Sorenstam stumbles after lay-off

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The Independent Online

Annika Sorenstam's attempt to gain a record-breaking sixth-straight win on the LPGA Tour faltered with an opening five-over-par 76 in the first round of the Michelob Ultra Open in Williamsburg, Virginia yesterday.

Annika Sorenstam's attempt to gain a record-breaking sixth-straight win on the LPGA Tour faltered with an opening five-over-par 76 in the first round of the Michelob Ultra Open in Williamsburg, Virginia yesterday.

Returning from a five-week break, Sweden's world No 1 had five bogeys and a double-bogey seven at the long 7th hole, her 16th.

Her last outing was an eight-shot win in a major, the Kraft Nabisco Championship, in March - but this time she was nine shots off the lead shared by Italy's Silvia Cavalleri and her fellow Swede Catrin Nilsmark. Things would have been even worse for Sorenstam if she had not chipped in from 40 feet at her final hole for one of two birdies.

"I don't really know what happened," said Sorenstam, whose unbeaten stretch began in November. "It was just one of those days when the ball bounced everywhere I didn't want it to."

It was Sorenstam's worst round since she shot 76 on the second day of the Nabisco Championship last year and it left her in a tie for 107th place. The top 70 and ties make the cut. She has not missed out since the 2002 British Open.

Scotland's Catriona Matthew and the British Open Champion Karen Stupples were the leading British players, at four off the lead on 70. Laura Davies was on 71.

In Charlotte, North Carolina, Tiger Woods made his first appearance since winning the Masters but Sergio Garcia stole the spotlight. In swirling winds, the Spaniard shot a six-under par 66, including eight birdies, to take a two-shot lead after the first round of the Wachovia Championship.

Garcia held a two-shot lead over Joey Sindelar, Kenny Perry, Patrick Johnson and Richard Johnson, while Woods overcame an early bogey to shoot 70, ending his day with a 40-foot birdie putt on his final hole. Vijay Singh, the world No 1, also shot a 70. Phil Mickelson, ranked third, returned a 71, as did England's Justin Rose and Ireland's Padraig Harrington.

England's Ian Poulter, Greg Owen and Brian Davis shot 72, 74 and 77.

In Milan, the former English amateur champion Richard Finch, the world No 716, broke the course record with a second-round 63 at the Italian Open, for a three-shot lead over the Frenchman Gregory Havret and Paul Broadhurst.

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