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Park capitalizes on easier conditions and takes lead
June 23, 2012

Inbee Park -9, Rolex Rankings No. 26
Shanshan Feng -8, Rolex Rankings No. 4
Brittany Lang -8, Rolex Rankings No. 35
Hee Kyung Seo -8, Rolex Rankings No. 37
Sun Young Yoo -7, Rolex Rankings No. 12
Lexi Thompson -7, Rolex Rankings No. 23
Chella Choi -7, Rolex Rankings No. 61
Stacy Lewis -6, Rolex Rankings No. 2
Anna Nordqvist -6, Rolex Rankings No. 31

Second-round play at the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic was completed on Saturday morning with 79 players making the cut at 1-over-par 143. Play resumed at 6:41 a.m. after being suspended on Friday evening at 9:22 p.m. due to darkness. Players were given the option of finishing the hole they were playing last night and play ultimately concluded at 9:38 p.m., thanks in part to the ample sunlight provided by the longest day of the year.

2008 U.S. Women's Open Champion Inbee Park shot rounds of 69-64 to take the lead after 36 holes at the Manulife Financial LPGA Classic. Park only needed 22 putts on Friday's second round and recorded eight birdies and one bogey to take a one-stroke lead over a trio of players that include recent LPGA Championship winner Shanshan Feng, Brittany Lang and Hee Kyung Seo.

"I played great today," said Park. "I hit the ball very well and especially hit my short irons really good, so gave a lot of opportunities and obviously putt very good today."

With the wind died down compared to Thursday, Park was able to take advantage of the soft greens at Grey Silo Golf Course and capitalize on the easier scoring conditions.

"I didn't find the fairways being much soft, but the greens are really, really softer than yesterday because yesterday, some of the holes it was almost impossible to stop it, so it was playing really tough and it was really windy too," said Park. "So today a lot calmer and the greens were softer, so I think it was really scoring conditions today."

Duke University Women's Golf could be considered as a collegiate golf dynasty. With five NCAA National Team Championship titles and 16 ACC Championship wins, it would seem unimaginable that no former Duke collegiate golfer has won on the LPGA Tour. This however is the case for the 16 Duke players who have gone on to compete on the LPGA Tour.

With five former Blue Devils in the field at this week's Manulife LPGA Classic, Brittany Lang has put herself in prime contention to break the hex. Rounds of 69-65 has landed Lang one-stroke off the lead and the sixth year LPGA Tour member knows she will need to maintain her focus on the weekend if she wants to become a Rolex First-Time Winner.

"I've been working really hard at being focused on every shot," said Lang. "I lose my focus pretty easy, so that's been my goal and I'm doing it pretty well. It's going to be my goal on the weekend to just try to be in every shot, so if I can do that, I'll be right here on Sunday and I'll be happy."

If you see last year's Rolex Rookie of the Year, Hee Kyung Seo on the golf course, it is difficult to overlook her calm and relaxed demeanor. Seo's laid back personality proved to be just what she needed on Friday after a double-bogey on the par-3 17th dropped her outside the lead.

"The wind was blowing hard, really hard from left to right, but I thought it was right club," said Seo. I hit 6 iron, which is 160 club, but I don't know, the ball was dropped down so it kicked to the right and couldn't find the ball. I dropped a ball at the hazard line and a double-bogey, but it's okay, it's only second round."

Seo quickly rebounded from the double-bogey with a birdie on the 18th to move her back to 8-under-par for the tournament. Seo knocked on the door to her second LPGA Tour victory at the season-opening ISPS Handa Australian Open where she finished tied for second.

Stacy Lewis began Friday's second round lingering on the cut line. An opening 1-over-par 71 landed Lewis in a tie for 70th but Lewis maneuvered her way up the leader Friday afternoon after a bogeyless 7-under-par 64 moved her into a tied for 12th.

Lewis's stats speak volumes for how she played on Friday as she hit every fairway and only missed one green. After her round, Lewis credited better weather for her vast improvement.

"I just putted a lot better," said Lewis. "I think yesterday I didn't have very good feel around the greens and I finally got some putts to go in today. It was actually a really easy day, so it was nice."

In search of her third LPGA Tour victory this season, Lewis currently leads the Rolex Player of the Year standings at is the top American in the Rolex Rankings at No. 2. Previous LPGA Tour players who have won three tournaments in the same year include Patty Berg and Babe Zaharias in 1948 and 1949, Juli Inkster, Rosie Jones, Betsy King, Nancy Lopez, and Ayako Okamoto in 1998, Brandie Burton in 1993, Annika Sorenstam in 1995, and Lorena Ochoa and Jiyai Shin in 2009.

Sun Young Yoo became a Rolex First-Time Winner at the 2010 Sybase Match Play Championship but a win at this year's Kraft Nabisco Championship was just what she needed to boost her confidence.

"I got a lot of confidence from the winning, it was a big win for me," said Yoo. "I just try to focus one shot at a time and have lots of tournament coming in, the win definitely helped me a lot so I still feel good."

Since her victory Yoo has only finished outside the top-20 once and recorded a tied for fourth at the Mobile Bay LPGA Classic and tied for ninth at the Sybase Match Play Championship. If the first two days are any reflection on how the weekend will turn out for Yoo, look for her to notch another impressive finish this week.

Despite a few misreads on the greens this week, Yoo feels confident about her ball striking and is looking forward to the next two days of play.

"I hit it very good today, and yesterday I was hitting everything very close but didn't make much putt, still left some out there," said Yoo. "I feel great with my game and I'm looking forward to playing on the weekend."

Rookie Lexi Thompson gave the large crowd at today's Manulife Financial LPGA Classic a lot to cheer about after a 2-under-par 69 moved her in contention for her second LPGA Tour victory. The staff had to mow extra parking lots in order to accommodate the large crowds that showed up to watch marquee groups such as Thompson's.

"It feels amazing," said Thompson. "I mean, the crowds are just crazy out here, they're always cheering you on. That's a great feeling to have."

A suspended first round forced Thompson to return to Grey Silo Friday morning where she played her last six holes 3-under-par. Thompson carried her solid play into Friday afternoon's second round and left her in the hunt for her second career LPGA Tour title at just 17-years-old.

"Well, I finished my first round pretty good, the last six holes, and then I just sort of played steady my second round," said Thompson. "Overall, just good ball striking, so just going to try to continue that."

Despite a frustrating afternoon for Nordqvist, only one missed fairway and two missed greens in the second round could be just the combination the Swede needs for a fun weekend. Nordqvist is currently three-strokes off the lead and she couldn't be more excited about what could unfold on the weekend.

"I'm really happy, I'm really excited," said Nordqvist of being in contention this weekend. "It feels like a lot of my hard work is paying off. It's a great golf course and you have to go out there this week and do a lot of birdies, but it's going to be a fun weekend for sure."

Nodqvist shot a first-round 7-under-par but a second round plagued by 35 putts dropped her to 6-under-par for the tournament.

"I just have to make more putts," said Nordqvist. "Yesterday I shot 7-under, so I think the most different was just making some putts. I'll just work a little bit on that and hopefully make a couple more this weekend."

MANULIFE FINANCIAL CLASSIC
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