Pettersen Leads Big Names Close

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McDonalds LPGAHARVE DE GRACE, Md. -- Suzann Pettersen appears to have put a major collapse behind her.
 
Ten weeks after she self-destructed down the stretch in Kraft Nabisco Championship, Pettersen birdied three of her last four holes Friday just in time to escape the heat, posting a 5-under 67 to take a one-shot lead over Karrie Webb in the LPGA Championship.
 
'I forgot about that a long time ago,' Pettersen said of her collapse in California, where she played her last four holes in 4 over to finish one shot behind Morgan Pressel. 'I didn't look at it as a collapse. I looked at it as what I can do different, so I do stronger when I get to the next tournament and I'm in the same situation.'
 
All that mattered at broiling Bulle Rock was finding some shade.
 
With temperatures in the 90s and no cloud cover, players who teed off in the afternoon carried umbrellas to shield the sun and guzzled water to keep hydrated. Pettersen teed off early and was at 8-under 136 before the course started to cook.
 
'I was lucky being on this side of the draw,' the fair-skinned Norwegian said. 'Already on the front I was heating up pretty bad, and on the back nine, there are some places that just seem to be sheltered from the breeze. So it's boiling.'
 
Michelle Wie also played in the morning. By the end of the day, the 17-year-old from Hawaii was lucky to still be in the tournament.
 
She bogeyed her last hole for a 74 that left her at 3-over 147, and it looked as though she would miss the cut by one shot. While she may not feel she owes anyone an apology, Wie probably owes thanks to Karen Davies.
 
Playing in the final group, Davies bogeyed the last hole to allow 14 other players -- Wie included -- to tie for 70th and make the cut.
 
Wie was 11 shots behind.
 
Pettersen has the lead, but that's about it. Webb continues to hit the ball so well that she was slightly disgusted with her 69.
 
Big-hitting Brittany Lincicome shot 69 and was two shots behind with former U.S. Women's Open champion Birdie Kim (71). The group at 5-under 139 included Pressel (71) and Annika Sorenstam, who birdied her last two holes for a 69.
 
Lorena Ochoa, the No. 1 player but without a major, hurt herself with a double bogey when she went long on the fourth green and wound up with a second straight 71 to finish at 142, six shots behind. But she is known to run off birdies by the bundles, and the Mexican star was not about to lose hope this week.
 
'That's what I wanted to do today,' she said. 'Maybe tomorrow.'
 
Wie continued to keep driver in the bag and conceded that her chances of winning this week were unrealistic on a course where she is playing with more caution than abandon. Even so, she had few complaints.
 
'This was 5,000 times better than last week,' said Wie, and that was before she knew she was playing on the weekend.
 
She quit after 16 holes at the Ginn Tribute, withdrawing under suspicion that she was trying to duck the LPGA Tour's 'Rule 88,' which bans non-tour members for the year if they don't break 88 in a round.
 
Wie showed plenty of fight Friday, making consecutive birdies to give herself a chance at making the cut.
 
Even after soap opera week of withdrawing from the Ginn Tribute, showing up at Bulle Rock two days later to hit balls and receiving strong rebukes from Sorenstam and LPGA Tour commissioner Carolyn Bivens for her conduct, the focus is slowly shifting to those who actually have a chance to win the McDonald's LPGA Championship.
 
Pettersen has enormous talent, and is showing equal parts resiliency.
 
Her meltdown at Nabisco was as severe as in any major, yet she bounced back to capture her first LPGA title a month later at the Michelob Ultra Open. The next step is atoning in a major championship, and she certainly looked capable over two days at Bulle Rock.
 
But her fine play means teeing off in the afternoon Saturday.
 
The sun was so intense late in the afternoon that the largest gallery contained about 75 people who followed Sorenstam, although she made it worth their while. Slowed by a double bogey on the par-5 second hole when she drove into the hazard, she birdied her last three holes for a 69 that put her in contention earlier than she expected.
 
Sorenstam missed two months of competition with back and neck injuries, returning last week to tie for 36th.
 
'I still have some bad shots in me and therefore, I don't want to raise the bar too soon,' Sorenstam said. 'I'm just happy to have two rounds under par. I might be a little injured physically, but let me tell you, mentally I'm not. I'm probably as strong as ever.'
 
Lincicome probably summed up the heat as well as anyone. She walked up the slope to the seventh tee and plopped down in a plastic chair and waited until it was her turn to hit.
 
'I'm more tired now than I've ever been in my life,' Lincicome said. 'We were counting the holes down starting on the back, and that wasn't a good idea because they didn't seem like they were ever going to end.'
 
Good thing she heard there was a slight chance for thunderstorms late in the afternoon. She put her umbrella in the bag to be safe, and wound up using in on the final holes to shield her fair skin from the sun.
 
'I felt like a girl out there,' she said.
 
Webb also made a strong recovery. Right when she was poised to take the lead, she took double bogey on the par-3 third hole by missing the green to the left, but hit 5-iron to 10 feet on the uphill fifth hole for birdie, added a 6-foot birdie on the sixth and was in the final group at a major where she lost last year in a playoff.
 
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