Marina Alex jumped to the top of the leaderboard at the Manulife LPGA Classic with an eight-under par, 64 for the low round of the week to sit one stroke ahead of P.K. Kongkraphan and Hyo Joo Kim. The American began her day at two-under par, four strokes back of first round leader Chella Choi, but quickly made up ground by making four birdies in first seven holes, following that with four additional birdies and an eagle on the final hole.

“Yeah. It's awesome,” said Alex. “And I think there's a donation for eagle, too. So that's good, too.”

For Alex, the No. 139 player in the Rolex Rankings with only three career top-10 finishes, this is new territory as she’s never held the lead after any round in her three years as a professional.

“I've been close. At that point whether you're the last group, second-to-last, third-to-last, it's all kind of the same. I have a little bit of experience there, so it'll be good,” explained Alex.

A win this week would not only be the first for the 2013 rookie but also move her up on the money list and secure her spot for the Asian swing.

P.K. Kongkraphan and Hyo Joo Kim are just one-stroke back of Alex in a share of second at nine-under par.

Kongkraphan got off to a hot start birding her first three holes of the day picking up three additional birdies on the final nine en route to her bogey-free round.  Kongkraphan followed her opening round 69 with a 66 on Friday despite struggling off the tee, hitting just six fairways, but made it around in just 21 putts to climb within striking distance of the lead.

“I feel very comfortable and very confident this week. My coach is here,” said Kongkraphan. “I just changed coach last couple months, and also implement as well 2 PXG, and then I tried to get -- before I have a problem with my iron pretty bad. And I tried to get better. So I switched the club and changed the coach, and I tried to play better. From last week I have so much more confidence, and also this week I had a caddie. He's a local, and he worked pretty good.”

Kim followed her opening round 68 with a five-under par, 67 on Friday. She started the day on No. 10 picking up only two birdies in the first nine holes.  At the turn, she picked up three quick birdies before dropping a stroke with a bogey on No. 4 to fall two back of the lead. She bounced back with a birdie on her final hole to move into a share of second with Kongkraphan.

First round leader Chella Choi had an up and down day carding four bogeys on the day and sits in a tie for eighth.

 

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