BETHESDA -- Pat Bradley and Meg Mallon used birdie binges to stay on the heels of the leader for the second straight day in the Mazda LPGA Championship at Bethesda Country Club yesterday.
Each player, backed by an earlier 1991 victory, had shot 3-under-par 68 Thursday to be two shots off the pace of Deborah McHaffie. This time, their 68s put them two back of Ayako Okamoto at the halfway point.
Bradley, 40, in her 18th tour season, is working on her second round of major titles, having won three duMaurier Classics, and the Dinah Shore, U.S. Open, and LPGA Championship once each.
There was no indication she would turn as hot as the weather here when she turned the front nine in even par. On the back nine, she ran in four successive birdie putts (Nos. 12-15) on putts of 18, 15, 6, 15 feet.
A missed green at No. 16 led to a bogey and she finished 35-33.
"I was stroking the ball well," Bradley said. "I kept my patience and waited my turn. Even so, it was tough because it was stifling out there. It was like an oven, and that takes a lot out of you."
She had won the Centel Classic five weeks ago for victory No. 27.
Mallon, 28, and in her fifth tour year, won her first tournament at the Oldsmobile LPGA Classic in Lake Worth, Fla., in early February. She already has four top 10 finishes and her $158,000 in earnings has surpassed any previous year's total.
Mallon started on No. 10, also turned even, then started matching Bradley birdie for birdie as they played on opposite nines. She strung three in a row, including a 45-footer at No. 3, bogeyed the seventh, and wound up making a six-footer for birdie at the last hole.
"At this stage, I try not to get too confident, because this game can humble you," Mallon said. "My key for the week has been to put it down the middle and try to get it on the green.
"The fairways are so narrow, you know you have to hit the fairway or you'll make bogey. Overall, I'm satisfied, but I didn't deal with the heat very well. I had heat stroke once, so I made sure I kept drinking as much water as possible."
Each player had a three-putt, but Bradley explained that the greens were holding decently and a lot of people were putting well.
* One who will bring good putting memories to the third round is Tina Barrett. The Baltimore native had a yo-yo day, but managed to collect four birdies in shooting a 3-over-par 74 for a 36-hole total of 144.
Barrett, more mature and with better course management than in her two previous years as a professional, showed it when she double-bogeyed the par-3 16th (bunker and three putts from nine feet), then came right back with an 18- foot birdie putt at the 17th and a solid two-putt (from 60 feet) par at the 18th.
NOTES: Michelle Mackall, the former area amateur standout while living in Kensington, shot 72-77, and is now headed for her home in Orlando, Fla., and Monday's U.S. Women's Open
qualifying in Tampa. . . .Lynn Connelly, who shot 76-75, is the daughter of two University of Maryland graduates, and her father played on the 1951 basketball team. Lynn was born in Washington, and lived in Springfield, Va., for five years before moving away. . . .Deb Richard, alone in fourth place at 137, is comfortable with the tree-lined golf course. "I'm not a development course player. If I hit it wrong, I don't want to break a window; I like to hear timber."