The LPGA Tour returned to normal on Friday.
When the final putt fell on the second day of the Kraft Nabisco Championship, the first major of the year, Yani Tseng was in first place – as usual.
A second straight 68 on the Mission Hills Country Club course catapulted Tseng into the top spot, one shot ahead of Haeji Kang and two ahead of Lindsey Wright and Sun Young Yoo. The 23-year-old from Taiwan has now held at least a share of the lead in nine of her last 10 rounds.
Tseng (pictured) started from the 10th tee on Friday and carded three birdies on the back nine and two on the front. The only glitch on her card came on her 10th hole of the round, No. 1.
Kang finds herself in an unexpected position in Saturday’s third round, playing in the lead group alongside Tseng. She likened her expectations to playing her first LPGA round with Michelle Wie in Hawaii, where the crowds lived and died with each one of the Hawaiian’s shots.
“So that was a really good experience for me because everyone just walks away when I try to putt when Michelle finishes,” said Kang. “But that’s what you’ve got to handle out there. I mean, what can I do? So I’ll just do my best.”
Kang is a fourth-year LPGA member with just two top-10 finishes to her credit. Her career-best finish in a major came at the 2011 RICOH Women’s British Open. She noted that her swing has undergone several changes since she first arrived on the LPGA Tour in 2009.
Vicky Hurstm, tied for eighth place at 4-under, was first among the U.S. players. Defending champion Stacy Lewis shot a second-round 71, but was tied for 42nd place at 1-over.
The Shell Houston Open isn’t exactly coming off like clockwork.
The last tournament on the PGA Tour schedule prior to the Masters continues to be a walk in the mud and nearly half the field was still on the course Friday evening when the second round was called because of darkness.
A thunderstorm that dumped 1 1/4 inches of rain Thursday is causing the backup. The players enjoyed sunny and calm conditions Friday, but the fairways were damp, and players were permitted to lift, clean and place.
Even so, 70 players did not complete their second round.
Among those who did finish on schedule, unheralded Brian Davis shot a 65 to share the top spot with Louis Oosthuizen at 11-under.
Jeff Maggert was close behind at 10-under and still had eight holes remaining. Defending champion Phil Mickelson was among those two shots out of the lead. Mickelson carded a 70 on Friday while J.B. Holmes and Tommy Gainey had 67s, two shots better than Greg Owen.
Although most of the top-name players are taking this week off, Mickelson continues to fine-tune his game in a tournament atmosphere.
Mickelson says he’s prefers playing a tournament the week before a major to get into a “competitive frame of mind.”
Three-time major champion Ernie Els, who must win to qualify for next week’s Masters, was in the group at 5 under after a second-round 69.
Davis is in the same boat. He also must win this week to earn an invitation to the Masters next week. Davis has five runner-up finishes in seven years on the tour, but he’s never won.
“Obviously, I’m well aware that I need to start winning,” Davis said. “It’s one of those things where you can’t force it. You’ve just got to keep putting yourself in position.”
Mickelson finished a 65 on Friday morning and started his second round on No. 10 about an hour later. His afternoon round stalled after he birdied 13 and 15, the two par 5s on the back nine. He hit his tee shot over the green on the par-3 16th and bogeyed, then parred the next five holes.
“I played pretty well the second round, but I didn’t get the score that I had hoped,” Mickelson said. “I’ve got to light it up this weekend.”
Mickelson played with Fred Couples, who won on the Champions Tour last week. Couples, who played at the University of Houston and has made 18 consecutive cuts at the event, is 4 under through two rounds.