Yuka Saso slowed down with a one-under 70 but kept her share of the lead with local bet Yuna Nishimura halfway through the Daio Paper Elleair Ladies Open in Ehime Prefecture on Friday.
Along with her 65 in the opener, the Fil-Japanese had a two-day aggregate of 135 – the same output of Nishimura who also submitted a 70.
The two, however, were now just a stroke ahead of Minami Katsu who produced a second straight 68 in the event serving as the penultimate leg of the pandemic-hit LPGA of Japan Tour season.
Unlike in the first round, the par-71 Elleair Golf Club Matsuyama proved too tough to handle as the rest struggled due tough pin placements.
Ayaka Furue, who also shot a 65 in the first round, tied Katsu for third to fourth places after submitting 71.
Another a stroke adrift were Seonwoo Bae (67), Sakura Kowai (68) and Na-Ri Lee (69), while Kana Nagai led six-woman group at 139 after firing a 66.
Focus, however, will be on Saso and Nishimura with the Player of Year and money race frontrunner determined to become the first player to amass more than Y100 million with a victory this weekend.
The Pinay rookie has already Y82.753 million (P38.4 million) in earnings in 12 tournaments highlighted by back-to-back victories at NEC Karuizawa and Nitori Ladies last August.
But Nishimura, a rookie like Saso, has picked up her game after missing all but one cut in her first four tournaments, reaching peak form to win the Mitsubishi Electric crown before tying for ninth in Toto Classic.