Sorenstam not as dominant at new tournament venue

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Annika Sorenstam feels anything but at home at the LPGA Michelob Light Classic.

Annika Sorenstam feels anything but at home at the LPGA Michelob Light Classic.

Sorenstam won the tournament in suburban St. Louis three straight years and four of the last five, but her advantage has been neutralized now that the 54-hole event has changed locations.

Sorenstam was at 2 under through 13 holes, but bogeyed No. 14 and 15 and missed short putts on the final three holes at Fox Run Golf Club to finish at even-par 72, five strokes off the lead.

"I really didn't get off to the start I wanted to," said Sorenstam, who clearly prefers the Forest Hills Country Club, where the tournament was held for six years. "It was tough to make a putt out there."

After coming up just short last week, Pat Hurst was back atop the leaderboard. Hurst shot a 5-under-par 67 to share the first-round lead with Kristi Albers and Rachel Hetherington. Three other players were at 4 under and three more were at 3 under.

If Sorenstam rallies to win, she'll grab an obscure piece of history, joining Walter Hagen, Gene Sarazen and Laura Davies as the only professional golfers to win the same tournament in four consecutive years.

Sorenstam has already won five times this year. So has Karrie Webb, the tour's leading money-winner, who also shot a 72.

"I hit consistently out there and I really only missed a couple shots," Hurst said.

Long hitters were faring well at the 6,452-yard course. Hurst ranks eighth in driving distance. Sally Dee, the tour's third-longest hitter, was a stroke back at 4-under. Also at 4-under were Rosie Jones and Lorie Kane. Jones was at 6-under before a double-bogey on No. 18.

Hurst said it was her short game, not the driver, that saved the day.

"Today was more my putting - I made a lot of 20-footers," she said.

Hurst has won once this year, finished second four times and is fifth on the money list with $644,353. She was seeking redemption after losing in a playoff to 19-year-old rookie Dorothy Delasin in last week's Giant Eagle Classic. Delasin shot an even-par 72 on Friday.

Albers has won once in her 14-year career. She three-putted just once and needed only one putt on 10 holes.

Hetherington, a fourth-year player from Australia, has been inconsistent this year. She's finished in the top 10 three times and earned $218,560 (29th on the tour), but missed the cut five times.

"Mentally, some weeks I focus better than others," she said. "Usually, the tougher the course, the better I play."

Not that Fox Run was playing that tough. About one-third of the players were even-par or better in the first round. Hurst credited recent rains for keeping scores low.

"When the ball is hitting the greens, it's not moving that much," she said.

Divots Lingering injuries forced two top players to withdraw. Dottie Pepper is still bothered by a back injury sustained in the second round of the U.S. Women's Open last month. Rookie Grace Park continues to be hindered by a pulled rib muscle. Both will also miss the du Maurier Classic next week in Aylmer, Canada. ... Albers' husband, Fred, is a native of St. Louis and is caddying for her this weekend. She said he caddies one tournament a year. ... Debbie Williams, a 40-year-old tour rookie, was at 3 under, her first subpar round of the year.


On the Net:

Leading scores after the first round of the $800,000 Michelob Light Classic, played on the 6,452-yard, par 36-36-72 Fox Run Golf Club course (a-denotes amateur):

Kristi Albers 34-33-67 Pat Hurst 34-33-67 Rachel Hetherington 35-32-67 Rosie Jones 35-33-68 Lorie Kane 35-33-68 Sally Dee 34-34-68 Catriona Matthew 38-31-69 Jenny S. Park 38-31-69 Debbie Williams 35-34-69 Barb Whitehead 35-35-70 Liselotte Neumann 33-37-70 Nancy Harvey 34-36-70 Michelle Estill 34-36-70 Karen Stupples 36-34-70 Amy Fruhwirth 35-35-70 Luciana Bemvenuti 35-35-70 Kim Augusta 37-33-70 Lori Atsedes 36-34-70 Dina Ammaccapane 33-37-70 Terry-Jo Myers 36-35-71 Meg Mallon 35-36-71 Carolyn Hill 39-32-71 Cindy Figg-Currier 35-36-71 Jane Crafter 35-36-71 Dawn Coe-Jones 37-34-71 Lisa DePaulo 35-36-71 Kim Saiki 35-36-71 Laura Philo 33-38-71 Marilyn Lovander 36-35-71 Oh-Yeon Kwon 37-34-71 Jen Hanna 36-35-71 A.J. Eathorne 36-35-71 Caroline Blaylock 37-34-71 Mary Beth Zimmerman 36-36-72 Maggie Will 35-37-72 Susie Redman 36-36-72 Ellie Gibson 37-35-72 Allison Finney 36-36-72 Dale Eggeling 38-34-72 Nanci Bowen 34-38-72 Lee Ann Walker 39-33-72 Karrie Webb 35-37-72 LaRee Pearl Sugg 34-38-72 Mary Kay Marino 37-35-72 Annika Sorenstam 35-37-72 Sara Sanders 37-35-72 Fiona Pike 35-37-72 Joanne Morley 37-35-72 Janice Moodie 36-36-72 Dorothy Delasin 35-37-72 Heather Daly-Donofrio 36-36-72