- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 7, 2008

HAVRE DE GRACE, Md. (AP) | Lorena Ochoa trudged up a grassy mound to the right of the fifth green with a wedge in her hand, searching for a rare errant shot. She found the ball in the bunker, much to her relief, blasted over a steep lip and saved par.

That was all the trauma she could stand in one day at Bulle Rock.

It was the only fairway and the only green she missed. Ochoa was practically perfect Friday in the LPGA Championship, making enough of her 17 birdie chances for a 7-under 65 and a one-shot lead over Lindsey Wright. There was no stress, no par putt longer than three feet and not much to ruin a day when golf felt as simple as walking.

“My best round in the season,” Ochoa said.

It put the 26-year-old from Mexico in her favorite spot - atop the leader board at a major championship.

Ochoa had at least a share of the 36-hole lead in the Women’s British Open at St. Andrews and Kraft Nabisco Championship, winning both those majors by a combined nine shots.

“I think it’s just good to be in the lead … because my name means something, you know?” she said. “In a way, that’s what I’m trying to do - to put pressure on other players and to let them know that you want to win.”

Ochoa’s 65 matched her best score of the season and topped by three shots her best score in this major. She was at 10-under 134, the lowest 36-hole score at Bulle Rock since the LPGA Championship moved here in 2005.

Lorie Kane made three straight birdies to catch Ochoa in the afternoon, but the Canadian had to settle for a 70 and was two behind.

Three-time LPGA champion Annika Sorenstam tried to make a move with a 68, but she was still four shots behind. But she sounded as if she anticipated a duel with the No. 1 player Sunday.

“I think I’m in good shape,” Sorenstam said. “I played well here in the past. It’s a major, and 36 holes is nothing. The way I’m hitting it, I’m just waiting for the putts to drop. It could be a lot of fun.”

Wright, who grew up in Australia and played college golf at Pepperdine, has never finished better than fourth on the LPGA Tour. She had the outright lead with a birdie on the 18th but stumbled twice on her back nine until finishing with a birdie.

“Kind of nice to come into the weekend in this position, especially when Lorena is leading the tournament,” Wright said. “She’s obviously the person to beat. When you see her up there, you know she’s not going to make too many mistakes. It keeps me focused because I know I can’t make too many mistakes. I have to make birdies.”

Ochoa took the lead with one final birdie, a 20-footer on the 18th hole and curled into the side of the cup. Ochoa swung her leg and pumped her fist, happy to see the last putt fall on a day when she missed a half-dozen putts shorter than that.

Her longest putt for birdie was about 25 feet on the 13th hole. She missed three birdie putts inside eight feet. And even as the temperatures began to climb, Ochoa barely broke a sweat.

“It was very easy. I did enjoy it a lot,” Ochoa said. “I’m going to try to do two more rounds like that.”

Her work done, Ochoa headed to the movies with her brother to watch “Sex and the City.” But she departed Bulle Rock with her name atop the leader board, and it stayed there throughout the afternoon.

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