The scores are dropping faster than the temperature is rising at the Ginn Tribute today. Young Guns like Teresa Lu (67, -9, 3rd thus far), Seon Hwa Lee (70, -6, T5), Jane Park (70, -6, T5), Minea Blomqvist (69, -6, T5), and Morgan Pressel (69, -5, T13) continued their fine play, but they were overshadowed by some big-time rounds from some big-time players in the morning pairings.
Suzann Pettersen led the way with a scorching 65; her 8 birdies brought her to -8 for the tournament and all the way up the leaderboard to 4th place as of now. But Sophie Gustafson matched it minutes later with a birdie on the 9th, her 4th of the side and 7th of the day, which brought her into a tie for the lead with Karrie Webb at -13. Webb again eagled the 2nd and made 6 birdies today, but made her first 2 bogeys of the tournament as well and failed again to birdie the 7th, 8th, or 9th, this time to close out her round. Next in line to play the 9th were Annika Sorenstam and Juli Inkster and they, too, failed to birdie it. Sorenstam's 31 on the front, however, part of a string in which she made 6 birdies in 10 holes, helped her match Webb's 66 and bring her into the big group T5 so far at -6 along with Inkster, who shot a 69. Lorie Kane was one of the few players who started on the front to make a big move; her 68 allowed her to keep pace with Sorenstam and Inkster.
Some great rounds by some great players paled in comparison, such as 68s that brought Natalie Gulbis, Candie Kung, Il Mi Chung, and Soo-Yun Kang to -5 (T13) and Catriona Matthew to -3 (T28) and 69s that brought Stacy Prammanasudh to -4 (T24) and Rachel Hetherington to -3 (T28). But better to break 70 today than to have done it yesterday and blow up today, as Allison Fouch (77), Kristy McPherson (76), and Jimin Kang (75) found out to their regret; still, at E (T62), it looks like they'll fall on the right side of the cut line. Linda Wessberg (76), Katie Futcher (74), and Leta Lindley (74) at +1 might not be so lucky--they're T75 right now. Still, having gone low Thursday has its privileges, as Mikaela Parmlid (75) and Heather Young (74) at -2 (T42) and In-Kyung Kim (76) and H.J. Choi (74) at -3 (T28) could tell you.
The leaders in the afternoon groups are already off and off to good starts for the most part. Inbee Park, Na Yeon Choi, and Jeong Jang are already to -6, although with the easier front side still ahead of the former pair, they have the best chance right now to get to double digits under par. Ya Ni Tseng has already caught Mi Hyun Kim, Cristie Kerr, and Giulia Sergas at -5; like Jang, they're all playing the front and will have to sustain their fine play on the tougher back (something Jane Park failed to do this morning) if they want to get into contention on the weekend. Better score now when the conditions are perfect. If the wind comes up, this course can be a bear!
[Update 1 (8:38 pm): Nice rounds in the afternoon by Inbee Park (69) to join Lu in a tie for 3rd at -9 and Na Yeon Choi (67) to join Pettersen in a tie for 5th at -8, but the rounds of the afternoon were turned in by 2 rookies, Hee Young Park, whose 65 enabled her to join them, and Taylor Leon, who moved up to a tie for 8th at -6. Jang and Tseng ended up fading to 71s (-4, T25) and they were caught by none other than MIA HOFer Se Ri Pak and Solheim Cup hopeful Christina Kim, who fired bogey-free 67s, as well as rookie Momoko Ueda, who made 6 birdies and 2 bogeys on her way to a 68. Karin Sjodin's 67 and Angela Park's 69 brought them to the big group tied for 34th at -3. And struggling Junior Mint Kim Hall's 69 brought her back to E and on the right side of the cut line.
So now only 7 players have broken 70 both rounds. Although 13 strokes separate the 2 leaders from those who just made the cut, both Webb and Gustafson are streaky players, so their ability to break 70 all 4 rounds will be tested this week, particularly if conditions toughen up. With 16 players at -6 or better, they can't afford a let-up on moving day tomorrow. If even Kerr (73, -4, T25) and Creamer (74, -1, T57) can go over par on this course in easy conditions, anyone can. A glance at the big names who just missed the cut or missed it by a mile tells an even more cautionary tale. And if conditions continue to remain this favorable to scoring, who knows how low somebody back in the pack now might go on the weekend?
Here are the notes and interviews from LPGA.com, the second of Hound Dog's live blogs, and Pete Iacobelli's AP story.]
[Update 2 (5/31/08, 11:41 am): Here's Hound Dog's round 2 recap--nice tribute to Michelle McGann there on top of the usual goodies.]