Dorothy Delasin seemed oblivious to her surroundings yesterday for much of the second round of the LPGA Championship at Bulle Rock in Havre de Grace.
To the scoreboards that saw her name at the top. To one of her playing partners, Michelle Wie, and the huge crowd following the 16-year-old prodigy. And to the fact that Delasin was on the verge of pulling away from the field.
"I like having people watch and whether they're watching me or Michelle or anybody, it's good to just have people out there watching your group," Delasin said.
A few bad swings brought Delasin back to reality and the field back to Delasin. Probably the only thing that prevented her from losing her clubhouse lead was the deluge of bad weather that halted play early yesterday afternoon.
A series of storms emptied the course for five hours, but when darkness fell and play stopped for the night, Delasin was still the leader among those who had finished 36 holes.
At 6-under-par 138 after a 1-under-par 71, Delasin was one stroke better than Wie, first-round leader Nicole Castrale as well as South Koreans Shi Hyun Ahn and Mi Hyun Kim.
Of the other 73 players to get to the midway point, former champions Se Ri Pak of South Korea and Karrie Webb of Australia, as well as Cristie Kerr, were among five at 4-under-par 140.
Veteran Pat Hurst was the leader on the course when play was suspended, at 8-under par after finishing 10 holes yesterday. Christina Kim was at 6-under par after playing eight holes.
Despite wasting what had been a three-stroke lead after getting to 10-under par with four straight birdies, Delasin didn't seem too distraught with the two bogeys and double bogey she made in the last seven holes.
"I put myself in good contention for the weekend, there's still a lot of golf left to play and I just want to keep the momentum up," said Delasin, 25, who won four times between 2000 and 2003 but has struggled since.
Wie put herself in contention for the second straight year at Bulle Rock. Starting the day at 1-under 71, Wie shot a 4-under 68 that could have easily been a couple of strokes lower.
"I left a lot of putts out there," said Wie, who finished second to Annika Sorenstam last year as an amateur. "But I still feel like I'm stroking it really well. These greens are very tricky."
After getting to 5-under with three straight birdies, Wie was a little unlucky.
Her 18-footer for birdie on the par-4 fifth hole hit the left edge and spun out, and her 15-footer for birdie on the par-4 sixth grazed the cup as well. After leaving a chip from just off the green on the par-5 ninth five feet below the hole, Wie missed another chance for birdie.
"I felt I hit a good chip," she said. "I just kind of misjudged the speed of it, because if you're a little bit long it will go over the ridge. I think I was a little too tentative on that shot. I hit a good putt. It didn't fall in, but I hit it where I wanted it."
Wie was not the only player considered a contender to benefit fromDelasin's mini-collapse.
Lorena Ochoa of Mexico, the tour's leading money-winner this year, was at 4-under through 27 holes, as was Sweden's Liselotte Neumann, who won the 1988 U.S. Women's Open at Baltimore Country Club. Neumann played 10 holes yesterday.
Sorenstam climbed back into contention by getting to 3-under par for the tournament and 2-under for the round through eight holes. Sorenstam is looking for her fourth straight LPGA Championship title.
"I have some ground to make up, but also a long ways to go," said Sorenstam, who has not won in her previous seven starts. "I have to find a balance of still being patient and aggressive."
The long delay yesterday sets up a grind for the weekend. The second round will resume at 8 a.m. today, and the third round will immediately follow and might not be completed until tomorrow.
Having finished the second round will certainly be an advantage to Wie, who will get to sleep late while 70 players will hit the practice tee just after dawn.
Asked before the storms hit if she liked her position, Wie said, "I think so. I don't think I'm too far back, but I feel very comfortable where I am right now. I'm really looking forward to tomorrow and the day after, because I really feel I can play well."
Wie looks ready to win her first tournament as a professional. Except for her sometimes shaky putting on Bulle Rock's undulating greens, Wie is hitting the ball extremely well and seems to have the rest of her short game under control.
Since playing the first 14 holes on Thursday in 2-over par, Wie is 7-under.
"I think that just the confidence I'm building with the last two days, I'm getting to know the course a lot better now that I played, that I have two rounds under my belt," she said. "I feel like I have a feel for these greens now and I think I'm ready to shoot a really low score."
Delasin had that feeling for a while yesterday.
Until a few bad swings brought her back to reality and the rest of the field back into the tournament, and some bad weather brought play in the LPGA Championship to a soaking halt.
JOHN EISENBERG Those following Wie at Bulle Rock know she's more than the real deal, she's a rare talent. PG 8C