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King conquers wind to lead by 4

"Today was a day you wouldn't even go out and practice if you were home," said Dottie Mochrie, clad in ski cap and turtleneck after the second round of the LPGA Tournament of Champions on Thursday.

What could you do? "Over breakfast we thought it'd be a great day to stay at home and read a book," said Dawn Coe-Jones.

Outside at Grand Cypress Resort, winds roared to 35 mph, making the temperature feel like 40 degrees, but Betsy King prevailed over her fellow survivors. She shot the only sub-par round of the day, 1-under 71, and led the field by four shots.

"If you want to win you have to play well, no matter what the conditions are, good or bad," King said.

Nancy Lopez finished with the round's only 72 and was 3-over, tied with Mochrie and Coe-Jones. Wednesday's leader, Lauri Merten, was bothered by a sore ankle exacerbated by the cold and shot 78. Though six strokes back, Merten was tied for third.

"I thought it played harder today than yesterday," King said, echoing others on the leaderboard. The wind came from a different direction (north) than Wednesday and made putting _ and even walking the course _ a Herculean effort. "Par was a good shot today," King said. "I mean, we were telling each other "good par' and that wasn't even after a recovery shot."

King received a few of those compliments as she made eight pars on the front nine and sank a 15-foot birdie putt on the par-3 eighth hole. Then, after two pars to start the back, she made birdie when her seven-iron shot left her an easy 1-footer. She bogeyed 13 and 17, then finished by knocking in a 45-foot birdie putt at 18.

"It's hard to swing solidly in the wind and I think I did very well as far as hanging in there," King said. Within two days of a victory, the 16-year pro is close to a major milestone _ the LPGA Hall of Fame. King needs one more win to reach the 30 required for the Hall.

She seemed non-plused by the possibility. At least this soon.

"I've probably led 100 golf tournaments after the second round. There's a long way to go," King said.

Mochrie envied King's four-shot cushion, but said the scenery might change by Saturday. "It's so bunched behind Betsy, I feel like there's still a golf tournament," Mochrie said.

A 3-over score good for second place? Not bad at all, considering the difficulty of the Jack Nicklaus-designed course. "I shot even yesterday and I felt like it was 5-under. I really think that 75 or 76 is like par out here," Mochrie said.

Her round mirrored the volatile winds. "It was like a roller coster out there," the Sarasota resident said. On the front nine, she had three bogeys and three birdies. After a birdie on 10, Mochrie lost four strokes between 13 and 15 before finishing with three pars.

Mochrie's double bogey on 14 was one of 28 in the round.

"The wind could eat anybody up. It's hard enough hitting the ball well with this wind; when you start hitting it poorly you're really going to struggle," Lopez said.

Concentration and patience are the keys in these conditions, the golfers said. "You also have to have a sense of humor," said Coe-Jones, who lives in Lutz, or "Triple Lutz," as she called it.

Coe-Jones recalled a moment on the second tee when partner Laura Davies' visor flew off her head. After an attempt to catch it, Davies gave up, while two volunteers gave chase. Coe-Jones lost her visor a hole later.

"I hope that when our viewers tune in and see these high scores that are pretty atypical of the tour they can appreciate how tough this course is," Coe-Jones said.

Today's forecast calls for a reprieve, with winds calming to 10 mph and temperatures in the 70s. But Lopez said that might be a disadvantage.

"It might be tougher to play (without the wind) because the wind really messes up your swing and you have to adjust to it. You have to fight to keep your swing. When it stops blowing, it might be awkward," Lopez said.

"Frankly, I think it's kind of fun to make up shots. When you figure them out and conquer the shot, it's kind of exciting."

Tournament of

Champions

Betsy King 72-71_143

Nancy Lopez 75-72_147

Dawn Coe-Jones 73-74_147

Dottie Mochrie 72-75_147

TV: 4:30 p.m., Sunshine-c.

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