64 propels Lexi Thompson to share of Kraft lead

Lexi Thompson during Friday's second round of the LPGA's 2014 Kraft Nabisco Championship.

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – There’s been a lot of talk about confidence this week. A pair of 6-foot superstars – Lexi Thompson and Michelle Wie – are kicking up dust here at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, and golf fans can only hope that bravado carries over to the weekend.

LPGA founder Shirley Spork, a Palm Desert, Calif., resident since 1954, had this to say about confidence: “The Babe was always the best in her mind. She would always say, ‘Well, the Babe’s here, who’s going to be second?’ ”

The tour’s bigs aren’t taking it quite as far as Zaharias, but the swagger is back.

Thompson’s bogey-free 8-under 64 is the lowest second round in Kraft major history. On a calm, cloudy day at the Dinah Shore Course, Thompson took advantage of easier pin positions and vaulted from a tie for 29th to a share of the lead with veteran Se Ri Pak at 7-under 137. Consider that when Pak won her first major in 1998, Thompson was 3 years old.

The difference between Thompson’s first two rounds? 10 putts.

“In the last six months I went through quite a dramatic change,” Thompson said of her putting. “I had moved really close to the ball . . . Even as a little kid I stood far away from the ball and took the putter inside. So I just went right back to that.”

Thompson calls the Kraft her favorite week of the year. The 19-year-old bomber has been playing in majors since age 12, and said the biggest thing she has learned is how to stay patient.

“As long as you’re hitting it well and you get those looks,” Thompson said, “you just have to tell yourself that they’ll fall eventually and just go out with a confident attitude.”

Wie, meanwhile, is taking a more aggressive approach. Swing coach David Leadbetter said she’s no longer simply trying to play away from trouble. Wie three-putted the par-5 18th after reaching it in two. She hit a tree on the par-5 second that managed to keep her from going out of bounds and went on to birdie from there. Major victories usually require a little luck.

Wie has only two bogeys in 36 holes.

“It’s the worst she could’ve shot,” Leadbetter said of her Day 2 71.

As for the putting, Leadbetter said Wie’s self-taught approach, which he’s now calling “the draw bridge,” works because it creates a unit between her shoulders, arms and chest. It doesn’t break down.

In an effort to be more of a feel player, Wie stopped looking at her golf swing on video. Since last October, she reckons she has seen it twice on tape.

It was hard at first, said Wie, who started feeling like a swing-tape addict. But as time went by, the desire to look for perfection began to wane.

“I like don’t even want to look at my swing anymore,” said Wie, “just because I don’t want to start relying on my eyes again. I just really am starting to rely on my body and how it feels. I think I’ve really gotten in tune with how I’m moving.”

Angela Stanford played two rounds with Wie and said she looks more in control of her golf swing. Because Wie can do things with the ball that only 5 percent of the tour can do, Stanford said, she can get to pins that most players can’t.

Stanford has seen Wie “take a beating” over the years and is happy for the 24-year-old’s recent success.

“I think she’s growing up and being herself,” Stanford said. “Once people see there’s more to Michelle than just a golf swing, they’ll like her even more.”

Wie traveled to a tournament for the first time in her career without her parents earlier this year in the Bahamas. Leadbetter said she enjoyed it, and while that may happen again this season, he made sure to emphasize that the Wie threesome is a tight-knit crew.

It’s true, Michelle genuinely enjoys her parents. And anyone who has watched B.J. and Bo spectate knows for certain that they live to watch her play.

“Until they get ShotLink on the LPGA,” Leadbetter said, “I think they’ll be traveling.”

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