Taiwan’s Yani Tseng moved closer to becoming world No. 1 as American Stacy Lewis and local Kristie Smith shared the halfway lead in the Australian Ladies’ Masters at Royal Pines yesterday.
Lewis (67-65) and Smith (67-65) shared the lead on 12-under 132 after 36 holes with Tseng (67-66) hovering just one shot away on 11-under.
Tseng, having jumped from fifth to second in the world rankings following her seven-shot victory in last weekend’s Australian Open in Melbourne, will edge past South Korea’s Shin Ji-yai into the top ranking if she wins tomorrow.
Tseng, 22, battled putting frustrations, but still managed to walk off the course with a six-under round.
“I feel like I should have shot 10-under,” said Tseng, after finishing off yesterday’s round with her sixth birdie.
“I don’t know if it was my stroke or my head. It was very stressful,” she said. “All my birdies came on the par-fives, I had some eagle chances.”
Lewis, who posted two top-three finishes in the US last year, said the key to Royal Pines was putting.
The 25-year-old, who plays with a steel rod and five pins and screws in her back after spinal surgery a few years ago, has had 10 birdies and an eagle in 36 holes, without dropping a shot.
Smith, the daughter of former professional Wayne Smith had five birdies and an eagle to join Lewis at the top of the leaderboard.
A powerful hitter, Smith cashed in on the calm conditions with birdies on three of the four par-fives, and eagled on the other.
Smith holds the European Tour record of 12 birdies in a single round and believes she has an advantage at Royal Pines because she can reach the par fives in two.
Australia’s seven-time Masters winner Karrie Webb struggled to back up her opening 66 with a second round 71 and was joint 25th.
The day’s best round belonged to American Mollie Fankhauser, who had nine birdies on her way to a round of 63.
Other players well in contention at the halfway mark included England’s Melissa Reid (67-67), South Korea’s Ahn Shin-Ae (67-67), Spaniard Maria Hernandez (66-68) and three-time winner Laura Davies (69-67) of England.