WILLIAMSBURG, Va. – Lorena Ochoa is threatening to turn the Michelob Ultra Open into a runaway in another of her annual dominating runs.
She’s also probably the person least likely to say so.
“It’s never good to think that way,” Ochoa said Friday after shooting a 6-under-par 65 for a tournament-record 13-under 129 total and a three-shot lead.
“You always need to be ready and you always need to be humble and tomorrrow’s going to be a new day, a new start,” she said. “I’m going to play like if I’m behind for two or three shots. I never like to think I’m winning.”
But Ochoa is, and looking mighty comfortable.
The world’s top-ranked player and first-round leader took advantage of perfect playing conditions and soft greens to get eight birdies, matching her first-round total. Only two bogeys in her last four holes kept her from making the outcome look like a foregone conclusion.
And it’s not as if the rest of the field rolled over. On the contrary, In-Kyung Kim, Song-Hee Kim and Cristie Kerr all finished at 10- under 132, and all three played better than Ochoa.
Still, coming off a wire-to-wire victory two weeks ago in her native Mexico, Ochoa has been the leader after six consecutive rounds and looks as if she might be on one of her rolls.
She has won at least three tournaments in a row once in each of the last three seasons, and last season won five of her first six events, including the last four in succession.
Teeing off around the time that Song-Hee Kim was finishing off a record-tying 63 and In-Kyung Kim was polishing off a 64 that put them in the lead at 10 under, Ochoa started with three straight pars and then made birdies on six of the next eight holes to retake the lead.
“I just thought ‘I need to be patient and take advantage of the easy holes and the par 5s and go from there,’ and that’s what I did,” Ochoa said. “And then right away, I started making birdies and felt very comfortable.
“It think it was important to get those first couple of birdies to get me going.”
It proved crucial, too, when others kept posting low numbers on a day when the fairways were still soft on the 6,315-yard layout, but soft greens made the pins popular targets.
Rookie Michelle Wie, eight back at 137 after an up-and-down 67, had one of the shots of the day, holing her approach for eagle on the par-4 10th, her first hole of the day. She immediately followed with a bogey, though, and had three more to minimize six birdies.
Song-Hee Kim, who tied the course record shared by six others, three times almost holed shots from off the green, and rolled in a 30-foot putt on the difficult eighth for birdie.
“I had a perfect day today,” she said through a translator.
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Alex Cejka served up more proof Friday that The Players Championship is full of surprises, not only on the devilish TPC Sawgrass but on the leader board.
A week after he needed an epidural to restore feeling in his right arm, Cejka ran off six birdies in 11 holes to start his second round and wound up with a 5-under 67 to build a two-shot lead over Ian Poulter going into a weekend full of possibilities.
Neither of the top two players have ever won on the PGA Tour, and only one player in the 35-year history of this event has ever made this his first PGA Tour victory. An eclectic group four shots behind included Masters champion Angel Cabrera, former PGA champion David Toms and Jason Dufner, an alternate when he showed up Monday and earned a tee time when Brandt Snedeker withdrew with an injury.
Tiger Woods did his best to get back into the hunt, with a delicate pitch out of the mounds for a short birdie, and making an important save on the par-5 16th by trying to land short of the green with his third shot, even though he was only 45 yards away. He was seven strokes back after a 69.
TURIN, Italy – Argentina’s Daniel Vancsik shot a 6-under 65 to take a one-stroke lead over Northern Ireland’s Gareth Maybin in the Italian Open.