Kaufman finished with two successive birdies to card a seven-under 66 on the Creek course and rocket to 13-under, two shots clear of Japan's Haru Nomura.

Kaufman endured a difficult 2018 season on the LPGA Tour after being diagnosed with glandular fever, but is now back to full fitness.

"The last time I was in the final group on a Sunday was at the 2017 Tour Championship," she said.

"It's just nice to be back.

"It was a long year last year, but you just have to keep working hard and believing in yourself ... Hopefully this will be our week."


Having heard such positive feedback about the Vic Open, where the men and women play concurrently on the same courses for equal prize money, Kaufman was determined to include the tournament on her schedule in 2019 even before it was added to the LPGA roster.

"I told them last year it's such a great thing they're doing," she said.

"We all want more prize money and equal prize money.

"Maybe it's not $10 million but it's someone who's starting to do this and I think it's awesome."

Midway through day two, Nomura was in outright second at 11-under, two strokes clear of England's Charlotte Thomas.

Overnight leader Felicity Johnson from England was unable to repeat her day-one heroics on Friday morning, carding a two-over round to drop back to six-under.

Leading Australian Su Oh had an afternoon tee time on Friday, having started the $1.5 million tournament with a six-under round highlighted by a hole-in-one.

- John Salvado, Australian Associated Press