KPMG Women's PGA Championship - Round Two
Credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Leona Maguire birdied three of her last four holes Friday to shoot 68 and take the lead at the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship after the second round at Baltusrol. The Irishwoman won the Meijer LPGA Classic last week and is looking to add her first major to her resume.

Mel Reid, Xiyu Lin and Celine Borge are tied for second place a shot back at 4 under par. Two-time major champion Minjee Lee and Round 1 leader Lee-Anne Pace are tied for fifth place at 3 under par.

Here are five things we learned as we head into the weekend in New Jersey:

Maguire in New Position

Sure, Ireland’s Leona Maguire just won last week’s LPGA event and is playing well again this week, but she’s never led a major championship at the midway point. Until now.

“This is uncharted territory for me,” she said after shooting a second-round 68 to lead the Championship by a shot. “Whatever happens this week, I'm sure I'll learn a lot, and just sort of taking it one day at a time.”

The 28-year-old played the last six holes in 6 under par last week to go from two behind to two ahead in a flash. That type of performance will not happen this week at brawny Baltusrol, but her finish to the second round was no less impressive.

Maguire began on the back side and made the turn even par after making one birdie and one bogey. She then caught fire during the end of her round and birdied Nos. 4, 6, 7 and 9. A bogey was sandwiched in between.

The icing on the cake came on the long par-3 ninth hole where she hit a 5-hybrid to 8 feet and rolled in the birdie to record the 3-under score. She only missed on fairway on the day and two greens.

“Very different mentality, different mindset, but feel like my game has sort of taken over from last week,” Maguire said. “I'm very comfortable with how I'm hitting it, picking my targets and committing to those.”

Mel Makes Massive Move

Mel Reid shot 4-under 67 Friday to jump near the top of the leaderboard while searching for her first major championship and second LPGA title. She missed three fairways during the rain-soaked round but hit all 18 greens.

“Obviously, it's good ball-striking,” the England native said. “Still a beast of a golf course. Weather kind of held up, which was nice, but don't feel like I've kind of been hitting my A-game yet.”

Reid, 35, battled a right wrist injury late last year because she hit so many balls at the practice range, saying she’d often hit two full buckets of balls during a session. She guessed that each bucket held 250 balls.

“I was hitting an absurd amount of golf balls a day,” Reid said. “That's what we do, right, and it's not always the best thing.

“It wasn't something that was very smart, but I felt at the time that's what I needed to do, and it was stressing me out.”

KPMG Women's PGA Championship - Round Two
SPRINGFIELD, NJ - JUNE 23: Mel Reid hits her tee shot on the fourth hole during the second round of the KPMG Women's PGA Championship at Baltusrol Golf Club on Friday, June 23, 2023 in Springfield, New Jersey. (Photo by Darren Carroll/PGA of America via Getty Images)
Credit: Darren Carroll/PGA of America/Getty Images

In Round 1, Reid made four birdies and four bogeys to shoot even-par 71. On Friday, she opened with birdies on the 10th and 14th holes and then made another on the par-5 18th before making the turn. She would birdie the seventh and eighth holes (her 16th and 17th of the day), the last one coming via a 40-footer. She held the clubhouse lead for a moment before Leona Maguire topped her by one.

“Obviously, it's nice to be up there after two days, but there's still a lot of golf left,” she said.

Reid hasn’t collected a top-10 finish on the LPGA all season but has tied for 15th and tied for 20th respectively the last two weeks.

Lexi Unleashes Impressive Comeback

Lexi Thompson was a non-factor in the Championship with five holes remaining Friday during her second round. Then she made four consecutive birdies to jump from three shots outside the cut line to one inside of it.

Sitting at 8 over par, the 28-year-old had nothing to lose. So she started firing at pins. She hit approach shots close. Putts started to drop.

KPMG Women's PGA Championship - Round Two
SPRINGFIELD, NJ - JUNE 23: Lexi Thompson putts on the 17th hole during the second round of the KPMG Women's PGA Championship at Baltusrol Golf Club on Friday, June 23, 2023 in Springfield, New Jersey. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/PGA of America via Getty Images)
Credit: Scott Taetsch/PGA of America/Getty Images

Thompson followed an opening-round 76 with a 1-under 70 and heads into the weekend tied for 49th place, her last birdie coming from a winding 30-footer on the eighth hole. For most of the day she resided outside the top 100 on the leaderboard.

“It's been a struggle this whole year except for my first event of the year,” Thompson said. “But I've been working probably harder than ever in my whole life on the golf course and when I'm home practicing. Just to be able to come through towards the end and make those birdies, it's nice to see hard work pay off, even though I'm still at 4 over. I'm taking it. I'm taking the little, small win right now and building on it.”

Nelly Leads Notable Missed Cuts

Nelly Korda hadn’t played in five weeks because of a back issue but announced earlier this week at Baltusrol that she was healthy. She wouldn’t have competed if she felt otherwise.

With some expected rust, Korda struggled for two days and shot 76-77 to end tied for 130th place at 11 over par. She missed the cut by six shots.

KPMG Women's PGA Championship - Round Two
SPRINGFIELD, NEW JERSEY - JUNE 23: Nelly Korda of the United States lines up a putt on the 17th green during the second round of the KPMG Women's PGA Championship at Baltusrol Golf Club on June 23, 2023 in Springfield, New Jersey. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Credit: Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Korda, ranked No. 2 in the world, recorded a topsy-turvy front-nine during the second round that included two birdies, two bogeys and a double bogey. Still, there was a chance to make the cut with a solid final nine holes, but she made four bogeys in a five-hole stretch to fall well off the pace.

Among other players ranked inside the top-10 who missed the cut were Lilia Vu (ranked fourth, missed by a shot by making double bogey on the last hole), Atthaya Thitikul (ranked fifth, missed by five shots) and Georgia Hall (ranked eighth, shot 79 in the first round).

Zhang Makes Late Birdie to Salvage Round

New pro Rose Zhang was inside the top-10 when she started the day and remained there for a large portion of it until she started to find herself in awkward spots down the stretch.

Playing in only her second event as a pro, Zhang’s last five holes went like this – bogey, birdie, bogey, double bogey, birdie. She shot 74 and is tied for 29th place at 2-over-par total, 7 shots off the lead.

KPMG Women's PGA Championship - Round One
SPRINGFIELD, NEW JERSEY - JUNE 22: EDITORS NOTE: part of a swing sequence; Rose Zhang of the United States hits from the 17th fairway (frame 7 of sequence) during the first round of the KPMG Women's PGA Championship at Baltusrol Golf Club on June 22, 2023 in Springfield, New Jersey. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Credit: Andy Lyons/Getty Images

“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,” she said. “I really had to keep calm and stay composed throughout.

“I think this entire golf course is all about strategy. I do want to make a couple of adjustments just because I feel like the game plans that I've been having the past two days have been a little iffy.”

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