Sat, Aug 05, 2006 - Page 19 News List

Veteran in front at British Open

STILL GOT IT Juli Inkster, looking to become the oldest winner of a women's major, finished the day eight shots ahead of teen sensation Michelle Wie after the first round at Lytham

AFP , LYTHAM ST. ANNE'S, ENGLAND

American Juli Inkster struck a blow for the older generation with a six-under-par 66 and a three-shot lead after the first round of the Women's British Open on Thursday.

The 46-year-old is aiming to become the oldest winner of a women's major -- American Fay Crocker was 45 when she won the 1960 Titleholders Championship -- and she showed the youngsters a clean pair of heels with five birdies and an eagle in a round of stunning golf played in dazzling sunshine.

Michelle Wie, the 16-year-old Hawaiian prodigy, made a stumbling start with bogeys at the first three holes, but managed to birdie the last for a none-too disastrous 74.

Inkster led by three from Italy's Silvia Cavlleri and Swede Maria Hjorth, while France's Gwaldys Nocera, the leading player this season with three wins on the Ladies' European Tour, was well-placed on 70.

By contrast, world No1 Annika Sorenstam, the winner when the championship was last staged at Lytham three years ago, was heading for a sub-70 score until she finished double-bogey, bogey for a level par 72.

"The last two holes ruined my day," the Swede admitted.

Inkster, who has won every other major and seven in all, was out in 30 with birdies at the first, seventh and eighth to set along side her day's biggest highlight, an eagle three at the 497-yard (454m) sixth where she blasted a five iron second shot to 18 feet.

On the back nine, she added more birdies at the long 11th and 15th before finally dropping a shot at the last after hitting her drive into a fairway bunker.

In the end, she did well to two-putt from 90-feet for a five.

"I played great today," assessed the LPGA Hall of Fame member. "I hit a lot of fairways and greens and played the par fives really well, which was the key. I also putted well."

"I never seem to have done particularly well at the British Open and always seem to be chasing the horse. It's nice to be the horse," she said.

"But there are still three rounds to play. I shot 66 today and someone else can do that tomorrow," Inkster said.

Wie, who was one of the first groups out before 8am, admitted she struggled to get any early momentum.

She overshot the par three first hole and then hit wayward drives at the second and third for the opening string of bogeys.

"I felt half alive," she said on a day when the early week gales and rain had been replaced by sunshine and little wind.

"It was also a little weird because my mind set was to hit a lot of low shots into the wind. But I should have adapted quicker," she said.

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