World number one Karrie Webb recovered from a surprisingly shaky start today to fire a three under par 69 and extend her lead to two shots at the halfway mark of the Evian Masters.
Webb, who was three over after six holes, heads the leaderboard on nine under par 135 from the in-form Swede Sophie Gustafson, while Annika Sorenstam lies a further shot adrift in third. Gustafson and her compatriot Sorenstam both carded 68's.
"I got off to a really bad start and was very frustrated after six holes, but fortunately I managed to get it back and it was a bonus to reach the turn level for the day," said Webb, already a six-time champion this season.
"I missed a couple of fairways, which you can't do out here because the rough's pretty thick. But I made a couple of good swings on seven for an eagle chance, and then further birdies at eight and nine brought me back to level."
Webb's three bogey's came at the second, where she hit a nine iron into a bunker back of the green, and at the third and sixth after missing the fairway each time.
But the 25-year-old Queenslander recovered with a two-putt birdie at the par five seven before holing birdies putts from 10 feet and six feet at the eighth and ninth respectively.
Although she dropped another at the 10th following another wayward tee-shot, Webb made amends with an eagle at the 13th where she holed a nine iron from 127 yards, which she followed with further birdies from 22 feet at the 14th and 15 feet at the last.
"They were fairly soft bogeys early on, concentration errors, but I thought I could get it back to nine under as there were still a lot of birdies out there," added Webb.
"The lack of leaderboards didn't bother me because at this stage of the tournament you are still trying to get into position. "You don't get to see a leaderboard until the 10th and because the weather was so good with no breeze I thought that someone would be a lot more under par. But when I saw the board I realised I wasn't that far off."
Webb's uncharacteristic start had in fact opened the door for Gustafson, who took the lead thanks to an eagle and three birdies in a superb front half 31. The powerful Swede's eagle came at the par four fifth when she holed a sand wedge from 98 yards, and she also chipped in from just off the green for a birdie at the par three seventh.
But two bogeys in a one over par back nine enabled Webb to recapture her usual spot at the top of the leaderboard.
"I didn't play as well as I'd have liked on the back half but overall I thought it was a pretty good score," said the Swede, who followed her maiden US win at the Chick-fil-A in February with victories in Italy and Ireland on the Evian Tour.
"It should be a great threeball tomorrow. It's always nice to play with the very best in the world. So far it's been a wonderful season. I put in my fair share of practise over the winter and it's now starting to pay off."
An eagle at the par five last moved Sorenstam into third spot and set up tomorrow's exciting final group. Despite having to endure a frustrating delay before taking her second shot, the former world number fired a four iron from 174 yards to nine feet before rolling in the eagle putt.
"That eagle made me smile," said Sorenstam, a two-time winner in the US this year.
"I was a little nervous because there was a delay and I knew that I had to hit it very pure. It doesn't help your vision when you have to wait for someone to go back and replay their shot." Sorenstam's 68 also included three birdies and one bogey, which came at the 16th when she three-putted from 18 feet.
"I don't think I missed a green or a fairway today, I was never in trouble," added the Swede, whose Concorde journey on the way to France was disrupted by a cracked window at 60 thousand feet.
"I'm very happy with the way my form has been this year. I'm usually a late bloomer, but having won twice already I feel I'm ahead of schedule.
"I'm starting to play some very good golf, and although Karrie's (Webb) obviously playing very well, with the events coming up I feel optimistic about my chances of overtaking her on the world rankings.
"And no I won't be returning to the US on Concorde. Although the captain came out and said there was little to worry about, it isn't what you expect at 60,000 feet."
America's Kelly Robbins occupies fourth place at five under par after posting 70, while Italy's Silvia Cavelleri, Carin Koch of Sweden and America's Meg Mallon and Sherri Steinhauer share fourth at four under the card.