World No. 1 Lorena Ochoa put herself in position to capture a third straight major title on Friday as she seized the halfway lead in the US$2 million LPGA Championship.
Ochoa fired a 7-under-par 65 to take a one stroke lead on 10-under 134 at Bulle Rock.
The Mexican star was one in front of Australian Lindsey Wright, with overnight co-leader Lorie Kane of Canada a further shot back.
Wright carded a 68 for 135, and Kane a 70 for 136.
Rachel Hetherington of Australia (69), South Korea’s Oh Ji-young (68) and American Brittany Lang (67) were tied for fourth on 137, while 10-time major champion Annika Sorenstam was in a quartet on six-under 138 after posting a 68.
Ochoa, a six-time winner already this year, won the first major of the year at the Kraft Nabisco Championship in April. She also won last season’s women’s British Open, the final major of last year.
Ochoa, whose previous best finish in an LPGA Championship was a tie for fifth in 2005, carded three birdies on the front nine, and added four more coming in, capping her round with a birdie at the last.
Despite the fact that the course was playing long after days of heavy rain, Ochoa was all over the pins.
Five of her seven birdies were from inside eight feet. Her longest was from 25-feet at the 16th.
She finished with a flourish, draining a 20-footer at 18.
AFP, MEMPHIS, Tennessee
Windy weather and hard greens gave the field a good preview of next week’s US Open on Friday, as six players shared the lead halfway through the St. Jude Championship.
Tommy Armour III had a great chance to end the day alone atop the jammed leaderboard, but a double-bogey at the last saw him fall into the tie.
Armour posted a 1-over-par 71 for his share of the lead on three-under 137 in the US$6 million tournament.
The crowd atop the board marked the most players tied for the lead at a PGA Tour event since the Houston Open last year.
Boo Weekley started the day with a one-shot lead but was 10 strokes worse on Friday and tumbled down the leaderboard after a 75.
The 34-year-old was hardly alone as only 13-players broke par at TPC Southwind.
One of those who did get the better of the conditions was Australian Gavin Coles, who signed for an impressive six-under 64 to grab a share of the lead.
“I just got lucky and hit the right shot at the right time,” said Coles, who had six birdies without a bogey. “I just seemed to putt well. When I did get in trouble, my putter sort of got me out of it a little.”
Some big names were looming a shot back. Vijay Singh (71) and Davis Love (70) were at two-under 138, tied for seventh with Germany’s Alex Cejka (69) and Michael Letzig (68).
Ireland’s Gary Murphy, who was leading after the first 18 holes of the Austria Open on Friday following a washed-out first day, said getting to grips with the mental side of the game was the key.
Murphy’s joint leaders were home hope Martin Wiegele, Sweden’s Pelle Edberg and Christian Nilsson, Scott Barr of Australia and India’s Jeev Milkha Singh, who all shot 64s.
Heavy early morning rain on Thursday washed out the first round and organizers have cut the event to just 54 holes at the Fontana golf course.
“It’s probably going to be a sprint this week so a 64 is a great start,” said Murphy, whose best ever performance on the tour was finishing third in the Irish Open last month.
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