Sorenstam Leads ADT Championship by One

Friday, November 19th 2004, 8:38 am
By: News On 6

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) _ Annika Sorenstam has nothing left to prove this year. She has won seven times, claimed another major and went over the $2 million mark for the fourth consecutive season. But that doesn't mean she came to the ADT Championship to relax.

Unhappy with some of the deep divots and high shots to the right, she spent two days with swing coach Henri Reis to iron out a couple of flaws. She found the fix, and wound up in a familiar spot on the leaderboard Thursday.

Sorenstam missed only one fairway and one green. She birdied four of the last five holes on a surprisingly tame Trump International course, and shot 6-under 66 to take a one-stroke lead in the final LPGA tournament of the year.

``I just like the way I'm hitting it, especially the longer clubs,'' Sorenstam said. ``Now I know where the ball is going. I can be more aggressive with these pins if they're tucked in the corners or just behind the bunker.''

It was the lowest opening-round score in the ADT Championship since it moved four years ago to Trump International, a tough course with a few waterfalls for decoration and plenty of water hazards for intimidation.

Sorenstam was oblivious to both.

That was evident on the par-4 16th, which has two bunkers to the right and a two-tiered green that slopes severely to the right toward the water.

Sorenstam had 149 yards from the middle of the fairway, and hit a soft 7-iron some 9 feet below the cup for the only birdie among the 30 players in the field.

Then on the 18th, with the pin all the way back, Sorenstam hit another 7-iron that stopped pin-high about 8 feet to the right. She made that to take the lead by herself.

``The conditions were as good as they could get,'' Sorenstam said. ``But I must say, I thought the pins were very tough. I didn't think it was that easy. I told my caddie that it seems like there are ridges in the front or the back. So, in that case, I thought it was difficult.

``Then again, I felt like I was hitting the ball well.''

Cristie Kerr made back-to-back birdies that were nothing alike _ a 50-foot putt on the par-3 11th, followed by a wedge into 6 inches on the par-5 12th, then made pars the rest of the way.

Karrie Webb had a share of the lead until her approach plugged under the lip of a bunker on the 16th, and she could only advance it to the rough. She did well to make bogey, and her 68 left her tied with Jeong Jang and Candie Kung.

``I didn't make a big number, which is key around here,'' Webb said.

Grace Park narrowly avoided one. She thought she lost her ball on the par-5 third hole, but someone found it as she was walking back to the fairway to take a drop and a two-shot penalty. Park ended up making bogey, and failed to birdie the next two par 5s, but still scratched out a 71.

Lorena Ochoa of Mexico had a 75, giving Park a good start toward winning the Vare Trophy.

``I just didn't have anything today,'' Park said.

As for her partner? Park smiled, looked over her shoulder and said, ``Oh, her.''

``I feel even more horrible on a day like this when I'm playing with Annika,'' she said. ``She just hits every fairway and every green. That's why she's No. 1.''

Sorenstam wasn't perfect. And she will be the first to remind anyone that the tournament is just getting started. A year ago, Sorenstam had a three-shot lead going into the final round when Meg Mallon rallied on the back nine and beat her by one shot.

Mallon was happy just getting to the first tee Thursday, having suffered a lower back injury two weeks ago. She opened with a three-putt bogey and finished by dumping two tee shots into the water on No. 18 and having to hit a great approach into 8 feet to save triple bogey.

It wasn't too bad in between, and Mallon walked off with a 74.

``I felt very good today,'' she said. ``I don't think I've had a big number in two years. I was due for one.''

Despite the tame conditions, only 11 players managed to break par.

Laura Diaz got into the tournament with birdies on her last two holes last week to finish second and earn enough money to move into the top 30 on the list. She was tied for the lead at one point until getting too cute with a 6-iron on the 18th hole, hitting it about 50 yards into the water and having to get up-and-down with a 9-iron for bogey.

Still, she shot 69 and felt as though she was capable of winning.

``I'm thrilled to be here,'' she said. ``I'm thrilled that I have the opportunity to play with the 30 best players in the world. I'm going to do my best to play the best that I can the next three days.''

Whether that's enough to catch Sorenstam remains to be seen.