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She Does More Than Talk a Good Game

Meunier-Lebouc shoots a 68 for a two-shot lead over Sorenstam at Mission Hills.

March 29, 2003|Peter Yoon | Times Staff Writer

If words were birdies, there's no telling how big Patricia Meunier-Lebouc's lead would be at the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

As it is, the margin is two strokes after she fired a four-under-par 68 in the second round Friday at Mission Hills Country Club, putting her at six under for the tournament.

Two-time defending champion Annika Sorenstam struggled with the blustery, swirling winds and is second after a second-round 72.

Tour rookie Lorena Ochoa shot 70 and is third at three under, three others are tied for fourth at two under, and Se Ri Pak is in seventh at one under after a second-round 72.

But more amusing than watching the golfers battle the winds was Meunier-Lebouc's rambling answers to questions afterward.

A tough quote she is not.

Through the first two days of the Nabisco Championship, Meunier-Lebouc has been asked 15 questions in post-round interviews and her responses have contained 3,907 words.

In contrast, Sorenstam needed only 982 words to answer 12 questions Friday.

Sore-fingered reporters cringed at the thought of what their workload might be if English were Meunier-Lebouc's primary language. She's French.

"I just try to enjoy every shot," she said. "I'm also trying not to care about, you know, missing it. I just hit it and try to enjoy to make it, try to get it close to the pin. I just have fun."

Sorenstam, playing in the same group, wasn't having as much fun. She backed off shots consistently, looked to the tops of the trees and threw bits of grass into the air trying to gauge the wind. She had five bogeys and five birdies.

"It was kind of a roller coaster a little bit," Sorenstam said. "It was difficult today because the wind was swirling constantly on the front, then on the back it would gust. There were several shots I just couldn't believe. It's like I hit good shots and either they would just go away with the wind or just stop in the wind."

Meunier-Lebouc, whose name is pronounced moon-YAY la-BOOK, started the round two shots behind Sorenstam, but caught her with birdies on the first two holes.

Twice on the front nine, Sorenstam pulled ahead with birdies, but each time Meunier-Lebouc answered and they made the turn tied at five under.

Meunier-Lebouc made a birdie at the par-five 11th hole to take the lead for good. Sorenstam fell three shots back after consecutive bogeys at Nos. 16 and 17, but she birdied the par-five 18th to pull within two.

Sorenstam likes her position, two shots off the lead entering the weekend, which is where she was last year and won. She was four shots off the lead after two rounds when she won in 2001.

"My goal is to be in contention on Sunday," she said. "The weekend is when it starts. But I mean I'm right there. We've had some difficult conditions and I think the scores show that."

The cut came at 10 over par, a stroke higher than it was last year. Only 10 players broke par Friday and eight are under par for the tournament.

Sorenstam said the weekend scoring will depend on the weather. Meunier-Lebouc, on the other hand, has no idea what to expect.

A native of Dijon, France, she played the Ladies European Tour from 1994-2000 and won five times. She joined the LPGA Tour in 2001 and won for the first time last year in the State Farm Classic.

She finished fourth playing with Sorenstam in the Tour Championship last year, and finished tied for third last week in Phoenix. She played with Sorenstam all four rounds in that tournament, but realizes that playing the weekend in a major with the 42-time winner won't be the same.

"It's just another experience I'm so happy to live," she said. "I have the chance to go into the third day leading the tournament, the major. What else do you want to be living in the life, you know?

"I will be able to say that I've been leading in front of Annika the third day of the Dinah Shore."

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