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Leona Maguire takes halfway lead at the KMPG Women’s PGA

SPRINGFIELD, NEW JERSEY (AP) – Leona Maguire of Ireland has been on a tear since the start of the month and not even an elite field in the KMPG Women’s PGA Championship, intermittent rain and a tough Baltusrol course slowed her down.

Maguire birdied four of her final six holes for a 3-under 68 and a one-shot lead over three players on Friday at the halfway point of the second of five majors in women’s golf this year.

“This is uncharted territory for me,” Maguire said. “Whatever happens this week, I’m sure I’ll learn a lot, and just sort of taking it one day at a time. I think this golf course demands that.

I think you can’t think more than one shot ahead, let alone a hole or a round ahead.”

Maguire had five birdies and two bogeys in shooting her seventh straight round in the 60s, dating to the final round at the Mizuho Americas Open.

The 28-year-old former Duke star, ranked 12th in the world, had a 5-under 137 total at Baltusrol.

Maguire didn’t know about her 60s streak and she struggled at Mizuho most of the week after developing blisters following a tournament in Las Vegas.

Leona Maguire. PHOTO: AP

“But, yeah, feel like my game has been in really good shape for a couple weeks now.

Obviously, it was last week, and nice to continue that to this week,” said Maguire, who joked that playing in the rain was like being back home.

There are plenty of players close to the lead. Mel Reid (67) of England, Xiyu Lin (71) of China and rookie Celine Borge (69) of Norway were tied for second, a shot ahead of first-round leader Lee-Anne Pace (73) of South Africa and fifth-ranked Minjee Lee of Australia, who pushed herself into the hunt for the second major with a 67 on a dreary day.

“Obviously, had a really nice day today, and I’m hoping that the momentum carries on into the weekend,” Lee said.

The Lower Course at Baltusrol has been the big winner this week. Through two rounds there were only 15 players under par and some of the biggest names in women’s golf won’t be around for the weekend, missing the cut at five over.

Still in contention are first-time winner Ruoning Yin of China at 2 under, two-time major winner Brooke Henderson of Canada, top-ranked Jin Young Ko of South Korea and Celine Boutier of France, along with Americans Gina Kim, Allisen Corpuz Mina Harigae, all at 1 under.

“If my shot is getting better and putter is still like the first couple days, yeah, I think I can get the chance to win this week,” said Ko, who won the Founders Cup in New Jersey last month, beating Lee in a one-hole playoff.

Rose Zhang, who burst onto the women’s golf scene with a win at Mizuho in her first event as a professional, struggled and needed a birdie on her last hole to finish with a 74 and a 2-over score.

“Coming in it was definitely a little rough,” Zhang said. “I was putting myself in positions that were not ideal, and when you’re out here, especially at a major championship venue, it is difficult to get up-and-down.”

While there is a tremendous amount of attention being paid to Zhang the past month, most forget that Maguire had the longest stay as the world’s number one ranked amateur until turning pro in 2018. Zhang broke her record.

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