Defending champion Juli Inkster finds herself in familiar territory at the Longs Drugs Challenge. Following a 67 (-5) in the second round, Inkster leads the tournament at a comfortable seven-under-par 137 for the second year in a row. At the 1999 Longs Drugs Challenge, Inkster took the second-round lead and didn't let go. The LPGA's newest Hall of Fame member hopes for a repeat performance, but holds only a one-shot lead over Brandie Burton and Carin Koch.
After playing in rather windy conditions on the first day, Inkster was very pleased with her first and second round performances.
"I was kind of hoping the wind would blow for these girls now so that they could see what we had to deal with yesterday afternoon," said Inkster. "I was very happy with what I did yesterday - I knew I wasn't out of the tournament after the first day. I was only four shots back and that 70 felt more like 66 with the way the wind was blowing. I started the day at two-under and knew that if I could get some putts to drop, I could make a change."
And make a charge she did. Inkster posted six birdies and one lone bogey during her round, including birdies on all the par fives. She admitted the course was playing longer and tougher than she remembered, but she was able convert on most of her birdie chances.
"This is a tough course," said Inkster. "You just have to take what it gives you. It's definitely playing a lot longer this year. I think I've used my driver more times than in years past. It's definitely tougher."
Inkster looks to claim her first victory of the 2000 season after coming off five wins, including two major championships, in 1999. After taking a six-week, well deserved break earlier in the season, Inkster commented that her rhythm is coming back with more time on the course.
Trailing Inkster by one are Burton and Sweden's Koch at six-under-par. Both players carded consecutive 69s to move within striking distance.
"Juli is always a tough competitor, no matter what course or what week," said Burton, who is back to full-time on the LPGA Tour after reconstructive shoulder surgery that caused her to miss the entire 1999 season. "But this is going to be a great weekend for golf."
Koch is hoping to improve on her finish from when she contended at the 1998 Longs Drugs Challenge. The Swede led all three rounds but was passed by Donna Andrews on Sunday and earned her third of four career runner-up finishes on the LPGA Tour.
"If I win, that's great, but it will happen when it happens," said Koch, who is still searching for her first LPGA victory. "I don't think seconds will ever be frustrating for me. If I finish second 10 more times, I've had a good career."
Jill McGill is all alone at five-under-par, followed by first-round co-leaders Rachel Hetherington and Cindy Figg-Currier at 140 (-4).
The cut was made at 149 (+5) and included 81 players.
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