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Pepper hopes to take another plunge

Dottie Pepper hasn't been the same since the traditional winner's plunge here five years ago left her with walking pneumonia and strange green stuff in her ears.

That doesn't mean she doesn't want to do it again. And if she keeps playing like she did yesterday in the Kraft Nabisco Championship in Rancho Mirage, Calif., Pepper might get a chance.

"I'll jump if that's the case and worry about starting antibiotics on Monday," Pepper said.

Pepper, helping carry the torch for veteran players in a tournament where teenagers seem to shine, shot a 2-under-par 70 under difficult conditions to tie Jung Yeon Lee at 6 under for the second-round lead in the year's first major championship.

Annika Sorenstam didn't handle the conditions as well, hitting it into the water for a double bogey on the final hole for a 4-over 76 that seriously damaged any chances she has of winning all four LPGA majors this year.

The day was so long that Lee, whose best finish on tour is second, putted under palm trees framed by green lights on the 18th hole to finish her round of 69. Lee's two playing partners in the final group marked their balls rather than finish.

Just happy to be healthy once again after five years of various ailments, Pepper made only one bogey on a day when the wind gusted and the pace of play was excruciatingly slow.

Pepper and Lee were a stroke ahead of 17-year-old Aree Song (73), Karrie Webb (71), and Wendy Doolan (69). Teen sensation Michelle Wie (72) was three back.

Pepper, who won here in 1992, has battled injuries and illness that she traces back to jumping in the murky water surrounding the 18th green after winning her second Nabisco in 1999.

She got sick immediately after, and didn't play for four weeks. Pepper has won only twice since and spent almost all of 2002 on the sideline with a shoulder injury.

European -- Denmark's Knud Storgaard shot a 3-under 69 and took the second-round lead at the rain-delayed Madeira Island Open in Santo Da Serra. He was at 8 under and was one of only 12 players to complete the round because of heavy rain.

. . .

Two-time Masters champion Seve Ballesteros pulled out of next month's major because of back pain.

It will be the first time the Spaniard has missed the Masters since he was first invited to play in 1978. He won in 1980 and 1983.

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