Taiwan’s Yani Tseng, the LPGA Tour’s dominant figure, birdied her final hole to end the second round of the Kraft Nabisco Championship with a one-shot lead in Rancho Mirage, California, on Friday.
A winner in six of her past 12 LPGA events, the long-hitting world No. 1 fired a four-under 68 on another day of glorious sunshine at Mission Hills Country Club in the first women’s major of the year.
Champion here in 2010 and fresh from consecutive victories on the US circuit, Tseng mixed five birdies with one bogey to post an eight-under total of 136 on the Dinah Shore Tournament Course.
Tseng had been disappointed with her opening 68, but she was much happier with the same score on Friday having negotiated slick greens that had quickened under a baking sun.
“Yesterday I had a couple of shots I just missed and a couple of shots where I wasn’t committed and I just hit it,” said the 23-year-old, who has won four of the past eight majors.
“But today, on every shot, I gave my 100 percent focus. The goal was the same, but I feel so much happier today,” she said. “I still have two more days to go and this golf course suits me really well. I heard tomorrow’s going to be very windy in the afternoon, so I just need to be patient.”
Tseng finished her second round in style with a one-putt birdie at the par-five ninth.
“It just made my day,” she said. “It made me feel that I can relax and do something more fun. I was feeling just so happy.”
Taiwan’s Candie Kung failed to build on her first-round 70, sliding down the leaderboard with a three-over 75 to finish at one-over 145. Compatriot Amy Hung did not make the cut after a 74 left her with a two-round total of six-over 150.
South Korea’s Kang Hae-ji was alone in second, after carding a 68, with compatriot Yoo Sun-young (69) and Australian Lindsey Wright (71) a further stroke back at six-under 138.
Wright had joined Tseng at eight-under when she sank a curling 30-foot putt to birdie the par-four 10th, but she slipped back with a double-bogey at the 15th to finish two off the pace.
Two more South Koreans, Choi Na-yeon (67) and five-time major winner Pak Se-ri (69), and Swede Karin Sjodin (67) were tied for fifth at five-under.
The ominous sight of Tseng at the top of the leaderboard will have sent shock waves across the field at Mission Hills as the game’s top player hunted a sixth major victory.
“To catch Yani is difficult,” five-time LPGA champion Choi told reporters after compiling five birdies in a flawless display. “When she’s playing well, she looks like a very intimidating player. She played so well today and last week and two weeks ago. She’s an amazing player right now.”
However, not all of the LPGA Tour’s big names had strong performances.
Norway’s Suzann Pettersen, who finished a stroke behind the triumphant Tseng at the 2010 Kraft Nabisco Championship, and 2007 winner Morgan Pressel returned 74s to occupy the lower reaches of the leaderboard.
The cut fell at four-over 148 with 2009 champion Brittany Lincicome, who battled to a second-round 76, and fellow American Michelle Wie, after a 77, among those failing to advance.
Additional reporting by Staff writer