For the first time in her young career, two-time Epson Tour winner Lucy Li will sleep on the lead at an LPGA Tour event. After a sensational 7-under 64, which tied a career-low she first set earlier this season at the Honda LPGA Thailand playing as a sponsor invite, Li jumped into the top spot on the Dana Open presented by Marathon leaderboard at -10 overall and leads the field by two.
“Definitely being able to go two rounds bogey-free, I don't think I've done that in really, really long time, or maybe ever, so that's really a great confidence booster,” said Li, who only needed 25 putts to get around Highland Meadows Golf Club.
Li, who earned her way into this week’s field with her tie for ninth finish at the CP Women’s Open, is the only one in the field to be bogey-free through 36 holes in Sylvania. Starting the day on No. 10, her first birdie came on her third hole, No. 12, and from there she notched four more before the turn, including three straight on Nos. 14-16. Li added two more in her last seven holes, giving a lot of credit to some crucial par saves on her back nine that helped her maintain the lead ahead of the weekend.
“I've been working on my short game a lot, so just being able to save those pars gives me a lot of confidence in what I'm doing just in general,” said Li. The 19-year-old, who clinched her 2023 LPGA Tour card via the Epson Tour with her wins at the Carolina Golf Classic and Twin Bridges Championship along with four additional top-10 finishes, could become an LPGA Member immediately with a win on Sunday. Li said she’ll use her experience from this past year to her advantage as she heads into Moving Day.
“Definitely having those two wins on the Epson Tour gives me that confidence knowing I can play well coming down the stretch. I think it's just really important to treat every day the same, no matter what position you're in,” said Li. “That's like number one key for me.”
Chasing her at -8 and in a tie for second are 2022 Tour rookie Ruoning Yin and two-time LPGA Tour winner Carlota Ciganda. Both shot 2-under 69s, with Yin’s two-day total of 134 besting her previous 36-hole record by six shots. Ciganda’s only bogey of the event came on No. 5, but her third birdie of the day on No. 9 helped even out the over-par hole.
“I thought the greens were a little slower than yesterday, so my putting wasn't as good. I was a little short compared to yesterday,” said Ciganda. “But overall, I played good. I had a couple good saves. Gave myself some chances. I would have liked a couple more birdies, but I think I am in a good position coming into the weekend.”
Five players sit in a tie for fourth at -7, including defending champion Nasa Hataoka, who carded a five-under 66 in round two. She got off to a less than ideal start with a bogey on her second hole (No. 11) and a lone birdie on 17 but was firing on all cylinders on her final nine holes, carding five birdies to close out just three shots back of Li’s lead. “To be honest, not my best condition,” said Hataoka. “But playing on this very narrow course I think I was able to play - my management was good today, so I think that really helped my game.”
Major champion Hannah Green is among seven players tied for ninth. Starting the day in a tie for 124th, Green fired the lowest round of the week thus far, a bogey-free 62 that saw her make nine birdies. There were 75 players who made the cut at -1, including #LPGAMom Azahara Munoz on the number in her first event back since giving birth to her son, Lucas, this past February.