McPherson living easy life at Kraft

Kristy McPherson hits her tee shot on the 11th hole during the second round of the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

Kristy McPherson hits her tee shot on the 11th hole during the second round of the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Life’s a little easier for Kristy McPherson now that she’s established herself on the LPGA.

She bought her first house in November in Tampa, Fla., a just reward after years of playing for pocket change on the Duramed Futures Tour.

She had it easy Friday at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, as well. McPherson’s early tee time got her off the course well before the worst of the winds blew through Mission Hills Country Club.

Her 2-under 70 put her at 6 under par through 36 holes and tied for the lead after a tricky par save on her final hole, the par-5 ninth.

She has never finished better than fourth in an LPGA event, but should find some comfort in the names around her on the leaderboard. Good friends Brittany Lincicome and Angela Stanford are also in contention at the year’s first major.

McPherson has overcome her fair share of difficulties to get to this point.

She was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis when she was 11, an affliction that left her bedridden for a year and still occassionally impacts her.

After turning pro in ‘03, she spent more than three years on the the LPGA’s secondary circuit. It’s a great place to gain experience, but also drain a bank account. She “barely broke even” in ‘06, when she finished fourth on the money list to finally earn her LPGA card.

McPherson has always taken time to adjust to a new level of play. She wasn’t an All-American in her freshman season at South Carolina, but was a first-teamer her final three years. She earned about $80,000 as an LPGA rookie, but made five times that much last year.

This year, she hasn’t finished worse than 31st in five starts, including a runner-up to start the season at the unofficial LPGA Brazil Cup.

“She respects the women out here,” her dad, David McPherson, said. “She knows they can all play, and she’s found out she can play with them.”

McPherson almost never made it to the LPGA.

“After I had been on the Futures Tour 2 1/2 years and I’d gone to Q-School a third time, you know, I was calling people, asking, ‘You got any jobs?,’ because I was frustrated,” she said.

“I was just going to give it everything I had for one more year (in ‘06), and if it wasn’t good enough, then ... I was going to reevaluate.”

There was no frustration entering this week, just focus, David McPherson said, because his daughter knew she was hitting the ball well enough to contend at the year’s first major. While playing a casual round three weeks ago with Stanford and Lincicome, McPherson realized she wasn’t fully releasing the club through impact.

She finished 16th in Mexico and 15th in Phoenix in the two events leading up to Kraft. She’s hit 27 greens through two rounds at Mission Hills, making “nothing fancy” for her nine birdies.

“I usually ... make a lot of pars in any conditions,” McPherson said. “So the tougher the conditions, I seem to hang right around par and throw a few birdies in there.”

She had two birdies and no bogeys on her front nine Friday, but missed a short birdie putt on No. 1, her tenth hole, then bogeyed Nos. 2 and 3.

“Oh, I was not happy,” she said. “I was mad.”

McPherson made birdies on Nos. 5 and 7, missed a 10-foot birdie putt on the eighth hole, then got up-and-down for par on the ninth after hitting her short approach over the green.

“She always seems this year to make a putt ... when shee needs to,” David McPherson said.

That makes things a lot easier, something McPherson is getting used to.

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