ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Laura Davies, getting a boost from new graphite shafts, shot a second straight 4-under 68 Friday to vault into the lead midway through the Rochester International.
The big hitter from Britain, a 19-time winner on the LPGA Tour, had missed the cut in five of her previous seven tournaments. She had an 8-under 136 total, one shot ahead of Brandie Burton.
"Everything's a bonus at the moment," Davies said. "I'm not expecting to win. ... But if I could just get through it like I did the last few days, then who knows?"
Even though "I want to win," she added, "I'm incredibly negative. That's my whole outlook on things. It has to change before I'll become a decent player again."
Burton, who has been struggling even longer since undergoing shoulder surgery in 1999, shot a 69 for 137. She was four ahead of Danielle Ammaccapane, Laura Diaz and Maria Hjorth.
"It's nice to be back in contention," said Burton, winless since 1998.
First-round leader Leta Lindley, who is winless in seven years on the LPGA Tour, slipped to 145 after a 78. Defending champion Meg Mallon, a 13-time tour winner, shot a 74 for 143.
The $1 tournament at the Locust Hill course is missing Annika Sorenstam and Karrie Webb. They took a week's break between the U.S. Women's Open and the $2.1 million Evian Masters in France.
Dottie Pepper, the only top-10 money-winner in the field, withdrew with a recurring back injury after slumping to 6-over through 11 holes Friday.
Davies started nervously, missing an 8-footer for par at No. 2. She collected the first of five birdies at No. 8 by hitting a bunker shot 8 feet away, then sinking the putt. She rolled in a 15-foot putt at No. 12 and another birdie from 12 feet at No. 14.
She took out her driver only once, at the par-5 17th, smacked it 275 yards into the wind, then finished by leaving her chip just 2 feet away for a final birdie.
Davies last won on tour 16 months ago at the Los Angeles Women's Championship. This year, she has only one top-10 finish, but she traces her slump back a full year.
The big key this week, she said, was returning to more flexible graphite shafts after switching to steel six months ago because of a change in equipment sponsors.
"With the wrong shaft in, it's hard to hit," she said. "I'm not trying to make excuses. It's just making a difference.
"I thought I'd be going home now. Maybe I'm trying to take a little pressure off myself by saying I've got no chance. Subconsciously, it's all so stupid. The trouble with golf is you've got way too much time to think."
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