Pair of rookies top LPGA leaderboard

Pair of rookies top LPGA leaderboard

...I literally push into the ground. Notice the "squat" look to my lower body as I start down. This connects me to the ground so I can use it for extra leverage and power.
Rob Tringali

DANVILLE, Calif. (AP) — Gwladys Nocera hasn’t had a lot of success since leaving the European Tour to play in America. Neither has Beatriz Recari.

That could change soon.

Nocera and Recari each shot a 6-under 66 on Friday and were tied for the lead after the second round of the CVS/pharmacy LPGA Challenge, taking advantage of a rough day for Brittany Lincicome.

“I’m not looking at what everybody else is doing, I just concentrate on my game,” said the 35-year-old Nocera, who had seven birdies and a bogey to match her best round of the season and get to 10-under 134. “I made a couple (putts) on 6, 7, 8 and 9 and that helped me to stay concentrated and focused on my game.”

Recari, playing in one of the final groups, had an eagle and five birdies over her final 10 holes to join fellow LPGA Tour rookie Nocera on top of the leaderboard. Nine other players are within five strokes of the lead.

“I had a very good mojo from yesterday,” the 23-year-old Recari said. “I was playing very well, leaving it close to the pins. It just seemed that the putts weren’t dropping so I said, ‘I just have to be calm. There are plenty of holes out there and plenty of possibilities.'”

Amy Hung was alone in third at 9 under. Michele Redman, Wendy Ward, Stacy Lewis and Ilhee Lee were at 136.

Lincicome, who shot a blistering 11-under 61 on Thursday to build a four-stroke lead, struggled off the tee all afternoon and shot a 76 at the 6,185-yard Blackhawk Country Club that left her at 7 under.

A 10-time winner on the European Tour before joining the LPGA, Nocera overcame a rough start to match her best round of the season.

The Frenchwoman tied for 66th at last week’s Navistar Classic and had broken par only once in 10 rounds before shooting a 68 on Thursday. Friday’s 66 was the best score of the round and had her alone atop the leaderboard before Recari’s late charge.

Nocera shared the lead despite starting her day with a bogey on the par-4, 383-yard first hole. She parred the next two holes then picked up birdies on five of the next six.

After making the turn at 8 under, Nocera birdied Nos. 13 and 15 to inch closer to the lead while Lincicome was sliding back to the pack.

“I’m not going to set myself some goals that are too high for me,” Nocera said. “Whatever comes up on Sunday, I’ll take it.”

Recari, meanwhile, was 1 over through her first eight holes before picking up five strokes over the next four holes. That included an eagle on the par-5, 475-yard 11th. The 23-year-old Spaniard had a chance to overtake Nocera but missed a long birdie putt on 18.

Lincicome, who has three career LPGA Tour titles, fought her driver all day. She pulled several tee shots left and had to scramble just to save par on some holes.

Lincicome’s luck ran out after she birdied the par-5 11th to move to 12 under. She bogeyed the next two holes to fall into a tie with Nocera before carding a seven on the par-4, 390-yard 14th. She hit her tee shot into the sand, then went into a hazard before three-putting.

“I knew today wasn’t going to be easy but I didn’t think it was going to be that hard,” Lincicome said. “I was just really nervous. I didn’t really know how to follow up what I did yesterday. I shouldn’t have checked any messages on my phone.”

U.S. Open champ Paula Creamer, who grew up in nearby Pleasanton, rebounded with a 69 after carding a 73 on Thursday. She’s tied for 27th at 142. Defending champion Sophie Gustafson shot even par for the second straight day and is at 144, one stroke above the cut.

Cristie Kerr, who needs to finish second or better to overtake Ai Miyazato as the No. 1-ranked player in the world, is seven shots off the pace at 141. She shot a 68 that included an eagle on No. 11.

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