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H. J. Kim maintains Ascendant LPGA lead as Lexi Thompson surges

THE COLONY, Texas — Hyo Joo Kim shot a 3-under 68 on Friday in The Ascendant LPGA to take a two-stroke lead over Sofia Garcia into the weekend, with resurgent Lexi Thompson tied for third.

Kim had four birdies and a bogey in her morning round at Old American to reach 10-under 132. The 28-year-old South Korean player, ranked No. 7 in the world, also had a two-stroke lead Thursday after an opening 64.

“My shots were better than yesterday, but unfortunately the score wasn’t as good,” Kim said. “But I did hit the green a lot more, so I’m satisfied with that.”

Garcia, a former Texas Tech player from Paraguay, also had four birdies and a bogey in a 68. She a rookie on the tour.

“You have some holes where you can definitely go ahead and be a bit more aggressive,” Garcia said. “And there are a few others that definitely ask you to be patient, where you’re kind of just relieved that you make the par and move on.”

Thompson, set to play next week in the PGA Tour event in Las Vegas, had a 65 — the best score of the day — in breezy afternoon conditions to join Race to CME Globe leader Celine Boutier (67) at 6 under. Thompson played alongside Boutier, a member at OId American.

“It definitely got windier,” Thompson said. “As we made the turn, I would say there was a few holes that really gusted up there. You know you’re going to get that on this golf course, so really committing to the lines and playing smart off the tees and playing for that bounce-out.”

Thompson won the last of her 11 LPGA Tour titles in June 2019. After going 3-1 for the United States in the Solheim Cup in Spain, she tied for eighth last week in Arkansas for her first top 10 of the year. She’s 114th in the Race to CME Globe.

“It’s definitely gotten a lot better,” Thompson said. “I’ve been working hard the whole year. It’s just been a matter of time and putting in the productive work that’s needed, and to see it pay off truly means a lot.”

Kim also is trying to end a victory drought. The five-time LPGA Tour winner has two runner-up finishes and six other top 10s this season without winning.

“I was at the top of the leaderboard couple times this season, but weekend plays haven’t been as good,” Kim said.

Boutier is tied with Lilia Vu for the tour victory lead, winning the major Evian Championship at home in France and taking the Women’s Scottish Open the following week. The former Duke player is making her first start since helping Europe retain the Solheim Cup.

“You have to be a very good ball-striker out here,” Boutier said. “I feel like especially when the wind starts to pick up like it is right now, you definitely have to be smart about your strategy.”

Fellow European Solheim Cup player Leona Maguire (67) was 5 under with Marina Alex (70), Maria Torres (68) and Azahara Munoz (71).

Defending champion Charley Hull, another European Solheim Cup player, had a 69 to get to 1 under.