Lorena Ochoa, Jiyai Shin compete for player of the year title heading into LPGA final round

By Chris Duncan, AP
Monday, November 23, 2009

McPherson leads heading into LPGA final round

RICHMOND, Texas — The sky cleared and Lorena Ochoa and Jiyai Shin were left with one day to settle their duel for LPGA Tour player of the year.

Kristy McPherson took the lead at 8 under in fading sunlight at the LPGA Tour Championship on Sunday before the second round was suspended because of darkness.

The second round resumed at daybreak Monday, after a weekend of delays caused by heavy rains. Shin parred two holes in the morning to wrap up a 67; Ochoa played one hole to finish a second-round 72.

McPherson is one stroke ahead of Shin and two ahead of a group that includes Ochoa, the first-round leader.

The cut was made at 3-over par, and the 79 remaining players started their third rounds early Monday.

Shin is trying to become the first player since Nancy Lopez in 1978 to sweep the money title, rookie and player of the year, and the Vare Trophy. She led Ochoa by eight points for player of the year entering the tournament.

“I have a good shot at it,” Shin said. “It’s going to be very close. It will be the most important day of my life.”

For Ochoa to win her fourth straight player of the year title, she must win the event or finish no worse than third and then hope Shin places out of the top 10. The two are also decimal points apart in the race for the Vare Trophy, awarded for the season’s lowest scoring average.

“Tomorrow, everything will be answered,” Ochoa said. “I am very excited.”

The 28-year-old McPherson is merely looking for her first LPGA Tour victory. She picked up five birdies without a bogey in her second round after a 69 on Thursday.

McPherson is one of the few players who completed two rounds without interruption.

“Our goal was to get in before the sun went down, so we were happy to do that,” she said. “We were fortunate to get through.”

Before Sunday, rainy weather had been the big story.

Heavy downpours swamped the Houstonian Golf and Country Club on Friday and Saturday, forcing organizers to cut the event to 54 holes. The fairways were still water-logged Sunday, so players were allowed to lift, clean and place.

Shin was four shots behind Ochoa after the first round, but picked up four birdies in a seven-hole stretch Sunday to tie her. She holed a birdie putt on the par-5 16th, her last shot of the day, to move one shot ahead of her rival.

“The course conditions were really wet, the greens were really soft,” Shin said. “That was a big help to us. We could be more aggressive. There was no wind — the conditions were perfect.”

Ochoa hit the first shot of her second round a full 72 hours after sinking a 15-foot birdie putt to wrap up a first-round 66 on Thursday. She dropped a shot on her front nine Sunday, then birdied Nos. 14 and 16 to move to 7-under par.

Ochoa hit into a greenside bunker with her tee shot to the par-3 17th, just before the horn sounded. She decided to finish, took a bogey and headed straight to the practice green.

As the rain lingered over the weekend, players raised concerns about the availability of flights leaving Houston with Thanksgiving approaching.

Michelle Wie dropped out Thursday because of a sprained left ankle after shooting a 72, and seven others withdrew later.

will not be displayed