Minjee Lee grabs US Women's Open lead

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Minjee Lee is poised to join golf greats Karrie Webb and Jan Stephenson as a US Women's Open champion after rocketing to the top of the leaderboard at the mega-rich major in North Carolina.

Australia's in-form star fired a five-under-par 66 to make up three shots on first-round frontrunner Mina Harigae (69) and share the halfway lead with the American.

Lee and Harigae are nine under for the championship, holding a two-stroke buffer over Korean Hye-Jin Choi (64) and Sweden's three-time major winner Anna Nordqvist (68).

Chasing a second major in 11 months and second LPGA Tour victory in three starts, Lee collected another six birdies on Friday and had a chance to tie the low 36-hole total at a Women's US Open.

But the 26-year-old world No.4 left her eight-metre birdie putt short on the last hole at Pine Needles Golf and Country Club.

Lee had only one blemish in her round, dropping a shot on the par-4 14th but bounced straight back with successive birdies on 15 and 16 to be firmly in the mix for the record-setting $US1.8 million ($A2.5 million) winner's cheque.

"Same as yesterday - my putting was really solid again. Even when I was tough spots I still managed to get up and down," Lee said.

"I just tried to take advantage of my birdie opportunities and that's pretty much what I did today."

Total prize money on offer this week is a staggering $US10 million ($A13.7 million), the biggest purse in women's golf history.

Lee said it was vital not to get ahead of herself over the weekend.

"I'm not sure how the conditions are going to change and what time I'm playing, but I've been taking one shot at a time," she said.

"The golf course can really catch up to you quickly, so just trying to take whatever I have in front of me as I go and just whenever I have a birdie opportunity, I try to take advantage of that.

"That's pretty much what I'm going to focus on and just do whatever I can that is in my control."

If she goes on with the job, Lee will follow Stephenson (1983) and Webb (2000 and 2001) as only the third Australian to win the US Women's Open.

But Lee and Nordqvist aren't the only big names in the hunt.

World No.1 Jin Young Ko (67) charged to six under with four birdies and an eagle to be trailing the co-leaders by three shots in a tie for fifth with Swedish amateur sensation Ingrid Lindblad (71).

Lee's countrywoman Hannah Lee isn't out of it either after posting an even-par 71 to stay at one under.

Grace Kim (72) is three over, but fellow Australians Sarah Kemp (70, four over) Gabi Ruffels (75, seven over) missed the cut.

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