Hurst heads the field as Sorenstam stutters


LOS ANGELES, AFP

Annika Sorenstam found herself playing an unfamiliar game of catch up Thursday, chasing first-round leader Pat Hurst in the US$800,000 LPGA Tour event at Wilshire Country Club. The red-hot Swede has got used to setting the pace on the LPGA Tour, her three victory blitz in March including one historic round of 59 and her first career victory in the Nabisco Championship. But Sorenstam’s bid to become just the third player to win four consecutively scheduled events on the LPGA Tour got off to a shaky start as she took double bogey at the first hole en route to a 71. “When you drop two shots at one hole, it feels like you’re catching up all day,” Sorenstam said. “It’s not a role I like.” Hurst, on the other hand, got off to a flying start, draining a 20-footer for birdie at the par-four first. She scattered seven birdies and two bogeys across her five-under 67, and was especially pleased to boast a solid lead after one round of the 54-hole event. “With a three-day event it’s definitely important to play well the first two days, because you’re only going to have one more round after the cut,” Hurst said. “I tend to be more aggressive in a three-day tournament. Today, that’s what I was doing.” New Zealand’s Marnie McGuire, Dina Ammaccapane, Kristi Albers and Michelle McGann all shot 69 to share second place. A group of six players on two-under 70 included France’s Anne-Marie Palli, South Korea’s Mi Hyun Kim and Sweden’s Liselotte Neumann and Peru’s Alicia Dibos. Hurst said precision into the greens was paramount on the old-fashioned Wilshire Country Club course. “You’ve got to keep it short and below the hole, so you’re not putting downhill,” she said. “You can get away with missing in the rough a bit. It’s the angles more than anything. If you’re missing on the short side, you’re going to have a tough shot into the green to keep the ball below the hole.” Sorenstam admitted she would have liked to finish the day higher up the leaderboard, but she couldn’t find too much fault with her round. “I left a few out there today, but not many,” she said. “Especially having an afternoon tee time, the wind increased and the greens were bumpier. Tyhe wind was swirling on many holes and it played very tricky.” Sorenstam’s playing partners, tournament host Amy Alcott and defending champion Grace Park of South Korea, had little luck in the difficult conditions, Park carding a 76 and Alcott a 77. Sorenstam — whose victories in Tucson, Phoenix and the Nabisco came in successive weeks, admitted she felt a few flutters after the two-week break. “At the first tee I told my caddy ‘I feel real nervous,’” she said. “‘I feel like I haven’t played in a long time.’” She hit her driver into the left rough, and her second shot was plugged in a bunker. She blasted onto the green and three-putted. “It just happened so quick,” she said. “Suddenly I was tapping in for six and it didn’t seem that bad.” Back-to back birdies at 11 and 12 got Sorenstam back to even par. She birdied 14 and gave that one back at 16 before finishing in the red with a birdie at the par-three 18th.