WILMINGTON (Delaware): Annika Sorenstam underlined her status as the dominant force in the women’s game by taking control of the second major of the season, the US$1.6mil LPGA Championship, with a seven-under-par 64 on Friday.
The world number one from Sweden crammed nine birdies in her round to finish with an eight-under total of 134 at the Dupont Country Club, two strokes clear of overnight leader Han Hee-Won (69) of South Korea.
A further shot back on 137 was American Solheim Cup player Wendy Ward (69). Australia’s Rachel Teske (70) was in fourth place on 139, with Japan’s Akiko Fukushima (68) and Natalie Gulbis (69) of the US sharing fifth on 140.
Two weeks ago, Sorenstam dipped into the men’s game and missed the cut amid much hype at the Colonial tournament in Texas. But her visit to the PGA Tour, and all the publicity that surrounded it, has provided a wealth of positive experiences.
The player who won 13 times around the world last year appears to have raised her game to an even higher level, as she demonstrated on a day of tricky winds that produced only 24 sub-par scores.
The next best after Sorenstam’s 64 were the 68s from Fukushima and American Rosie Jones.
Last week, Sorenstam returned to the LPGA Tour to successfully defend a title in Illinois, and she now has her sights set firmly on a fifth major and a first LPGA Championship.
“In the last three weeks, I feel I am playing better than ever,” she told reporters.
“I believe that now Colonial is in the past I am kind of relieved and playing better golf. I think I’m probably striking the ball better than I ever have.
“All year, the majors have been my priority. I think I am very tired but at the moment I’m not feeling it. I’m just trying to live in the moment and do the best I can,” said Sorenstam.
“But I’m not getting carried away as yet. This is only Friday, I want to take one day at a time.”
Often criticised for hiding her feelings under her baseball cap and sunglasses, the normally undemonstrative Swede has also begun to show her emotions more in the past couple of weeks.
Her smiling demeanour was part of her appeal at the Colonial, and she is continuing to interact more with the growing galleries.
For the rest of the field, it will be a weekend for playing catch-up.
Defending champion and world number two Pak Se Ri of South Korea shot a 74 to finish four over on 146 while Australia’s Karrie Webb, Sorenstam’s predecessor as world number one, repeated her opening 72.
The cut fell on six-over 148 and Britain’s twice former champion, Laura Davies, was among the casualties after a 74 for 149. – Reuters