Six-under round keeps Kim one ahead in Classic

Dave Kane

One day after she fired a low-scoring salvo at the rest of the LPGA State Farm Classic field in her morning round, Christina Kim was greeted by more sub-70 numbers when she arrived Friday at Panther Creek Country Club for her second-round afternoon assignment.

"I was watching the leaderboard and seeing that Sherri Turner was at 12-under (par) first thing in the morning,'' Kim said. "You know that (Thursday's low-scoring first round) wasn't necessarily just a fluke in terms of condition of golf course.

"You know people were going to be throwing darts and there were going to be some low numbers out there. That added probably a little bit of pressure. … It's just great to be back here.''

For Kim, "here'' was atop the scorelist at the end of play for the second day in a row. After falling out of the top spot for a while Friday afternoon, she went birdie-birdie on her final two holes, Nos. 8 and 9, to card a 6-under-par 66 and regain a one-shot edge over four players - including Michelle Wie.

"It feels good,'' Wie said after shooting a season-low 65 Friday to sit at 12-under-par 132. "I've had two solid rounds so I'm still a shot behind. I need to go lower and lower over the weekend.

"There's a lot of birdie opportunities out there today that I missed.''

The wave of low scores that washed over Panther Creek on Thursday only increased Friday as 55 players broke 70 (after 44 did so in the first round). It produced a tour-record-tying 36-hole cut of 3-under-par 141.

The cut has been 3-under on four previous occasions, including both the 1997 and '98 State Farm Classics at The Rail Golf Course.

Kim, a 24-year-old Californian, is at 13-under-par 131. After missing the cut by one shot in last week's Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic near Toledo, Ohio, she's at the opposite end of the spectrum at the midway point. She admitted that Friday's 66 was a struggle compared to Thursday's 63.

"Yesterday's round just seemed to happen seamlessly,'' Kim said. "I just kind of would blink and the ball would fall in. Today it seemed like the combination of slightly more difficult pins along with knowing that I shot 9-under (Thursday), which is always hard to follow up on.''

Kim will bring her one-shot lead to the No. 1 tee at 9:15 this morning, when she'll join Wie and South Korea's Ji Young Oh in the final threesome. The field will be split between the Nos. 1 and 10 tees and start early today in order to meet ESPN2's scheduled 2 p.m. wrap-up time.

Kim is one up on Wie, Taiwan's Yani Tseng, South Korea's Ji Young Oh and 25-year tour veteran Sherri Turner. The latter three each shot their second straight 66s on Friday.

South Korea's Sun Young Yoo is alone at 133 after shooting a 69 Friday, while South Korean rookie Na Yeon Choi (67) and third-year tour player Katie Futscher (career-low 64) are at 134.

Tseng, currently No. 6 on the tour money list and leading the rookie of the year race, was in position for a share of the lead before taking a bogey on No. 18. She had four straight birdies on Nos. 13 through 16 - needing just tap-in putts on 13, 14 and 15.

"I'm happy,'' said Tseng, winner of the LPGA Championship earlier this year. "I like my position now and I'm looking forward to the next two days.''

Wie, meanwhile, put together her first back-to-back sub-70 rounds this year to stay in contention for her first LPGA victory. She holed a fairway shot for eagle for the second day in a row, using a sand wedge from 85 yards on her first hole of the day: the par-4 No. 10.

It started a bogey-free round that also featured five birdies - four of them on the par-5s. Wie's only birdie on a par-4 Friday came at No. 9.

"There's a lot of birdie opportunities out there,'' Wie reiterated. "I need to make more birdies on the par-4s, keep making birdies on the par-5s and attack the par-3s and just go lower and lower.''

The 51-year-old Turner, whose last tour win came in 1989, took advantage of her morning tee time Friday for her second straight 66. Starting on the back nine, she reached the par-5 13th hole in two before sinking a 12-foot putt for eagle. She eventually posted a bogey-free round, including a birdie from 30 feet on No. 11.

"It was kind of nice because I actually just kind of picked up where I left off (Thursday),'' Turner said. "That's very pleasing to me. I maybe hit a few shots closer to the hole today.''

Oh, 20, also had a bogey-free day. After playing the front nine in 33, she birdied Nos. 10, 11 and 12 before parring out the rest of the way.

A second-year tour player who came to the United States two years ago, Oh said a putting practice session in her hotel room paid off on Friday.

"Yesterday (Thursday), I was just a little bit tired,'' Oh said. "I just went to my hotel and practiced my putting, just myself in my room.

"Today, I was calm and everything. I made a lot of birdies. I just tried to stay focused and shot a low round today.''

Given the numbers put up at Panther Creek the past two days, it will take nothing but more 60-somethings today and Sunday.

IF YOU GO: Classic Round 3

WHEN: Today

WHERE: Panther Creek Country Club

TEE TIMES: 7:15-9:15 a.m.

FOLLOW THE LEADERS: Christina Kim, Michelle Wie, Ji Young Oh (9:15 a.m., No. 1 tee); Yani Tseng, Sherri Turner, Sun Young Yoo (9:05 a.m., No. 1)


PARKING: $5 (Chatham Glenwood High School)

FRIDAY'S 36-HOLE CUT: 74 players at 3-under-par 141 and below

TV TODAY: Noon-2 p.m. (ESPN2)

Springfield State Journal-Register