(Reuters) - American teenager Lexi Thompson compiled a brilliant eight-under-par 64 to tie for the clubhouse lead during the second round at the $2 million Kraft Nabisco Championship on Friday.
Thompson, unhappy with her putting on Thursday, found her stroke to plunder eight birdies in her final 13 holes and join South Korean Pak Se Ri at seven-under 137 in perfect morning conditions at Mission Hills in Rancho Mirage, California.
They led the first LPGA major of the year by one stroke from Michelle Wie, who missed a golden birdie chance at her final hole.
Thompson in 2011 at age 16 became what was then the youngest ever LPGA winner, and she added two more victories last year.
A major title is the next obvious achievement.
“Obviously this is one of my main goals, to win a major this year, especially the Kraft Nabisco would be a huge honor,” Thompson told reporters.
“I struggled a bit yesterday on the greens, just struggled to get my putts to the hole, but I figured out some things after my round yesterday with my putting and some of my iron shots.”
Thompson was only three when Pak won her first major championship in 1998. Now 36, Pak has won just about everything worth winning, except for this tournament.
She has not won an LPGA event since 2010 but is showing glimpses of her old greatness as she plays with a more relaxed attitude following a long winter break back home in South Korea.
“I‘m very happy about the first round and today,” she said after finishing in style by knocking in a three-foot birdie at the par-five 18th.
”I’ve been here so many times I know what exactly I need to do. That gives me a lot more pressure, but this week just feels really calm.
“Everything seems to feel comfortable. It just makes (it) so easy. I think this probably best playing ever I have.”
Wie also has designs on the trophy after a solid 71 that included just two birdies and one bogey.
Her career achievements are not yet commensurate with her fame, because the 24-year-old has just two LPGA victories, but she finally seems on the verge of fulfilling her promise after struggling at times with injuries and a loss of confidence.
“It’s fun being in contention. Two days is a long way to go but at the same time I am very excited,” said Wie, who finished one shot back at this event seven years ago.
“It felt good to start with a birdie. After that I just couldn’t get anything going but I held on (and) I‘m happy with 71.”
First round leader Shanshan Feng had a late tee time on Friday.
Reporting By Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina, Editing by Gene Cherry