Frenchwoman Leads in Illinois


SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- Patricia Meunier-Lebouc of France posted a 5-under 67 Friday to take the lead midway through the State Farm Classic. She matched the 36-hole tournament record at 13-under-par 131 and owns a three-shot lead over Akiko Fukushima.
Meunier-Lebouc equaled the two-day mark established by Laura Davies in 1994 and matched by Annika Sorenstam last year. This will be the first time that Meunier-Lebouc will take the lead into the weekend on the LPGA Tour.
'There are a lot of players who can do it by the end of the week, but know I have a chance,' said Meunier-Lebouc, who represented the European team in the 2000 Solheim Cup. 'That is my dream.'
Mi Hyun Kim, the 1999 State Farm winner, shot a 4-under 68 Friday and is alone in third place at 9-under-par 135. Kim Saiki (65), Nancy Scranton (69), Cristie Kerr (69) and Betsy King (70) share fourth place at minus 8.
One of the themes of the State Farm Classic is that automatic qualifying for the United States Solheim Cup ends Sunday with the completion of the tournament. Kerr seems firmly set on the team in fifth position but Scranton, currently 14th on the list, needs a strong finish to qualify for the squad.
Meunier-Lebouc opened on the back nine at The Rail Golf Course and drained a 15-foot birdie putt on No. 12. She made it two in a row with an 18-foot birdie at the 13th. At the par-5 15th, Meunier-Lebouc knocked it on the green in two and two-putted for birdie.
The 29-year-old wasted little time collecting birdies on her second nine. At the first, Meunier-Lebouc played an 8-iron to a foot to set up the kick-in birdie. She capitalized on the remaining par-5s when she holed a pair of seven-foot birdie putts at the fourth and eighth.
Meunier-Lebouc ran into trouble on her way to the clubhouse. She drove into the rough at the ninth hole and played her second shot into a greenside bunker left of the putting surface. Meunier-Lebouc blasted out to 10 feet and two-putted for her first bogey of the tournament.
'It means a lot to me to be very consistent,' said Meunier-Lebouc, who tied for sixth here last year. 'I hit the ball pretty well now. I was not as aggressive as yesterday, but I still kept making birdies.'
Fukushima had a very inconsistent round Friday with an eagle, seven birdies, two bogeys, a double-bogey and seven pars. All totaled, it was her second 5-under 67 in as many days and she will play in the final group Saturday with Meunier-Lebouc and Kim.
'I think I shot the ball a lot better yesterday,' Fukushima said through an interpreter. 'I had some bogeys today. So overall, I think I hit it better yesterday.'
Eleven golfers share eighth place at 7-under-par 137, and among the group are several players with Solheim Cup implications. Wendy Ward is eighth on the Solheim Cup points list while Emilee Klein (12th) and Pat Hurst (13th) are trying to move inside the bubble.
The 36-hole cut fell at even-par 144 with 83 players qualifying for the weekend.
Full-field scores from the State Farm Classic