Sun, Jul 25, 2004 - Page 23 News List

Sorenstam takes the lead at Evian


Annika Sorenstam during the third round of the Evian Masters in France, Friday.


Annika Sorenstam vaulted into a three-shot lead of the Evian Masters tournament with an impressive 7-under 65 in a storm-delayed third round on Friday.

In a hallmark display of cool, controlled play, the world No. 1 rattled off seven birdies on an unblemished card to put her three shots clear of overnight leader Karen Stupples in second.

"What can I say? I hit a lot of good irons and was solid all day," said Sorenstam, who had five birdie putts from inside four feet. "Even when I made a mistake I was able to make par, and even a tap-in birdie at the 18th."

Heavy rain fell as the last group played the last two holes. Sorenstam drove into the left rough at the par-5 18th, got her 9-iron grabbed by the wet grass and only advanced the ball 74 yards. With 170 yards to the pin, the 33-year-old Swede then flighted a 7-iron to two inches from the hole and tapped in her seventh birdie.

Overall, Sorenstam sits 16-under-par. Stupples slipped to second with a 69. Mexico's Lorena Ochoa was in third after carding a 67, and Australia's Wendy Doolan shot a 69 to finish in fourth.

Sorenstam will be aiming for her fifth victory of the season on Sunday in the US$2.5 million tournament and her third Evian title. She has led 54 times going into the final round and won 35 of those times. She has only finished outside the top-three only twice.

Stupples, who made four birdies and a bogey, crafted a 9m chip-in to birdie 17 then birdied the last to maintain contact with Sorenstam.

"I was very relieved the chip went in," Stupples said. "Then the birdie at 18 was really nice."

The 31-year-old Stupples knows what to expect playing with Sorenstam on Saturday.

She has partnered her three times this year and each time the Swede had a 65.

"Even when there's a glimmer of hope, like at 18, then she nearly holes it," Stupples said, smiling in disbelief.

"She's No. 1. That's what you've got to expect."

Lorena Ochoa, who opened her LPGA victory account this year, had four birdies on the back-nine to pull into contention.

"It'll be something special to play in the last group with Annika," Ochoa said.

The Mexican has never been paired with Sorenstam.

"It will be something fun to catch up with her," she said.

Irish Open at Baltray

Australian Peter Lonard shot a 2-under-par 70 in a tricky wind Friday to take a two-stroke lead in the second round.

Lonard led South Africa's James Kingston, whose 68 included birdies from the second to the sixth holes for the second straight round, and Scotland's Stephen Gallacher (70).

Englishmen Roger Chapman and Steve Webster, Brett Rumford of Australia, Dutchman Robert-Jan Derksen and France's Raphael Jacquelin were three shots back.

Lonard, who was on 10-under 134, has a base in Orlando and also plays on the US Tour. Even though he has the lead, Lonard says he's better prepared to play when in the US.

"That tour all you have to do is basically look after your golf," said Lonard, who tied for fifth at the Scottish Open two weeks ago.

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