DANVILLE, Calif. (AP) — Lorena Ochoa took her putter back on the 16th green as a black cow grazing on the dry hillside behind her let out a noisy “moo.”
Ochoa made the 6-footer to save par after her tee shot ended up in a bunker, then birdied No. 17 to reach 5 under Friday on the second day of the Longs Drugs Challenge, leaving her a stroke behind defending champion Karrie Webb and Canadian Lorie Kane.
“Everybody was laughing a lot,” Ochoa said after her 2-under 70. “The gallery has been really fun. That save on 16 and the birdie on 17 really changed my day. … Today was like a mental game for me because I had nothing going.”
Webb and Kane shot 69s to finish at 6 under.
Ochoa, the 25-year-old Mexican and top-ranked woman in the world, is still in great shape for the weekend rounds at Blackhawk Country Club. She is trying not only to become the first female to win $3 million in a single season but also capture a fourth title in her last five events.
“Tomorrow is a big day, moving day,” said Ochoa, who headed for the putting green after her round to get in some extra work. “I’m going to try to be a little more aggressive, especially with my putting, just giving myself chances.”
Hall of Famer Juli Inkster (66), Se Ri Pak (71), Suzann Pettersen (65) and Charlotte Mayorkas (67) were two strokes back of the leaders heading into Saturday’s third round. They all know that will make for exciting golf with so many talented players bunched together at the top.
“It’s packed,” Inkster said. “You’ve just got to keep making birdies and see how you do on the weekend. If I keep playing the way I’m playing, I should be OK.”
Pettersen had the best round of the day to climb the leaderboard after starting the day 3 over.
“Still, I’m not totally satisfied how my putting is,” she said. “It’s improved and I’ve adjusted a few things on my swing. It’s an improvement. A nice comeback.”
Ochoa, wearing pink like most of the players as part of breast cancer awareness month, had plenty of supporters in the gallery despite playing in a group with Northern California native and fan favorite Natalie Gulbis.
A man waved a Mexican flag when Ochoa teed off early Friday afternoon, while another draped a flag over his shoulders. One man wore a Mexican soccer jersey and a flag bandanna around his head.
“Viva, Mexico!” someone yelled after her great approach shot on the ninth hole to complete a solid front nine.
“Mexicans are all over in California and this area,” Ochoa said. “They’re ready to be here on the weekend and bring their families and support me. It’s great. It feels really good and gives me extra motivation.”
Ochoa cut the corner on her first shot with a drive to the right that cleared the trees for 290 yards for a great position on the par-5, 505-yard hole. She just missed a tough eagle putt after hitting her 4-iron from 195 yards within 15 feet.
Maria Hjorth (69), coming off her tour win last week in the inaugural Navistar LPGA Classic last weekend in Prattville, Ala., was 2 under, while Inbee Park — a co-leader after the first day with Pat Hurst — shot a second-day 75 to also sit at 2 under.
Kane entered the tournament ranked 91st on the money list and the top 90 after this event will receive full exemptions for 2008.
“I started off today with a bogey, and a couple of months ago had I done that I probably would have jumped in the river,” Kane said.
Kristy McPherson (69) was a surprise at 3 under after a strong second-day effort by the American.
“What’s the worst I can do, not win? I’ve been doing that all year,” she said as she finished up her day on the ninth hole. “I stayed away from mistakes, stayed away from bogies. I finished solid. I came out today and kept it simple.”
Paula Creamer made the cut, but not without frustration. She cursed along the way, while another in her threesome — fellow American Morgan Pressel — kicked her bag in frustration before pounding it with her club on No. 8. Pressel pulled her drive left into the hazard and was upset she couldn’t play out of it and had to settle for a drop.