Jutanugarn retains LPGA Kingsmill lead despite windy conditions

Ariya Jutanugarn, 17, maintains one-stroke lead in Kingsmill Championship.

WILLIAMSBURG — Asked to assess Ariya Jutanugarn's game, Stacy Lewis talked how the 17-year-old plays without fear.

"She literally swings hard, picks up her tee and her caddie is watching where the ball is going," said the world's No. 2 player of the Kingsmill Championship's first-round leader.

Then, on a windy, chilly day on the River Course, Lewis wondered how Jutanugarn would fare in Friday's conditions.

"It'll be a little different in the wind, so I think she'll maybe bring it back a little bit … hopefully."

Jutanugarn almost did, but birdies on three of her last seven holes helped her shoot an even-par 71 and finish the second round with a one-stroke lead.

Her 7-under 135 is a stroke better than Lewis and Angela Stanford. Suzann Pettersen, Sandra Gal and Cristie Kerr are at 5-under 137.

Jutanugarn, who is playing on a sponsor's exemption because she is too young to qualify for her LPGA card despite her glittering record in LPGA and the Ladies European Tour tournaments, is paired with Stanford with a 1:40 p.m. tee time Saturday.

Chasing her is a star-studded group of players. Of the 11 players within 3 shots of her, six are major champions: Lewis, Kerr, Pettersen, Shanshan Feng, Juli Inkster and So Yeon Ryu.

"I don't think I'm going to win the tournament or I'm going to lose," Jutanugarn said. "For me, everybody have a chance to win, so I still have a chance to win, too."

Jutanugarn didn't start her second round well.

Playing the back nine first, she bogeyed the first hole (10), then bogeyed 16 and 17. That dropped her to 4-under, two shots behind Lewis and Stanford.

She said because of the conditions, she tried to play it safe at first.

"When I started, I don't want to play it safe because I normally don't," Jutanugarn said. But that bogey on her first hole, then the next two convinced her to go back to her normal game.

She had birdies on 3, then two more on 5 and 7.

All in all, it was a brutal day on the River Course.

Jutanugarn's 7-under equals the second-highest score for the first two rounds in the LPGA's nine years at Kingsmill.

The leaders' scores for the last five tournaments: 12-under, 13-under, 12-under, 11-under and 13-under.

And the course, which produced 91 sub-70 rounds on the first two days in 2012, gave up just 10 rounds in the 60s on Friday after 37 on Thursday.

"Today was a day you could have easily taken yourself out of the pack," Pettersen said.

At one time or another, Kerr, Pettersen and Feng dropped to 6-under, but none of those scores held up. All three played the back nine first.

"You had to have your A game out there and I kind of had my B-plus game," said Kerr. "This is kind of what you get at Kingsmill this time of the year."

She started two shots behind Jutanugarn, birdied No. 7 to get to 6-under, but bogeyed No. 9 to finish even par.

Pettersen birdied No. 5 to drop to 6-under, then promptly bogeyed the par-4 No. 6.

Feng had bogeys on No. 8 and No. 9 to finish at 4-under.

Lewis and Stanford were the only two of the top five who played in the morning.

"It was blowing when we started, but it was probably midway through the front nine when it really started to blow pretty good," said Lewis.

Said Pettersen: "Stacy and Angela thought it was going be a nightmare out there (in the afternoon), but it wasn't that bad."

Stanford and Natalie Gulbis are the only players to make all nine cuts in Kingsmill's LPGA history. The cut was 3-over, which is where Gulbis finished.

Summing up the day was Lewis: "It's just one of those days you've got to grind it out, take your pars and go to the next hole."