Thompson’s late birdie binge creates 3-shot lead

Lexi Thompson tied for the low round of the day with a 5-under-par 67 on Friday to build a three-shot lead halfway through the season-ending CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, Fla.

Thompson strung together seven consecutive pars to begin her round before carding her first birdie on the par-3 eighth hole. She added another on the par-3 12th hole and then closed out her round with three consecutive birdies to reach 12 under for the tournament.

Fellow American Brittany Lincicome was two clear of the field at 13 under when she double-bogeyed the 15th hole. While Thompson was putting together her run, Lincicome bogeyed each of her final two holes to card a 1-under 71 and drop into a tie with first-round leader Amy Olson (72) at 9-under.

Race for the $1M prize

It sets the stage for a dramatic weekend. Neither Thompson, who won the CME Race to the Globe despite missing a 2-foot par putt on the 72nd hole in this event last year, nor Lincicome are in the hunt to win the $1 million CME Globe bonus.

The top five players entered the week with a chance to win the CME Globe with a victory this week, while the top 12 players each have a mathematical opportunity. Top-ranked Ariya Jutanugarn, who sank a 25-foot birdie putt on the final hole to win this event last year, remains atop the projected CME Globe standings. The Thai star is in a tie for 20th at 3-under after shooting a 71 on Friday.

Canada’s Brooke Henderson (T25, 2 under) is currently projected to finish second, followed by Australia’s Minjee Lee (T43, 1 over), Japan’s Nasa Hataoka (T13, 4 under) and South Korea’s Sung Hyun Park (T37, even).

Thompson is currently projected to move up to No. 6 with a victory, while Lincicome would currently vault five spots to No. 10 and Olson 22 spots to No. 14.

Brotherly advice

Thompson, 23, is playing this week with younger brother Curtis on her bag after parting with Kevin McAlpine. This is her final opportunity to extend her streak of winning at least one tournament every year since 2014.

Americans dominate the first page of the leaderboard at the Tiburon Golf Club, with Nelly Korda and Marina Alex equaling Thompson’s score on Friday to sit in a tie for fourth place at 8-under.

“It was a great day. Happy to be back in position,” said Alex, who bogeyed 18 to miss out on shooting a 66. “If the conditions warm up again and the wind drops, the scores will go back to being pretty low for the weekend, so you’ve just got to play aggressive golf.”

The top international players through two rounds are England’s Charley Hull, Spain’s Carlota Ciganda and Thailand’s Pannarat Thanapolboonyaras, who are tied for sixth at 7 under. South Korea’s So Yeon Ryu and Americans Megan Khang and Jessica Korda round out the top 10 at 6 under.

“I knew my game was there, and just had to stay patient, put a good round in and see where that putts me at the end of the day,” Kang, who also shot a 67, told LPGA.com. “Definitely try to stay aggressive (this week) … just kind of play my own game and try not to force this and kinda let it happen.”

–Field Level Media

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