(Reuters) - South Korean Kim In-kyung shot a sparkling seven-under 65 to take a three-stroke lead into the weekend at the ANA Inspiration at Mission Hills in Rancho Mirage on Friday.
The former women’s British Open winner made a birdie at the last, her eighth of the day, to finish on eight-under 136 at the halfway stage of the first major of the year.
Australian Katherine Kirk, who tied for the lead at one stage but dropped shots at her last two holes, was in second place at five-under after a 68.
First-round leader Ally McDonald (72) was at four-under tied for third with Ko Jin-young (71), while world number one Park Sun-hyun (70) was the third South Korean on the leaderboard, in a tie for fifth a further shot back.
Kim, playing the back nine first, rolled in three birdies in a four-hole stretch twice, the second time to go eight under.
She dropped a stroke with her only bogey at the seventh hole but got it back with the final birdie to close her round.
“I put some good speed on it,” Kim said of her putting. “I think I got a little bit better job of that today.”
Seven years ago, Kim narrowly missed out on her first major when she failed to convert a one-foot putt on the final hole and lost a playoff to compatriot So Sun-young at Rancho Mirage.
“Long time it was one of my goals,” Kim said of winning the title at Mission Hills. “But now I am just happy to be out here. I have a better understanding of what I am doing out here.”
American Lexi Thompson, the 2014 champion, struggled as wind whipped up late in the day, hitting back-to-back bogeys on the seventh and eighth holes and carding an even 72 for a share of fifth with Park and three others five shots off the pace.
“It was a really hard day, not only with the wind, but some of the pin locations I don’t think they really thought through with the extreme winds and crosswinds that they had coming in,” Thompson told reporters.
“But I hit it very solid today, so still a lot of positives to take from the day going into the weekend.”
Canadian Brooke Henderson had been just a stroke off the lead when a triple-bogey at the par-three 14th ruined her round. She finished the day seven strokes behind Kim after a 72.
Swede Pernilla Lindberg’s title defense ended in a flurry of bogeys as she shot a 78 to miss the cut along with American Michelle Wie (77).
Reporting by Gene Cherry in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Rory Carroll in Los Angeles, editing by Ed Osmond/Nick Mulvenney