Sat, May 03, 2003 - Page 19 News List

Rookie Akio jazzes it up in Louisiana

PGA PHENOMENON The 24-year-old Japanese golfer shot a 29 on the turn on the way to a 64 and a share of the lead at the New Orleans Classic

REUTERS , NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA

Japan's Akio Sadakata and Paul Stankoswki shot eight-under-par 64s for a share of the first-round lead at the New Orleans Classic on Thursday.

Eight players are a shot back of the co-leaders, including defending champion K.J. Choi of Korea, three-time winner this year Davis Love III, and former PGA champions Jeff Sluman and Scott Verplank.

A dozen more players are at six-under 66.

"I don't know what happened, I'm just going to go out there and play my game," Sadakata said of his strategy for the next three rounds after shooting his lowest score on the tour by three strokes.

The Japanese player blitzed the English Turn course by going out in seven-under 29, including an eagle at the par-four ninth that complemented five birdies.

"I birdied the first few holes, then really felt comfortable," said Sadakata who birdied three of the first four holes.

Successive birdies at the 12th and 13th holes got him to nine-under before a double-bogey six at the par-four 16th.

"I wasn't very frustrated," said Sadakata of the double bogey.

"I just wanted to birdie the next two holes."

He had to settle for a birdie at the par-three 17th that put him in unfamiliar territory on the leaderboard.

Sadakata earned his PGA Tour card with a fifth-place finish at the Tour Qualifying Tournament.

This year he has made nine starts, but just three cuts and finished no higher than tied for 53rd at the BellSouth Classic.

Stankowski is no rookie on the PGA Tour, but he has also struggled this season.

His only top-20 finish was a tie for seventh at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

Stankowski, 33, who has not won since 1997, believes his woes are more mental than actually fundamental.

"I realized recently that there are times during the week that my mind is not strong, my mental game is probably not where it needs to be, but I'm working on it and I've worked really hard," he said.

He was even-par for his round through the fourth hole and then birdied holes five through seven for an outward 33.

Stankowski played a flawless back nine with birdies at the 12th and 13th holes and then on holes 15 through 17.

"I think I've got my swing dialed in where I want it typically. But I look at last week and I shot one-over on Saturday, even for the weekend; I was three-over in the last three holes," he said.

"I look back and I made a lot of mistakes at the end of my round, specifically on Sunday, and it's something that I'm trying to break now," he said.

"There is a history of mental breakdowns there that we have addressed and we're working on," he said.

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