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Tseng back in the lead, one shot clear of Kang
March 30, 2012

The world's No. 1 player moved into more familiar territory after the second round of the Kraft Nabisco Championship on Friday, as Yani Tseng took a one-shot lead into the weekend of the season's first major. Tseng shot a second consecutive 4-under-par 68, putting her at 8-under through two rounds and giving her a one-shot lead over South Korean Haeji Kang.

Tseng started from the 10th tee on Friday and carded three birdies on the back nine and two on the front, recorded her only bogey on the first hole. The 23-year-old has now held at least a share of the lead in nine of her last 10 rounds, the lone exception coming after Thursday's first round at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage when she trailed first-round leader Amy Yang by two shots.

Haeji Kang finds herself in an unexpected position tomorrow playing in the lead group alongside Rolex Rankings No. 1 Yani Tseng. She likened her expectations to playing her first LPGA round with Michelle Wie in Hawaii, where the crowds lived and died with each one of the Hawaiian's shots.

"The first tournament as a rookie I played with Michelle Wie in Hawaii, so that was a really good experience for me because everyone just walks away when I try to putt when Michelle finishes," said Kang. "But that's what you've got to handle out there. I mean, what can I do? So I'll just do my best."

Kang is a fourth-year LPGA member with just two top-10 finishes to her credit. Her career-best finish in a major came at the 2011 RICOH Women's British Open. She noted that her swing has undergone several changes since she first arrived on the LPGA Tour in 2009. Kang currently works with Kevin Smeltz from the David Leadbetter Academy.

Kang sits only one shot behind the world's No.1 player in the world after carding a 4-under-par 68. Kang notched four birdies on the front nine and three on the back and bogeys on Nos. 5, 8 and 17.

Lindsey Wright's career-best finish at the Kraft Nabisco Championship came back in 2009 when she finished fourth. Three years later, and after having gone through some personal travails, Wright finds herself in contention for golf's first major once again.

Wright shot a second-round 71 to put herself in a T3 at 6-under par, two shots behind leader Yani Tseng heading into the weekend. But it took a while for Wright to get her round started. After eight straight pars to start the round, she eagled the par-5 ninth, holing out her third shot from the rough. She used a 52-degree wedge to drain the shot from 93 yards. She followed up the eagle by sinking a 30-foot birdie putt on the 10th which moved her into a tie for the lead with Yani Tseng at 8-under-par.

So what was Wright's thought when she was tied for the lead?

"At that point I thought I think I'm going to make the cut," Wright said with a laugh. "So I was like, yeah, this is good."

After sharing her battle with depression and anxiety in her post-round interviews on Thursday, Wright said that she got a lot of positive feedback from friends, family and other players on Tour who appreciated her sharing her struggle.

"I check my emails every day, and I had about six hours to spare this morning," Wright said. "So I was checking some emails and Facebook. It was really good positive responses from people. It was encouraging. A couple of people who I played golf with and I know from playing golf came out and said, 'I feel the same way and I'm struggling right now. It's encouraging to have somebody like yourself say something.' It's nice to know that it's going to help somebody else by saying how I felt and maybe come to terms with their own personal problems. "

Sun Young Yoo shot back-to-back rounds of 3-under-par 69 leaving her in prime position heading into the weekend rounds. The seventh-year LPGA Tour member says she's been playing well since the RR Donnelley Founders Cup two weeks ago. Dropping a few more putts just might make the difference for the South Korean.

"I've been hitting it so good since Phoenix," said Yoo. "I was hoping that I could make some more putts today, but I didn't make any. I have two days to go, I have a great feeling and I'm looking forward to it.

Grand slam, thank you ma'am? LPGA and World Golf Halls of Fame member Se Ri Pak keeps herself in contention heading into the weekend after shooting a second-round, 3-under-par 69 to put her at 5-under for the tournament. A win at the Kraft Nabisco this week would complete the South Korean's career grand slam.

Pak has won three LPGA Championships (1998, 2002, 2006) and one U.S. Women's Open (1998) and Women's British Open (2001). Her return to Mission Hills Country Club this week notches the 14th time Pak will play for the honor to leap into Poppie's Pond, something that has been in the back of her mind consistently.

"So this is my 14th time playing in Kraft," said Pak. "I'm waiting long enough to be up there at least once to get this trophy. It's taken a little while, but hopefully this week."

Pak says she feels added pressure from wanting a tournament so badly for so long, something she thinks may have a negative effect on her play.

"Of course, you think so much about how you really want a tournament and I gave myself a lot of pressure, so I don't think that helps my game a lot," Pak added. "So I'm very happy for this week. I'm playing as best I can, and I'm trying to enjoy golf as much as I could.

"So that's my weekend thought," said Pak. "So hopefully it's working well until Sunday, and we'll see you guys back here again."

Sticking around for the weekend: A total of 82 players made the cut, which fell at 4-over-par 148

Jenny Shin earned shot of the day honors on Friday but also gets the best freebie pickup. Shin aced the par-3 17th from 176 yards with a 5 hybrid and was also awarded the keys to a 2012 Kia Optima Limited. Kia, the Official Automotive Partner of the LPGA, will give players the opportunity each day this week to win a free Kia Optima Limited with a hole in one on the 17th hole.

Yani Tseng grew up playing basketball almost every day as a kid in Taiwan and still likes to hit the hardwood from time to time. Instead of a customary relaxing day many players like to take after their rounds, Tseng opted to have some fun and played some basketball on Friday afternoon.

But Tseng will not be giving up her day job for hoops any time soon.

"My putting is better than basketball," said Tseng. "But I like to run around and do some shooting and play three on three with other friends.

A self-proclaimed basketball fan, Tseng roots for the Orlando Magic and loves the recent media whirlwind around Taiwanese overnight superstar and Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin.

"I've never met him before, but I would love to," said Tseng. "I mean, he's great. His parents are from Taiwan, and I'm so happy to see an Asian and Taiwanese player that is a huge star and plays so good in the NBA. I think that's going to give lots of motivation to lots of Asian people that maybe they can play on an NBA team. It's huge."

Amy Alcott has been onsite for the week at Mission Hills Country Club, a place that holds a special place in her heart. Alcott is responsible for starting the famed tradition of leaping into Poppie's Pond after she took the plunge for the first time after her 1988 Kraft Nabisco Championship win.

She said it was a bit spontaneous on her end and did not have any intention of starting one of the most recognizable celebrations in golf.

"Well, I had three of the young girls, saying 'why did you jump in the lake?'" said Alcott. "I think it's something I had no idea that I was going to start such a tradition back in 1988. But I guess I'm glad I did."

Alcott joked about the overall reception that her jump received and the quality of the water that filled Poppie's Pond back then.

"I'm still in close touch with the Russian judge that gave me a 10 for the jump," said Alcott. "The Latvian judge didn't like me too much. But the water was very murky back in '88."

Alcott believes that whoever does get the honor of taking the leap this year, needs to appreciate the great glory that comes with it.

"I'm a big believer that the young woman who wins the event this week, if she does it or not, I'm a big believer in the young players in women's golf embracing their stardom," said Alcott. "This is the entertainment business. I had no idea what an impact it would make, but I was pleased about that. Always pleased. It was fun. It was just a moment of exuberance."

Alcott will add another notable accomplishment to her storied golf career but it won't come from any playing feat. She was named to the course design team for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The team of Hanse Golf Design beat out seven other finalists when the selection was announced earlier this month.

Alcott hopes her involvement with the Olympics can translate into international growth of the game.

"My presentation was more about the legacy of golf," said Alcott. "I talked about how I grew up in Southern California, chipping and putting on my front lawn, putting into soup cans, watching the CBS golf classic, and Shell's Wonderful World of Golf, and I was inspired by the game.

"If golf can do that for me, if I can catch the bug from that, I can only imagine the kids in South America, and what this could leave behind, and what this would open up," Alcott added. "It could open up caddie programs. It could open up programs similar to the First Tee Program, and all the things that it could possibly do."


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