MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (AP) — Step aside Annika and Michelle. Lorena Ochoa showed who’s the LPGA Tour’s true star attraction at the Ginn Tribute.
Ochoa shot a 5-under 67 Friday to move to 9 under through two rounds, three shots ahead of first-day leader Angela Park (72) and four in front of Paula Creamer (71).
The world’s No. 1 player and already a two-time LPGA Tour winner this season, Ochoa took control at RiverTowne Country Club with her bogey-free round. She carded only one score higher than 4, a par on the par-5 ninth hole, and continued her stellar run with her sixth straight round under 70.
“I’m just trying to enjoy it as much as I can,” Ochoa said.
The focus this week had been highly anticipated returns from injury of two of women’s golf’s biggest names – former No. 1 and tournament host Annika Sorenstam and 17-year-old Michelle Wie.
But with Sorenstam, 1 under after a 71, not close to 100 percent and Wie’s withdrawal Thursday after going 14 over for 16 holes, the friendly, polite 25-year-old star from Mexico has so far stolen the show.
She caught tour rookie Park with a 12-foot birdie putt on the par-5 fifth hole, then took the lead for good with 5 foot birdie putt on another par-5, the 11th.
Ochoa added two more birdies, including one after landing in a bunker near the green in two on the par 5 16th.
Ochoa has always had the shots. What’s changed, she says, is her mental approach. Ochoa feels much more in control of things on the course these days – and that’s led her to the top during Sorenstam’s nearly two-month absence with a ruptured disk and a bulging disk.
“Nothing is very different. I’m the same,” Ochoa said. “I feel good and I feel comfortable. I believe in myself and I have faith that I can control all the things that I can control.”
Sorenstam came into this inaugural, $2.6 million event with modest hopes. However, when she followed up a first-hole bogey with a birdie and an eagle, the old Annika rushed back.
“It was a fun feeling,” Sorenstam said. “I was even par and not looking at the leaders. Now. I’m two under par and I’m staring down the leaderboard.”
Sorenstam, though, knew her distance and strength were lacking. Soon, enough, everyone else found out, as well as she made only one more birdie the rest of the way.
Still, Sorenstam was again pleased with her come back “It was fun. I’m enjoying myself out there,” she said. “As I said, my expectations are not very high.”
That’s not the case with Ochoa. She compared RiverTowne’s dry, baked greens and fairways to U.S. Open conditions and was glad with how she managed her game to reach the top.
“That’s why she’s the number one player right now,” Creamer said. “She’s a great, consistent golfer. I think she brings a lot to golf in general and a lot of excitement.”
Teenager MacKinzie Kline, the first in LPGA history to use a cart because of a medical condition, was withdrawn from the tournament because she shot an 89, one more than the tour’s “88 rule” that Wie flirted with before withdrawing Thursday.
Kline, called “Mac” by friends and family, is barred from LPGA sponsored events through year’s end.
The 15-year-old was more than pleased with her experience. “It was so much fun playing,” Kline said.
Divots: There were several withdrawals before the second round, including Natalie Gulbis and Grace Park. Gulbis shot an opening 80 before pulling out. Park opened with a 77, then played her first nine holes Friday in 5-over 41 before choosing to leave. … Because of an approaching storm, tournament officials altered Saturday’s tee times. Players will go off in threesomes on both the first and 10th tees with play beginning at 7 a.m.