Zhang leads China LPGA Tour charge in Hangzhou

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Zhang Jienalin moved to the top of the leaderboard at the Hangzhou International Championships on Thursday as the China LPGA Tour veteran carded a four-under 68 for a one-shot lead through two rounds in east China's Zhejiang province.

After 36 holes at Moganshan Gowin Golf Club, the 23-year-old Henan native was nine-under 135 at the 1.2 million yuan (182,000 US dollars) tournament, a co-sponsored event with the China Tour.

Ye Jianfeng held steady to post his second consecutive round of 68 to sit one shot off the pace, while rookie pro Guan Tianlang, the overnight leader, slipped to 71 and was two strokes back.

Zhang Weiwei, the defending women's champion, shot 68 to sit equal fourth two strokes further back with fellow CLPGA Tour member Liu Yiyi (68).

Yin Xiaowen, winner of last week's Zhangjiagang Shuangshan Challenge, was the top amateur. The 15-year-old Tianjin native shot 71 to sit equal sixth in a group of five players at five shots back.

After starting the day one shot off the lead, Zhang Jienalin, who was in a group with Guan and Ye, quickly got to work with a birdie three at the 318-yard first to get to six-under. She then carded five more birdies, including a run of three straight from the 12th hole where she made an uphill putt from 27 feet, and two bogeys in the hunt for her first pro win.

"I played with two top male players. The atmosphere was as good as ever. I didn't feel very intense competition but once Ye made a birdie I also wanted to make a birdie. I didn't think about our scores in total, I just thought that I played on the forward tees and needed to make as many birdies as brother Ye," said Zhang Jienalin who has posted three top-10 finishes this year.

"I hadn't met Ye or Guan until this morning but I knew them, especially Guan. He is very famous. It is good for women to lead this event now. Hopefully, ladies can play their best and earn more money. I'm rooting for every lady for the last two rounds."

Ye, who celebrated the birth of his son last week, also made birdie at the first hole to get to five under. He then carded four straight birdies starting from the 10th hole to take the lead before stumbling down the stretch with bogeys at the 16th hole and the last.

"I carried out my plans well without enormous mistakes. I had some difference of opinions with my caddie. Those were not what I wanted," said the 29-year-old Shenzhen native.

"I made two three-putt bogeys at the end of the day but I also made some good putts for birdies, so it evened out. This golf course is not long for me. I can approach with short irons so I had many birdie chances."

After posting two birdies over the front nine, Guan saw those wiped out at the 452-yard 10th hole where he carded a double-bogey six. He then rebounded for a birdie four at the next before posting a bogey five at the 15th hole and a birdie at the 17th.

"I feel that it was not a bad round considering my form today. I feel not very well physically," said the Guangzhou native who gained worldwide attention in 2013 when he made the cut at the Masters and finished 58th at Augusta as a 14-year-old.

"The front nine was smooth but I had a few mistakes on the back nine. I lost my ball in the rough off the tee at the 10th hole and made a double bogey."

Zhang Weiwei improved by three strokes to put herself in contention with a round that included five birdies and a bogey that came at the 352-yard 17th hole when she three-putted. She rebounded by sinking an eight-foot putt for birdie at the last.

"I couldn't make putts yesterday. I fidgeted around. When you rush to do something, you can't make any birdies," said the 23-year-old Hubei native who won a record four times last year.

"I hit my long shots a little better today and made a couple of long putts, including a 45-footer for birdie at the 12th. But I also had a couple of three-putt holes. I lag far behind, but there are two days left. Let me do it more elaborately and limit mistakes."

In the 72-hole stroke-play event, the 78 men and women in the no-cut field, which includes six amateurs, go head-to-head on the Rick Jacobson-designed course. The players compete for one prize purse and one trophy but from two different sets of tees. There are two events (men and women) as far as World Ranking Points are concerned. Prize money will be decided by where he or she finishes in the mixed event.

Notable scores included super rookie Yin Ruoning, a three-time winner this year, shooting 71 to sit 11th at six shots off the lead. Beijing teenager Chen Peicheng (70) was the top male amateur one shot further back. Chao Haiming, the defending men's champion, slipped to a 74 and was equal 33rd on 146, tied with rookie Wu Wenxuan who ballooned to a 78, 10 shots worse than his opening round.

Chen Zihao (78) had a hole-in-one at the 179-yard second hole when his perfect shot found the cup with seven-iron.

Moganshan Gowin Golf Club is a par-72 layout designed by Rick Jacobson. This week, the course is playing 7,017 yards for the men and 6,106 yards for the women. 

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