JAMES CITY, Va. -- Americans Stacy Lewis and Angela Stanford shot the same score (68) in the first two rounds of the Kingsmill Championship. But there was little question which day they played better.
With the sun baking Kingsmill in the morning and swirling winds whipping off the James River, conditions turned hard and fast on Friday, a departure from the opening round when players were permitted to lift, clean, and place on the saturated fairways of the River Course.
After a day of retreat for many, Lewis (68-68 - 136) and Stanford (68-68 - 136) matched the best score of the day and are at 6-under-par, one shot behind Ariya Jutanugarn (64-71 - 135) at the midway point at Kingsmill.
Jutanugarn, a 17-year-old from Thailand who entered on a sponsor's exemption, played in the afternoon when the sun disappeared, the temperatures dipped into the mid-50s, and the day turned raw. After blitzing the River Course with nine birdies on Thursday, Jutanugarn needed 12 holes to make one on Friday. But after playing the first eight holes in 3-over-par and falling two shots behind, she played the rest in 3-under to regain the lead.
"On the back nine my putting got better, but I still missed a lot of short putts," Jutanugarn said.
Two strokes back are a pair of past Kingsmill champions, American Cristie Kerr (66-71 - 137) and Norway's Suzann Pettersen (68-69 - 137). The 35-year-old Kerr, who won at the River Course in 2005 and 2009, is the only two-time champion in the eight-year history of the event. Pettersen captured the title in 2007.
Also two back is Germany's Sandra Gal (68-69 - 137).
"Yardages don't really matter. It's controlling the spin," Pettersen said of the rugged conditions. "On a day like today, you gotta play smart. You gotta pick the right club at the right time, with the right gust. Today was a day where you could easily take yourself out of the pack."
On Friday only 20 players broke par, a feat which 72 players accomplished on Thursday. Some took a precipitous fall, including Dewi Claire Schreefel (67-78 - 145), Hee Young Park (68-77 - 145), and Jennifer Rosales (69-77 - 146), who missed the cut by a stroke.
As the course grew teeth, it was not a day for those who lacked tournament experience. The 35-year-old Stanford, who hit 14 greens in regulation and took 29 putts for the second straight round, called it "Groundhog Day." Upon further reflection, she revised her opinion.
"Yesterday I was sad I left some out there," Stanford said. "I felt like I got the most out of today."
Before hitting their approach shots, many players examined tree-tops, trying to gauge the swirling winds. Judging shots became more difficult as players reached the treacherous final three holes, which play close to the river.
"It was blowing when we started, but it was probably midway through the front nine when it really started to blow pretty good," Lewis said. "It's drying out the course. So [on] the downwind holes, it's releasing on the greens and it's definitely affecting some putts. The 18th hole is playing brutal today. They moved the tee up and I still hit a 4-iron into the green."
On a quality leaderboard, four of the top six are ranked in the world's top 20. Considering the course, it was no coincidence that quality players rose on Friday. The seven past champions at Kingsmill have won a combined 28 majors, all claiming at least one.
"It's hard, especially today with the wind," Lewis said of the River Course. "It became comical how many times we hit 6-iron into a green today. We hit 4, 5, 6-irons and then you've got to hit your wedges close on the par 5s, so it demands every shot in the bag. That's why the list of past champions is so good."
Among a group of six players within three strokes of the lead are reigning LPGA champion Shanshan Feng (69-69 - 138), 2011 U.S. Women's Open champion So Yeon Ryu (67-71 - 138), Ai Miyazato (68-70 - 138), and 52-year-old Juli Inkster (69-69 - 138), a seven-time major champion.
Bucking the trend of experienced players emerging at Kingsmill is former South Carolina All-American Katie Burnett (68-70 - 138), who continued her strong play after making the tournament via sponsor's exemption. This is only the second LPGA event for the 23-year-old.
With the wind expected to continue to blow over the weekend, Petterson expects the cream to continue to rise.
"This is probably the best course we play all year," Pettersen said. "I think you can see on past champions, it's great ball-strikers, good golfers. I'm glad I was able to put my name on that list on this course."
Notes: Among the name players who missed the cut were 2004 Kingsmill champion Se Ri Pak (72-74 - 146), Michelle Wie (73-73 -- 146), Morgan Pressel (74-76 - 150), and Christina Kim (76-80 - 156) ... Jutanugarn's 18-year-old sister, Mariya Jutanugarn (73-70 - 143), played the final nine holes in 4-under and made the cut.