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Rookie Nordqvist leads LPGA Championship at halfway point

HAVRE de GRACE, Md. - Of the last nine LPGA majors, only one was won by somebody who'd already captured one before.

HAVRE de GRACE, Md. - Of the last nine LPGA majors, only one was won by somebody who'd already captured one before.

A glance at the leaderboard at the halfway point of the final McDonald's LPGA Championship suggests it could well become one of 10 by sunset tomorrow.

You have to go down to a tie for 11th to find Lorena Ochoa's name. She's won two majors and missed a playoff by one shot here last June. Of the top 10 players through 36 holes, only three have even won a minor event. Of those, only Hee-Won Han (who's tied for fifth) has multiple victories.

Ochoa is at 3-under-par 141, following a 3-under 69 yesterday at Bulle Rock. She's five off the lead, held by Swedish rookie Anna Nordqvist. Whom do you think the Golf Channel would like to see make a run?

"I am right where I want to be," said the heir apparent to Annika Sorenstam's throne. "We still have a couple more days, which should be good. A few putts didn't drop, but I'm [still] happy. It's not easy out there. You will be rewarded if you hit a lot of fairways.

"If you get it in the rough, you are dead."

She should know, having missed only one on this trip around the grounds.

"Tomorrow is a new start," Ochoa went on. "So hopefully I'm going to make some more birdies, and have a good weekend."

She was, by the way, "surprised" that they didn't play lift-clean-and-place for the second straight day.

"I had mud on my ball for most of the holes," Ochoa said. "But it is a major, so if it's tough, it's tough. It's OK. The course is a little bit harder when you play the ball down."

Don't you just hate it when that silly rulebook gets in the way of a good time?

Nicole Castrale, who's finished 10th here each of the last 2 years, was ahead by one after the opening round. Now she's one in back of Nordqvist. Castrale, who was 3-over after five holes, went without a bogey the rest of the way and shot 72, which left her at 137. Nordqvist, playing in her first major as a professional, had a 70 that got her to 136.

Yani Tseng was a rookie when she won this thing 12 months ago, for whatever that's worth.

"I'm just trying to go out there and have fun, enjoy the day," said Nordqvist, who closed with a birdie. "I had a pretty solid day. You hit fairways, hit greens, the putts are going to drop. I'm trying to learn as much as possible. That's why I'm here.

"It feels great. It's been a great experience so far. You just have to keep going, make the best of it. I think I did pretty good. I'm just trying to focus on my game. If I'm ready, I'm ready."

Former Pepperdine teammates Katherine Hull (69) and Lindsey Wright (68) are at 138, followed by Han (69), Na Yeon Choi (71) and Kyeong Bae (69) at 139.

"Obviously, [it] was not the ideal start," Castrale said. "It was just about staying patient. I didn't quite have it today, [but] was still able to grind out an even-par round under these conditions, which is good.

"The course was playing tougher today. I thought if I could get it back to even for the day, I could get close to the lead."

Wright, who's 13th on the money list, finished fourth at the first major, the Kraft Nabisco, 2 months ago. Hull, who's 15th, tied for eighth there.

"I'm just playing against the golf course and myself," said Wright, when asked whether any competition is going on between the two, who, besides being college teammates, both live in Australia. "Now I've got 143 other Katherine Hulls to play against. It's really exciting, though, to see her playing well. And, to an extent, it's encouraging for me as well.

"For some reason, I think I just focus better [in majors]. I mean, I get in the little events and my head is a little bit all over the shot. I like the challenge of majors. Because it's a mental challenge, as well as physical. So it's exhausting. But I don't know. I've tended to do well."

Hull is merely trying to keep perspective.

"I want to hit perfect golf shots, and that's not the way golf is," she explained. "You can't make it happen. You have to let it happen. It took me a while to learn that lesson. My caddie and I have been trying to stick to the process, and that's all you can do."

It will happen for someone over the next 2 days. Even if it might not be anyone the casual fan could pick out of a lineup. Sometimes that's golf, too.


Stacy Lewis (72), Kristy McPherson (70) and Jin Young Pak (71) are at 140 . . . Michelle Wie is at 144, after a 74. So is Yani Tseng, who beat Maria Hjorth (75-146) in a playoff last year . . . Brittany Lincicome, who won the Kraft Nabisco in early April, shot 73 and finished at 148, to miss the cut by one . . . Suzann Pettersen, the 2007 champ, is at 145 after a 71 . . . Leading money winner Cristie Kerr shot 70, for a 146 . . . Paula Creamer had 70 for 144. *