Sat, Nov 20, 2004 - Page 19 News List

Sorenstam in quest for season's 8th win

LPGA TOUR Having clinched her fourth consecutive LPGA money title, Annika Sorenstam took a one-stroke lead on the first day of the season-ending tournament

AP , WEST PALM BEACH, FLORIDA

Annika Sorenstam of Sweden lines up a putt during the first round of the ADT Championship at the Trump International Golf Course in West Palm Beach, Florida on Thursday. Sorenstam holds a one-shot lead after shooting a 6-under 66.

PHOTO: AP

Swedish star Annika Sorenstam birdied four of the last five holes for a 6-under 66 and a one-shot lead after the first round of the season-ending ADT Championship on Thursday.

Cristie Kerr had a 67, while Karrie Webb of Australia was among those at 68.

It was the lowest opening round in the ADT Championship since it moved four years ago to Trump International, a tough course with a few waterfalls for decoration and plenty of water hazards for intimidation.

Sorenstam, going after her eighth victory of the year, was oblivious to both.

Despite another dominant year, she made sure her swing was right before showing up for the final tournament of the year. Sorenstam spent a few days with swing coach Henri Reis, and just like that she looked tough to beat.

"Now I know where the ball is going," Sorenstam. "I can be more aggressive with these pins if they're tucked in the corner or just behind the bunker. I'm not afraid of being a little more aggressive because I have a better feel."

That was evident on the par-4 16th, which has two bunkers to the right and a two-tiered green that slopes severely to the right toward the water.

Sorenstam had 149 yards from -- where else? -- the middle of the fairway, and hit a soft 7-iron some 9 feet below the cup for the only birdie among the 30 players in the field.

Then on the 18th, with the pin all the way back, Sorenstam hit another 7-iron that stopped pin-high about 8 feet to the right. She made that to take the lead by herself.

"The conditions were as good as they could get," Sorenstam said. "But I must say, I thought the pins were very tough. I didn't think it was that easy. I told my caddie that it seems like there are ridges in the front or the back. So, in that case, I thought it was difficult.

"Then again, I felt like I was hitting the ball well."

That wasn't the case for Grace Park of South Korea, No. 2 on the money list and paired in the first round with Sorenstam.

She nearly had a lost ball on the par-5 third -- someone found it as she was walking back to the fairway to drop and take a two-shot penalty -- but still made bogey. She failed to birdie the next two par 5s, but still managed to scratch out a 71. Lorena Ochoa of Mexico had a 75, giving Park a good start toward winning the Vare Trophy.

"I just didn't have anything today," Park said.

As for her partner? Park smiled, looked over her shoulder and said, "Oh, her."

"I feel even more horrible on a day like this when I'm playing with Annika," she said. "She just hits every fairway and every green. That's why she's No. 1."

Sorenstam wasn't perfect. She did miss one green and one fairway. And the 34-year-old Swede will be the first to remind anyone that the tournament is just getting started.

A year ago, Sorenstam had a three-shot lead going into the final round when Meg Mallon rallied on the back nine and beat her by one shot.

Mallon was happy just getting to the first tee today, having suffered a lower back injury two weeks ago. She opened with a three-putt bogey and finished by dumping two tee shots into the water on No. 18 and having to hit a great approach into 8 feet to save triple bogey.

It wasn't too bad in between, and Mallon walked off with a 74.

"I felt very good today," she said. "I don't think I've had a big number in two years. I was due for one."

Despite the tame conditions, only 11 players managed to break par.

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