Australia’s Minjee Lee matched her career-low with a nine-under-par 63 to seize a three-stroke lead late in Friday’s second round of the LPGA Founders Cup.
World number five Lee stood on 14-under 130 after 36 holes at Upper Montclair Country Club in Clifton, New Jersey.
The 25-year-old needed only 23 putts and fired eight birdies and an eagle against a lone birdie to surge ahead of 18-hole leader Madelene Sagstrom of Sweden along with Americans Lexi Thompson and Ally Ewing, all on 133.
“I go pretty much shot by shot and not get too far ahead of myself. When I had a putt I tried to hole it. When I had a shot I tried to hit it close,” Lee said.
“Hitting it close really helps you, really just frees you up. Even with the short putts it’s just like a little more confidence boost.
“I did hole a few long birdie putts as well, so that was nice, to keep the momentum going as well.”
Lee seeks her seventh career LPGA victory and the first since taking her first major crown last year at the Evian Championship in France. She shared a second at Singapore in March and a third in April at Los Angeles.
“Maybe this will be the first one (in 2022) and it’ll kick start the rest of the year,” Lee said. “I’m just going to go in with the same mindset, just go shot by shot.
“I’ll just be pretty aggressive I think and just do my best.”
Lee led the field in strokes gained tee to green, something she attributed to greater short game belief.
“Over the years I’ve gotten a lot more confidence in my iron play,” Lee said. “I’m really dialed in.
“I’ve been trying to work on my putting a little bit. I have a little bit more work to do, but been going pretty good.
“If you’re hitting it good it also frees you up to putt better, too.”
Lee opened with back-to-back birdies and added another set at the par-4 fifth and par-3 sixth.
“I just tried to take all my good play from the front nine into the back nine,” Lee said.
She began the back nine with back-to-back birdies and followed with an eagle at the par-5 12th.
“I was just riding momentum pretty much,” Lee said. “That was really nice.”
Birdies at the par-5 14th and par-3 15th had the Aussie within reach of a 59, but she said she didn’t realize that as she made bogey at 16 and finished with consecutive pars.
“I thought it was going to be like 10-under the winning score,” Lee said. “We’ve already exceeded that.”