BELLEAIR — Jennifer Kupcho isn’t convinced she has the course at Pelican Golf Club figured out, but she was happy with her game through the opening rounds of the Pelican Women’s Championship.
Kupcho shot 6-under 64 Friday to move to 11-under 129 for the tournament, tying Lexi Thompson for the lead after two rounds. Thompson also shot 64.
They enter the weekend one stroke ahead of first-round leader Leona Maguire (68) and Wei-Ling Hsu (64).
“I’m just hitting really good iron shots and getting myself in good position on the greens,” said Kupcho, 24, a native of Colorado. “I think I am a really good ball striker, so that really helps going into the greens.”
Kupcho made six birdies, including three from Nos. 2-7 and on Nos. 17 and 18. She did not have a bogey.
Thompson finished with eight birdies, including a stretch of four in five holes from Nos. 5-9, and two bogeys.
“I think overall (I’m) just going out there and enjoying myself, making sure I stay in the moment, committing to my golf shots,” said Thompson, 26, a Delray Beach native. “I’ve just really been working extremely hard on and off the golf course … so (I’m) just putting that work to the test and believing in it.”
Kupcho has found a way to eliminate the outside distractions of moving and planning a wedding to focus on her play.
She played for the United States in the Solheim Cup in September and said that “probably was my best ball-striking week I’ve ever had in my life, so that definitely gave me confidence.”
Kupcho, playing in her first Solheim Cup, went 2-1-1 in the United States’ loss to Europe.
Maguire, who led by two after setting course and tournament records with an opening-round 62, said she didn’t putt as well as she did Thursday.
“(I) hit some really good approach shots and didn’t quite take advantage,” she said.
Maguire had no doubt after her round, which included four birdies and two bogeys, that scores would be “pretty bunched” at the top of the leaderboard.
They were. Five players were two off the lead, including world No. 1 Nelly Korda of Bradenton, who shot 66, and defending champion Sei Young Kim (67), and another five were three back.
Hsu, who shot 66 in the opening round, said she made good use of her irons to get balls to the pins while putting together a bogey-free round. She made six birdies, including three in four holes from Nos. 11-14.
She had just one bogey through the first two rounds despite what she called “tricky” greens. She said the position of the pond on the par-4 18th makes it easy for golfers to miss the green, especially with its wavy contours.
“(The) 18th hole is the most trickiest green ever,” Hsu said. “It’s really difficult.”
Contact Mari Faiello at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @faiello_mari.
LPGA Pelican Women’s Championship
When: Through Sunday
Where: Pelican Golf Club, Belleair
Purse: $1.75 million
History: Sei Young Kim won the inaugural tournament last year.
Players to watch: World No. 1 Nelly Korda, Jin Young Ko (2), Sei Young Kim (4), Lydia Ko(5), Yuka Saso (6), Nasa Hataoka (8), Brooke Henderson (10), Danielle Kang (11), Patty Tavatanakit (12), Lexi Thompson (13).
Coverage: Livestream, 1-4 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, nbcsports.com. Taped, 7:30 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, Golf Channel.