Ashleigh Buhai moved three clear of the field halfway through the AIG Women’s British Open with a brilliant five-under-par 67 at Woburn.
The 30-year-old South African is 12-under-par after two rounds, three clear of Japan’s Hinako Shibuno.
American Lizette Salas is a shot back on eight-under-par.
English pair Bronte Law (67) and Charley Hull (70) are five shots off the lead along with Celine Boutier, Caroline Masson and Sung Hyun Park.
The defending champion Georgia Hall is tied for ninth on six-under with the world No.1 Jin-Young Ko, Carlota Ciganda, Danielle Kang and Ariya Jutanugarn, the 2016 champion at Woburn.
“My goal going out today was to get it to double figures, 10-under or better. Once I got it to 8, 9 and 10 (-under), I felt by more comfortable and was able to put my foot down,” said Buhai, a three-time Ladies European Tour winner, at the 2007 Catalonia Ladies Masters, 2011 Portugal Open and 2018 Investec South African Women’s Open.
She started with a 10-footer for birdie on the second hole and then picked up four more birdies coming in late in the afternoon.
“I felt like my front nine was a little slower today, but I stayed patient,” she said. “I managed to hit it really close on the 15th hole to like a tap-in birdie, and had a good shot into 16, to tucked pin and then holed the putt; probably about a 15-footer.”
She spoke about working on her focus with coach Doug Wood, who is based at Serengeti Golf and Wildlife Estate near Johannesburg.
“My approach now, we talk about hitting it into zones, green and yellow zones, and as long as your misses are still in the yellow, you’re going to have a putt for par, a two-putt. That was really good on the greens, and the back nine I hit it close.
“It’s kind of something I’ve been working on the last few weeks because I feel I’ve been under the gun, whether it be making the cuts, or having three good rounds and a bad round. My focus is just trying to keep my tension the same, whether I’m putting or hitting and I feel that’s something that you can control rather than thinking about how to hit the golf shot.
“So far I’ve felt really calm the whole week. I think it’s because I feel like I’ve been building, building, and I just keep trying to do what I’ve done the last few weeks.”
Buhai’s extended family will be coming to support over the weekend and her husband, David, who caddies for Swedish professional Madelene Sagstrom, will also be on hand.
With fine weather, large galleries and a colourful leader board, it is shaping up for an exciting weekend at Woburn. Third round play gets under way at 8.45am on the Marquess’ Course on Saturday and the leaders will tee off at 2.50pm.