(Reuters) - Michelle Wie stamped her authority on the U.S. Women's Open at the halfway stage when she raced into a three-shot lead over fellow American Lexi Thompson after the second round in Pinehurst, North Carolina on Friday.
On a day when 11-year-old Lucy Li played respectably but missed the cut, former child prodigy Wie birdied her final two holes, rolling in a curling 15-footer at the last with her stooped cross-handed putting style for a second consecutive two-under-par 68 at Pinehurst No. 2 Course.
She posted a four-under 136 total, while Thompson also shot 68 to end the day the only other player under par, setting the stage for a possible battle with Wie for the second successive major.
Thompson won the Kraft Nabisco Championship in April, while Wie finished second after the pair started the final round tied for the lead.
First round leader, American Stacy Lewis, carded 73 to slip four strokes behind with South Korean Yang Amy (69) and Australian amateur Minjee Lee (71).
"Yesterday I was thinking if I just did this again, that would be nice," Wie told reporters.
"It's a grind out there. (I'm) really grateful for the par putts that I made and some of the birdie putts that I made."
Wie, 24, has been playing in the U.S. Open since 2003, so she understands that the halfway lead does guarantee anything.
"Being in contention, having the clubhouse lead for now, I'm just really excited for the weekend," she continued.
"I think the U.S. Open as an American is one of the most important tournaments, but at the same time Sunday is a very, very long time, far away."
Wie has been in the public eye for more than a decade. In 2004, she came within one stroke of making the cut against the men on the PGA Tour at the Sony Open in Hawaii.
Her career stalled for a few years, but this season she is second behind Lewis on the LPGA money list thanks to a victory and a bunch of top 10 finishes.
Long-hitting Thompson reeled off three successive birdies on her back nine to vault up the leaderboard.
"Today went very well for me," Thompson said. "I didn't really get stressed out about the bad shots, just went to the next one."
Li, meanwhile, was far from overawed on the biggest stage of her young life as she carded a second straight 78 that included a triple and a double bogey.
"I'm really happy with how I bounced back from those big numbers," said Li, the second youngest player ever to compete in a U.S. Women's Open.
"I learned you have to be patient. It's been a great week. I did a good job staying patient and going to the next shot and not caring about what happens."
The cut fell at nine-over 149. Former champion Cristie Kerr was among those to bow out.
The Women's version of the event is being played on the same course where German Martin Kaymer won the men's U.S. Open last week.
Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina, Editing by John O'Brien