Sat, Apr 22, 2006 - Page 20 News List

Sorenstam back in hunt

PRO GOLF TOUR Maria Hjorth and Cristie Kerr shared the lead at the Florida's Natural Charity Championship, but Sorenstam was right in the thick of things with a 66

AP , STOCKBRIDGE, GEORGIA

Annika Sorenstam put herself in a familiar position at Eagle's Landing Country Club -- one shot off the lead after the opening round.

The rest of the field can only hope she doesn't do a repeat over the next three days.

Sorenstam won last year's event in a 10-stroke runaway, positioning herself one shot off the lead after Day 1, taking control with a second-round 64 and essentially wrapping up the tournament on Saturday.

This time, she started out a bit erratic with three bogeys on her scorecard. But she nearly holed out a 4-wood from the fairway at the par-5 sixth hole, the ball stopping just inches short of the flagstick for a tap-in eagle.

"I told my caddy, `A few more rolls and it would have been a 2,'" said Sorenstam, who also won this event in 2001. "I have never had a double eagle. That would have made my day for sure."

Not that she was complaining. Sorenstam took her score into the 60s with birdies on five of the last six holes and is right where she needs to be to go after her second win of the year.

"I'm happy with my day," she said. "I made a lot of birdies and I made an eagle. I did make a few mistakes."

Brazil's Candy Hannemann and France's Patricia Meunier-Lebouc were also one shot off the lead after shooting 66.

Karrie Webb played for the first time since her comeback victory in the Kraft Nabisco Championship three weeks ago -- the seventh major title of her career, but her first victory of any kind since 2004.

The Australian is off to another good start, opening with a 67 that left her two strokes off the lead and could have been better if not for a three-putt and a short birdie chance that missed.

"I played really well," Webb said. "I think 5 under is probably the worst I could have shot."

The course was ripe for the taking on a warm, sunny day with barely a breeze to ripple the flags. Heavy rain on Wednesday softened up the greens, but the golfers were still getting favorable rolls on the fairways.

"Scoring-wise, the course is setting up perfectly," Sorenstam said.

Stuart Appleby is thrilled so many Australians are having success on the US PGA tour.

Four Aussies, including Appleby, have won this year, and Appleby leads a trio in early contention at the Shell Houston Open.

Appleby shot a 6-under 66 at the Tournament Course at Redstone Golf Club on Thursday to take the first-round lead. Fellow countrymen Aaron Baddeley and Stephen Leaney are two back after opening 68s.

Baddeley earned his first tour win at Hilton Head last week. Aussies Rod Pampling and Geoff Ogilvy have also won this year and Adam Scott is ranked ninth in the world golf rankings.

"When we come over here, we're certainly very proud to represent our country," Appleby said.

All the country needs now, Appleby said, is a breakout star like Greg Norman used to be.

"We don't have that golden child," Appleby said. "It's tricky at the moment because they're all waiting for someone to step out of the darkness."

For now, Appleby, who turns 35 next month, just wants to solidify a top-10 world ranking.

"I'm trying to play well all the time," he said. "I think that's an addictive thing you want to get into and you keep going and keep playing until it gets out of tune."

Appleby teed off in the morning and took advantage of calm conditions on the new course, the event's third venue in four years. The Rees Jones-designed layout opened in August 2005 and most of the players are getting their first look at it this week.

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