Rebounding from a triple bogey, Ochoa shot a 2-under 70 to finish a stroke behind Mi Hyun Kim (66) after the second round of the Ginn Clubs & Resorts Open.
'I was pretty much close all day, playing for birdie,' said Ochoa, the 24-year-old Mexican star who won her fourth LPGA Tour title two weeks ago in Las Vegas.
Dakoda Dowd was playing for something very different. The 13-year-old golf prodigy, who was invited to play the event to fulfill her cancer-stricken mother's dying wish to see her compete on the LPGA Tour, followed her opening 74 with an 82 to miss the cut.
Nonetheless, tournament officials gave her a replica of the winner's trophy on the 18th green.
Ochoa hopes to get the real one.
She was 7 under after 36 holes and -- once again -- ahead of most of the field. She has been the best golfer on tour this season, with four top-10 finishes in six starts.
She has been equally impressive at the only full-field event in Florida, aside from one tee shot Friday.
Ochoa had five birdies in her first 11 holes and took sole possession of the lead at 10 under. But then she pulled out her driver on the par-4 14th.
She pushed her tee shot way right, landed in a bush and had to take a penalty stroke after determining her ball was unplayable. Trying to get her third shot over some trees from a bed of straw, the ball hit some limbs and dropped straight down.
Her fourth shot from under the tress didn't get out of the rough, leaving her with a pitch shot for bogey. She hit to 6 feet, but missed the putt and finished with the worst score of the day on the 387-yard hole.
'We were excited and we were playing aggressive and decided to hit a driver,' she said. 'I just missed it a little to the right. ... Without that hole, I feel really good.'
Ochoa bounced back on the final four holes with four birdie opportunities, but couldn't get any of the putts to drop.
'I didn't get mad. We just kind of let it go and I finished strong,' Ochoa said. 'Even though I didn't make any birdies, I finished strong and I was really close to the hole.'
Ochoa and Kim will tee off in the final group Saturday with Ai Miyazato, 6 under after a 68 in the second round. Everyone else will be chasing them.
Seon Hwa Lee (67), Laura Diaz (72) and first-round leader Cristie Kerr (74) were 5 under. Karrie Webb (67) and Annika Sorenstam (70) were six shots behind the leader.
Kerr opened the second round with three bogeys and four in the first five holes. She settled down and stayed close despite strong afternoon winds that made the greens super fast.
Sorenstam also struggled in the breezy conditions. But at least the world's No. 1 player broke par, something she didn't do in the final round last weekend and in the opening round Thursday.
'Tough day,' Sorenstam said. 'I don't know. I tried hard. Couldn't get much going. It's difficult with the wind. The greens are really slick. ... It's almost like glass.'
Kim, one of the tour's shortest hitters, took advantage of the dry fairways and used the extra roll to keep up with the power players. She made six birdies on the back nine, the last of which put her alone atop the leaderboard.
Her tee shot on the par-4 No. 18 went right and landed in a bunker. But her 9-wood landed 6 feet from the pin, and she made the putt.
'When I start, I told my mom my swing is not working and my putting is uncomfortable, but it was working on the course,' Kim said. 'It was a surprise to me, my score.'