Park shoots first-round 62; Wie opens with 74

Thursday, October 14th 2004, 8:07 pm
By: News On 6

PALM DESERT, Calif. (AP) _ Grace Park capped an almost flawless round by rolling in a 25-foot birdie putt for a 10-under 62 Thursday that gave her a two-stroke lead after the first round of the Samsung World Championship.

Amateur Michelle Wie, who turned 15 on Monday, played with three-time champion Annika Sorenstam and shot a 74. She had a triple-bogey 8 on No. 12 when she hit into the desert shrubs along the fairway.

Park, looking frustrated moments earlier when her wedge shot missed the 18th green, beamed and waved to acknowledge the applause after her snaking, perfectly paced putt from the fringe dropped into the cup.

Scores were low on the opening day of the tournament, with Park's the best in the tournament's 24-year history. The event is being played for the first time at Bighorn Golf Club, the 13th course used for the tournament.

Sixteen of the 20 players in the field broke par.

Catriona Matthew had a 64, while Sorenstam was tied at 66 with defending champion Sophie Gustafson, Lorena Ochoa and Cristie Kerr.

Park was still beaming 20 minutes after she finished her round, which included one bogey, an eagle and nine birdies.

``I'm extremely thrilled. It's my first time shooting 10 under, so I'm happy. Today was just an unbelievable day,'' said Park, who had a 61 earlier this year on a par-70 course in the tournament in Tucson, Ariz.

Park won her first major title, the Kraft Nabisco, earlier this year in nearby Rancho Mirage.

``I'm a desert kind of girl, I guess,'' she said, laughing.

She made an 18-foot birdie putt on No. 2, made two more birdies with a 15-footer on 4 and a 10-footer on 5 before three-putting the par-3 6th for the bogey.

She had six more birdies and made a 2-foot eagle putt on No. 12.

Then she finished the round off in style.

``I had a horrible second shot (to the fringe on 18) and I was thinking I could two-putt. I would have been happy to finish 9 under,'' Park said. ``But I got a big bonus there.''

Wie lamented her bad drive on 12.

``One swing. I was hitting the ball fine until that one shot,'' she said.

Wie said she was trying to stay focused on her game, but that she also was watching Sorenstam.

``I really look up to her. I kind of looked out of the side of my eye at her,'' Wie said. ``You really see the experience, see the course management.''

Sorenstam said she was concentrating on her own play.

``Michelle is a wonderful player with a lot of talent. She is always very nice and fun to play with,'' she said. ``But I've got to focus on my game and not look around too much.''