Lytham St. Annes, England If Heather Bowie is going to hold on at the Women's British Open for her first pro title, she'll have to fend off the likes of Annika Sorenstam, Karrie Webb and Se Ri Pak.
Bowie shot a 6-under-par 66 Friday, giving her a two-stroke lead at 8-under 136 after two rounds at the Women's British Open. Pak, a four-time major winner, was tied with Wendy Ward in second place at 138, and Webb and Sorenstam also were within four shots.
Bowie's best finish so far has been a tie for second in April at El Caballero, Calif.
"I'm trying to respect the golf course but not be afraid," she said. "It's a fine line that I have to walk. If I can continue to walk it, I should be OK."
Among the five players behind them at 5 under were Webb, the defending champion and winner of six majors, and this year's Nabisco champion, Patricia Meunier-Lebouc of France.
Tied for ninth at 4 under was Sorenstam, a five-time major winner who slipped four shots off the lead after being just one behind Thursday.
Faring worst of all was Diana Luna of Italy. She shot a tournament-record 23-over 95, the highest score in the event since officials began keeping records 17 years ago. The previous worst was 92.
Bowie birdied five of the first 10 holes on the tricky links course and birdied the tough par-4 17th. She has a chance to emulate Hilary Lunke, who made the U.S. Open her first LPGA Tour victory by winning at Pumpkin Ridge a month ago.
Lunke was far off her game, failing to make the cut of 3-over 147. She carded a 74 for an 8-over total of 152.
Bowie scored a 65 in the second round at last year's championship at Turnberry -- tying her best score as a pro.
"I'd say that was my best competitive round and this one was just as good," said Bowie, of Fort Worth, Texas. "I don't know what it is about Fridays at the British. But the previous two years I played very poorly so I didn't give myself high expectations last year or this year."
Sorenstam and Webb had 72s on another day of surprisingly easy conditions for most of the round.
Pak, who carded her second 69 and won this title two years ago, said she had learned from her Lytham debut five years ago.
"This was wholly different from '98. I have very bad memories of that time," said the South Korean, who tied for 34th on her first visit after three rounds in the high 70s.
Pak went into that tournament as a rookie who had already won two majors, the LPGA Championship and U.S. Open. She wound up with a 20-over 308.
Ward ended Thursday tied for the lead with Webb at 5 under and had a disastrous start with bogeys at the first three holes.
But she responded with birdies at three of the next four holes and an eagle-3 at the 11th, where she sent a 3-wood to 30 feet and made the putt on the way to her 71.
Sorenstam, who has won 25 titles in the last three years, including three majors, had three birdies and three bogeys. She played early and in the worst conditions.
"I can't remember when I last played off at 7.40 a.m. in a major," she said.