Five days after winning the British Open, Karen Stupples 'really started to feel mentally very drained around the 12th hole.'
While Karen Stupples' body and mind arrived at Highland Meadows Wednesday night, her heart is still four time zones east into her native England and her best golf game may be lagging behind somewhere midway across the Atlantic Ocean.
But, if she were able to catch sufficient rest last night, last week's Women's British Open champion just might be able to put all of those things together in time to win the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic and continue the hottest streak of what is already her best year on the LPGA Tour.
Perhaps bolstered by some adrenaline on Thursday, Stupples carded a 6-under-par 65 to take the tournament lead after one round.
Yesterday was a different story.
Stupples, who began second-round play on hole No. 10, went to 8-under at the turn with birdies at Nos. 12, 17 and 18 to offset a bogey on 16.
After the turn, the wheels began to wobble a bit.
Stupples took bogeys on Nos. 1, 4 and 7 to finish the day at 1-over 72 but, with the rest of the field failing to produce many sub-par rounds, fell just two shots behind second-round co-leaders Angela Jerman and Meg Mallon, who are at 7-under.
"I think it's finally starting to catch up with me," Stupples admitted. "Not so much physically, I'm just mentally a bit tired. I had a few little awkward kicks here and there and I just couldn't make the putts today.
"I really started to feel mentally very drained around the 12th hole onwards. Every shot like seemed I had to really fight it. But I hung in there pretty good and I'm really looking forward to getting a good night's sleep and coming back strong for the weekend."
Did Stupples - who remained a few extra days in her homeland to celebrate her big victory with family and friends - foresee hitting the wall at some point because of the rushed travel arrangements?
"I don't know what I expected because it's the first time I've really done this," she said. "I kind of felt like if I could look after myself and eat well that maybe I could maintain it throughout. But it really hit home this afternoon."
Heading into today's third round still in the thick of contention, the British Open champion is glad she put a solid first round in the bank before trouble hit.
"Anytime you can have a good round of golf like [Thursday], that really keeps you hanging in there, even though today was a bit of a struggle," Stupples said. "Hopefully I can still come back strong for the weekend.
"How can I be disappointed? I won the British Open and I come here and I'm only two shots off the lead. My life's pretty good right now. I'm happy with how things are going. This morning I was still pinching myself to make sure that it was still real."
Stupples, who began the season with her first tour victory in March at the Welch's/Fry's Championship in Tucson, had a fourth-place finish at the Evian Masters two weeks ago and bumped her 2004 earnings to $711,930, sixth best on the tour.
- Steve Junga