Japan's Nasa Hataoka fired a four-under par 67 to seize a one-stroke lead over South Korea's Lee Mi-hyang and England's Mel Reid after Friday's second round of the LPGA ShopRite Classic.
Hataoka made five birdies against a lone bogey at the Seaview resort in Galloway, New Jersey, to stand on 11-under 131 for 36 holes.
"I wasn't striking the ball as well as yesterday, but I was able to convert my birdie chances where I wanted to and that was good," the 21-year-old Asian star said.
"The pin placements were pretty difficult, so just didn't really change from the first hole."
Reid fired a bogey-free 64 to share second on 132 with Lee, who stumbled late with bogeys on two of her final four holes, while France's Celine Boutier and American Amy Olson shared fourth on 133.
After a birdie-bogey start, Hataoka made back-to-back birdies at the fourth and fifth holes and closed strong with birdie putts from four feet at the 16th and three feet at the par-5 18th.
"Today wasn't about making long putts," Hataoka said. "It was more like converting the small chances I had."
Eighth-ranked Hataoka seeks her fourth career LPGA victory after the 2018 Northwest Arkansas Championship, 2018 Toto Japan Classic and 2019 Kia Classic.
Hataoka had a near miss in January's LPGA Tournament of Champions, losing a playoff to Mexico's Gaby Lopez on the seventh extra hole, and also finished second the next week at the Gainbridge LPGA at Boca Rio.
Her best finish since the LPGA returned from a coronavirus shutdown was a share of seventh at last month's ANA Inspiration.
Back-nine starter Lee birdied the par-3 17th and par-5 18th, then surged ahead with birdies at the par-5 third and par-4 fifth only to stumble with birdies at the par-4 sixth and par-3 seventh ahead of two closing pars.
"It was great to make two birdies in a row on the first nine holes," Lee said. "So it was a great condition. But I made my first bogey and then three-putted.
"Still made 2-under par. Really look forward to playing this weekend."
Reid also began at the 10th hole and birdied 14 and 18, then birdied the third and fifth as well before closing with three consecutive birdies.
The event is the final tuneup for next week's LPGA major, the Women's PGA Championship at Aronimink in nearby Newton Square, Pennsylvania.