PITTSFORD, N.Y. — Morgan Pressel slogged through rain and muck to take the lead Saturday after two rounds in the LPGA Championship. Next up is a 36-hole marathon Sunday.
“I run a lot,” Pressel said, laughing. “I’m in plenty good of enough shape to get through 36 holes tomorrow.”
She shot a 2-under 70 at Locust Hill to reach 6-under 138 — two shots ahead of the top-ranked Park and Chella Choi in the second LPGA Tour major of the season.
Park had a 68 to give herself an opportunity to add to her three wins already this season, including the Kraft Nabisco Championship in April. Choi struggled with a 73 to relinquish her first-round lead.
Jiyai Shin, Amy Yang and Sarah Jane Smith were tied for fourth at 3 under. And there were seven more players at 1 under or better after two rounds, which should make for a long and topsy-turvy final day.
The change in schedule came after nearly five inches of rain fell Thursday, forcing officials to postpone the first round.
“It’s going to be very tough physically, I mean, especially walking on these wet fairways,” Park said. “There’s going to be many holes, but yeah, just try not to lose my focus.”
The forecast for Sunday is promising, calling for sunny conditions and temperatures in the high 70s.
Lorie Kane of Charlottetown carded a second straight round of 74 to sit 10 strokes behind the leader. Sue Kim of Langley, B.C., also shot 74 to make the cut at 5-over par - her second cut in three starts on the LPGA Tour this year. Stephanie Sherlock (74) of Barrie, Ont., Rebecca Lee-Bentham (75) of Toronto, Alena Sharp (77) of Hamilton, Ont., and Sara-Maude Juneau (81) of Fossambault, Que., all missed the cut.
A light and intermittent drizzle fell through most of Saturday morning further drenching the 6,500-yard course. Then there were two brief but heavy downpours in the mid-afternoon before the rain finally relented after about 2:30 p.m.
That led to soppy fairways. It made the slick, overgrown rough even more difficult to hit out of. And even hitting the greens didn’t guarantee relief.
Pressel’s tee shot on the par-3 seventh plugged 20 feet below the hole, from where she two-putted. That was actually fine with her. With a laugh, she was thankful the ball stuck where it did because it was a better place than above the hole.
From Boca Raton, Fla., Pressel is attempting to end a string of eight straight majors won by Asian-born players.
Pressel also hasn’t won since claiming the Kapalua LPGA Classic in 2008. A year earlier, at the age of 18, she won the Kraft Nabisco to become the youngest LPGA player to win a major.
“It was a long time ago. I’ve been through a lot since then,” Pressel said. “A lot has happened in golf and life. But that being said, I’ve done it before. So I just need to go out there and remember that I can do it, and just get it done.”
Last year, Pressel struggled in dealing with injuries to her thumb and left wrist. This year, she has missed three of the past four cuts of tournaments entered. Her best finish of the season is a tie for 10th at Singapore in March.
Starting on No. 9 Saturday, Pressel birdied three of her first six holes to get to 7 under, before faltering. She bogeyed Nos. 16 and 18. Pressel nearly gave up another stroke on the short par-4 second, but saved par by sinking a 10-foot putt.
Pressel then padded her lead with a 4-foot birdie putt on the par-5 eighth.
“The tournament is only halfway finished, but I feel good about my approach to playing,” Pressel said. “It’ll be a long day, but I need to stay mentally focused.”
The cut was set at 6 over, the highest in relationship to par of any LPGA Tour event this season, leaving 77 players in the field.
Park joined Michelle Wie in shooting the second-round’s lowest score in carding five birdies and a bogey-5 on No. 14.
With three wins already this season, including a major, the 25-year-old is carrying plenty of confidence into Sunday.
“I would be less nervous than at the Kraft,” she said. “That kind of experience really helps going into major championships like this where you get the situation and you’ve experienced it before. You feel a lot more comfortable.”
Wie put herself back in the hunt. She was at even par after a 68 to match not only her best round of the season, but best in six appearances at Locust Hill.
She credited her five-birdie, one-bogey round to being more patient and laying off her driver, which Wie blamed on costing most of her strokes a day earlier.
“I’m starting to understand this golf course a little more every year,” said Wie, who missed the cut last year at Locust Hill with a two-round total of 12-over 156.
“I’ve tried a lot of different things on this golf course over the past couple of years. And in some conditions, if you’re feeling great, (hitting driver) does work. But sometimes it will nip you in the butt if you get a little greedy here.”
At the very least, Wie is hoping she’s found a groove while attempting to build off last week, when she had a season-best ninth-place tie at the ShopRite LPGA Classic.
“Shooting 68 today, really gives me the confidence,” she said.
Defending champion Shanshan Feng also was even after a 70.
This marks the second of the tour’s past three majors to feature a 36-round final day. The second round of the Women’s British Open was postponed due to rain last September.
Shin rallied to win that event, beating Park by a whopping nine strokes.
Only three shots back after a second-round 73, Shin intends to pace herself through the morning, before taking a more aggressive approach if necessary in the afternoon’s fourth round.
“This course is really tough,” Shin said. “So I just try to keep focused and be patient tomorrow.”
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