Playing in the second event of her sophomore season on the LPGA Tour, Ruoning Yin dominated the Friday field at the DIO Implant LA Open with a 7-under 64 that put the 20-year-old at the top of the leaderboard at -10 heading into the weekend alongside major champion Hyo Joo Kim. Yin’s 64 tied the LA Open scoring record, which had previously been shot by four different players at Wilshire Country Club and was matched by Jennifer Kupcho and Lizette Salas in Palos Verdes Golf Club on Friday.
Starting on the back nine Friday morning, Yin sunk two early birdies on Nos. 10 and 12 and added two more on 15 and 16, which is this week’s AON Risk Reward Challenge hole. She went out in 32 after a bogey on 18, the only one on her card Friday. After telling herself “I'm going to make more birdies,” Yin did just that, adding four more in five holes on the front, including a trio on 5, 6 and 7. The most impressive part of her game seemed to be on the green – she needed just 24 putts on Friday, including seven consecutive one-putts on Nos. 1-7 – but the young golfer insisted her ball striking was the key to her second-round success.
“I felt my game was in a pretty solid spot right now. I can strike the ball well and my approach shot is pretty good… Last year I only play fade with every shot. This off-season I was working on maybe can hit a little draw, and I think that works,” said Yin. “Yeah, I think I'm playing pretty good. Maybe can win one or two tournaments this year.”
Later in the day, Hyo Joo Kim made a run up the leaderboard, shooting her second 66 of the week to take the lead alongside Yin at -10. While this is Yin’s first time holding a 36-hole lead or co-lead, Kim has done it before, most recently at the 2022 LOTTE Championship presented by Hoakalei which she went on to win. Kim’s bogey-free round of Friday consisted of two birdies on the front and three on the back. She took advantage of all three par-5’s – Nos. 14, 16 and 7 – making birdie on each as well as on 1 and 6. While those birdies were nice, Kim said it was par that was more important to her during round two.
“My short game today was really good and I think that led to a bogey-free round. There were a couple situations actually where I could have carded a bogey, but in those instances my putter worked well,” Kim said. “The 12th hole I think I was about four or five steps away from the hole, and I think that was the hole that I probably could have bogeyed but got a par save out of it.”
Defending champion Nasa Hataoka sits just behind Yin and Kim at -9 after shooting a first-round 67 and second-round 66. The Japanese golfer, who won at Wilshire CC last year, went bogey free on Friday, hitting every fairway and 16 of 18 greens. Canada’s Maude-Aimee Leblanc got off to a rough start with three bogeys in her first five holes but ended the round with seven birdies on her card for the second day in a row. She sits in solo fourth at -8, with Americans Megan Khang and Lilia Vu rounding out the top five at -7.
Seventy-eight players made the cut at +2 after 36 holes, including Rolex Rankings World Nos. 1-4 Lydia Ko (T40), Nelly Korda (T12), Jin Young Ko (T29) and Atthaya Thitikul (T12). Last year’s Palos Verdes Championship winner Marina Alex also made the cut and sits at T29 and -1.