Ko and Kemp share lead at LPGA Founders Cup

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South Korea's Ko Jin-young grabbed a share of the lead after the second round of the LPGA Founders Cup
South Korea's Ko Jin-young grabbed a share of the lead after the second round of the LPGA Founders Cup

Third-ranked Ko Jin-young fired a bogey-free four-under par 68 to seize a share of the lead with Australia's Sarah Kemp after Friday's second round of the LPGA Founders Cup.

The two-time LPGA Player of the Year from South Korea stood alongside Kemp on eight-under 136 after 36 holes at Upper Montclair Country Club in Clifton, New Jersey.

"It was awesome. I had a great round," Ko said. I tried to make a bogey-free round and I made it."

Ko, a two-time major champion, seeks her 15th career LPGA title and second of the year after defending her title at Singapore in March.

The 27-year-old from Seoul won back-to-back Founders Cup titles in 2019 at Arizona and 2021 in New Jersey, with the 2020 event wiped out due to Covid-19.

World number 74 Kemp, a 13-time winner on the Australian tour, fired a 65 as she seeks her first LPGA triumph. Her last top-five LPGA result was fourth at Kingsmill in 2021.

"I think about it every week -- is this going to be the week," Kemp said. "But it's such a small percent that you win. I think if I can just keep doing what I'm doing right now, maybe I'll get close soon."

The 37-year-old Aussie helped her homeland to a runner-up finish at last week's International Crown team event.

"We were just in a good head and mind space last week and it has kind of bled over into this week," she said.

Defending champion Minjee Lee, the world number six from Australia, was one stroke adrift alongside India's Aditi Ashok and rookie Ryu Hae-ran of South Korea. American Cheyenne Knight was sixth on 138.

Ko birdied the par-5 ninth, the par-4 11th and par-5 12th holes and closed with another birdie.

"I had some good birdie chances but I lose focus," Ko said. "It happens sometimes because I'm physically not great but ball-striking is great -- golf is a funny game."

Kemp opened with three straight birdies, birdied the fifth, ninth and 10th holes, then added birdies at the par-5 14th and par-3 15th to briefly seize the outright lead before stumbling with a bogey at 16.

"The three birdies was awesome," Kemp said. "I just started hitting it good. Just hitting fairways and greens and just happened to go in really early on."

World number 45 Ryu, 22, is coming off a career-best showing with a share of sixth at Los Angeles.

"I got three bogeys in a row, so I felt really down," Ryu said. "But after that, I got an eagle, bounced back and we changed the mood."

Reigning US Women's Open champion Lee, seeking her ninth LPGA title, hasn't focused on defending a title.

"I actually haven't really been thinking too much about the defending champion bit," Lee said. "I just wanted to have two good rounds to start the week and I'm in a good position for the weekend."

Ashok stumbled with a bogey at 17 but closed with a birdie to pull one off the pace.

South Korea's Kim Sei-young, who led after a 66 in the first round, soared to a 76 on Friday to fall six off the pace.