Lydia Ko consolidated her lead at the halfway mark of the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship after shooting the day’s best score of 66.
The 25-year-old turned a one-shot lead into a five-shot edge as she also chased down the two-million-dollar (£1.6million) prize for LPGA Tour player of the year.
Lydia Ko making golf look easy.
She's now 12-under in Florida.
— LPGA (@LPGA) November 18, 2022
The New Zealander was five strokes ahead of South Korea’s Hyo Joo Jim at 13 under at Tiburon Golf Club in Naples, Florida, on a day where she collected four birdies during a six-hole run.
“I think I stayed really patient out there today. Obviously not bogeying the first was a better start than yesterday,” said the New Zealander. “But, with the wind direction being pretty similar and the strength being similar, I felt like I already knew going into the day that it could be tricky, but at the same time because I played really solid on the back nine, I knew that if I did make any mistakes, there were birdie-able holes coming in.”
This is the eighteen-time LPGA Tour winner's 11th time holding the 36-hole lead on Tour. She went on to win four of those events, including this past February at the Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio. A victory would earn Ko her second Rolex Player of the Year honors, second consecutive Vare Trophy and a $2 million winner’s check, the largest in women’s golf, but she said she is focused on just playing footloose and fancy-free with two rounds left.
“That's kind of the goal for me this week is to not let one hole or one shot phase me. This is the last tournament of the season. It's my ninth year on Tour, so I want to finish the season well and also just want to finish it without any regrets,” said Ko. “You know, just playing freely out there. I think that's a big key for me.”
The second round was played the same day the Tour announced LPGA players will compete for a record 101.4million US dollars (£85million) next season.
Hyo Joo Kim lies in solo second place at 8-under, after carding a 69. She has recorded four top-five finishes in her past eight events, dating back to the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. Kim will play in the final group with friend Ko on Saturday.
“I think when I play with someone who I'm close to, it will definitely be more fun,” said Kim. “And if I'm playing with a player who is playing well, I think I can follow that rhythm and also play well. So hopefully that's going to be the case tomorrow.”
Four players sit are tied in third place at 7-under, including World No. 1 Nelly Korda.
.@NellyKorda's rankings off-the-tee this season 👀
— LPGA (@LPGA) November 18, 2022
“I've played in windier conditions. I've played in British where it's been tougher where you can't even get the ball in the air because it just takes it a mile,” said the Florida native. “Over the years you play in these conditions, the more you learn. I've grown up out here, so yeah.”
Ireland’s Leona Maguire shot a second-straight 69 to be seven off the pace at six under, saying of the leader: “Lydia is Lydia.”
“I’m sure she’s going to keep going, so ultimately try and shoot as low as we can over the weekend and see what happens,” the 27-year-old added.
England’s Jodi Ewart Shadoff was at five under, followed a shot back by countrywoman Georgia Hall while Charley Hull had a double-bogey and six bogeys for her 78 to be at five over at the bottom of the leaderboard.
Defending champion Jin Young Ko is tied for 49th at 4-over after a 3-over 75 on Friday, in a round that included two double bogeys on No. 2 and 15.