INDIANAPOLIS — Lydia Ko delivered a clear message to her LPGA Tour rivals Friday:
She's having fun again — and she's ready to start winning again.
The 20-year-old New Zealander shot 8-under 64 and grabbed a share of the lead with Lexi Thompson at 15-under 129 with a round left in the Indy Women in Tech Championship.
If Ko puts together one more solid round today, she could pick up her first victory since July 2016.
"I know I've still got a whole, full 18 holes (today) to go, but I think really the key was that I've just kind of enjoyed being in this position and being able to hit some good shots and give myself some good looks at birdie," Ko said. "When you start doing that, it builds your confidence and you're not dwelling on, 'Hey, am I going to hit a good shot or a bad shot.' I think that's kind of the mind-set that I've kind of gotten into the last few months."
After a summer full of frustration, the 14-time tour winner has shifted gears at Indianapolis Motor Speedway's golf course.
Ko started the season with four top-10 finishes in seven events but hasn't finished higher than 10th since. She even missed cuts in two of her past three tournaments.
Somehow, amid the intermittent sounds of chirping birds, jet engines, sirens and car horns while playing in the shadows of the racetrack's grandstands, Ko found some serenity.
While playing partners Anna Nordqvist and Stacy Lewis, the winner last week in Portland, Ore., struggled, Ko took advantage of the wide fairways and receptive greens and started playing like the world's No. 1, a title she held for more than 80 consecutive weeks.
Now No. 8 in the world, Ko started on the back nine and opened with consecutive birdies to tie Thompson at 9 under. Ko finally broke the tie with birdie at No. 15, then took charge with five straight birdies on the front side to reach 16 under. The only glitch came on No. 8 when Ko missed the green and slid her par putt to the right for a bogey.
Thompson, the 22-year-old from Coral Springs, followed her opening 63 with 66. Candie Kung made nine birdies and shot 64 to reach 14 under. Ashleigh Buhai (66) was fourth at 11 under, and Cristie Kerr (67) and Amy Olson (68) were 10 under.
CHAMPIONS: Kevin Sutherland and Glen Day shot 7-under 65 to share the first-round lead in the Japan Airlines Championship in Chiba, the first senior tour event in Japan. Winless on tour, Sutherland has had at least a share of the first-round lead in three of his past four events.
EUROPEAN PGA: Australian Scott Hend shot 7-under 63 to follow his opening 64 for 13-under 127 and a one-shot lead at the European Masters in Crans-Montana, Switzerland. Hend had eagle and five birdies to lead South African Darren Fichardt, whose 63 left him alone at 12 under. Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez, tied with Hend for the lead overnight, shot 73 and was in a tie for 32nd.