Kupcho leads LPGA Meijer Classic, with Korda 2 strokes back
BELMONT, Mich. (AP) — Jennifer Kupcho opened a two-stroke lead over defending champion Nelly Korda on Friday in the LPGA Meijer Classic, shooting a 5-under 67 in windy conditions for her second straight bogey-free round.
A stroke ahead entering the morning round after a career-best 63 on Thursday afternoon, Kupcho had a 14-under 130 total at wind-swept Blythefield Country Club.
“It’s really windy out here,” Kupcho said. “I don’t recall it being this windy the last couple years, so this is definitely interesting, definitely a challenge. You definitely have to use your brain a lot.”
Korda holed out from 82 yards for eagle on the par-5 14th in a bogey-free 65. She’s making her second start since returning from a four-month break because of a blood clot in her left arm.
“It spun right back into the hole,” Korda said about the eagle. “Not many people saw it. It was that part of the golf course that no one really saw, but it was fun.”
Kupcho won the major tournament at Mission Hills in the California desert in early April for her first LPGA Tour victory. On Friday, she parred the first eight holes, finally breaking through on the par-5 18th.
“I started out not really hitting it great, so was really just trying to stay patient,” Kupcho said. “Couple holes saved par, so I actually got out of the holes pretty well.”
She made it three straight with birdies on the par-4 first and second and added two more on the par-3 fifth and par-5 eighth.
“I didn’t really expect a whole lot coming out here today,” Kupcho said. “Set a pretty low bar for myself, so to come out and play well, it was nice to see.”
The second-ranked Korda tied for eighth two weeks ago in the U.S. Women’s Open in her first event since early February. She also is the defending champion next week in the KPGA Women’s PGA at Congressional.
“There were definitely some numbers I’ve never had into some holes on this golf course,” Korda said about the wind. “I mean, it’s both ways. You have some really short yardages holes and some really long ones, so kind of evens it out. But it’s definitely tougher playing in the wind.”
Carlota Ciganda was third at 11 under after a 65. The Spaniard eagled the par-5 eighth and 18th — hitting downwind 9-iron approaches on each — and also had six birdies and three bogeys. She was 7 under on the five par-5 holes.
“I think the key was that I hit a lot of greens both days, yesterday and today,” Ciganda said. “It’s pretty tricky with the wind.”
Past champions Lexi Thompson and Brooke Henderson were 10 under with Madelene Sagstrom.
Henderson, the ShopRite LPGA Classic winner Sunday in New Jersey and 2017 and 2019 champion at Blythefield, eagled the 18th for the second straight day in a 66. She played alongside Korda.
“Excited for the weekend,” Henderson said. “I have to make some moves tomorrow, but definitely looking forward to the opportunity.”
Thompson, the 2015 winner, matched Sagstrom with a 69.
“Midway through the front nine, I was like, `Can we turn around and start going the other way in the good wind?’” Thompson said “But it was a matter of staying patient and really committing to your lines on those crosswind holes.”
Caroline Masson (68) and Anna Nordqvist (70) were 9 under.
Gerina Mendoza, a stroke back after an opening 64, had a 72 to fall six strokes back at 8 under. Jessica Korda, Nelly’s older sister, also was in the group at 8 under after her second 68.
“Honestly, just trying to keep it in play,” Jessica Korda said. “It was really windy out there.”
U.S. Women’s Open champion Minjee Lee was 7 under after a 69.