Moriya Jutanugarn leads at Evian, aims at majors record

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Moriya Jutanugarn (Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)

EVIAN-LES-BAINS, France – Moriya Jutanugarn of Thailand shot 3-under 68 to lead the Evian Championship second round on Saturday, and could join her younger sister Ariya in golf’s record book.

Seeking to be the first sisters to win a major title, Moriya’s 9-under total left her one shot ahead of Ayako Uehara of Japan, who had seven birdies in her round of 66.

The leading group on Sunday is completed by Katherine Kirk of Australia, who carded a 69 to trail Moriya by two strokes. All three playing partners will seek their first major.

Victory for the Moriya – who as a career-best finish of 10th at a major – would make the Jutanugarns the first sisters to win a Grand Slam title since the U.S. LPGA Tour was founded 67 years ago.

Ariya, who was top-ranked this season, won the 2016 Women’s British Open.

“I probably don’t feel that bad playing on the golf course rather than watching my sister play,” said Moriya, who recalled feeling “nervous, excited” last year when finishing her round to watch Ariya win at Woburn, England.

Canada’s Brooke Henderson shot a 71 to sit at 3 over and slip inside the cut line.

Two pairs of brothers have won major titles, though not for more than 50 years.

Lionel and Jay Hebert of the United States each won a U.S. PGA Championship, in 1957 and 1960, respectively. The Park brothers of Scotland, Mungo and Willie, won back-to-back British Opens in 1874 and ’75. That was Willie Park’s fourth Open title.

The fifth women’s major of the season is a 54-hole event after weather-affected play on Thursday was wiped from the record.

Moriya had chances to match her 65 from Friday’s first round though let birdie chances slip after consistently accurate approach shots.

“I played pretty solid today,” Moriya said, “couldn’t make a little more putts.”

Uehara is ranked only No. 163 yet her 14 birdies so far are two more than anyone else on the rain-softened Evian Resort course looking across Lake Geneva to Switzerland.

A strong trio of recent major winners are on 6 under, three shots back, and will play together on Sunday.

First-round leader Sung Hyun Park, the U.S. Women’s Open champion, followed her 63 with a 73. Former No. 1 Lydia Ko of New Zealand, the 2015 Evian winner, carded a second 68. Women’s British Open winner In-Kyung Kim bogeyed the par-4 18th in her round of 69.

Park has already played two days in a stellar group of the world’s three highest-ranked players with No. 1 So Yeon Ryu, her fellow South Korean, and No. 2 Lexi Thompson of the U.S.

Thompson (72) is level par and Ryu shot a 69 to make the cut at 2 over. Ryu acknowledged letting it affect her that she had been leading on Thursday when play was suspended and then scrapped.

“It was really hard to stop (thinking) about it,” the top-ranked Ryu said. “For my situation it was unfair. I just need to just accept it.”

Ariya won’t be playing on Sunday when her sister chases history. A second-round 74 left her 9 over and far below the cut line.

Defending champion In Gee Chun of South Korea, whose 21-under total then set a majors record, shot a second straight 70 to be 2 under.