Laura Davies hasn't pulled her driver out of its fuzzy puppy headcover in a week. Her irons play is just too good.
Using a 3-iron on nearly every driving hole, Davies shot a second-round, 3-under-par 67 on Friday to move into a first-place tie with Sherri Turner at the Philips Invitational in Austin, Texas.
Defending champion Akiko Fukushima of Japan was part of a six-way tie one shot back at 136 after two rounds. Canada's Dawn Coe-Jones and Peru's Alicia Dibos made a late charge into the pack when both aced the 156-yard eighth hole.
Also at 4 under were Jill McGill, Scotland's Janice Moodie and Susie Redman, all of whom have not yet won an LPGA tournament.
Davies, one of the longest hitters on tour, said she was never tempted to pull out the driver on a day with steady and occasionally swirling winds.
"You don't really need it on this course," she said of the 6,101-yard Onion Creek Club.
"I'm playing my irons so well. When you hit as long as I do, one bad shot and you're in a lot of trouble," said Davies. "It's a much easier game when you don't have to worry about hitting a driver off-line."
Davies ranks 32nd on the tour in driving distance largely because she rarely uses her driver.
Averaging about 230 yards off the tee with her irons, the Englishwoman missed only one fairway and two greens all day. The last time she used a driver was in the first round of the Chick-fil-A Charity Championship last week in Atlanta, where she tied for seventh.
"I hit it straight left and out of bounds," and put it back in the bag, she said.
Davies played the back nine first and was tied with Turner at the turn. She moved to 6 under with a birdie on the par-5 first after hitting a 3-iron off the tee and a 1-iron into the green. She ran a string of seven consecutive pars before three-putting from about 25 feet on the last hole to fall back into the tie with Turner.
Turner started with a birdie, but would get just two more the rest of the day. She gave each of them away with three bogeys and finished with an even-par round of 70.
Turner, a 16-year tour pro who hasn't won since 1989, said the hard part of leading will be keeping her eyes off the leader board.
"I just have to relax and have a good time," she said, showing little, if any, tension as the leader. "I don't feel like I have any pressure this week."
Fukushima, who scored her first victory on American soil in Austin last year, birdied two of the last three holes to make a run at the lead.
Fukushima speaks little English and uses caddie Yoshi Hirakawa as an interpreter. She said she's more comfortable this year with someone on her bag who speaks her language. She won last year by leading wire-to-wire with an American caddie who didn't speak any Japanese.
"The first time defending a crown in the U.S. is really great," Fukushima said. "I think (the course) is a little bit harder this year, because the conditions are harder."
Coe-Jones was 2 under with two holes to play when she landed an 8-iron on the front of the green at No. 8 and ran it 45 feet uphill and into the cup.
"I could sit here and say that's what I was aiming at, but with a hole-in-one you need some luck," she said.
About 20 minutes later, Dibos did the same thing with a 7-iron.
"She opened it up for me," Dibos said.
Sherri Steinhauer, who started the day tied for first at 5 under, fell well back into the pack at 1 over with a round of 76 on the course she played regularly as an All-American at the University of Texas.
Second Round scores from the LPGA Philips Invitational Honoring Harvey Penick, Austin, Texas
135 L Davies (GB) 68 67, S Turner 65 70 136 J Moodie (GB) 70 66, A Fukushima (Jpn) 69 67, S Redman 69 67, J McGill 68-68, D Coe-Jones (Can) 68 68, Alicia Dibos (Per) 70 66 137 M Mallon 68 69, W Doolan (Aus) 70 67 138 C Figg-Currier 67 71, J Bartholomew 74 64 139 A Sorenstam (Swe) 70 69, P Sinn 68 71, M Dunn 70 69, M Redman 67 72, L Kane (Can) 73 66, T Green 70 69, G Park (Aus) 71 68, A Bunch 69 70 140 J Lidback (Per) 71 69, A Nicholas (GB) 71 69, C Sorenstam (Swe) 68 72 141 A.J. Eathorne (Can) 72 69, C Koch (Swe) 71 70 142 J Crafter (Aus) 70 72, S Gustafson (Swe) 70 72 143 C Matthew (GB) 72 71, J Morley (GB) 73 70, N Harvey (Can) 70 73, L Bemvenuti (Bra) 74 69, M Baena (Col) 70 73, H Kobayashi (Jpn) 72 71, D Koyama (Jpn) 73 70, G Park (Kor) 70 73, Lin Yu Ping 71 72 144 S Strudwick (GB) 73 71, S Waugh (Aus) 71 73 C Hajjar (Aus) 72 72
Failed to qualify
146 J Stephenson (Aus) 72 74, R Hetherington (Aus) 69 77, F Pike (Aus) 73 73 148 H Alfredsson (Swe) 73 75, M Lunn (Aus) 73 75, M McGuire (Nzl) 73 75, M McKay (GB) 76-72
149 G Graham (Can) 77 72, S Croce (Ita) 76 73, S Cavalleri (Ita) 79 70 150 M Hjorth (Swe) 74 76 151 D Barnard (Rsa) 76 75, M-J Rouleau (Can) 76 75, K Marshall (GB) 70 82 154 H Dobson (GB) 74 80 Lisa Hackney (GB) 76 DQ