Kusakabe seizes Karuizawa lead


Tomoko Kusakabe shot her second straight 68 on Saturday to take sole possession of the lead after two rounds at the NEC Karuizawa 72.

Kusakabe, whose best finish was a second place in 2007, took a one-stroke lead over Yuri Fudo, who matched her 68, and overnight co-leader Yang Eun Bi of South Korea. Junko Omote, who shared the first-round lead with Kusakabe and Yang, shot an even-par 72 to fall four strokes off the pace.

Saturday marked the first time since her tour debut in 2004 that Kusakabe had finished a round all alone at the top of the leaderboard.

“I’ve mostly been missing the cuts, so I’m a bit surprised,” said the 32-year-old, who had reached the final round just once in her last 10 tournaments and opted this week for a new putting grip.

“All of a sudden, I’ve begun putting well,” she said. “I’m not getting younger, so I’d better make the most of this chance.”