Pak starting to cash in on the course

As long as Se Ri Pak sticks to golf instead of the slot machines, her week on the Strip should result in some easy money.

As long as Se Ri Pak sticks to golf instead of the slot machines, her week on the Strip should result in some easy money.

Pak threatened to run away from an elite field in the LPGA Tour Championship in Las Vegas on Friday with another 6-under 66 at the Desert Inn Golf Club that gave her a five-stroke lead over Laura Davies.

"Not done yet," Pak said. "I don't want to stop. Keep working at it."

The 21-year-old South Korean dropped dlrs 60 in the slots on Thursday night, but her luck changed almost as soon as she laced up her shoes. Short birdie putts on two of the first three holes helped build a three-stroke margin, and she really took off from there.

A bogey on No. 18, her first of the tournament, put Pak at 12-under 132.

"She will be hard to beat," Davies said after matching Pak's 66 to finish at 137. "She knows what she's doing."

Along with going after her fourth victory of the year, Pak could remove any remaining suspense in the race for player of the year. Juli Inkster has to win and hope that Karrie Webb finishes third or worse. Both were at 138, along with Lorie Kane and Nancy Scranton.

"Slim," Inkster said of her chances of winning the award. "But I thought it was slim coming in here. I never give up, so I'm just going to keep firing at the pins. But I'm going to need a good, low round to get back into this thing."

Even that might not help.

Pak swears Desert Inn is not a pitch-and-putt golf course, that a score of 68 or 69 is no small task. So how to explain 13 birdies over the first 36 holes?

"That's perfect," she said. "Two days left. I hope go through same like this."

Her distance control was crucial on Friday, a day on which others had trouble trying to discern whether the greens would be hard and release the ball, or soft and spin it back. Pak's longest putt of the day was a 15-foot (4.57 meters) birdie on the No. 7, and she nearly holed a pitching wedge on No. 13 that left her a tap-in birdie.

"It's working out," she said, breaking into a laugh when she realized her understatement.

Pak will be paired Saturday with Davies, who may be the best suited to track her down. Davies is the defending champion at Desert Inn, where her length should give her a huge advantage over the rest of the field.

It should, anyway.

Davies is only 2-under on the par 5s this week, which gives her reason to believe she can make up ground over the final 36 holes. What helped the cause Friday was a 7-iron from 164 yards (149.91 meters) on No. 12 that went in for an eagle.

"All the par 5s are on - there are four chances," Davies said. "Then, if you hole a shot, that's a fifth chance. I mean, it's all out there. Yesterday I had a 71 and it should have been a 66. Today was a 66 that could have been a 62."

Davies would find it hard to believe Pak has two more rounds of 66 in her. It's that off day that she or Webb or Inkster will need a low round to at least close the gap and make it interesting on Sunday.

At least, that's what they hope.

"There are probably 29 people that hope she has a so-so day," Webb said. "But she can go out tomorrow and fire another 6-under, and have a so-so day on Sunday and that's not going to help us. I have to go low tomorrow and see where that puts me."

Inkster's week got off to a rugged start in a restaurant, where she ordered veal Wednesday night and got food poisoning. Her strength is slowly returning, and she came back with a 68.

"I'm going to need a good round to get back in this thing," she said.

What Inkster could really use is some help from Pak, who is making it look easier with each passing day. Now if Pak can only get it right in the casinos.

"Important for me after golf is eating, so I have to try to find a good restaurant," she said. "Then maybe some slot machine. I want to get my money back."

DIVOTS:@ Commissioner Ty Votaw said Friday all signs point toward the LPGA Tour returning to Grand Cypress in Orlando, Fla., in 2001 with JC Penney as the title sponsor. Penney will no longer sponsor the Mixed Team Classic in Tampa after this year, deciding instead to concentrate on the LPGA Tour. ... Jan Stephenson shot a 76 and was at 3-over 147. At age 49, the Australian is the oldest player in the field. ... A victory this week would make Webb the first player since Beth Daniel in 1990 to win seven times in one season.

Leading second-round scores (US unless stated):

132 - SR Pak (S Kor) 66 66137 - L Davies (GB) 71 66138 - L Kane (Can) 68 70, K Webb (Aus) 68 70, J Inkster 70 68, N Scranton 69 69140 - K Robbins 68 72141 - J Moodie (GB) 67 74142 - C Matthew (GB) 72 70, C McCurdy 73 69, A Sorenstam (Swe) 73 69, B Daniel 73 69143 - M H Kim (S Kor) 73 70, S Steinhauer 72 71, A Fukushima (Japan) 72 71 144 - R Jones 73 71, B Iverson 71 73145 - M Hjorth (Swe) 71 74, J Lidback (Peru) 73 72, R Hetherington (Aus) 70 75146 - H Dobson (GB) 76 70, M Lunn (Aus) 74 72, L Neumann (Swe) 76 70, S Turner 77 69, H Alfredsson (Swe) 74 72, K Kuehne 72 74147 - E Klein 74 73, J Stephenson (Aus) 71 76149 - M Mallon 75 74, T Barrett 74 75

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