Anna Nordqvist made four birdies and two bogeys on Friday.
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Saturday, June 13, 2009

HAVRE DE GRACE, Md.(AP) Anna Nordqvist insists that her rookie season on the LPGA Tour is all about learning from her more experienced peers and having a little fun playing the game she loves.

And if she happens to win a major tournament and $300,000, well, that might be pretty good, too.

Nordqvist made a 36-foot birdie putt on her final hole Friday to reach the midway point of the LPGA Championship with a one-shot lead over Nicole Castrale.

Nordqvist shot a 70 for an 8-under 136. That put her in position to pull off a stunning win, but that seemed to be the last thing on her mind after she walked off the Bulle Rock golf course.

``I'm here to learn, and we'll see what happens the next couple of days,'' she said. ``I'm just going to focus on my game, and if I'm ready, I'm ready.''

Castrale stumbled at the outset and charged to the finish while shooting a par 72, and Katherine Hull (69) and Lindsey Wright (68) were 6 under.

Nordqvist began the day in second place, one stroke behind Castrale. Starting on No. 10, Nordqvist birdied three of the first eight holes before losing momentum.

She was 2 over during a nine-hole stretch before making her 11th birdie of the tournament, on No. 9.

Playing in her first major as a professional, Nordqvist seemingly felt no pressure.

``I was just trying to go out there and have fun and enjoy the day,'' said Nordqvist, who made the cut in the Women's British Open the last two years as an amateur. ``Just a lot of patience, hit fairways, hit greens.''

Birdies on Nos. 10, 15 and 17 dropped her to 9 under, and she refused to be bothered by bogeys on 18 and 4.

``I knew I was hitting it solid. I just tried to pace myself and forward to the next holes,'' Nordqvist said.

Sounds like something another talented Swede, Annika Sorenstam, would say before she retired as the leading money winner in LPGA history.

``Annika has always been my role model, and I always looked up to what she's accomplished during her career,'' Nordqvist said. ``She's really been a meaningful influence in motivating me to work harder. She shows that someone from Sweden can really succeed.''

Starting her round on No. 10, Castrale parred the first two holes before hitting her tee shot on the par-3 12th hole into the water. She then two-putted from 20 feet.

``Obviously it wasn't an ideal start, but going into 14 I had made one bad swing,'' Castrale said.

She three-putted from 12 feet on No. 14 for a bogey, yet remained confident.

``I thought if I could get it back to even for the day I would be close to the lead,'' she said. ``The course is playing tougher today; the pins were very tough and there was a little bit more wind. It's hard to get real aggressive.''

On Thursday, Castrale breezed through the front nine at 6-under 30 and coasted to a 65. Her trip was decidedly different Friday, and it wasn't just the weather.

``I didn't quite have it today,'' she acknowledged. ``But I was still able to grind it out for par under these conditions, which is good.''

Lorena Ochoa was five behind Nordqvist following a 69 that included four birdies and several near misses.

``I gave myself a lot of birdie chances. A few putts didn't drop, but I'm happy,'' said Ochoa, the third-leading money winner on the Tour. ``I'm right where I want to be.''

Other notables: Angela Stanford (71-141), Karrie Webb (70-142), Michelle Wie (74-144) and Paula Creamer (70-144).

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