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Jennifer Kupcho, Austin Ernst tied at Drive On; Nelly Korda three back

Jennifer Kupcho

OCALA, Fla. – Jennifer Kupcho and Austin Ernst each shot their second straight 5-under 67 to share the second-round lead Friday in the LPGA Tour’s Drive On Championship.

A day after playing most of the back nine with a migraine that blurs her vision, Kupcho had six birdies and a bogey at Golden Ocala.

“I’m feeling a lot better today,” the 23-year-old former NCAA champion said. “I would say yesterday was pretty rough. Yeah, the whole back nine I just pretty much wanted to get off the golf course and go lay down. ... It was definitely a rough day, but was able to get through it well so that was helpful.”

Golden Ocala is renowned for having replica holes from famous courses, three of them from Augusta National and two from the Old Course at St. Andrews. Kupcho won the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur in 2019 with a back-nine charge.

Full-field scores from the Drive On Championship at Golden Ocala

“They are very similar and the look is definitely very similar, but I think I’m more nervous playing them than I was back then, actually,” Kupcho said.

The former Wake Forest star from Colorado is seeking her first LPGA Tour victory.

“I’ve been in contention before out here,” Kupcho said. “Just go out and relax and have fun.”

Ernst had a bogey-free round. She has two LPGA Tour victories.

“Fairways were a little bouncy this afternoon so got a few more wedges,” Ernst said. “You get quite a few wedge opportunities, so you have to take advantage of it with how firm the greens are.”

Carlota Ciganda of Spain had the best round of the day, a bogey-free 65 to get to 8 under. She played alongside Laura Davies, the 57-year-old Hall of Famer who rebounded from an opening 75 with a 69 to advance to the weekend at even par.

“I love playing with her,” Ciganda said. “I think she’s amazing to play with. I think her talent is unbelievable, like everything she does with her different shots. She’s very creative. Lots of imagination.”

Davies is playing on a World Golf Hall of Fame exemption.

“I’m still a decent ball-striker,” Davies said. “My nerves let me down more than my game. So that’s why I’m still here playing, because I can hit the shots. It’s just hitting them in the right order. That’s the problem.”

Nelly Korda, tied for the first-round lead with Kupcho and Ernst, was three strokes back after a 70. Playing in a group with sister Jessica Korda the first two days, Nelly Korda is trying to win consecutive events and run the family winning streak to three. Jessica Korda won the season-opening Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions, and Nelly Korda took the Gainbridge LPGA last week at Lake Nona.

“Honestly, it’s so mentally draining,” Korda said about trying to win two straight events. “I played on Tuesday. I played the back nine and I was just like, ‘I do not want to be out here.’ But it’s just something where you’re like, ‘OK, it’s the first day. Let’s go, come on.’”

Lydia Ko was 3 under after a 72. Second-ranked Sei Young Kim and No. 5 Danielle Kang were another stroke back, each shooting 70.

Lexi Thompson and Brooke Henderson were 1 under, each following an opening 74 with a 69.

Jessica Korda shot a 75 to fall to even par. Top-ranked Jin Young Ko, playing with Korda sisters, followed her opening 75 with a 72 to miss the cut by a stroke.