-- Halfway through the LPGA Championship, the lead is only two. It might as well be 200. So enormous, it would seem, is the challenge of chasing Annika Sorenstam, who is chasing history.
Sorenstam finally made a bogey at Bulle Rock Golf Course on Friday, but rebounded with three birdies on her final five holes to finish with a 5-under-par 67, and a two-stroke advantage over England's Laura Davies. Sorenstam hit approaches within two feet at 14, three feet at 16, and two feet at 17. She has put together 13 straight rounds in the 60s, an LPGA Tour record, and is in good position to capture the second leg of the Grand Slam, keeping alive the goal she makes no secret of pursuing.
"I'm obviously very happy where I'm at and the way I'm playing," said Sorenstam, who stands at 9-under 135. "I could not have asked for a better start."
Even the inability to capitalize on the par 5s -- she's only even par on those holes through the first two days -- hasn't halted her momentum.
"I'm a little disappointed about that," said Sorenstam, who bogeyed the par-5 11th. "I thought about it last night and thought today would be better. I don't really know what I'm doing wrong."
She won't generate any sympathy from Davies, who teed off in the morning. Fresh from a 2-under 70 that put her in the lead, Davies figured it was not destined to last.
"Annika just got to about 6, and probably will be around 10 by the end of the day," Davies said. "That's not a joke," she added a few minutes later. "That's a fact. . . . She's getting on my nerves."
Nonetheless, Davies, 41, still has an opportunity for her first tour victory in four years, which would give her an automatic entry into the LPGA Hall of Fame. For Davies, who tied for third in last week's ShopRite LPGA Classic, the key has been more consistent putting.
"I ring home and tell my family I'm playing really well, and they see I finished 28th or 60th," Davies said. "I know no one believes me. The caddie knows. Putting is everything."
Natalie Gulbis, who shared the opening-round lead with Davies and Laura Diaz, stayed in the hunt, shooting a 1-under 71. Gulbis is in third, three strokes back, but could easily have been closer. She missed five-footers on 14 and 15, though she finished with a 20-footer to salvage par at 18.
"You lose some, you gain some," Gulbis said. "I'm in a good spot going into tomorrow."
In all, nine players are within five shots of the lead, including Michelle Wie, 15, the first amateur to ever play in this event. Wie recorded a 1-under 71 for a total of 140. Diaz finished with an even-par 72, and is four back. Eighty players made the cut, which was established at 5-over 149. Among those who will miss the weekend is the struggling Se Ri Pak, who came in at 153. Pak, who captured this event in 1998 and 2002, has earned only about $26,000 in eight starts this season.
In any case, the question remains: With the way Sorenstam is dominating the tour -- five wins in seven starts in 2005 -- does anyone really have a chance of catching her? Sorenstam is also trying to become the first LPGA golfer to win the same major three years in a row.
"She's the best golfer that ever played," Davies said. "I'm not saying she's as good as Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer. Let's face it, there's some good players on this tour, and virtually every week she's winning, and not even Tiger [Woods] did that. For who she's up against, she's the best."