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Cristie Kerr five clear at halfway

Cristie Kerr is halfway home to winning her second career major title, and she’s making it look easy at the LPGA Championship.

Relying on her chipping and near-perfect putting to overcome several errant tee shots, Kerr shot a 6-under 66 on Friday to take a five-stroke lead at 10 under on the Locust Hill Country Club course.

The 2007 U.S. Women’s Open Champion opened the day in a three-way tie for the lead, then took control by consistently scrambling out of trouble to produce a bogey-free round. She birdied four of her last five holes to pull away.

Inbee Park, the 2008 U.S. Women’s Open champion, and Mika Miyazato were tied for second at 5 under after 70s. Brittany Lincicome (69) and Amy Yang (67) were 4 under.

“I played awesome today,” Kerr said. “I don’t think anybody expected anybody to be in double digits after two days. But you know what, keep my head down and keep going.”

Kerr stayed patient while playing out of the rough, and took advantage when in range of the green. She holed a 23-footer for birdie on No. 17, then tapped on 18 for her final birdie in after hitting a 6-iron within a foot.

Park was impressed by Kerr’s score, but wasn’t prepared to concede anything.

“No, not at all. It’s still two days of golf left out there,” Park said. “Anything could happen on this golf course.”

Opening the week ranked fifth in the world, Kerr is proving serious about her objective in taking a run at top spot, which is currently held by Ai Miyazato—3 over after rounds of 76 and 71.

As the top-ranked American, Kerr is also eager to show that the U.S. contingent on the LPGA Tour can be competitive in the post-Lorena Ochoa and Annika Sorenstam era.

Only three Americans have won the past 13 majors and only five of the past 33 tour events—including Kerr winning the State Farm Class two weeks ago and the Michelob Ultra Open in May 2009.

The cut was at 4-over 148, knocking out several notables, including Se Ri Pak (10 over) and Pat Hurst (11 over)

Jiyai Shin, the No. 2 player in the world, was 2 under after rounds of 72 and 70 in her first tournament since having an emergency appendectomy two weeks ago.

Michelle Wie was 2 over, following an opening 72 with a 74.

Sun and a light breeze made for good conditions at the 6,506-yard course a day after a heavy downpour briefly delayed play. With thunderstorms in the forecast for mid-Saturday, officials have taken efforts to ensure the third round will be completed.

Start times have been pushed up 90 minutes to 7 a.m. And the groups will go off in threesomes rather than twosomes, while also going off both the No. 1 and 9 tees in a bid to complete the round by 2:30 p.m.

So far, very little has been able to hold off Kerr’s magnificent run. In two rounds, she has made just one bogey while being particularly sharp on the back nine, which she has played a combined 8-under 66.

It’s a performance that has Kerr brimming with confidence after a two-round score that was three shots off the LPGA Championship record of 131 set by Karrie Webb in 2001.

“I feel like I deserve to be happy. I deserve to be confident,” Kerr said. “There’s no reason to play with fear any more.”

Kerr showed little fear Friday by putting together a solid score despite hitting only five of 14 fairways.

On No. 11, she two-putted for a par 5 from 30 feet after hitting her tee shot into the right rough, and barely getting her second shot to carry a fairway creek, which left her 200 yards from the green.

Kerr had a bigger adventure on No. 16, when she pulled her tee shot into a tree along the left side of the fairway. She recovered by punching a perfect shot from 135 yards out through an opening and bouncing it onto the green, from where she two-putted for par from 20 feet.

Lincicome got as low as 5 under for the tournament before a bogey 5 on No. 16. She then salvaged her round by sinking a 10-foot par putt on No. 18.

Juli Inkster (74) dropped to 1 over for the tournament, a day after shooting a 71 on her 50th birthday.



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