RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. (AP) — Song-Hee Kim will start the third round of the Kraft Nabisco Championship atop a leaderboard loaded with majors winners.
The 21-year-old South Korean is the world’s highest-ranked player – No. 14 – without an LPGA Tour victory.
So was she nervous knowing she’ll be in the final group Saturday?
“Nope,” she responded matter-of-factly after shooting a 4-under 68 on Friday at Mission Hills.
Kim has top-10 finishes in all three events this year as she chases her first victory. Her two-round total of 7-under 137 in the season’s first major gave her a one-shot lead over majors winners Cristie Kerr (67), Karen Stupples (69) and top-ranked Lorena Ochoa (70).
Karrie Webb (70), a two-time winner here and a seven-time major winner overall, was two strokes back along with Stacy Lewis (68). Yani Tseng (71), the 2008 LPGA Championship winner, and first-round leader Suzann Pettersen (73) were 4 under.
“I’ve always been ready to win,” Kim said.
There might be something to her confidence.
“With major championships, you would think that a lot of experience counts,” said Kerr, who will play with Kim on Saturday. “But sometimes, you know, the people that haven’t won don’t put pressure on themselves and they come through.”
She pointed to Brittany Lincicome, who hadn’t won a major until winning this tournament last year.
“She kind of hung around last year and had that shot that defined her tournament on the last hole,” said Kerr, referring to Lincicome’s 210-yard hybrid shot that cleared the water on No. 18 and set up a tournament-winning four-foot eagle putt.
“You can look at it both ways. I’ve won a major championship and obviously am looking for another, and I think that having that little bit of experience helps more cases than not when you’re dealing with these kinds of tournaments. But it’s hard to predict that kind of stuff.”
Keeping out of the rough and handling the fast greens with tough pin placements were keys for the leaders. The conditions could get even tougher during the weekend if the wind kicks up.
Lincicome, though, couldn’t stay on the fairways and bogeyed three of her first four holes for a 74 to drop seven shots back.
Kim had a bogey-free round.
“I had a great round today, and my swing was really smooth and comfortable, and also I had great putting today,” she said.
Kerr had the day’s best round by going birdie-birdie-eagle on Nos. 9-11. Stupples opened birdie-birdie for her second straight 69, and Ochoa had birdies on three of her first five holes after making the turn.
“I bombed the driver all day today and it gave me a huge advantage on some of the holes where if you could get shorter clubs in, you could stop it a little bit better off the greens,” Kerr said.
For her eagle, she hit driver, 7-wood and had a 10-foot putt. “It was a perfect hole,” she said.
“I played really, really well today,” Kerr said. “I hit the ball as solid as I think I’ve ever hit it. I hit the ball really far today. I had a lot of speed.
“If you’re shooting in the 60s, whether it’s 61 or 69 in a major championship on a course this difficult with greens this firm and as much rough as there is, you’re doing a lot of things well,” Kerr said.
Starting on the back nine, Ochoa bogeyed No. 18 before going on a tear after making the turn. She birdied three of her next five holes and had other birdie chances.
After winning the Women’s British Open in 2007 and the Kraft Nabisco in 2008, Ochoa failed to have a top-10 finish in a major in 2009 for the first time as a professional. Her best finish in a major last year was a tie for 12th at this tournament.
“It’s just golf. I have my opportunity this week and I’m going to try my best,” she said.
After taking the first-round lead with a bogey-free 67, Pettersen struggled through a round marked by three bogeys and a double bogey.
Michelle Wie was tied for 10th at 2 under after her second straight 71.
Ai Miyazato of Japan, who won the season’s first two tournaments, missed the cut at 7 over after shooting a 77. She tied for 39th last week in the inaugural Kia Classic at La Costa.