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Surprise, Lincicome drives her way into contention

PITTSFORD – Brittany Lincicome could be on the cusp of finding an answer to a question that’s vexed her for more than three years.

How could a player of her extreme talent not have a win on the LPGA Tour in that time?

“If you know, please tell me. I have no idea. I think my parents would say I’m dating a boy, and that’s probably why. Poor thing,” Lincicome joked after opening a three-shot lead after Friday’s second round of the Wegmans LPGA Championship at Monroe Golf Club.

The 28-year-old from St. Petersburg, Fla., had plenty to smile about after her round of 4-under 68 moved her to 9-under 135 through 36 holes of the season’s fourth major.

“I haven’t been here in a while,” Lincicome said, “so it’s pretty exciting any time you can shoot under par – especially at a major. I feel like all year I’ve been doing a lot of good things – hitting well, putting well, chipping well – they just don’t come together on the same day. So it was nice to play the last two days … like I was doing my thing and there was not too much stress involved.”

A five-time winner on the LPGA Tour, Lincicome’s last victory came in 2011. Her best finish this year is a tie for 10th at the Airbus LPGA Classic back in May.

But Lincicome does one thing really well that is being rewarded this week – bomb it off the tee. Her average driving distance of 268.9 yards is third longest on the LPGA Tour, much needed on a cool, windy day when the Donald Ross-designed course measured 6,663 yards.

“The more I can hit driver, the better,” Lincicome said. “I like to hit it far, but it doesn’t always go straight. So it’s nice that the fairways are a little more forgiving.”

Lincicome’s round started with a stumble when she three-putted the first hole for a bogey.

“I didn’t put a good stroke on the second putt. I haven’t been here in a while,” she said. “It was one of those emotions where, ‘We’re not doing this.’ I’ve been in this position before where I’ve had a good day and followed it up with a really bad day, and was I trying to go to the next hole” saying “ ‘you can do this. Just be confident and do it.’ ”

After that opening bogey, Lincicome carded three birdies and an eagle. She hit 12 of 14 fairways off the tee and not surprisingly given her length off the tee was a combined 4-under on Monroe’s four par-5 holes.

“Take advantage of the par 5s and try to make pars on the par 3s and that’s the goal,” she said.

If Lincicome is to claim her second major championship, she’ll have to hold off a star-studded leader board. Five of the world’s top seven players are among 12 players within five shots of the lead.

That includes first-round co-leader Lexi Thompson, the No. 6-ranked player. She shot an even-par 72 Friday. Like Lincicome, Thompson is a big hitter, averaging 271.2 yards off the tee – tops on the LPGA Tour.

“In any tournament, you know you have to play well each day because there are so many great players out here. They’re the best in the world,” Thompson said. “It’s a great leader board so far. I’m just focusing on my game right now, focusing on one shot at a time and see where it goes.”

Thompson hit only 8 of 18 greens Friday, but kept her round together by needing just 25 putts. She’s tied for second with world No. 3 Inbee Park, who will join Lincicome in the final pairing at 3:01 p.m. today.

Three players are in a tie for fourth place at 5-under 139, including world No. 2 Lydia Ko, the 17-year-old phenom from New Zealand. Ko is hoping to become both the youngest No. 1 player in the world and youngest-ever major winner – male or female.

“I hit the ball steady, and I’ve been pretty confident with the long game,” Ko said. “I just gave myself as many opportunities as I could.”

Ko shot a round of 3-under 69 Friday despite playing with a sore left wrist. She was hurt warming up on the driving range Thursday.

“It definitely feels much better today,” she said after the second round. “It felt much less pain than when I was on the range because I got it taped up.”

Norway’s Suzann Pettersen (No. 4 in the world) and China’s Shanshan Fang (No. 7) – the 2012 winner – are part of a tie for seventh place at 4-under 140.