BETHESDA -- Cindy Rarick changed her tune, but nothing suffered, least of all her golf score.
In Thursday's opening round, Rarick was so happy in the course of shooting a 68 that she kept singing, "My Funny Valentine." Yesterday it was "Stranger in the Night," a song that was good for a 67, a two-round total of 135 and a one-stroke lead in the $1 million Mazda LPGA Championship at Bethesda Country Club.
Rarick, who last year sang the national anthem before a Chicago White Sox game at Comiskey Park, broke out of the 10-way, first-round logjam to take a tentative step toward winning her first major title.
A shot behind at 136 were Patty Sheehan, a Hall of Famer of less than a year, Cathy Johnston-Forbes, a bride of less than a month, and Jenny Lidback, who speaks four languages, has dual citizenship in Peru and Sweden and lives in Scottsdale, Ariz. Next at 138 was a group of five that included defending champion Betsy King.
Rarick has five tour victories but has never finished higher than fifth in this tournament. She considers her 68 and 67 here as "my best two rounds in a major."
An ebullient 33-year-old, Rarick was inspired to sing while
playing after an upbeat session this week with a sports psychologist, Chuck Hogan. Her husband, Rick, who doubles as her caddy, caught the spirit and burst into song yesterday.
"He was trying to sing 'My Funny Valentine,' " Rarick said. "It was cute, but not too effective. Then he sang the song he sang the first time he caddied for me in Hawaii in 1985. I don't know the name, but it starts something like, 'I'm not a king, just a man . . . ' "
During the round, Rarick occasionally allowed herself to entertain visions of winning the LPGA.
"It might be more important to other people," she said. "They'd say, 'She's won a major! She must be a better player.' "
A glance at the leader board brought Rarick back to the task at hand. There was King, starting her round spectacularly with three birdies and an eagle.
"Not that you worry so much about what others are doing, because it's stroke play," Rarick said. "But Betsy's start shows things can change out here in a heartbeat."
King followed her opening 1-over-par 72 with a 66 yesterday. That eliminated the possibility of missing the cut and revived the memory of her performance here last year, when she shot a 17-under 267 and won by 11 strokes.
Sheehan was pleased with her "real solid round" of 68, a far cry from her "scrambling son of a gun" 68 Thursday. She pointed out that a "mini-lesson" from Patty Berg early in the week may have been beneficial. Berg, 75, is a charter member of the Hall of Fame, enshrined in 1951.
"She said, 'I've been thinking,' " Sheehan said. "Then she told me about my hook, saying I've got to learn to fade it. Then she started on my posture, saying I should work on it in front of the mirror.
"Next were my hands. They should be higher. OK, Patty, OK."
As she spoke, Sheehan was standing in the press room with a microphone in her hand, as if she were doing a comedy routine, even imitating Berg's deep voice.
"I got 20 minutes of that," she said, smiling. "But I asked for it."
$ The leader . . . C. Rarick 68-67-135
. . . and followers J. Lidback 69-67-136
P. Sheehan 68-68-136
B. King 72-66-138
M. Will 70-68-138
J. Stephenson 69-69-138
T. Kerdyk 69-69-138
B. Bunkowsky 68-70-138
S. Hamlin 73-66-139
C. Keggi 70-69-139