Choi Na-yeon overcame her pre-round nervousness to shoot a two-under 69 on Saturday and take a three-shot lead at the LPGA Safeway Classic.
The South Korean star reached eight-under on Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club’s Ghost Creek course, sinking three birdies and a bogey in the second round after reeling off seven consecutive birdies in her opening 65.
However, she needed a brief pep talk from swing coach Robin Symes to put her in the proper frame of mind.
“I told my coach that I feel very scared to lose this chance. This is my first time to win this year,” Choi said. “He said: ‘This is not the first time. You had four times before. This is really like the fifth time. Don’t be scared.’ My answer was: ‘OK, I’ll do my best.’”
Her best proved enough, building a comfortable lead ahead of Stacy Lewis, who had a 68. She started the round with four consecutive birdies, but dropped three strokes with bogeys at five, nine and 10.
Mika Miyazato (67) was third at three-under. Taiwan’s world No. 1 Yani Tseng was tied for seventh place on one-under after a 69. Fellow Taiwanese Candie Kung and Amy Hung did not fair as well, Kung’s 76 leaving her on six-over, while Hung’s 78 left her a shot further back.
Choi said the last time she led a tournament wire-to-wire was the Jamie Farr Classic in July last year.
“I’ll start out playing aggressively and then I’ll decide how to play. I want to play my game, not their game or her game,” Choi said.
Lewis, in her third year on the LPGA Tour, is aiming to win her second official title of the year and her career. In April, Lewis captured the Kraft Nabisco — the first major of the year.
Lewis’ putter was working early during the second round. She rolled in birdie putts of 18 feet, 25 feet, 25 feet and 30 feet during the first four holes to briefly move into a tie for the lead with Choi.
“I didn’t hit great shots or anything. The putts were just going in,” Lewis said.
Brittany Lincicome (68), Ryann O’Toole (69) and Grace Park (73) were on two-under.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY STAFF WRITER