Gustafson maintains lead at Chick-fil-A Championship

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The Independent Online

Sophie Gustafson is letting golf do her talking at the Chick-fil-A Charity Championship in Stockbridge, Georgia, maintaining a two-shot lead after the second round on Saturday as she closes in on her first LPGA Tour victory.

Gustafson, a 26-year-old Swede who struggles with a severe speech impediment, shot a 3-under-par 69 at Eagles Landing Country Club south of Atlanta, pushing her total to 10-under 134.

She is being chased by the biggest name in women's golf. Australia's Karrie Webb, seeking her fifth victory in six tournaments this year, finished with an eagle at No 18 and moved within three shots of the lead.

But Gustafson wasn't intimidated by her pursuers, which include Laura Davies and Michelle McGann, both two shots back.

"This is a good field," the leader said. "If I can lead here after two rounds, I know I can win tomorrow."

Because of the speech problem, it's difficult for Gustafson to develop close relationships with her fellow golfers. But they know she is capable of pulling off her first LPGA victory, having won in Europe and Asia before joining the American tour last year.

"She has a tremendous amount of talent," Webb said. "When she's on, she hits the ball long and extremely straight. Now, I've also seen her hit it off the planet as well."

Davies, who didn't even use a driver in the second round, said Gustafson "reminds me of me about 12 years ago. I didn't care where I hit it as long as I hit it hard."

Gustafson, who led by three shots after an opening-round 65, started out on Saturday like she was going to blow the field away. She birdied three of the first seven holes, never needing to make a putt longer than 15 feet.

But, after hitting a 3-wood within 15 feet for an eagle at the par-5 13th, Gustafson scrambled to hold the lead as her ball strayed all over the course.

She made a nice up-and-down at the par-3 16th after hitting her tee shot in a bunker, pumping her fist when the putt dropped. At the next hole, her second shot flew past the flag into the back fringe, where her downhill putt went past the hole again and left a difficult 15-foot for par. Once again, Gustafson made the putt, pumping her fist even harder as the ball disappeared.

At 18, Gustafson's tee shot flew into a fairway bunker, then she found the sand again with her second shot. But she managed to chip out and two-putt for another par.

"She had a real gutsy finish," said Chuck Hoersch, Gustafson's caddy. "Those were a lot of good pars."

Webb found the creek at 3 for the second day in a row, took out a chunk of a grass with her club after a poor shot at 6 and was meandering through an unspectacular round by her standards - two bogeys and three birdies - when she arrived at 18.

But a 4-iron landed 15 feet from the hole, and she curled in the eagle putt for a 69 and to let everyone know she was still around. Not that anyone would overlook Webb, who has won four tournaments this year and finished second in her other event.

"I'm happy to get out of a day like this at three under," the Australian said. "I like my position. I still have to play well tomorrow. I feel I have to shoot six under to have a good chance."

Gustafson gave her challengers a bit of hope when she scrambled for par at the 465-yard final hole.

"I think Sophie did us a favor when she didn't birdie or maybe even eagle that hole and get off to a three- or four-shot lead over everyone else," Webb said. "I feel I need to make birdie at that hole every time I play it."

Leading second-round scores from the LPGA Chick-fil-A Charity Championship in Georgia (US unless stated):

134 S Gustafson (Swe) 65 69 136 M McGann 68 68, L Davies (GB) 70 66 137 K Webb (Aus) 68 69, A Fruhwirth 67 70 140 K Robbins 73 67, D Delasin 70 70 141 M Mallon 70 71, S Steinhauer 69 72, L Philo 72 69, L Kane (Can) 73 68, S R Pak (Kor) 71 70, W Doolan (Aus) 69 72, V Skinner 67 74 142 P Hurst 70 72, B Iverson 71 71, D Pepper 72 70, B Burton 72 70


143 C Matthew (GB) 71 72 145 J Morley (GB) 74 71 146 A Nicholas (GB) 76 70, C McMillan (GB) 77 69 147 J Moodie (GB) 77 70 148 M McKay (GB) 73 75

Failed to qualify:

149 K Marshall (GB) 79 70 150 T Johnson (GB) 73 77 152 H Dobson (GB) 76 76 153 S Strudwick (GB) 77 76 160 L Hackney (GB) 79 81