Jennifer Kupcho leads LPGA Meijer Classic, with Nelly Korda 2 strokes back

Jennifer Kupcho leads LPGA Meijer Classic, with Nelly Korda 2 strokes back

Jennifer Kupcho leads LPGA Meijer Classic, with Nelly Korda 2 strokes back

BELMONT, Mich. – Jennifer Kupcho opened a two-stroke lead over defending champion Nelly Korda in the LPGA Meijer Classic on Friday, shooting a 5-under67 in windy conditions for her second straight bogey-free round.

Leading the morning round by a stroke after a career-best 63 on Thursday afternoon, Kupcho had a total of 14 under 130 at the breezy Blythefield Country Club.

“It’s really windy here,” Kupcho said. “I don’t remember it being so windy in recent years, so this is definitely interesting, definitely a challenge. You definitely have to use your brain a lot.”

Korda struck 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 hiatus due to a blood clot in her left arm.

“He turned right back into the hole,” Korda said of 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 Mission Hills major tournament in the California desert in early April for her first LPGA Tour win. On Friday, she parried the first eight holes and finally broke through on the par-5 18th.

“I wasn’t really starting to make it great, so I was just trying to be patient,” Kupcho said. “A couple of holes saved par, so I actually came out of the holes pretty good.”

She made three in a row 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 much to come out of this today,” Kupcho said. “I set myself a pretty low bar, so to play well it was nice to see.”

Full-field scores of the Meijer LPGA Classic

Second-ranked Korda finished eighth in the US Women’s Open two weeks ago in her first event since early February. She is also the defending champion next week in the KPGA Women’s PGA at Congressional.

“There were definitely some numbers that I’ve never had in some holes on this course,” Korda said of the wind. “I mean, it’s both ways. You have some really short holes with distance and some really long ones so it kind of evens it out. But it’s definitely harder to play in the wind.”

Carlota Ciganda was third with 11 under on a 65. The Spaniard made the par-5 eighth and 18th – hitting 9-iron approaches into the wind 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 hitting a lot of greens both days, yesterday and today,” said Ciganda. “It’s quite difficult with the wind.”

Past champions Lexi Thompson and Brooke Henderson were 10 under with Madelene Sagstrom.

Henderson, the ShopRite LPGA Classic winner on Sunday in New Jersey and 2017 and 2019 champion in Blythefield, took 18th for the second straight day in a 66. She played alongside Korda.

“I’m excited for the weekend,” Henderson said. “I have to take some steps tomorrow, but I’m definitely looking forward to the opportunity.”

Thompson, the 2015 winner, matched Sagstrom with a 69.

“Halfway through the front nine I was like, ‘Can we turn around and go the other way with the good wind?’” Thompson said, “But it was a matter of being patient and really committing to your lines on those crosswind holes .”

Caroline Masson (68) and Anna Nordqvist (70) were 9th under.

Gerina Mendoza, one stroke back after opening 64, had a 72 to fall back six strokes to 8 under. Jessica Korda, Nelly’s older sister, was also in the group at 8 below after her second 68.

“Honestly, I’m just trying to keep it in the game,” Jessica Korda said. “It was really windy there.”

US Women’s Open champion Minjee Lee was 7 under on a 69.