2-time defending champ Sorenstam fires course record at LPGA event
Saturday, September 9th 2006, 9:52 am
By: News On 6
BROKEN ARROW, Okla. (AP) _ Annika Sorenstam insists she's happy with the way she played Friday in the first round of the John Q. Hammons Hotel Classic.
``I want to emphasize that,'' she said.
That time she planned to spend at the practice range following her 7-under-par 64? It's just a precaution.
``It's just a long season, and I have some ground to make up,'' Sorenstam said. ``I need to make sure that my swing is good for the next three tournaments. I need to continue to be in grinding mode, otherwise I might get lazy.''
That hardly seemed possible Friday, as she continued to dominate an LPGA event she's owned in recent years.
Regularly sinking putts of 15 feet or more, Sorenstam had eight birdies and tied the course record for the 6,602-yard Cedar Ridge Country Club, set in the tournament's opening round last year by Maria Hjorth.
Sorenstam, the tournament's two-time defending champion, has a two-shot lead over Diana D'Alessio, who birdied her final hole to move to 5 under.
Dina Ammaccapane and Jill McGill are tied for third at 4 under. Two others, Michele Redman and Allison Hanna, are at 3 under and the LPGA's leading money-winner this year, Lorena Ochoa, and Paula Creamer are among six golfers at 2-under 69.
Sorenstam trails Ochoa and Karrie Webb on the money list and in the LPGA points standings.
Sorenstam won the tournament the last two years at Cedar Ridge, in suburban Tulsa, and also in 2002, when it was played at Tulsa Country Club. She's also won the last two tournaments in which she's played, the State Farm Classic last week in Springfield, Ill., and the TPC of Scandinavia in her native Sweden.
At the State Farm Classic, she tied the tour record for the lowest final-round score by a tournament winner with a 62.
All that while trying to fix what she says is a flaw in her swing.
There weren't many flaws apparent in her game Friday, when she had a morning tee time and started on No. 10. Sorenstam was at even par through four holes when she began a run of birdies by hitting a pitching wedge within 4 feet of the hole on the par-5 No. 14. She followed with birdie putts of 24 feet on No. 15 and 20 feet on No. 17.
She also closed with a flourish, making birdie putts from 16 feet on No. 6, 20 feet on No. 7 and 10 feet on No. 9, after which she tossed a ball to some young fans in the gallery.
Her 64 matched the second-lowest opening-round score on tour this year, and at 7-under, she's already two strokes ahead of her winning score last year at Cedar Ridge.
``It seemed like I rolled in everything I looked at,'' Sorenstam said.
``I just feel comfortable on this golf course. I mean, I know it so well and know where to hit it. Today it seems like I could read the greens really well. I've always had good touch around these greens. Today I could see the lines really well. I just combined those two and it makes for a good round.''
D'Alessio, who posted the best finish of her seven-year LPGA tour career when she tied for third with Hjorth in last year's tournament at Cedar Ridge, rolled in almost everything down the stretch. She posted three birdies on her final four holes, including 30-foot putts on No. 15 and No. 17.
She finished fifth two weeks ago in the Wendy's Championship for Children in Dublin, Ohio. And yes, she knows who's ahead of her.
``She's unbelievable,'' D'Alessio said. ``She's a fantastic player. Can't take anything away from Annika. She's awesome. And now that Tiger (Woods) has won five in a row, you know she's gunning for that.''
Ammaccapane, who's yet to break the top 20 in a tournament this year, played in the morning's opening group. She birdied four of the first five holes to take the early lead and made the turn at 3 under, then sank a 20-foot birdie putt on No. 9 to finish with a 67.
McGill, who has only one top-10 finish this year, hit every fairway and missed only one green, at No. 17, when, on what she called ``my best swing of the day,'' her shot caught the fringe and kicked over the green.
``This is the clearest mind I've had in the last three years playing this golf course,'' McGill said. ``The first thing I said to my caddy was it was a smart round of golf. You plot your way around.''