Miki Saiki of Japan took a one-stroke lead at the Evian Masters on Friday, shooting a 5-under 67 in the second round to move to 9 under as the drenched course started to dry under sporadic sunshine.
Saiki heads into Saturday’s third round with former Evian champion Ai Miyazato of Japan, Kraft Nabisco winner Stacy Lewis and overnight co-leader Maria Hjorth of Sweden all poised to launch a challenge at 8 under.
2011 EVIAN MASTERS
The $3.25 million purse at the Evian Masters is tied for the largest purse on the LPGA Tour this season. The winner will take home $487,500.
“From yesterday I was hitting the ball really well and it kind of continued today,” Saiki said through a translator. “Yesterday there was a lot of rain and you didn’t know what you were going to get. Today you had no wind, the greens were consistent.”
Two more players, Angela Stanford of the United States and South Korea’s Ahn Shin-ae, are also one shot behind Saiki. Stanford’s 6-under 66 included seven birdies as she attacked from the outset.
“Before we went out (we) realized the course could be scoreable with some of the pin placements,” Stanford said.
Players were relieved not to have the burden of the teeming rain to deal with, although more showers are forecast for Saturday.
“We didn’t have our umbrella up the whole time, so that was nice,” Stanford said.
Lewis, meanwhile, picked up her form after crumbling at the end of her rain-soaked first round Thursday. Starting the day at 3 under, the American sank seven birdies in her round of 67. Lewis, who went 3 over in Thursday’s last four holes to drop down the leaderboard, decided she would take to the course with a positive attitude in the morning.
“I could have started today’s round with the same attitude, kind of mad and upset,” Lewis said.
Instead, she wrote something on her glove to gee herself up.
“I just wrote ‘confident.’ Just to trust what I’m doing,” she said. “I just started making birdies and putts.”
Luck had gone against Lewis under the driving rain, but the improved weather came with an unexpected reprieve for her.
“I got a huge break on 13,” she said. “I pulled it left, it was a side slope going away from me and plugged in the rough. I was pretty lucky there.”
Ahn had a share of the first-round lead with Hjorth and Karen Stupples of England at 5 under. Ahn was pressuring for a share of the lead again until she hit a wild tee shot into the rough on the 18th, managing only par on a hole that saw birdies sunk throughout the day.
Stupples, the former Women’s British Open champion, had three bogeys and is level with Paula Creamer and Cristie Kerr -- both also former major winners -- at 7 under. Hjorth managed a birdie from the edge of the green on the fifth hole, while Kerr, the 2007 U.S. Women's Open champion, hit an eagle on the ninth and followed that up with a birdie on 10.
“The greens are still soft so everyone’s going to shoot a low score,” Miyazato said, looking ahead to the third round.
Creamer hopes her form continues, as she is without a title since winning last year’s U.S. Women’s Open.
Creamer was only 18 when she beat 15-year-old Michelle Wie to win at Evian in 2005. She has not won it since, and admits that early success resulted in unrealistic expectations.
“Every year I’ve come back and I’ve expected myself to do it over and over again,” she said. “In reality, I put a little too much pressure on myself.”
Meanwhile, Wie’s miserable form continued and she missed the cut at 5 over. The 21-year-old American had shot a 4-over 76 on Thursday and followed that with a 1-over 73, despite birdies on the 17th and 18th.
Seven-time major champion Juli Inkster also failed to make the cut, finishing 3 over.