Defending champ Webb falls 2 off pace in Australia

Defending champ Webb falls 2 off pace in Australia

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) Two-time defending champion Karrie Webb struggled in tough afternoon conditions and shot a 2-over 75 on Friday to fall two shots off the lead after the second round of the Women’s Australian Open.

Webb, who had a 66 in the first round, trails Lee Chang-hee after the South Korean shot a 70 for a two-round total of 7-under 139. Webb is tied for second with England’s Georgina Simpson, who shot a 68 for the best round of the day, and Tania Elosegui of Spain (72).

Webb said she was “still very much in the tournament.”

“I really did not think there would be low scores this afternoon and seven under was in before I teed off,” Webb said. “I’m glad that I hung in there and am only two shots behind.”

Lee had five birdies – three on the par-5s – and two bogeys, including on the par-3 13th on the Metropolitan Golf Club course that hosted the 2001 men’s World Match Play Championship.

Lee, who celebrated her 20th birthday two weeks ago, has one win on the South Korean secondary tour and was surprised at her strong start.

“I played well but I did not think I would be leading,” Lee said. “It’s too early to say about the weekend – I don’t want to jump ahead of myself.”

Beth Allen of the United States had a 69 and was three strokes back, tied for fifth with Marianne Skarpnord of Norway (71).

Katherine Hull of Australia, who won last week’s ANZ Australian Ladies Masters at Royal Pines, shot a 74 Friday and is 11 strokes off the pace.

Oh Su-hyun, a 12-year-old schoolgirl originally from Busan, South Korea who moved to Australia in 2004, missed the cut after shooting an 81 Friday. She became the youngest ever to play in the tournament when she led qualifying Monday at nearby Kingswood Golf Club.

Oh’s two-round total was 14-over 160.

“I was really nervous yesterday, my hands were shaking when I was trying to putt,” Oh said Friday. “Today, it wasn’t so bad, but I was still nervous.”

Simpson, a top 20 player for the past two years on the Ladies European Tour, said strengthening sessions in the gym added length to her game and given her more confidence.

“It’s huge,” Simpson said of her gym workouts. “I’m late in starting it … probably a year and a half, but the main thing is that I’ve started it.

“Women are not built to be powerful. If you want to take your game to another level definitely you’ve got to look at every option.”

Simpson missed the cut in last year’s Australian Open at nearby Kingston Heath but said her experience at the sandbelt layout and her workout program has helped this year.

“I just played really solid, thought my way around the course and I’m putting really well,” she said.

Ursula Wikstrom of Finland was disqualified after she bent her putter in frustration on the 16th green and then continued to play with the club, which was a rule breach. England’s Felicity Johnson was also disqualified after she signed for the wrong score.

A European Ladies Tour official said Wikstrom was 8-over after nine holes Friday when she was disqualified. Johnson had signed for a 69 Friday after an opening 79, the incorrect score leaving her six shots within the cut line of 154.

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