Tseng storms to Kraft Nabisco lead
Friday, March 30, 2012
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Top-ranked Yani Tseng shot her second straight 68 at the Kraft Nabisco Championship on Friday, taking a one-stroke lead over Haeji Kang after the second round of the LPGA Tour’s first major of the year.
Lindsey Wright and Sun Young Yoo were third at 6 under, while Hall of Famer Se Ri Pak was three strokes back in fifth midway through the only major she has never won. Pak shot a 69 to move to 5 under, joined by Karin Sjodin and World No. 2 Na Yeon Choi.
Tseng extended her thorough domination of the women’s game with another relentless round of long drives and steady putting. After finishing the opening round two strokes back, she was leading for the ninth time in the LPGA Tour’s last 10 rounds.
The five-time major winner has won two straight tournaments, three of five and six of 12 — and she still had enough energy after her stellar second round to play a little pickup basketball.
“You never get tired when you want to win a tournament,” Tseng said. “I just figured out I’m tired after the last two wins when you come into this week, but after (Thursday), I had a good sleep, and I relaxed a few days, and I think I’m coming back with a fresh focus.”
The rest of the field should be worried when the Orlando Magic fan has enough energy to hoop it up with her manager and friends. After fighting exhaustion during practice and in the first round Thursday, Tseng woke up fresh to resume her quest to become the youngest golfer to win six majors — three years younger than Tiger Woods, who was 26 when he won his sixth.
Tseng took control by exploiting her distance advantage over nearly every other player off the tee. After following a long birdie putt on her fourth hole with another birdie on her fifth, she birdied three of Mission Hills’ four par-5s with soaring drives that aren’t regularly matched by her fellow pros.
Pak stayed in contention with her second straight solid round despite playing through much of the warmest weather after starting with the final tee time of the morning group. She had three birdies and a bogey in a five-hole stretch before the turn, finishing with seven straight pars.
The 34-year-old Pak has won five majors, including three LPGA Championships, and has 25 tour victories overall, but the former prodigy and Korean golf pioneer has just one victory on the LPGA Tour since July 2007. She shares many concerns voiced by Wright on Thursday about the importance of adding balance and perspective to the grind of tour life.
“I’m having trouble for five or six years, actually,” Pak said. “I still love golf, and I can’t quit it because I still really want to play. It took a lot for myself to be happy. It was difficult to find out. ... Slowly, I know I’m getting better and better, and my attitude and everything is getting slowly better. Starting last year around the fall, I don’t know how, (but) everything is really calm for me.”
Although Pak has four top-10 finishes in the Kraft Nabisco, she has never done better than ninth at Mission Hills. With a remarkable career legacy already secure, Pak still aspires to complete her career grand slam.
“This is one of my goals I’ve set,” said Pak, who won four majors before she turned 25. “Getting into the Hall of Fame, that’s the biggest, and next, trying to win a major like this. This is the goal for me for 14, 15 years. This is the one I need, but this is the one that always gives me a hard time.”