- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 28, 2008

EDINA, Minn. (AP) | Halfway across the country, this U.S. Women’s Open must look familiar to Angela Park. She was in the lead after 36 holes of a tournament again delayed by storms, and Cristie Kerr was moving quickly up the leader board.

Park found a smooth putting stroke to go with her pretty swing Friday at Interlachen, posting a 6-under 67 well before the lightning and rain forced a 2 1/2-hour delay.

Just like last year at Pine Needles, the lead held up.

Helen Alfredsson bogeyed the 16th hole as the sun dipped behind the trees, settling for a 71 that left her one shot behind along with Minea Blomqvist of Finland and In-Bee Park, who each had 69.

The threat might be Kerr, the defending champion, looking confident as ever on a course that feels like home. She was within one shot of the lead and twice threatened with birdies until a fly distracted her on the ninth tee and she hit into the woods, leading to bogey.

Even so, she shot a 3-under 70 and was well within range just two shots behind.

“I’m in position again, and I have that fire. I’ve got it,” Kerr said. “This golf course and Pine Needles just turns my switch on.”

The 36 players who failed to finish before darkness included Michelle Wie, who tried to rally from an 81 but made bogeys she couldn’t afford after the rain delay. She was 2 over for the round, 10 over for the tournament, and had to return Saturday to play one hole.

The cut was assured of being 4-over 150 because of the 10-stroke rule at the U.S. Women’s Open.

The 19-year-old Park made sure of that with a burst of birdies early in her round, a 5-wood into 30 feet for an eagle on No. 2, and only one bogey on an otherwise flawless day.

She was at 6-under 140, the second straight year she held the 36-hole lead at golf’s biggest event.

“I told myself, ‘Anything under par today would be good. Just get me back up in the tournament,’” she said. “I told myself yesterday, ‘Go as low as possible,’ and that’s what I did.”

Lorena Ochoa and Annika Sorenstam could not say the same.

Ochoa went 13 holes without a birdie in her first round of 73. Determined to get off to a good start, she went 12 holes Friday without a birdie and was closer to the cut than the lead when storm clouds gathered, lightning flashed and she was given time to cool off.

“It was a tough day for me today,” Ochoa said. “I actually was very glad for the rain delayed because after No. 3, I was really frustrated and it seemed like nothing was going my way. I needed some time to relax and get away a little bit. I came back strong. I feel like I can continue the good momentum tomorrow.”

Ochoa holed an 8-foot par putt on her final hole for a 74, leaving her seven shots behind. She missed three birdie putts on her final four holes, including a 6-footer on the seventh.

That was Sorenstam’s story, too.

The three-time Open champion took 33 putts for the second straight day, and the final hole might have been the most aggravating. After a 3-wood over the water and a corner of the bunker that rolled to within five feet, her eagle putt never touched the hole.

“I think I’m hitting the ball as good as I can,” Sorenstam said. “I’m just going to work on a few things with my putter, and I’m really looking forward to the weekend. It has to do with tempo, it has to do with the length of my back swing. It just takes awhile to get that.”

As confident as Kerr was about her chances, she was angry about an insect.

She stopped her swing on the ninth tee because of a fly, swatting at it with the driver. Even after starting her routine over, she hit into the woods, and after a lengthy discussion, chose to chip out to the fairway and try to save par. She didn’t, missing a 10-footer.

“I’ve been known to pull off some pretty amazing shots, but you do that when you have to,” Kerr said. “It wasn’t a time that I needed to do something desperate.”

Kerr was at 4-under 142 along with former Women’s British Open champion Jeong Jang (69), Paula Creamer (72) and Candie Kung (72). Two emerging stars were another shot back, including the fiery Maria Jose Uribe of Colombia, the U.S. Women’s Amateur champion who just finished her freshman year at UCLA. Playing with Ochoa and Kerr, getting the loudest cheers, Uribe shot 74.

Stacy Lewis, who went 5-0 at the Curtis Cup at St. Andrews and turned pro the day she qualified for the Open, made a birdie on her final hole for a 70 and also was only three shots behind.

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