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For Ochoa, 71 Is the New 62

Though well shy of her record first round, it's enough on a windy day to sustain four-shot lead.

April 01, 2006|Peter Yoon | Times Staff Writer

It wasn't exactly a 62 for Lorena Ochoa in the second round of the Kraft Nabisco Championship, but her second-round 71 sort of felt like it.

To Ochoa, and to those trying to catch her.

Ochoa shot one under par Friday at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, and while that pales in comparison to the tournament-record 62 she shot in the opening round, it was far better than average in a second round made difficult by gusty desert winds.

Ochoa's two-round total of 11-under 133 allowed her to maintain the same four-shot lead she began the day with. Only 10 players managed to break par in the second round, and only Karrie Webb made a significant move into contention.

Michelle Wie, playing her first major as a professional, equaled Ochoa's 71 Friday and remained in second place at seven under. Webb shot 68, the second-best round of the day, and moved from a tie for 10th into a tie for third with Seon Hwa Lee at six under.

"It was tough out there, so I'm very happy with my round today," Ochoa said. "I tried not to think about my 10 under. I knew it would be hard to play good, so I just tried to play a new round."

Webb's 68, bolstered by a seven-iron shot for eagle on the par-four 15th, trailed only 2003 champion Patricia Meunier-Lebouc's 67 for low round of the day. Meunier-Lebouc began the day at five over and finished it at even par, tied for 14th.

It marked a return to form for Webb, a 30-time LPGA Tour winner who for much of the late 1990s and early 2000s was one of the tour's top players but slipped to a career-low 27th on the money list last year -- the first season of her career without a victory.

"I feel like I'm good enough to play as good as I did five or six years ago," Webb said. "Mentally, I just don't have the confidence that I had. It's a matter of having more and more rounds of what I saw today just to get that confidence back up."

Whether or not Friday's round provides the impetus she needs to have a strong finish this weekend remains to be seen, she said.

"Obviously I put myself in there with a chance," she said. "The good thing that I did was not get too far ahead of myself."

Lee is tied with Webb at six under after her second consecutive 69. Paula Creamer and Stacy Prammanasudh are tied for fifth at four under, and Torrance High senior Angela Park and Shi Hyun Ahn are tied for seventh at three under.

Defending champion Annika Sorenstam, like most players, was unable to make a move. She shot 72 and was 10 shots behind Ochoa in a tie for 12th at one under.

Wie played in the final group of the day and dealt with the worst of the afternoon winds. Anyone who achieved any upward mobility, she said, deserved a lot of credit.

"The conditions were very tough today, and you couldn't really move up the leaderboard with the wind picking up like it did," Wie said. "It's really hard to shoot a 65 or 66, so I'm pleased with the way I played."

Creamer, however, said she left a few shots on the course and missed an opportunity to cut into Ochoa's lead.

"I think I could have moved up more today," said Creamer, who made two birdies and a bogey. "I missed some key putts ... but I'm glad I finished strong and gave myself a chance going into the weekend."

It won't be easy to catch Ochoa, who opened a seven-shot lead at one point Friday and said she doesn't intend to back off because she has a lead.

"I think you have to try to make birdies out there," she said. "It's always nice to be a little ahead of the players, but I don't want to focus on ... whether they are catching me or not. I'll try to do my own thing."

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