NORTH PLAINS, Ore. – Na Yeon Choi overcame her pre-round nervousness to shoot a 2-under 69 on Saturday and take a three-shot lead in the LPGA Safeway Classic.
The South Korean star reached 8 under on Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club’s Ghost Creek course, sinking three birdies and a bogey in the second round after reeling off seven consecutive birdies in her opening 65.
However, she needed a brief pep talk from swing coach Robin Symes to put her in the proper frame of mind.
“I told my coach that I feel very scared to lose this chance. This is my first time to win this year,” Choi said. “He said, “This is not the first time. You had four times before. This is really like the fifth time. Don’t be scared.’
“My answer was, “OK, I’ll do my best.”’
Her best proved enough, building a comfortable lead ahead of Stacy Lewis, who had a 68. She started the round with four consecutive birdies, but dropped three strokes with bogeys at Nos. 5, 9 and 10.
Mika Miyazato (67) was third at 3 under.
Choi took advantage of cool weather and softer greens during the morning en route to her opening round 65.
“My putter wasn’t great like yesterday, but I only missed one short putt,” Choi said. “I like these greens. I can see the line.”
Choi said the last time she led a tournament wire-to-wire was the Jamie Farr Classic last year in July.
“I’ll start out playing aggressively and then I’ll decide how to play. I want to play my game, not their game or her game,” Choi said.
Lewis, in her third year on tour, is aiming to win her second official LPGA Tour title of the year and her career. In April, Lewis captured the Kraft Nabisco – the first major of the year.
Lewis’ putter was working early during the second round. She rolled in birdie putts of 18, 25, 25 and 30 feet during the first four holes to briefly move into a tie for the lead with Choi.
“I didn’t hit great shots or anything. The putts were just going in,” Lewis said.
Lewis said she feels more comfortable in a contending position since her big victory in April.
“I’ve just been riding that high. I know I’m playing well. It’s just the confidence level is a lot higher,” Lewis said.
Brittany Lincicome (68), Ryann O’Toole (69) and Grace Park (73) were 2 under.
Among those at 1 under was Louise Stahle, who shot Saturday’s low round with a 66.
Defending champion Ai Miyazato (74) was 10 strokes back at 2 over, and Michelle Wie (73) was 5 over.