DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) - American teenager Lexi Thompson took a two-shot lead after the second round of the Dubai Ladies Masters on Thursday, putting her on course to become the second youngest winner ever on the European Tour.
The 16-year-old Thompson, who became the youngster winner on the LPGA Tour winner earlier this year, strung together six birdies on her way to a bogey-free 6-under 66 and a total of 136 for the tournament.
Tied for 16th after the first day, Thompson got her short game and irons working on Thursday, hitting a lob wedge to within 10 feet of the pin on the second hole and sending a 178-yard iron shot on the next hole ro within 15 feet of the hole. She birdied both holes.
Swedish veteran Sophie Gustafson (67) and Margherita Rigon (68) shared second place, while Paraguay's Julieta Granada and Becky Morgan of Wales were a further shot back on 139.
"I just made a few more putts today," Thompson said. "I hit it a little bit closer. I was just thinking 'stay steady' and playing consistent."
Thompson has started to match the hype that has surrounded her arrival on the tour, winning the Navistar LPGA Classic by five strokes in September.
A victory in Dubai would make her the second youngest winner on the European Tour after Amy Yang of South Korea, who won the ANZ Masters in 2006 at 16 years, 191 days. That is just over five months younger than Thompson.
"This is such a great tournament and it would be an honor to win this," Thompson said. "So I'm jut going to try and take it easy and play one shot at a time."
Fellow American Michelle Wie climbed back into contention, shooting a 5-under 67 to remain four shots adrift. Wie also got her start on the LPGA Tour at 16 - turning pro two years ago.
However, she has struggled to meet expectations, winning only twice on the LPGA tour and this year falling to 17th in the world rankings due to nagging injuries and a drop in form.
The 22-year-old Wie, looking for her first win of the year, bounced back from an opening 73 in which her shaky putting led to three bogeys. On Thursday, Wie had a bogey-free round in the season-ending event and sank several key birdie putts, including a 30-footer on No. 12. She had five birdies overall, including four on the back nine for a total of 140.
"A little frustrated after the last two holes, but I kept steady out there today," said Wie, who missed a 12-foot birdie putt on No. 18. "I made a couple more putts, and I have two more days to try and shoot some more low scores. I'm still in contention, and going to go out there tomorrow, shoot another low round."
Playing alongside Wie, the 38-year-old Gustafson is also looking for her first victory of the year. She was five shots back after the first day, but had five birdies in a bogey-free second round.
"I was striking the ball very well, so it feels good," Gustafson said. "I was actually hitting the ball awful on Tuesday during the Pro Am, but the Swedish coaches that are here this week from the Swedish Golf Federation helped me find my ball striking."
Four-time major winner Laura Davies (81) continued to struggle in Dubai. The 48-year-old Englishwoman is at 156 will miss the cut for the second week in a row.
She made an early exit at the Indian Open - only the fourth time she had missed a cut on tour - after her caddie failed to show up for the first round because of visa problems. She carried her own bag and shot 3 over the first day.
This week, Davies said her problems came down to poor play. Needing a sub-par round Thursday for any chance to play into the weekend, Davies had three bogeys and two double-bogeys on the front nine to end her chances.
"I started nicely. Three-putted the first and had an eagle chance on 3 and just missed it," Davies said. "On the fourth hole, I hit what I thought was a good chip and it went in the water. Triple-bogey, six over. The cut is obviously going to be 1 or 2 (over) and that is a long ways back from there."
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