Kim has top-10 finishes in all three events this year as she chases her first LPGA victory. Her two-day total of 7-under 137 gave her a one-shot lead over majors winners Cristie Kerr (67), Karen Stupples (69) and Mexico’s Lorena Ochoa (70).
The 21-year-old Kim is the highest-ranked player – No. 14 – without a career win.
Australian Karrie Webb (70), a two-time winner here and a seven-time major winner overall, was two strokes back, tied with Stacy Lewis (68). Taiwan’s Yani Tseng (71), the 2008 LPGA Championship winner, was tied at 140 with first-round leader Suzann Pettersen (73).
Keeping out of the rough and handling the fast greens at Mission Hills were keys for the leaders.
“I had a great round today, and my swing was really smooth and comfortable, and also I had great putting today,” Kim said after her bogey-free round.
Kerr had the day’s best round by going birdie-birdie-eagle on Nos. 9-11. Stupples opened birdie-birdie for her second straight 69, and Ochoa had birdies on three of her first five holes after making the turn.
“I bombed the driver all day today and it gave me a huge advantage on some of the holes where if you could get shorter clubs in, you could stop it a little bit better off the greens,” Kerr said.
For her eagle, she hit driver, 7-wood and had a 10-foot putt. “It was a perfect hole,” she said.
Starting on the back nine, Ochoa bogeyed No. 18 before going on a tear after making the turn. She birdied three of her next five holes and had other birdie chances.
After winning the Women’s British Open in 2007 and the Kraft Nabisco in 2008, Ochoa failed to have a top-10 finish in a major in 2009 for the first time as a professional. Her best finish in a major last year was a tie for 12th at this tournament.
“It’s just golf. I have my opportunity this week and I’m going to try my best,” she said.
Defending champion Brittany Lincicome couldn’t stay on the fairways and bogeyed three of her first four holes for a 74 to drop seven shots back.
After taking the first-round lead with a bogey-free 67, Pettersen struggled through a round marked by three bogeys and a double bogey.
Michelle Wie was tied for 10th at 2 under after her second straight 71.