Chris Carlson
April 02, 2016

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. (AP) Lexi Thompson and Ai Miyazato share the ANA Inspiration lead and the final tee time Saturday at Mission Hills. That's about all they have in common.

Thompson is 6 feet tall and one of the LPGA Tour's longest and most aggressive players. The 5-foot-2 Miyazato is as short off the tee as she is in stature.

Thompson has used her length and strength to counter the thick rough.

''If you're going to hit it crooked out here, you might as well hit it far and crooked, so you have a shorter shot in,'' Thompson said. ''But it's very thick. I had some really nasty lies out there.''

Miyazato is far more conservative on the tree-lined layout.

''I don't really want to be too aggressive on this golf course,'' Miyazato said. ''You need to be really patient and you need to be smart for the course management.''

Thompson shot a 4-under 68 on Friday, finishing her morning round with a 30-foot birdie putt on the par-5 18th. Miyazato, tied for the first-round lead, followed her opening 67 with a 70 in the afternoon to match Thompson at 7 under. The 30-year-old Japanese player also closed with a birdie, hitting to 2 feet on the par-5 ninth to set up the Saturday pairing with the 21-year-old American.

''I played with her many times and I really like to play with her,'' Miyazato said. ''It just doesn't matter this golf course if you hit long or not. You need to be really staying with your game.''

Top-ranked Lydia Ko (68) was a stroke back along with Suzann Pettersen (67), In Gee Chun (69), Lizette Salas (67), Sung Hyun Park (67) and Lee-Anne Pace (70). Michelle Wie (69) topped the group at 5 under, and 2011 winner Stacy Lewis (68) was another shot behind.

Thompson had five birdies - three in a row on Nos. 12-14 - and one bogey. She's trying to win the major championship for the second time in three years.

''I definitely could have shot a few shots lower out there, but I hit some bad shots out there, too, that I got away with it,'' Thompson said. ''I recovered really well. That's what you have to do in majors. If you hit a bad shot, you have to pick yourself up and go to the next one.''

That was evident after she sliced a drive into the trees on the narrow par-4 16th. She escaped with a mighty hooked pitching wedge under the trees, leaving a 15-foot putt that she nearly made for a birdie.

The winner in Thailand in February for her seventh tour title, she's using a new big-headed putter and has scrapped her eyes-closed routine and narrowed her stance.

''It's a dramatic change,'' Thompson said. ''Just changing to the Cure putter and a little bit different stance over the putts has given me a lot of confidence. I'm rolling it a lot better, and having my caddie, Benji (Thompson, no relation), line me up has helped me out a lot, too.''

Miyazato was third last week at Carlsbad for her first top-10 finish since April 2013. Ranked No. 1 in the world for 11 weeks in 2010, the nine-time LPGA Tour winner is 90th now after climbing 67 spots Monday.

''I have been really struggling the last couple years,'' Miyazato said. ''I felt that my game's coming all together since the beginning of this season, so I'm glad to see that it shows up in my results.''

The 18-year-old Ko fought allergies that affected her vision.

''I'm currently one-eye blind,'' Ko said. ''I don't have very good eyesight, especially my left side is the worst, so it was really irritating me.''

She won the last major, the Evian Championship in September in France, for her first major title, and took the Carlsbad event Sunday for her 11th LPGA Tour victory.

Chun is returning from a back injury that sidelined her for a month. The U.S. Women's Open champion was hurt when she was struck by a hard-case suitcase that rival South Korean player Ha Na Jang's father dropped down an escalator at the Singapore airport.

''During the time I had injury treatments back in Korea, I was so depressed and I lost my appetite and motivation,'' Chun said. ''Once I got here, I began to get my motivation back.''

Jang was 5 under after a 70. She leads the tour with two victories this year.

Wie holed out from 132 yards for eagle on the par-4 12th, her third hole of the day.

''That was fun,'' Wie said. ''I definitely felt like I could have made a lot more. I just felt like a blind person out there. I hit a lot of good putts. I just misread them slightly.''

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