Japan's Ai Suzuki shot a bogey-free 7-under 65 to take a three-stroke lead following the second round of the TOTO Japan Classic in Otsu-shi, Shiga, on Saturday.
Suzuki birdied the first three holes and three of the last five as she pushed into the lead of the 54-hole event, the final of four stops on the Tour's Asia swing.
She's counting on a similar hot start in Sunday's final round.
"I have to shoot more than 3 under to win the tournament," Suzuki said. "Usually winner scores low. Especially this week with this course, I think I have to play and score 5 to 6 under. That will be my target score tomorrow."
Australia's Hannah Green, who shared the first-round lead with Suzuki, finished with a 3-under 69 to fall into a tie for third with South Korea's Hyo Joo Kim, four strokes back.
Green struggled with a pair of bogeys offsetting two birdies on the front nine, but she kept herself in contention with three birdies on the back nine.
"It was a little rusty on the front nine," Green said. "Didn't hit many fairways really all day. Never really gave myself any opportunities for birdie. Was, you know, leaving myself like putts where I needed to two-putt.
"But then the back end of the round I felt a lot more confident and I pushed myself to make sure I finished under par. It was nice to finish birdie, birdie today because I didn't do that yesterday."
Mexico's Gaby Lopez, who shot 5-under while playing on her 25th birthday, sits alone in second place at 9 under. She made up for her lone blemish, a bogey on the par-4 15th hole, with birdies on the final two holes.
"Tomorrow it's a whole different story," Lopez said. "It's a new beginning, a new start. I'll do my best and we'll see."
Australia's Minjee Lee and China's Shanshan Feng are tied for fifth, five strokes off the lead.
Feng won the event in 2016 and 2017 and has finished in the top 10 in four of her seven starts at the tournament.
NOTES: Annika Sorenstam still holds the tournament scoring record of 192 set in 2003. ... Players from South Korea have won 14 of the 30 events on Tour in 2019. ... The final event on Tour will be the CME Group Tour Championship Nov. 21-24.
--Field Level Media