Republic of Korea native Mi Hyang Lee coasted to a bogey-free, second-round 67 at the TOTO Japan Classic following a roller coaster Thursday that saw her make one bogey, one double bogey, six birdies and an eagle. While each of her first two rounds resulted in a 67, Lee was happy to head into the weekend fresh off a mistake-free Friday as she sits just four strokes off the lead with 36 holes to play.

“I really love to make a bogey-free today, and I think that’s not easy though so I’m going to keep positive,” Lee said about her bogey-free effort on Friday, which was made all the more impressive given she hit just half her fairways. The 30-year-old relied strongly on her putter, needing just 27 putts to remain inside the top 10 heading into the weekend.

“I think today’s bogey-free is more happy to me as well. I think front nine was really great, four birdies in a row. That really get me a lot of confidence,” said Lee. “So I really look forward to tomorrow.”

On Saturday, Lee will look to continue her steady return to the top of the women’s game as the past two years for the Korean have been much like her first round in Japan – a roller coaster.

Lee is a two-time winner on the LPGA Tour, who was ranked as high as No. 30 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings in 2015. But following her last win on the LPGA Tour in 2017, Lee has made a significant drop in the standings, and earlier this season, she had fallen to No. 391 in the world.

Over the last two years, Lee has been unable to maintain full status on the LPGA and has had to split her time between the Epson and LPGA Tours, often having to Monday qualify to earn a spot in certain fields. This season, Lee has been able to parlay those limited playing opportunities on the LPGA into five top 20s, including a season-high tie for fifth at the Kroger Queen City Championship presented by P&G in September.

Beginning the week at No. 127 in the Rolex Rankings, Lee is continuing her steady climb this week in Japan, where she is in position to qualify for the CME Group Tour Championship if she can move inside the top 60 in the Race to the CME Globe point standings. She began the week at No. 68 in the Race, and based on her performance through the first two rounds at the TOTO Japan Classic, Lee is currently projected to move to No. 58.

Lee is riding a wave of momentum into the weekend in Japan during what has otherwise been an up-and-down stretch in her career. Over the next two days, Lee is hopeful she’ll be able to keep things rolling with the help of the Japanese fans, who might be able to give her the last little boost she needs to not just return to the winner’s circle but also get back to the top of the women’s game.

“A lot of Japanese fans give me a lot of confident and positive. It’s really a lot power to me,” Lee said about the crowds. “I want to enjoy the golf course, and they always be smiling to me, so trying to keep smile as well and just hopefully play same good putter the next two days as well and we’ll see.”

By Nadeem Faisal Baiga