CLIFTON, N.J. — Minjee Lee flirted with posting the best round of the year on the LPGA Tour before settling for a 9-under-par 63 and took a three-shot lead halfway through the second round in the $3 million Cognizant Founders Cup Friday.
Lee, who has six career wins, was 10 under after a birdie at No. 15 on the Upper Montclair Country Club. However, the Australian bogeyed the 16th and parred in to finish with a 36-hole total of 14-under 130, one shot off the tournament record.
First-round leader Madelene Sagstrom of Sweden and Lexi Thompson shared second. Sagstrom, who had a late 63 Thursday, posted a 70 in failing to build off her momentum. Thompson, who has not won since 2019, had a 66 to finish at 11 under.
Sanna Nuutinen, a 31-year-old Finnish veteran playing her first season on the LPGA Tour, had a 68 and was alone in fourth at 135. Carlota Ciganda of Spain and Megan Khang, who was a shot behind Sagstrom after the opening round, were tied for fifth at 136.
Many of the first-round leaders had afternoon tee times Friday, including Nasa Hataoka of Japan (65), Bianca Pagdanganan (66) of the Philippines, Giulia Molinaro (66) of Italy and Ally Ewing (67).
Two-time defending champion Jin Young Ko had an opening-round 69.
While she has not won this year, the 25-year-old Lee has competed in six tournament, posting two top 10s and nothing worse than a tie for 23rd. She tied for second in the HSBA Women's World Championship in March and shared third in the Los Angeles Open last month.
“Maybe this will be the first one and it’ll kick start the rest of the year,” Lee said.
Sagstrom got off to a slow start trying to go low again.
“A lot of things can happen,” Sagstrom said. “A lot of the things can happen to the golf course, the way they set it up and all that. So just giving myself a chance is all I can about myself, and my best today was 2 under, so I was really pleased.”
The 27-year-old Thompson has won 11 LPGA titles, including a major, but she has not won on tour since the ShopRite Classic in New Jersey three years ago.
She was not happy being asked about the drought.
“The talent out here is truly amazing. I mean, it’s tough to win,” she said. “All I can do is control my emotions and how much hard work I put in, and I know the amount of work that I put into it, so if it doesn’t happen, doesn’t happen. It’s not the end of my life.”