Golf: Feng Shanshan grabs sole lead in Japan Classic title defence

Feng Shanshan in September 2017. She grabbed the sole lead at the LPGA's Toto Japan Classic on Saturday (Nov 4).
Feng Shanshan in September 2017. She grabbed the sole lead at the LPGA's Toto Japan Classic on Saturday (Nov 4).PHOTO: AFP

IBARAKI (Reuters) - Feng Shanshan put herself in a prime position for a successful title defence at the LPGA's Toto Japan Classic after grabbing the sole lead with a stellar second round of nine-under-par 63 on Saturday.

The Chinese came into the tournament with top-seven finishes in the five of her last six starts and, wielding a hot putter, continued that imperious form to lead Japan's Ai Suzuki by two shots after a bogey-free second round.

Feng was part of a seven-way tie at the top after the opening round in Ibaraki and the 28-year-old broke loose early on Saturday, birdying five of her opening seven holes in a spectacular front nine.

"I did not use my 5-iron much today. I think what was working was my putting today," Feng said of her scintillating front nine.

"The first three holes, those birdies were not very short," she smiled.

"After that, I just kept that good putting going on and finished nine-under."

The Rio Olympics bronze medallist eagled the par-five 12th and picked up two more shots in her spotless round to move to 15-under for the tournament.

Overnight joint leader Suzuki made a slow start but had a spectacular back nine - picking up six shots in a seven-hole burst - to card a 65 and stay three shots clear of England's Charley Hull (64) and Min-Young Lee of South Korea (68).

Sweden's Anna Nordqvist, who has won twice on the LPGA Tour this year, was a further shot behind in a share of fifth after shooting a 68.