PITTSFORD, N.Y. (AP) – Lorena Ochoa just loves the rain.

The budding Mexican star, who grew up in rainy Guadalajara, had a 3-under 69 on Friday to surge past Becky Morgan and into the second-round lead at the Rochester LPGA.

Ochoa, who began the day three shots behind Morgan, finished her round in a steady rain and was at 8-under 136.

Morgan, who had a sizzling 8-under 64 on Thursday under rainy skies, faltered late and shot a 74 to tie Maria Hjorth (68) for second at 138.

Rookie sensation Paula Creamer, who finished the first round with back-to-back bogeys after developing a twinge in her left wrist, followed her opening 71 with a 68 and was alone in fourth, another shot back.

Mi Hyun Kim (66) was at 140, Gloria Park (70) and Se Ri Pak (71) were at 141, and Hilary Lunke (73), Laura Davies (71) and Jennifer Rosales (70) were at 142.

Rain fell throughout the opening round, and under the soggy conditions at Locust Hill Country Club the players were allowed to lift, clean and place on Friday. Still, among the top 14 players, only Ochoa, Kim and Creamer broke 70.

Ochoa, who closed with three straight birdies for an opening 67, started slowly, missing a 3-foot putt for par on the first hole. She rallied with two birdies before the turn and finished the round with two birdies and six pars in the wind and rain.

“I took advantage of the opportunities and finished strong,” said Ochoa, a runner-up three times this year and third on the money list.

“But I don’t know how I shot so good. It’s weird. Sometimes, things go your way.”

They went Creamer’s way, too. Looking poised well beyond her 18 years, Creamer birdied three of her first four holes before bogeying the par-3 15th hole. She began to move into contention after her second shot at 18 landed in the bleachers bordering the right side of the green.

After getting a free drop into the thick rough, she chipped in from 25 yards for birdie. The ball barely made the edge of the undulating green, then slowly rolled downhill toward the cup and in, setting off a raucous cheer from the large throng that was following her around the course.

“It could have been just disaster on that hole, but where I dropped I got a good lie,” said Creamer, who notched her first career victory a month ago in the Sybase Classic – before her high school graduation. “I felt very confident. You have to hit a good shot there, or else. I put a lot of pressure on that. Right when I hit it, I knew it was good.”

A day after she carded five straight birdies to take the lead, Morgan completed her second round with a trio of bogeys to spoil what had been a solid effort. She hit 11 of 14 fairways and made 13 greens in regulation but needed 33 putts.

At 16, Morgan tried to punch a 7-iron, pulled it, and couldn’t get up and down. At 17, she found two bunkers and missed an 8-foot putt for par. And on her final hole, she drove left off the tee and two-putted for bogey from 40 feet.

“I didn’t back up my very good first round, but it’s always hard to,” said Morgan, who completed her round before the rains came. “I just didn’t hole as many putts. Obviously, I’m a little disappointed in the finish. If I had parred the last three holes, I’d be really happy with my day. It’s very disappointing because I was really in control.”

As it turned out, Ochoa ended up in control, and figures to stay there if it keeps raining. Although she said she hoped it would be sunny on the weekend for the fans, she certainly won’t be troubled if it rains again as predicted for at least part of Saturday.

“A couple more days I don’t mind. I just like to play in the rain. I’m comfortable,” she said. “When I was growing up, in the summer it rains a lot in Guadalajara, so we had to play a lot in the rain.”

Divot: Rookie Beth Allen can officially call herself a pro now. She was at 1-under 143 and made her first cut on tour after 12 failures left her with zero earnings. It should have happened sooner, but Allen had an 11 on the par-3 16th hole in the first round of the Sybase Classic a month ago and ended up missing the cut by five strokes.

AP-ES-06-17-05 1812EDT


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