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Lydia Ko shoots a 62 to take CME Tour Championship lead

By
The Sports Xchange
Lydia Ko of New Zealand. Photo by Sergei Bachlakov / Shutterstock.com
Lydia Ko of New Zealand. Photo by Sergei Bachlakov / Shutterstock.com

NAPLES, Fla. -- Lydia Ko is going for the three-peat.

The 19-year-old phenom, who has won the LPGA's last two $1 million bonuses, shot a Tiburon Golf Club record 10-under-par 62 on Friday to take a three-shot lead after two rounds of the CME Group Tour Championship.

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The 62 also is Ko's best round of the LPGA season.

Ko, who is at 12-under 132 for two rounds, has built a three-shot margin on American Ryann O'Toole and South Korea's So Yeon Ryu.

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"Yeah, this is a comfortable zone for (Ko)," O'Toole said.

Spain's Beatriz Recari and South Korea's Sei Young Kim are at 8-under.

Action continues through Sunday at the par-72 course designed by Greg Norman. This is the fifth year of the event, and the purse is $2 million.

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Ko, 19, who has made adjustments with her swing and worked with a new person on her bag, had been struggling lately. She finished tied for 43rd, 20th, 51st, 12th, and 43rd in her past five tournaments.

To give her some good mojo as well as a good memory, swing coach David Leadbetter showed her a video of her hole-in-one at the Summer Olympics in Brazil.

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"To see that swing, you know, I was hitting really well at the Olympics," Ko said. "It gave me all the positive thoughts. I hit the ball pretty well yesterday."

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She said Leadbetter then told her, "I think we'll only need a few minutes and we'll be OK."

Ko then proceeded to birdie her first three holes.

"I was going in with really good momentum and I was able to carry that pretty much the rest of my round," she said.

Up and downs at Nos. 4 and 5 kept the momentum going before a birdie at No. 6, and more birdies at 10 and 11.

A bogey at No. 12 only served as a speed bump as Ko closed with birdies on five of her last six holes.

"It was the kind of day where you see the putt (and) it almost feels like, 'Hey, the ball is just going to feed into it," Ko said.

While the $500,000 winner's check and $1 million bonus are big carrots, Ko said she hasn't thought about the possibilities.

"For me to win Player of the Year I need to win this championship," she said. "A lot of things happen with that."

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O'Toole, who'll be paired with Ko for the first time, isn't bothered that she trails by three despite having shot a 67 and 68. For the second day in a row, she put eight approach shots within 20 feet of the hole. She made a 30-foot putt on No. 4.

She says she likes chasing.

"I think if we were in a running match, I think I could outrun her," O'Toole joked. "I'm giving her a head start.

"You see someone up at the top and you go, 'OK, I can do it. I'm not going to let them beat me kind of thing.'"

Encouraging to O'Toole is that she has had a B-plus game so far. Her cuts off drives aren't going as far as she'd like.

"I think it's, 'OK, what can I do better tomorrow?' I definitely every day left some out there. That's a good thing.

"Anything can happen. Three shots is three birdies right off the bat. It's how well I can play the golf course. It's not Sunday tomorrow."

Ryu had four birdies and two bogeys on the front nine, then birdies on No. 14 and 15.

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First-round leader Shanshan Feng of China, who shot a bogey-free 66 Thursday, had bogeys on Nos. 1, 5 and 10 before rallying with birdies on Nos. 15 and 18.

Thailand's Ariya Jutanugarn, challenging Ko in the Race To CME Globe, gave herself a chance after shooting a 68 Friday to go 4-under for the tournament. The hill is much steeper for Canadian Brooke Henderson, who has shot a pair of 72s the first two days.

Defending champion Cristie Kerr sizzled at the start with five birdies in her first 10 holes before playing par golf the rest of the way.

NOTES: At the Thursday night's Rolex LPGA Awards at the Ritz Carlton Golf Resort in Naples, there were eight Rolex first-time winners this year: Ha Na Jang (Coates Golf Championship), Haru Nomura (ISPS Handa Women's Australian Open), Jenny Shin (Volunteers of America Texas Shootout), Ariya Jutanugarn (Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic), Brooke Henderson (KPMG Women's PGA Championship), Caroline Masson (Manulife LPGA Classic), In Gee Chun (The Evian Championship) and Carlota Ciganda (KEB HanaBank Championship).

In Gee Chun also accepted her Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award, which she clinched with six events remaining in the season.

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Karrie Webb was named recipient of the William & Mousie Powell Award, given annually to an LPGA member, who, in the opinion of her playing peers, best exemplifies the spirits, ideals and values of the LPGA by her behavior and deeds. ... Ariya Jutanugarn received the Heather Farr Perseverance Award, which honors an LPGA player who, through her hard work, dedication and love of the game of golf, has demonstrated determination, perseverance and spirit in fulfilling her goals as a player.

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