Sei Young Kim takes ANA Inspiration lead as Lydia Ko's streak ends

Sei Young Kim shoots a seven-under-par 65 to take a two-shot lead at ANA Inspiration

Not long ago, Morgan Pressel was in a similar position to Lydia Ko, a young player on a meteoric rise on the LPGA Tour.

These days, Ko, the world's No. 1 golfer at age 17, has been the biggest draw at the year's first major, the ANA Inspiration at Mission Hills.

She shot a one-over par 73 on Friday, which stopped her streak of rounds under par at 29, but that was enough to tie Annika Sorenstam's record. At even par for the tournament, Ko is seven shots off Sei Young Kim's lead after 36 holes. If she can come back to win, Ko would become the youngest major winner in LPGA history.

For now, though, that record belongs to Pressel, who won this tournament at age 18 in 2007. So to become the LPGA's youngest major winner, Ko will have to battle the youngest major winner. Pressel, who led after round one, is in second place, two shots off the lead after an even-par 72.

Before there was Ko, Pressel seemed to be the sport's rising star. But the wins did not materialize. She won only once more on the LPGA Tour, in 2008, and is ranked 56th.

"I was a cocky young kid who thought that I could win," Pressel said. "I mean, I did. I think the time commitment that came after that, I don't know if I was quite prepared for that. And I don't know if I had been taught necessarily to say no enough."

Pressel, 26, said she was mesmerized by the opportunities that came with budding stardom. Her focus on her game began to wane.

When she used to come to this tournament, Pressel said, she'd find her plaque on the walk of champions.

"But now I've decided to not look and just focus," she said.

Pressel also worked with her old coach, Ron Stockton. After a tournament in Singapore in early March, she felt lost. She had no idea where the ball was going. Together, they adjusted and removed some spin from the ball for better accuracy.

In this tournament, Pressel grabbed the early lead, but from the start on Friday, the second round was more about avoiding disaster. She flubbed her opening drive, and her layup shot ended up in a divot.

"I'm not really sure what happened," she said. "But what am I going to do? I hit it there, now all I can do is try and make par."

She did, and though she wrestled with her stroke the whole round, she finished at even par for the day.

Pressel said her round was backward. Some holes that she played well, she ended up with a bogey, such as a missed three-foot putt on No. 3. On No. 2, she pulled her drive into the rough but still made birdie.

Kim, who started the day at even par, rocketed to the lead at seven under with a 65. She made six birdies and finished with an eagle on No. 18.

"I'm very happy," the South Korean said.

Meanwhile, No. 18 was trouble for Ko and her playing partner, Lexi Thompson, the defending champion. Both bogeyed the hole after splashing their second shots into Poppie's Pond.

Thompson finished at three under par for the round and the tournament.

Ko, needing a birdie to break Sorenstam's record, , found the rough off the tee. She tried to lay up but was a club too long and went into the water.

"Now it's over," Ko said. "And 29's not too bad."

zach.helfand@latimes.com

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