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American contingent in contention at Evian Masters

EVIAN-LES-BAINS, France – Miki Saiki of Japan took a one-stroke lead at the Evian Masters on Friday, shooting a 5-under 67 in the second round to move to 9 under as the drenched course started to dry.

Saiki leads Americans Angela Stanford, whose 66 included seven birdies, and Kraft Nabisco winner Stacy Lewis (67). Also challenging at 8 under are former Evian champion Ai Miyazato of Japan, who finished with a 68, co-overnight leader Maria Hjorth of Sweden (69) and South Korea’s Ahn Shin-ae (69).

“From yesterday, I was hitting the ball really well and it kind of continued today,” Saiki said through a translator. “Yesterday there was a lot of rain and you didn’t know what you were going to get. Today you had no wind, the greens were consistent.”

Paula Creamer (67), Cristie Kerr (69) and Karren Stupples (70) were two shots behind the leader. Kerr had an eagle on the ninth and followed with a birdie on 10.

Stanford’s plan was to attack from the outset.

“Before we went out (we) realized the course could be scoreable with some of the pin placements,” Stanford said.

Players were relieved not to have the burden of the teeming rain to deal with, although more showers are forecast for Saturday.

“We didn’t have our umbrella up the whole time, so that was nice,” Stanford said.

Lewis picked up her form after going 3-over in the last four holes at the end of her rain-soaked first round Thursday. Starting the day at 3 under, the Lewis decided she would take a positive attitude and finished with seven birdies.

She wrote a single word on her glove to cheer herself up.

“I just wrote ‘confident.’ Just to trust what I’m doing,” she said. “I just started making birdies and putts.”

Ahn was pressuring for a share of the lead again until she hit a wild tee shot into the rough on the 18th, managing par.

Creamer was only 18 when she beat 15-year-old Michelle Wie to win at Evian in 2005. She has not won it since, and admits that early success resulted in unrealistic expectations.

“Every year I’ve come back and I’ve expected myself to do it over and over again,” she said. “In reality, I put a little too much pressure on myself.”

Meanwhile, Wie shot 73 and missed the cut at 5 over, despite birdies on the last two holes.

Seven-time major champion Juli Inkster also failed to make the cut, finishing 3 over.

Miyazato is looking forward to better conditions in the third round.

“The greens are still soft, so everyone’s going to shoot a low score,” she said.