NAPLES, Fla. — Lydia Ko is in full control midway through the CME Team Tour Championship.
So does the overall control of season-long scoring and financial competition.
Ko shot a 6-under 66 Friday in the second round of the LPGA Tour season to move her to 13 under for the tournament and 5 shots behind Hyo Joo Kim through 36 holes.
Ko made four birdies on the six-hole stretch in the middle of her round, rolled in a testy 4-footer to save par on the par-4 13th to preserve what was then a 4-shot lead, and hasn’t dropped a shot since. The opening hole is Thursday.
“I just wanted to focus on my game,” he said after going from a 1-shot lead entering Friday to 5-shot. “It was a very tight leaderboard. I shot low yesterday and in the round, it could have been anyone during the week.”
Except now, no one goes as low as Ko did.
Her flawless round set up a big day for the LPGA, which unveiled its 2023 schedule earlier Friday with a record purse of $101.4 million.
Co. 66 was the best score of the day; Four other players shot 67. In two rounds at Tiburon, there were four scores of 66 or lower. Ko has two of them after an opening 65 on Thursday.
Kim (69) made back-to-back birdies on 16 and 17 to drop to 8 under, alone in second. World No. 1 Nelly Korda (69) is tied for third at 7 under with Japan’s Nasa Hataoka (67), Sweden’s Anna Nordqvist (69) and Scotland’s Gemma Dryberg (70).
Korda was on the front foot, closing out the first nine with three birdies in a four-hole stretch. But she made nothing but pars on the back nine.
“Lides is playing well,” Korda said. “She’s had a great year. All you have to do to catch her is play tough and dry up the hoops.”
And even that may not be enough. Everyone is chasing him who is chasing trophies and more.
Ko entered the week with a one-point lead in the race for LPGA Tour Player of the Year. She just needs to avoid all danger this weekend to win a second consecutive Vare Cup for the lowest average score of the year. Those titles put her closer to the LPGA Hall of Fame.
And with $2 million in earnings, the biggest single prize in women’s golf awaiting the winner, that means the money title is within her reach, too.
“It was a tough day,” Ko said. “It was stronger than yesterday … I couldn’t ask for more to start this week.”
Ko averaged 68.964 this year. Atiya Titikul’s season average is 69.447. It would take a 40-shot swing between them over the weekend to capture the title in that tournament.
And if Co wins the race, it will push its earnings to $4,364,403 for 2022 and close the cash cap.
“Lydia is Lydia,” said Ireland’s Leona Maguire, who shot 69 for the second day in a row. She is tied for seventh at 6 under, 7 shots Ko. “I’m sure she’ll keep going, so in the end we’ll try and shoot as little as we can over the weekend and see what happens.”
Divots Jin Young Ko shot a 75 and is 16 shots back in a bid for his fourth straight win at the Tiburon course. Stacey Lewis birdied the 18th and finished her round of 70 off the greenside. She is 5 years under for the tournament. … Brock Henderson, clearly sore from the back issue that plagued him last week, shot a 2-over 74 and is 2 under for the week. … Pajari Annarukar and Daniel Kang each had 66s on Thursday. Not even close to that Friday. Annanarukar shot 73, Kang 74.