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Ochoa makes charge with marathon day



Published: Sun, July 1, 2007 @ 12:00 a.m.

She was only one-shot behind leader Ji-Yai Shin when play was suspended.

SOUTHERN PINES, N.C. (AP) — First came two blasts of the horn, the end of a 12 1/2-hour day at Pine Needles. Then came a crack of thunder as skies darkened. Lorena Ochoa’s work was done Saturday in the U.S. Women’s Open, and she had reason to be satisfied.

Ochoa played the final 22 holes of her 29-hole marathon in 7 under par, leaving her one shot behind Ji-Yai Shin in the middle of the third round, another great chance to validate her status as the No. 1 player in women’s golf.

She hated to stop playing. She can’t wait to return for 25 holes today.

“I feel prepared to win a major,” Ochoa said. “Tomorrow is going to be a special day.”

Saturday was simply a long one.

Leaders complete 10 holes

The second round did not end until about 3 p.m. The leaders only made it through 10 holes of the third round. But a tournament that had been a series of starts and stops because of stormy weather finally began to take shape.

In the lead was Shin, a 19-year-old from South Korea playing her first U.S. Women’s Open, who has overcome far more than anything Pine Needles has to offer. Her mother was killed in a car accident taking her to an amateur tournament, and Shin needed time to recover from injuries and find desire to keep playing.

She birdied the final hole she played, the par-5 10th, to put her at 5 under for the tournament.

Joining Ochoa at 4 under was Cristie Kerr, a 29-year-old American who often gets overlooked in the hype of younger stars. She had time to fix her swing between the second and third rounds, and ran off five birdies in an eight-hole stretch that put her 5 under for her round, one out of the lead in her quest for a first major.

Angela Park, the 36-hole leader after shooting 69 in the morning, would love nothing more than to make it a South American sweep of the U.S. Open golf tournaments. She was born in Brazil, and figures her name is close is enough to Angel Cabrera that it would make sense for the 18-year-old to capture a major.

Pressel still in hunt

Morgan Pressel, who won the Kraft Nabisco three months ago at age 18 to become the youngest LPGA major champion in history, overcame some tentative putting to make two birdies over her final four holes and was at 3 under par.

“I haven’t shot myself out of anything,” Pressel said.

It set the stage for what could be a dynamic Sunday, especially with sunshine in the forecast.

“We still have a lot of holes left, but I like where I am right now,” Ochoa said.

It was another early exit for Michelle Wie, overtime for everyone else.

Wie withdraws again

Wie walked off the course halfway through her second round, saying her left wrist was sore when she woke up and got even worse when she tried to play. She shot 42 on the back nine and was headed for another round in the 80s when she withdrew, and her future was never more clouded.

“There’s good days and bad days,” she said. “And obviously, today was not a good day. I just have to re-evaluate, make some smart choices and see how it works out.”

Pine Needles was cloudy, too, but the tournament caught a huge break when the nasty weather stayed away from the 7:30 a.m. resumption of the second round until it was too dark to matter.

But there was enough light for Ochoa’s wish to come true.

“I think that I’m close enough,” Ochoa said after rallying in the second round for a second straight 71.

, leaving her five shots behind Park after 36 holes. “Hopefully, my name means something on the leaderboard, and I’m ready to play a good round.”


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