Sweden’s Dani Holmqvist impressively defied the weather conditions to claim the second-round lead at the AIG Women’s Open at Royal Troon.

On another blustery day on the Ayrshire links, accompanied by heavy rain showers, the 32-year-old battled to a superb score of one-under-par 70 after four birdies and three bogeys.

Holmqvist is the only player under par at the halfway stage of the first women’s Major championship of the year, having only qualified via last week’s Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open.

The Swede, who has fought back to fitness after a golf cart crash in 2018, sits at one-under-par, a stroke clear of American Austin Ernst and Sophia Popov from Germany.

Ernst claimed three birdies on her front-nine on her way to a 70, with Popov finishing with a birdie for a 72 late in the day to join her at level par. A five-strong group of players share fourth place on one-over-par, featuring Minjee Lee, Jasmine Suwannapura, Lydia Ko, Emily Kristine Pedersen and Lindsey Weaver, who is impressing without the use of caddie.

Lee signed for a superb 69 after two closing birdies, while Ko added a 71 as she chases a third Major title.

The New Zealander, who became the youngest world number one aged only 17, tied third at the 2015 Women’s Open.

World number four Nelly Korda is well-placed at two-over-par after a second 72, while Inbee Park, who won the 2015 event at Turnberry, again showed her love for links golf as she carded a 69 to move into contention on four-over-par. Home favourite Catriona Matthew slipped to five-over.

It proved a difficult day for overnight leader Amy Olson, who followed up her opening 67 with a 10-over- par 81. Fellow American Marina Alex also struggled, starting the day in a tie for second place but dropping to seven-over-par after a 79.

The cut mark for the top-65 players and ties fell at nine-over-par. Defending champion Hinako Shibuno dropped out on 12-over, with leading names Charley Hull, Brooke Henderson, Stacy Lewis and Laura Davies also missing out on the weekend.

Key Quotes

Dani Holmqvist, Sweden

“I definitely enjoy the conditions. This week and last week, it’s just two different weeks from anything else out of the year. I grew up playing in the (Women’s) Amateur and also played the Helen Holm (Scottish Open Stroke Play) at this course. This is different, but I enjoy it. I’ll just stick to my game plan. You can’t really do more on this course and with these conditions; just trying to pick a line and pick a target.”

Austin Ernst, USA

“I figured a few things out the last few weeks. I’ve been a little rusty, but it’s been close to being really good. And I feel like last week at the Scottish Open helped me playing in a little bit of wind, playing links golf and figured out a few things that I needed to work on. I felt like at the start of this week my game was definitely trending in the right direction.”

Minjee Lee, Australia

“Perth (in Western Australia) is windy and I’m right near the Fremantle doctor, so we always have the breeze coming in in the afternoon. I have played a lot in the wind. Finishing my round, I made three birdies on the back nine, so I’m pretty happy with my result. It was pretty tough out there, so very happy.”

Lindsay Weaver, USA

“Everyone has to play in the same conditions. You know going into it, you kind of mentally prepare that it’s going to be windy and it’s going to rain, especially today. It’s playing very difficult, so it’s just about taking it one shot at a time and trying to stay as positive as you can.”

Lydia Ko, New Zealand

“I feel like every competitive round I get in, there’s a bit more confidence that builds in. It’s like the saying where, just even like an 18-handicapper, you know that one shot brings you back up for tomorrow; and I really think it’s the same for me, too. The more times I put myself in contention or in a good position it gives me confidence about my game. Sean (Foley, coach) has been trying to get me to swing aggressively and freely and I feel like I hit it better that way.”

Nelly Korda, USA

“It’s playing so hard out there because you feel like you’re playing two different golf courses, going out you have right-to-left wind and coming back in you have left-to-right, so you’re kind of adjusting your swing the whole entire way. There’s still 36 holes. I’m going to try to hit as many fairways and greens as possible; going to try to give myself as many looks and see where it goes.”

For further information on the AIG Women’s Open, please visit www.AIGwomensopen.com