ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) — A barren stretch in the waning weeks of her teens made Morgan Pressel realize she wasn’t working nearly hard enough on her short game.
The youngest major winner in LPGA Tour history broke open a leaderboard logjam with a 7-under 65 to take a one-stroke lead over Suzann Pettersen at the Wegmans LPGA into Saturday’s third round on the tricky, tree-lined Locust Hill course.
“I’ve been playing well, playing better,” said Pressel, who turned 20 four weeks ago. “It just all came together today.”
The $2 million tournament, sandwiched between two majors, drew 88 of the top 100 money winners. Top-ranked Lorena Ochoa of Mexico shot a second-round 70 Friday to drop into a tie for 17th at 2 under.
“I know that there is a low round waiting for me,” said Ochoa, who won in Rochester in 2005 and 2007 and is seeking her seventh win of the season.
With $1.9 million in season earnings, Ochoa has a half-million-dollar lead on Annika Sorenstam. The Swede, who is stepping away from the tour at the end of the season, shot 72 to finish at 1 over and narrowly avoided being cut out of weekend play for the first time in 40 events dating to May 2006.
When Pressel’s form dipped this spring – she missed four cuts – she made adjustments not only to her swing to add distance off the tee but also intensified her green-side practice routines. Before long, she tied for second at the Sybase Classic in May and then tied for sixth two weeks ago at the LPGA Championship.
“That probably is what set me back for a few events, and I really started to work quite a bit harder on it,” she said. “I lost a little bit of feel in my wedges. I just miss a green, I would be making bogey instead of a routine up-and-down. Those are the things that really hurt me.
“If you are not practicing those kinds of shots, you are going to lose it quickly and I learned that. … You always have to be working … harder because otherwise you are going to be passed pretty quickly out here.”
Pressel’s second bogey-free round got her to 10-under 134. Pettersen, a five-time tour winner last year, chipped in for birdie on No. 9 – her last hole – to match Pressel’s 65 and get to 9 under.
“I’m making a few adjustments right now to give myself … a bit more consistency,” the Norwegian star said. “I’ve been working hard on my game and not trying to get too hard on myself.”
Inbee Park, who tied for fourth at the U.S. Women’s Open in her rookie year in 2007, finished with a bogey to drop into third place at 8 under alongside Japan’s Ai Miyazato (68). Both had been lodged in a seven-way tie for the lead after Thursday’s opening round. Christina Kim (67) and Cristie Kerr (70) were two shots back at 6 under.
“I’ve worked very hard on my game to get to this point,” said Kerr, preparing for her title defense in the U.S. Women’s Open next week. “It’s nice that it’s starting to peak a little bit … going into the U.S. Open.”
Vicky Hurst missed the cut with rounds of 77 and 71 after winning the Michelob Ultra Duramed Futures Players Championship on Sunday for her second Futures Tour victory of the year. She turned 18 on Thursday.
Since her breakthrough at the Kraft Nabisco Championship at age 18 in April 2007, Pressel has nine top-10 finishes.
She had to battle at Locust Hill early on, sinking 10-foot and 18-foot putts on Nos. 3 and 4 to save par. She ran up five of her six birdies on the back nine, her laserlike irons setting up an array of chances inside 10 feet.
“I started hitting good shots and then was just missing the putts,” she said. “I finally got a few to go in.”
Kim said she benefited from watching the “methodical way” in which Tiger Woods won the U.S. Open last weekend despite his knee injury.
“I’ve been so impatient in years past where you are hitting it to 5 feet every time, and you miss one, then you hit your tee shot in the trees on the next hole,” said Kim, who has five top-10s this year. “It just mounts up, so I’m kind of tired with that.”