LPGA: Gal stays on top in Florida tournament

Craig Handel, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

NAPLES, Fla. -- With winds whipping around Tiburon Golf Resort, Sandra Gal chose to be more cautious.
That doesn't mean she couldn't produce some magic.
Helped by a little luck and some great shot-making on No. 17, Gal opened a three-shot lead after the second round of the CME Group Titleholders on Friday at Tiburon Golf Resort.
Gal shot a 69 to put her at 11 under for the tournament. She leads by two strokes over Sun Young Yoo, who had three birdies on her first seven holes en route to a second consecutive 68.
Gerina Piller posted the best score of the day with a 67 and moved into contention at 6 under with Pornanong Phatlum and Cristie Kerr.
After opening with a tournament record-tying 64 on Thursday, Gal remained at 8 under through her first 11 holes. She said 20 mph winds changed her strategy from Thursday when she was more aggressive.
"I think I was a little nervous in the start, but it was also quite tough out there," she said. "It was a lot windier than yesterday so all the holes played really different. It took me a little to kind of get used to the conditions and hitting more 3-woods instead of drivers because a lot of the shots were crosswinds or into the wind."
Birdies at Nos. 12 and 15 set the stage for her crazy 17th.
It began when she hooked her tee shot into the trees.
Two good things then happened. She found the ball and she could swing.
"So it was pretty much like bubba golf -- you have a swing you're happy," she said. "I got it down there and then I just had an 8-iron in and I was thinking, 'OK, 8-iron, that's go range so let's go for the pin, and I almost holed it out. I just pitched right on the edge of the cup and then I made the putt."
Gal then added coyly, "It was very simple. I mean, never in doubt."
Gal said weather will play a role in whether or not she returns to her aggressive approach of Thursday or play like she did Friday. If she holds on for the win, the $700,000 prize money will double her 2013 season winnings.
Yoo said she has been playing better the last couple of weeks. Even though she had identical scores the first two days, she said Friday was tougher because of the wind.
Kerr started with a double-bogey on No. 1 and a bogey on No. 3 but had three straight birdies from Nos. 6-8 before added a birdie on No. 12 and an eagle on No. 17.
"Honestly, I got so PO'd like I wasn't going to let this tournament go down the toilet," Kerr said. "I can make a lot of birdies and I snapped something into my head and I'm like, I'm swinging tentative at it. On 17, I mean I was just due. I don't know how to describe it any other way than that."
Rolex Player of the Year Inbee Park made three birdies to go to 7 under but had four bogeys in her final 10 holes. She's at 4 under.
Teen-age pro Lydia Ko shot a 71 for the second day in a row and is 2 under.
"I thought I played much better today than yesterday, but the score was the same," Po said. "I left a couple of putts short just in front of the hole. Then, when I got my speed right, the direction was wrong so that was kind of frustrating."
Defending champion Na Yeon Choi is at 1 over after a 74.
Earlier in the day, the 2014 LPGA schedule came out. The tour will increase from 28 to 32 events and the purse will grow by more than $7 million.
The tour will begin with the Pure Silk Bahamas Classic on Jan. 23-26. New events will be in San Francisco on April 24-27; Sylvania, Ohio, on July 17-20 and Prattville, Ala., on Sept. 18-21. There's also an unnamed Asian event scheduled from Oct. 30 to Nov. 2.
Another new event is the International Crown in Owings Mills, Md. from July 24 to July 27. The competition will feature team play among eight countries.

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