Sarah Kemp takes LPGA Tour lead at firm and fast Kingsmill

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Wei-Ling Hsu hits from the fairway of the 11th hole during the second round of the LPGA Tour’s PureSilk Championship golf tournament Friday, May 21, 2021, in Williamsburg, Va. (Kaitlin McKeown/The Virginian-Pilot via AP)

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (AP) — Sarah Kemp shot a 4-under 67 on Friday at firm and fast Kingsmill Resort to take a one-stroke lead into the weekend in the LPGA Tour’s Pure Silk Championship.

“This golf course is made for me because I feel like I’m not long and I have a lot the wedges in, so I can’t imagine it being an advantage for the long hitters and I’m not a bomber,” Kemp said. “If I just hit it down the fairway, it’s firm and fast and they’re rolling out and I’ve had a lot of wedge shots. ”

Kemp rebounded from a bogey on the par-4 fourth — her 13th hole of the day on the River Course— with birdies on the par-5 seventh and par-4 eighth, holing a 20-footer on No. 8 to tie Stacy Lewis for the lead at 6 under and finishing with a par on No. 9.

The 35-year-old Australian is winless in her 14-season LPGA Tour career.

“I really turned my putting around at the end of last year,” Kemp said. “I worked really hard. I was annoyed because I had hit the ball great for a couple years and I just didn’t convert the opportunities.”

Lewis scrambled for a closing bogey on the par-4 18th in a 69, dropping only one shot after driving into the water and having to re-tee. She was tied for second with Jessica Korda and Ana Belac.

“I’ve been working on my driver and it’s been really good this week up until this point,” Lewis said. “So, kind of just told myself to forget about it because I know I’m hitting it better than that, and hit a great second drive. Hit 8-iron in there to about probably 18 feet, and then just told my caddie when I made that putt, `That’s what I do. Just keep grinding.’”

The 35-year-old Lewis has 13 LPGA Tour titles, the last in the 2020 Ladies Scottish Open — also in firm and fast conditions.

“I love it,” Lewis said. “You have to think about how far your drive rolls out, which bounce you’re going to get in the fairways. It’s thinking golf is a better way to put it. I love it playing like this. I mean, when it’s lush and green it looks great on TV, but I like playing this kind of golf better.”

Korda eagled the par-5 seventh and 15th holes in a 67. She made a long putt on No. 7 and holed out from 86 yards after laying up on the 15th.

“I really wanted to go for it in two, but they put the tee so far back with how firm it is there was no reason to even try to take on that pin,” Korda said about the 15th. “So I laid up and Kyle (caddie Morrison) and I were like, `It’s just a hard half-shot.′ It landed exactly where we wanted and it and turned straight into the hole. I was like, `Sick!′ So unexpected, but very welcome.”

The winner of the season-opening Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions, she also had four birdies and four bogeys on the course playing much firmer and faster than she expected.

“I honestly wasn’t prepared for this,” Korda said. “This golf course is always super pure, overseeded, soft, not what we are playing right now. It’s actually really tough to gauge wedge shots because the ground is so firm that it’s just bouncing off of it.”

Belac is making her second tour start of the year and fourth overall. The 24-year-old player from Slovenia shot 67, playing in the last group of the day off the first tee. She led Duke to the 2019 NCAA team title and won last year on the Symetra Tour.

“My ultimate goal and my life goal is to play on the LPGA and do well here,” Belac said. “Obviously, that’s in the back of my mind, but I try not to think about it when I’m out on the course and just play my game.”

First-round leader Wei-Ling Hsu followed her opening 66 with a 72 to fall two strokes back at 4 under in a group with third-ranked Sei Young Kim (71), Moriya Jutanugarn (67), Haeji Kang (68) and Wichanee Meechai (68),

Lexi Thompson bogeyed the final two holes for a 72 to make the cut on the number at 3 over. She set the tournament record of 20-under 264 in 2017.

Ariya Jutanugarn, coming off a victory two weeks ago in her home LPGA Tour event in Thailand, missed the cut with rounds of 70 and 77. She won at Kingsmill in 2016 and 2018.

Paula Creamer also failed to advance to the weekend, shooting 76-74 in her first LPGA Tour start since tying for 63rd in the BMW Ladies Championship in October 2019. Coming off wrist and thumb injuries, she also has an exemption into the U.S. Women’s Open in two weeks.

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