Thompson, Pak share Kraft Nabisco lead
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. (AP) — Se Ri Pak was wrapping up her post-round interview when Lexi Thompson’s 8-under 64 was posted on a monitor in the media center.
Pak mentioned Thompson’s ball-striking ability, then cut to the chase.
“Probably her putting is really hot, too,” Pak said.
It was, and the bogey-free 64 left Thompson tied with Pak at 7 under heading into the weekend in the Kraft Nabisco Championship.
“I worked extremely hard in the offseason on my short game and just trying to get my game a lot more consistent,” said the 19-year-old Thompson, already a three-time winner on the LPGA Tour.
She had only 25 putts at Mission Hills after taking 35 in a first-round 73.
“I just had a little bit of speed issues yesterday,” Thompson said. “I didn’t really commit to my lines and I came up short a lot. I just went out today and picked my line and sped up my tempo a little bit and went up to it and said, ‘I’m going to knock it in.’”
After experimenting with a stance close to the ball to get her eyes more over the putting line, she’s standing farther away in a more natural position.
“Even as a little kid I stood far away from the ball and took the putter inside. I just went right back to that,” Thompson said. “I moved farther away and just take one look at the hole and just knock it in. Hopefully.”
Pak birdied the final hole for a 70. The 36-year-old South Korean player won the last of her five major titles in 2006 and has 25 LPGA Tour victories.
“Everything has just been really solid,” Pak said. “I kept it fairways, greens, always the goal every hole. I had a lot of opportunities, but putting is not as good as yesterday. Still, just really smooth, solid round. I’m really happy about the way I finished.”
Michelle Wie was a stroke back after a 71.
“I’m really excited,” Wie said. “It’s fun being near the top of the leaderboard. But try not to look forward too much. It’s a long way ’til Sunday.”
Thompson birdied eight of the last 13 holes after opening with five pars.
“I was just trying to stay in the moment and focus on each shot, not really think about what I was shooting,” Thompson said. “I had the same confidence over every shot, just committing to my line and just being confident.”
She made a 20-foot birdie putt from the fringe on the par-3 17th — her eighth hole — and two-putted for birdie after reaching the par-5 18th in two.
Thompson holed a breaking 30-foot birdie putt on the par-4 first, made a 4-footer on the par-4 third and ran in a 20-foot putt on the par-4 fourth after slashing out from under a tree in the left rough. She added an 8-foot birdie putt on the par-4 seventh and closed with a 10-footer on the par-5 ninth after hitting into the greenside bunker in two.
“I’m really comfortable with the golf course,” Thompson said. “I get to hit a lot of drivers, so I just aim up the right side and hit my little draw.”
Wie opened with a 10-foot birdie putt on the par-4 10th, and dropped a stroke on the par 13th after driving behind a tree in the right rough. She had a three-putt par on 18 — missing a 3-footer — after reaching the water-guarded green in two.
“It felt good to start off with a birdie,” Wie said. “After that, really just couldn’t get anything going.”
On the par-5 second, she made a 25-foot birdie putt after hitting a snap hook off the tee. Instead of going out of bounds, the ball hit a tree and ricocheted into the fairway.
“It was a pretty lucky shot,” Wie said. “I thought it was for sure OB.”
First-round leader Shanshan Feng bogeyed the final two holes for a 73 to drop into a tie for fourth with Cristie Kerr at 5 under. Kerr had a 70.
Thompson, Pak and Wie played in calm morning conditions, while the breeze picked up as Feng and Kerr finished their afternoon rounds on the overcast day.
“The wind kind of picked up, so it was actually tougher playing compared to yesterday,” Feng said. “I think I actually did pretty well.”
Anna Nordqvist, the winner in Thailand in February and Carlsbad last week, was tied for sixth at 4 under after a 69. Stacy Lewis, the 2011 champion, had a 70 to join 16-year-old Lydia Ko and Hall of Famer Karrie Webb at 1 under. Ko and Webb, a two-time winner this year, also shot 70. Defending champion Inbee Park was even par after a 70.