”

Australia’s Hannah Green was two strokes back after a 67 for five-under 137.

Fellow Australian Minjee Lee carded a 68 for a share of fourth on 138 alongside South Korea’s Kang Hae-ji, who posted a 69.

Overnight leader Alison Lee carded a three-over 74 that dropped her into a tie for 10th.

Eighteen players were still on the course when darkness halted play. They will complete their rounds on Saturday.

Defending champion Brooke Henderson of Canada was in danger of missing the cut after following her first-round 76 with a one-over par 72.