No major surprise here; Tseng poised for Kraft win


RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Na Yeon Choi doesn’t know how to swim.

She is afraid of Poppie’s Pond and the traditional leap that comes with winning the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

As daunting as that leap would be, Choi said seeing Yani Tseng atop another leaderboard Friday offers an even more daunting challenge.

“I think catching Yani is more difficult,” Choi said. “I’m really scared of the water, but I think when she’s playing well, she looks like a very intimidating player. She’s an amazing player right now.”

With Tseng playing well, it feels like the rest of the tour are all swimming for their lives.

Tseng, 23, didn’t take long to seize command of the Kraft Nabisco Championship Friday at Mission Hills Country Club.

Rolling in a 12-foot birdie at her fourth hole, Tseng officially reached the top of the leaderboard. She never relinquished that place.

With another 4-under-par 68, Tseng moved to 8 under overall, two shots clear of the field as she signed her scorecard with the afternoon wave beginning to play.

If Tseng holds on to the second-round lead, she will have led or shared the lead in nine of the last 10 rounds played on tour this year.

Tseng is going for her third LPGA victory in a row, her fourth in sixth starts this year and her 10th in her last 20 LPGA starts. She’s going for her third major championship triumph in the last four played, her fifth in the last nine, her sixth overall.

None of this recitation can be good for anyone not named Yani Tseng playing the Kraft Nabisco this week.

There is a sense of inevitability growing as these streaks mount.

“I felt more energy coming out today, more than yesterday,” Tseng said of the emotional toll winning in back-to-back weeks took. “I just feel today my focus was so much better than yesterday. I’m hitting it very consistently. I took advantage of every chance out there.”

Choi, the Rolex World No. 2 behind Tseng, shot an impressive 67 and was three back of Tseng. She was asked if she believed she could beat Tseng this week.

“I couldn’t tell you,” Choi said. “She’s playing so well, and there are a lot of people chasing her. Nobody knows.”

Tseng has led a major championship after two rounds twice. She closed the deal both times, winning the Wegmans LPGA Championship last year and the Ricoh Women’s British Open two years ago.

Mission Hills, especially with the rough down, sets up well for the long-hitting Tseng.

Tseng’s ball-striking is so sharp, she has missed just four greens in regulation through two rounds. 

The field can take solace that Tseng looked like she was in control and on her way to winning last year when Stacy Lewis overtook her in the final round to win.

“I still have two more days to go, and this course suits me really well,” Tseng said. “I just need to be patient.”

Sun Young Yoo was closest to Tseng after the morning wave, trailing by two shots.

“She has confidence,” Yoo said. “She’s hitting it good, and she’s making everything.”

That is the formula for getting into Poppie’s Pond.