Minjee Lee briefly scaled the Olympic mountain today, then retreated to the relative anonymity of base camp as Stacy Lewis planted an extraordinary marker near the summit.
West Australian Lee, 20, played a series of sublime irons to can five birdies in seven mid-round holes to momentarily lead the women’s Olympic competition.
But a staggering second-round charge by Stacy Lewis culminated with a hybrid to just over a metre on the last for a remarkable 11th birdie of her round.
Barring a double-bogey on the 14th and a bogey on the seventh prevented the American from stringing out the field.
As it is, her course-record eight-under-par 63 vaulted her to nine under, one behind multiple major champion Inbee Park, who shot a second consecutive 66 to lead at -10.
The scoring frenzy made it very hard on those who stumbled today, including Victorian Su Oh.
Oh is only 11 shots adrift at one over, but her flat round of 72 left her in 38th position at one over, leaving Lee as the likely Australia medal contender.
Lee is tied 8th at six under after a fine 67, with a host of quality players around her, including Canadian Brooke Henderson, who birdied five of her closing six holes to finish at -8 with a superb 64.
Also in the frame are Charley Hull (66 to finish -8), Marianne Skarpnord (66 for -7),Ariya Jutanugarn (71 for -6) and world No.8 In Gee Chun who eagled the last for a 66 to sit -6.
Denmark’s Nicole Broch Larsen (68 to be -7) was second until a messy double on the short 17th left her fuming, while Indian bolter Aditi Ashok, just 18, fired a second straight 68 to sit at -6.
Lee’s group was warned for slow play at a critical time, just as the going got a little tougher on the back nine.
“I started really good … but as the wind got up and we were on the clock for most of the back nine, I think my rhythm was a little out,” the former world No.1 amateur said.
“But I made really good up and downs and I was happy with my round.
“The birdies and par saves were as important as each other. Hopefully I can improve on it tomorrow.”
Lee was confident she’d go deep at the weekend, saying the support from home was “amazing”.
“I’ve won before (on the LPGA Tour), so this shouldn’t be any different. You shouldn’t have to think about anyone else, just play with what you have and what’s in your control.
“But the more support the better.”
As quickly as she’d powered through the field, the Perth star was forced to go on the defensive from several tough back-nine positions.
Lee, already renowned on the LPGA Tour for her ability to go on streaky, white-hot runs, did just that after mixing an early birdie and bogey from her overnight two-under mark.
A 4m birdie roll on the fourth was followed by a two-putt birdie on the long 5th and a rifled iron to just over 1m on the 6th for three straight positive moves up the leaderboard.
A knock-down shot on the 9th to about 70cm was good for another birdie on the ninth, then a7m bomb on the 10th threatened to string out the field.
But some wayward tee shots in the tough stretch from the 11th meant Lee’s scrambling came to the fore as her charge cooled.
Oh just couldn’t get traction after looking promising with birdies taking her into red figures at the first and again at the fifth as she cashed in at the par-fives.
But four bogeys, including one induced by a three-putt on the last, left her with a mountain to climb in terms of players ahead on the leaderboard.