7 birdies help McGann tie record and take Open lead with 66 2nd-round score is 2nd-lowest


CARMEL, Ind. -- Michelle McGann, the driving distance leader on the LPGA tour, used her driver and her putter to spring past the field and into the lead in the 48th U.S. Women's Open championship yesterday at Crooked Stick Golf Club.

McGann, enjoying the best of her five years on tour, had seven birdies in shooting a record-tying 32-3466, and vaulting to a two-stroke lead at the halfway mark.

The 23-year-old from Riviera Beach, Fla., equaled Susie Berning's low second-round score in getting to 8-under-par 138 on the 6,311-yard, par-72 course.

The 136 is the second-lowest in Women's Open history, bettered only by Patty Sheehan's 134 (66-68) at the Atlanta Athletic Club in 1990.

Hiromi Kobayashi eagled the ninth hole on her way to 67138, where she was tied by first-round leader Helen Alfredsson, 68-70138.

While Kobayashi moved steadily up the leader board, Alfredsson birdied the first three holes to get to minus-7, but did not see the number again after bogeying the ninth -- a 435-yard par-5 that was giving away eagles seemingly for the asking.

When the day was over, there had been a record 17 eagles, 15 of them on No. 9.

"I threw away the par-5s," Alfredsson said of her two pars and two bogeys. "It's just ridiculous. When you give yourself chances and don't take advantage of them, it's disappointing. I gave away so many shots, it's hard to explain. It's frustrating."

Kobayashi, playing in the second group of the day, was able to take advantage of smooth greens in her round. At the ninth, she hit a 6-iron to four feet to set up her eagle.

The cut fell at 147 (a record low, surpassing the previous mark of 149 at Atlanta three years ago), and 63 players will play the last two rounds.

Among them will be Baltimorean Tina Barrett, 73-73146, and former Owings Mills resident Sarah Ingram, 76-70146. Kim Williams, of Potomac, failed to advance after shooting 77-74151.

Barrett, whose confidence was down after shooting 74-78 and missing the cut in the JAL Big Apple last week, came here wanting to make the cut.

"I'm pleased about that," she said, "because I haven't missed two in a row all year. I'm still not hitting it well, but I accomplished something. I played a lot smarter and concentrated better. And I'm pleased with my putting.

She bogeyed two of the first four holes, then turned it on with birdies on four of the next five holes on putts ranging from three feet to 40 feet. When she two-putted the par-5 ninth for birdie, she turned the nine 2-under par.

For the back nine, she had four bogeys and a birdie. She got back to 1-under for the round, even for the tournament with a 20-foot birdie at the 16th, then bogeyed the last two, one from a bunker and one from a position above the green where she had to hit away from the cup to avoid the water.

Ingram, was much more consistent, with a birdie on the 385-yard fourth (sand wedge to a foot) and an eagle on the ninth (a 6-iron shot to two feet) to turn 3-under.

Coming back, she bogeyed the 16th when she failed to get up and down from in front of the green, just missing a par putt from almost the exact same spot Barrett made hers several hours later.

"I was hoping I'd be able to go to 16 and 18, knowing I could play them smart, play for bogey and still make the cut," she said.

As it developed, she hit a great 5-iron shot pin high at the 175-yard 17th and two-putted, then had a solid drive at the 18th. Although it was in the rough, she got it in the rough above the green but beyond where Barrett ended, enabling her to pitch her ball at the hole.

Her wedge shot carried to the top of a slope on the last turn so that it caught the slope and rolled down to within four feet.

Still, the day belonged to McGann, who used to be better known for her assortment of wide-brimmed hats, but whose golf game is starting to gain equal billing.

"I have been putting well the last couple of months, but getting frustrated because nothing was going in. For the round, I didn't hit the ball that much better [than in her opening 70]; I just putted well."

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