Sorenstam Shoots 63 to Lead Mizuno Event

Friday, November 7th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OTSU, Japan (AP) _ Annika Sorenstam got off to a fast start Friday in pursuit of her third straight Mizuno Classic title, shooting a bogey-free 9-under 63 to take the first-round lead.

The Swedish star is attempting to become the first player in LPGA Tour history with three consecutive victories in more than one event. She also can clinch the player of the year award with a victory on Seta's North Course.

Only six players have won an LPGA Tour event three straight times, with Sorenstam accomplishing the feat in the Michelob Light Classic from 1997-99. She also will have three-peat chances next year in the Kellogg-Keebler Classic and Safeway Classic.

Sorenstam birdied five of her first seven holes and capped the round with a 7-foot birdie putt on No. 18.

``I hit 17 greens and every fairway so I had a lot of birdie opportunities. I'm very, very happy,'' said Sorenstam, seeking her fourth victory in her last five LPGA events in Japan. ``Today was very good. On a scale from one to 10, it was probably an eight.''

Last year at Seta, Sorenstam won the tournament for the 10th of her 11 2002 LPGA Tour titles, beating South Korea's Grace Park by two strokes. Sorenstam, the 2001 winner at Musashigaoka, leads the tour this year with five victories and $1,745,006 in 15 starts.

Park and fellow South Korean player Jung Yeon Lee were two strokes back after 65s, and compatriot Mi-Hyun Kim had a 66.

``I was a little nervous, but I just tried to focus more on my game,'' said Lee, playing in Japan for the first time. ``The course is pretty similar to courses in Korea, so it's not really a new one. So I am pretty comfortable.''

South Korea's Se Ri Pak and Canada's Lorie Kane topped a group at 67, and Australian stars Karrie Webb and Rachel Teske were five strokes behind along with Sweden's Sophie Gustafson and American Laura Diaz. Kane won the 2000 tournament at Seta, beating Gustafson in a playoff.