Record-setting Grace grabs two-stroke lead

  • Other Sport
  • Saturday, 16 Oct 2004

PALM DESERT (California): South Korea's Grace Park grabbed the first-round lead in the LPGA Samsung World Championship on Thursday with a tournament-record 62. 

Park's dazzling 10-under effort, which included nine birdies and an eagle, put her vaunted playing partners Annika Sorenstam and Michelle Wie in the shade – and gave her a two-stroke lead over Britain's Catriona Matthew in the elite US$825,000 tournament. 

Park broke the tournament record of nine-under 63 set by Pat Bradley in 1980. 

She almost holed her approach from the fairway at the par-five 12th, where she sank a two-foot putt for an eagle. 

Her blistering 29 on the back nine included five birdies, one a 20-footer from the fringe on 18 that circled the edge of the cup before dropping in. 

“We have 20 of the best female golfers from all over the world,” Park said. “Everything is in such great shape. ... You have to expect to shoot low here. Otherwise, you're going to be down on the bottom of the field.” 

Park, winner of the Kraft Nabisco Championship in March, is coming off a second-place finish last week. 

Matthew, a winner on the US tour in August, had a bogey-free round of eight-under 64. 

“I thought certainly when I played the practice round, scoring would be pretty low here,” Matthew said. “I really had no excuses not to score well. There are lots of birdie chances out there.” 

Sorenstam, who won here in 1995, 1996 and 2002, was among four golfers lying four shots off the pace on 66. The Swedish superstar leads the tour with five victories this season. 

She was joined on 66 by compatriot Sophie Gustafson, Mexico's Lorena Ochoa and Cristie Kerr. 

“It seemed those pin placements, they were really in the easiest places on the green,” said Ochoa, a two-time tour winner. “That was really important to have a good start today and it's going to get tough on the weekend.” 

Added Kerr: “We were hitting shorter clubs into some of the greens. If you hit in the right spots, you are going to get 40 to 50 yards of roll on these fairways.” 

Wie, the amateur prodigy who celebrated her 15th birthday on Monday, posted a triple-bogey eight on the 12th hole on the way to a two-over 74. 

That left her tied with South Korea's Pak Se-ri for 18th in the 20-player field. – AFP 

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