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Alena Sharp surges at mid-point of ANA Inspiration

Written by Canadian Press with files from Golf Canada
Alena Sharp (Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. – Alena Sharp made the most of Friday’s opening tee slot, posting a 4-under 68 to climb 25 spots into a tie for 11th at the mid-way point of the ANA Inspiration.

The Hamilton, Ont., native notched five birdies against one bogey on the par-4 12th, bringing her to 5 under par for the tournament — seven strokes back of the leading Pernilla Lindberg and Sung Hyun Park, the 2017 CP Women’s Open champion.

Brooke Henderson of Smiths Falls, Ont., slipped with a 3-over 75 to sit at 1 over par, making the cut on the number.

Park and Lindberg shared the lead at a tournament-record 12-under 132, three strokes ahead of Jessica Korda after two rounds in hot and mostly calm conditions at Mission Hills.

Lexi Thompson was 4 under after an even-par 72, undone by a series of short missed putts a year after a rules violation cost her four strokes in regulation in an eventual playoff loss.

“I hit it really well today,” Thompson said. “I just struggled on the greens.”

Fighting dizziness caused by a virus, Wie followed her opening 75 with a bogey-free 67 to get to 2 under.

“Saw one golf ball today, which was good,” Wie said.

With little fanfare five groups in front of the Thompson-Wie morning pairing, the fourth-ranked Park shot a 64 for the best round of the week. The U.S. Women’s Open champion played a nine-hole stretch in 7 under. She holed out for eagle from 100 yards on the par-4 15th to cap the run.

“I was super-focused at the U.S. Open, and felt just as focused today,” the 24-year-old South Korean player said. “I just felt really good about my driver. The shots fell in just as I wanted.”

Lindberg had a 67 in the final group of the morning session. The 31-year-old Swede had the first-round lead at 65, and was the only player without a bogey the first two days.

“Just not put myself in too much trouble and then my short game and putting have been great,” Lindberg said. “I’m just collecting so much experience out here every year, that I’m getting more and more ready just to be in this situation. Every time I’m there, I’m just so much more comfortable.”

She hit inside 2 feet to set up birdies on the par-4 13th and par-4 14th and parred the final four holes. The leaders broke the 36-hole record of 11 under set by Lorena Ochoa in 2006.

Thompson missed five putts inside 4 feet, four of them to the right side. She three-putted the par-3 fifth and par-4 12th, missing from 4 and 3 feet on 12. She also missed a 4-foot par try on 13.

The 2014 champion rebounded to birdie three of the last four , beginning the run with a downhill 12-footer on the par-4 15th. She went right at the back left pin on par-3 17th and got a 4½-footer to fall on the left side, then hit a lob wedge to 4 inches on the par-5 18th.

Wie often sat and rested in the shade in the 90-degree morning heat on the 97-degree day. She walked with a sun umbrella and relied on caddie Matthew Galloway more than usual.

“I just sat down every chance I could,” Wie said. “My caddie helped me a lot out there, just getting all the numbers. I asked him to read every putt for me because I just couldn’t see everything.”

Wie was stricken Thursday afternoon, leading to two double bogeys and a bogey in a four-hole stretch.

“Yesterday I wasn’t prepared for it at all,” said Wie, the winner four weeks ago in Singapore. “I felt good, felt good on the range, and all of a sudden I started seeing multiple golf balls, and that scared me a little bit. But today I woke up feeling dizzy. I knew exactly what I was getting into.”

Korda birdied five of the last 10 holes in a 68 to get to 9 under. She won last month in Thailand in her return from reconstructive jaw surgery.

“It all depends on if these putts are going to drop or not,” Korda said. “That’s the difference out here.”

Jodi Ewart Shadoff (67), Charley Hull (68), Amy Olson (68) and Ayako Uehara (66) were 7 under.

Stanford sophomore Albane Valenzuela was 6 under after a 71.

“I had to kind of save my pars today, but still a good round overall,” the Swiss Olympian said. “I put a good fight out there.”

Valenzuela was one of four amateurs to make the cut, with Rose Zhang (70), Atthaya Thitikul (71), Lilia Vu (70) also advancing. Zhang and Thitikul were tied for 34th at 2 under, and Vu was tied for 41st at 1 under. The 14-year-old Zhang, from Irvine, won the ANA Junior Inspiration on Sunday to get into the field.

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