Sat, May 24, 2003 - Page 20 News List

Sabbatini ducks spotlight to snatch lead

AFP , FORT WORTH, TEXAS

South African Rory Sabbatini scrambled to a six-under 64 Thursday for the first-round lead in the US$5 million Colonial, a feat that went all but unnoticed as all eyes focused on Annika Sorenstam's historic round.

Sabbatini and his colleagues on the leaderboard professed not to mind the lack of attention, which after all doesn't count in the scoring.

"It's always nice to have the lead," said Sabbatini, whose round included seven birdies and a bogey.

"I don't mind if they don't notice," he said. "It would be fine with me if they don't notice until Monday."

While Sorenstam was methodically playing to a one-over 71, becoming the first woman in 58 years to play on the men's tour, Sabbatini said his effort came despite the fact that "I didn't hit a lot of fairways or a lot of greens."

"I made a lot of putts," Sabbatini said. "Every time I had a chance to make birdie I made it."

Patrick Sheehan and Mark Calcavecchia were tied for second on 65, followed by Dan Forsman and Sweden's Jesper Parnevik on 66.

Sheehan, the early clubhouse leader, said it was an advantage to have the spotlight on Sorenstam.

"Less on me the better," he said after posting five birdies in his first competitive round at Colonial Country Club. "It takes a lot off me or anybody. The spotlight's on her, and deservedly so."

Sheehan was a late addition to the Colonial field, but said he couldn't confirm he got the precise place vacated by Fiji's Vijay Singh, who pulled out after winning the Byron Nelson last Sunday.

Singh said he needed some rest, and that his decision not to play had nothing to do with the vociferous reaction to his comments blasting Sorenstam's appearance here.

"Well, I wasn't told it was his spot I got," Sheehan said. "I knew there were more than a few guys that withdrew."

Calcavecchia was a bit surprised to find himself so high on the leaderboard, having hurt his wrist earlier this month.

"I haven't played much golf the last week and a half," said Calcavecchia, who had seven birdies and two bogeys. "Actually, I was kind of rusty."

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