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Phatlum leads LPGA event by one stroke

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PORTLAND, Ore. -- Suzann Pettersen isn't making any predictions on what score it might take to win the LPGA Safeway Classic. But she has a pretty good idea that it will be low.

"I think it's going to be a birdie-fest," said the 32-year-old Norwegian, whose scorching 9-under-par 63 Friday at Columbia Edgewater Country Club and 131 total put her within a shot of the lead at the midway point of the 72-hole tournament.

Pornanong Phatlum followed a first-round 64 with a 6-under 66 to seize the 36-hold lead at 14-under 130.

There were five other players within four strokes of the lead, including Sandra Gal, who shot back-to-back rounds of 66 for a 132.

Phatlum entered the week having never led an LPGA event after 18 or 36 holes. Now the 23-year-old Thailand native has accomplished both and is in position to win her first official LPGA tournament and a $195,000 first prize.

"I've played this well before, but this is the first (LPGA) tournament where I've felt really confident," said Phatlum, 26th on the money list this season with $336,575.

Phatlum's 36-hole score is the lowest in the 41-year history of the Safeway Classic. She had six birdies and no bogeys in her spotless Friday round, but didn't sink as many putts as she did during Thursday's action.

"I played good, but my putter wasn't that hot," she said. "I didn't get close enough to the pin, especially on the front nine."

Pettersen was on fire throughout her bogey-less Friday round, putting together nine-hole totals of 32 and 31 with nine birdies. Her 63 was one shy of the Safeway Classic 18-hole record of 62 co-held by Annika Sorenstam in 2002 and Beth Daniel in 2003.

"It was a great round for me on the greens," said Pettersen. The Columbia Edgewater course "is very receptive. The greens are so soft, it feels like you're throwing darts in there. This is a great start for me -- 13-under par after two days, I'll take that any week."

Six of the seven golfers in at 134 or better played in the morning round Friday. Only Gal had an afternoon tee time.

"The greens are just a little bit more pure in the morning," said Pettersen, who played in the afternoon Thursday and the morning Friday. "In the afternoon, when they're soft, they get a lot of footprints and are a little more bouncy."

Phatlum's presence atop the leader board "is no surprise to me," Pettersen said. "She's a great player from Thailand, one of the many great talents they have over there."

Pettersen is the hottest player on the tour these days. She has finished no worse than tied for seventh place in five of her last six events, earning nearly $398,000 in prize money over that duration and moving into third place on the LPGA money list.

"I've been feeling good," she said. "I'm glad (the tournament) is only two more days. As long as you have the adrenaline, it's not a problem to keep going.

"This is why we train. This is why we keep up the fitness, to get through weeks and stretches like this."

Phatlum, meanwhile, will try to keep doing what she has been doing the past two days.

"I'm playing more confident, and everything is better than it's been before," she said. "I'm going to play like we planned, like I played the first two rounds. There is going to be a lot of pressure, but I'm going to keep it smooth and simple."
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