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Song-Hee Kim takes midway lead at Nabisco Championship

If past success in big tournaments has anything to do with predicting success on the weekend of a major championship, then good luck handicapping the field at the midway point of the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

The top eight players after two rounds have a combined 13 major titles, which seemingly sets up a weekend clash of women’s golf heavyweights at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage.

Unheralded South Korean Song-Hee Kim has the midway lead after her four-under 68 Friday in the second round gave her a two-day total of seven-under 137, but lined up just behind her is a parade of past major champions.

Lorena Ochoa, Cristie Kerr and Karen Stupples, all major winners, are one stroke behind at six under. Karrie Webb, a seven-time major champion, is another shot back while Yani Tseng and Suzann Pettersen, each of whom has won an LPGA Championship, are tied for seventh at four under on a course that is playing difficult, with high rough and rock-hard greens.

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“I think that having that little bit of experience helps in more cases than not when you’re dealing with these kinds of tournaments,” said Kerr, whose second-round 67 included an eagle at the par-five 11th and equaled the low round of the tournament. “But it’s hard to predict that kind of stuff.”

It’s been especially hard to predict on the LPGA tour. The last 18 LPGA majors have been 17 players, so it’s wise for the contenders to keep their eyes on someone such as Kim, who played bogey-free Friday and has only one bogey through two rounds.

“Sometimes the people that haven’t won don’t put pressure on themselves and they come through,” Kerr said. “You can kind of look at it both ways.”

It’s not as if Kim is a stranger to the victory circle. In 2006 she tied the Futures Tour single-season record with five victories. She has yet to win in four seasons on the LPGA tour, but twice has been runner-up, has 22 top-10 finishes and finished in the top 12 of three majors last year.

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“I had a lot of times in this position, so it’s the same feel,” said Kim, who many think is the best player on tour yet to win a tournament. “I’ve always been ready to win.”

It won’t be easy. Not only will she have to fend off the players with major championship pedigree, but also a few young stars hungry to make a mark.

Stacy Lewis, a second-year pro who won the 2007 NCAA title, is tied with Webb at five under. USC sophomore Jennifer Song, the reigning U.S. Women’s Amateur champion, is five shots back in a tie for 10th at two under.

And tied with Song is Michelle Wie, who appears ready to make a run after making birdies on two of her last four holes to shoot a second consecutive one-under 71. She is five shots out of the lead.

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“I feel like the back nine … I really felt like I knew what I was doing and my head was in the right place,” Wie said. “I feel like I’m not far off. There’s two more days to go … and hopefully during that 36 holes I can make a lot more birdies.”

sports@latimes.com


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