NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. -- Rosie Jones walked past her friend,
Wendy Ward, after they held the top two spots at the Asahi Ryokuken
International on Friday, and pumped her fist.
"Americans ... yeah!" Ward said as Jones grinned.
With Jones (68) leading the way at 10-under 134 through two rounds, there's plenty for American players to smile about. They hold the first five places at the tournament and seem to have a good chance at ending a streak of 17 straight wins by foreign-born players -- the longest in LPGA Tour history -- that began nearly nine
Jones was a stroke ahead of Ward (67). Another shot behind were Americans Laura Diaz (68), Pat Hurst (69) and Marcy Hart (66), who had the day's best round.
Should any of them win Sunday at Mount Vintage Plantation Golf
Club, it would be the first by an American since Meg Mallon took
the Canadian Women's Open last August.
"I don't think it's a great story," Jones said with a laugh.
"Get over it."
And yes, Jones would love to break the streak "because I have
not won a tournament in two years," she said. "I don't care about
beating all the international players because I have to beat them
anyway. I want to beat all the Americans, too."
Jones has a history of both. She's got 12 career wins, including
a victory at the Kathy Ireland event in April 2001 that ended
America's 0-for-10 start in LPGA titles that year.
Defending champion Janice Moodie (69) of Scotland led two other
internationals, Hee-Won Han (68) of Korea and Giulia Sergas (70) of
Italy, four strokes back at 6-under. Joining them was Tracy Hanson
(68) of, you guessed it, the United States.
Ward says too much has been made about the foreign domination,
but she was glad Americans were playing well.
"It seems like it gets written that the American players are
struggling," said Ward, born in San Antonio. "There is a slew of
foreign players that are playing well. It doesn't mean we are
playing poorly. We just haven't quite gotten the job done. So after
reading something like that, it is fun to look up and see some
Jones was the star for the United States out front again.
She holed a wedge from the fairway for an eagle for the second
straight round. This time, Jones hit a sand wedge from 75 yards
away that rolled into the cup on the par-5 sixth hole. She knocked
in a 25-foot birdie putt on the eighth to go 10-under. After
yanking her drive on the par-5 ninth hole to take bogey -- "My only
bad mistake in the last two rounds," she said -- Jones steadily
moved through her round until No. 17, when she gave herself a
tap-in birdie to get back to 10-under.
Jones nearly closed with a remarkable 60-footer for birdie on
No. 18, but the twisting putt lipped out after hitting the cup's
"I was ready to do a lap around the gallery like Hale Irwin"
at the 1990 U.S. Open, she said.
Ward, who hasn't won since 2001, got into contention with five
birdies in her first seven holes. She added a bogey and two more
birdies to move within a shot of the lead.
Diaz is playing on an injured left tendon. She received sonic
shock therapy Monday and has worn an ankle brace during the
tournament. It hadn't bothered her until the end of second round on
the long, hilly course -- Diaz had a bogey on No. 18.
"It's sore. Today was a long day. I'm kind of ready to go ice
it and rest it a little," she said.
Late putting problems plagued Hurst again. She lost the lead
Thursday when she four-putted her last hole Thursday. She was a
shot off the lead Friday when she missed a short par putt on No.
Hart nearly skipped the tournament and headed home to Arizona
because she was so frustrated with her game. But her parents talked
her into staying and playing on the East Coast -- last week's event
was in Williamsburg, Va. She responded with her first score in the
60s in 15 rounds since the season-opening Welch's/Fry's
Championship two months ago.
Sophie Gustafson, who shared the first-round lead with Jones,
had a 73 to fall five shots behind.
Hurst travels with her husband and two children and can't
think of a better gift than her second win on Mother's Day since
2000. That season, Hurst won the defunct Electrolux USA
Championships. "I think any win is special," she said. "But
being a mom, it means that much more to you." ... Soo-Yun Kang,
nine shots behind Jones, surely loves the par-5 sixth hole. Kang
made eagle 3 in both rounds. ... Jung Yeon Lee (72) and Cindy
Rarick (76) both withdrew after the opening round, citing the
90-degree temperatures on the hilly course.