MADEIRA, Ohio – Despite battling an illness and missing the cut in three of her last four events, Peiyun Chien caught fire the first two days of Kroger Queen City Championship Presented by P&G and now sits atop the leaderboard going into the weekend.
Chien, who was 6-under par after 66 in Thursday’s opening round, logged an eagle on the sixth hole on Friday.
“The eagle was great. I thought maybe it would go in because I have a lot of shots (that) almost went in over the last few weeks, but I’m still waiting for an eagle,” Chien said. “It just happened, so I’m very happy.”
The 32-year-old parlayed the long-awaited eagle with five birdies on the back-9 to move to the top of the leaderboard with a two-day total of 130 (-14).
She missed the fairway on 17 but got out of the rough and onto the green before sinking a long birdie putt. On the 18th hole, where she suffered her only bogey of the first round, Chien knocked in another long birdie putt to close with a round of 64, her lowest round on the LPGA Tour this year.
“I’ve just been putting really well these two days,” Chien said. “I always change my putter. If anyone knows me, I change every week, but I’ve kept the same putter for eight tournaments already, so I’m very happy with myself.”
Chien is 14 strokes better than her two-round 140 in last year’s inaugural Kroger Queen City Championship when she missed the cut.
“Last year (in Cincinnati) I didn’t play well because we didn’t have any practice rounds,” Chien said after Thursday’s first round. “I have a lot of notes (for this year) knowing how to play the greens.”
Chien missed the cut three times in his last four events, but finished eighth at the ISPS Honda World Invitational in August. Chien, ranked 60th in the CME Rankings, is looking for her fourth top 10 finish this season and first career LPGA Tour victory.
“Just every shot, one thing at a time. I really want to play well in America and come back to Asia and play the Asian Games for my country,” Chien said.
Three-way tie for second
World No. 2 Ruoning Yin shot a 6-under 66 to climb into second place after Round 2. Ruoning, just 20 years old, made a bogey-free round and birdied two of the last three holes for her score. If Yin finishes in the top four individually at the Queen City Championship, she will jump to No. 1 in the World Golf Rankings.
“I want to birdie as much as I can. Just try to stay with the same strategy and stick to my game,” Yin said of the next rounds. “I think I’ll be fine.”
Tied for second place with Yin are Morgane Metraux and Ruixin Liu. Liu, who led the field after day one on Thursday, shot a 3-under 69 on Friday as the field caught up to her impressive 7-under start.
After two bogeys on the back-9 on Thursday, Yuka Saso, ranked No. 15, is back in the mix at Kenwood after seven birdies through the first 12 holes. Saso is tied for fifth with England’s Charley Hull.
Saso, a 22-year-old who has seven top 10 finishes this year, shot a 32 on the front nine and opened the back with three consecutive birdies. After a bogey on the 13th hole, Saso finished his round with five straight pars to move to nine-under for the week.
“I think my putting was better today than yesterday,” Saso said. “My longest putt I made, probably seven steps. Not too far. I think I gave myself good chances today and got the chances.”
Nasa Hataoka shoots the best of the day
Hataoka, CME’s No. 24-ranked golfer from Japan, shot a field-best 9-under 63 on Friday. Hataoka’s bogey-free round started about as ideal as possible with birdies on four of the first five holes.
The 24-year-old, with six LPGA Tour wins already to her name, shot a 1-over 73 in round one on Thursday. Starting 88th and jumping to a tie for seventh means Hataoka took the biggest jump in the field in the standings on Friday, while also shooting the best single round so far in Cincinnati.
Hataoka tied the Kroger Queen City Championship 18-hole scoring record.
“I’m very happy to finish 9-under today,” Hataoka said. “My putting is a lot better than yesterday. My aim was very off, especially the left-to-right line. So I fixed it right after the round yesterday and it feels good.”
Defending champion in the mix
Ally Ewing, the winner of the inaugural Kroger Queen City Championship last year, shook off a bogey on the opening hole and carded four birdies on the front-nine for a 33. She shot a 70 on Friday to move to 5-under for the tournament to make the cut.
Fifteen-year-old Mia Hammond, a New Albany, Ohio native, who earned a sponsor invitation as the only amateur in the field, missed the cut after finishing 5-over par in the second round. Hammond had three birdies and three bogeys Thursday for an even-par round, then started Friday on the back-9 with nine consecutive pars. On the front nine, however, Hammond had three bogeys and a double-bogey.
West Chester native and current UC women’s assistant golf coach Marissa Steen also missed the cut with a 5-over (77) Friday.
This article originally appeared on the Cincinnati Enquirer: Peiyun Chien leads the Kroger Queen City Championship after the second round