Jones Alone in First

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NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. -- Rosie Jones posted a 4-under 68 on Friday to take first place at the Asahi Ryokuken International Championship. She stands at 10-under-par 134 and owns a one-shot lead over Wendy Ward.
 
Marcy Hart (66), Laura Diaz (68) and Pat Hurst (69) share third place at 8-under-par 136.
 
That makes five Americans holding the top five positions on the leaderboard through 36 holes. No American player has won on the LPGA Tour since Meg Mallon took home the Canadian Women's Open trophy last August.
 
'Everybody thinks it is a great story, but we really are a world tour,' said Jones, whose last win at the Kathy Ireland event in 2001 snapped an 0-10 start for Americans that year. 'Our international players are 80-90 deep. That leaves only 50 people from America to play in the events. The ratio is changing.'
 
'I don't think any of us would have realized that Meg was the last one. When I read it in a paper or saw it on TV or something it never dawned on me because our tour is about half and half,' said Ward, who represented the United States in last year's Solheim Cup. 'It seems like it gets written that the American players are struggling.'
 
Jones, who shared the lead with Sophie Gustafson after Thursday's opening round, started out with a five-foot birdie at the third but the best was yet to come for Jones on the front nine.
 
At the par-5 sixth hole, Jones holed a sand-wedge from 75 yards out for an eagle-3.
 
She knocked her approach onto the fringe at the eighth and sank the 25-footer for birdie. Jones gave the stroke back at the next hole when she landed on some pine chips and failed to hole an eight-footer for par.
 
Jones parred the first seven holes on her second nine but got into the red at the par-4 17th. She played a 7-wood to two feet to set up birdie then nearly holed a 60-footer for birdie at the last but the putt lipped out after hitting the cup's back edge.
 
'I was already to do a little lap around the green,' said Jones, referring to her putt at 18. 'It looked like it was going in to me and the way my caddy was reacting I really thought it was going in. It was one of those hard lip outs and I have had a few of those.
 
'I have been playing really well. I haven't been putting well. I have been playing good but not scoring, so as long as I keep my feel. If I feel good then I know I have the shots to play this golf course.'
 
Ward had an adventurous front nine, the back side at Mount Vintage Plantation Golf Course. She parred 10 but birdied 11 and 12 from seven and three feet, respectively. Ward dropped a shot at 13 when she drove into the rough but she tallied three birdies in a row from the 14th.
 
At the 17th, Ward once again found the right rough and once again carded a bogey. That meant Ward recorded five birdies, two pars and two bogeys.
 
'My driver let me down on 13 and 17. Those were my only two bogeys,' said Ward. 'Otherwise I hit it pretty solid and gave myself a lot of good birdie opportunities. It was the same thing on the second nine too; I played solid and had a couple of birdies in there.'
 
Ward hit an 8-iron to nine feet to set up birdie at three and she added a 10-foot birdie at the sixth to polish off a round of 5-under-par 67.
 
Defending champion Janice Moodie (69), Hee-Won Han (68), Tracy Hanson (68) and Giulia Sergas (70) share sixth at minus-6. Gustafson and Lorena Ochoa are knotted in 10th at 5-under-par 139.
 
The 36-hole cut fell at 3-over-par 147 and 79 players advanced to the weekend.
 
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