Stupples forges on as Sorenstam loses momentum

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A week on from leading the Evian Masters at the halfway stage, Karen Stupples repeated the feat at the Weetabix Women's British Open yesterday. The Kent golfer maintained her position at the top of the leaderboard but while she might have expected Annika Sorenstam to have been right on her heels, the defending champion has ground to make up.

A week on from leading the Evian Masters at the halfway stage, Karen Stupples repeated the feat at the Weetabix Women's British Open yesterday. The Kent golfer maintained her position at the top of the leaderboard but while she might have expected Annika Sorenstam to have been right on her heels, the defending champion has ground to make up.

Stupples confidently lashed a driver down the first fairway at 7.29am in stark contrast to the topped shot that followed the only other time she had led an event after the opening round five years ago.

A birdie ensued at the par-five first but Stupples had to wait until the 17th for her second birdie of the day, something of a bonus as she holed from 40 feet. A wave of relief from the player caught the mood of her supporters in the gallery.

It is never easy to follow a low round. A 70, to add to the opening 65, did the job. It was a beautiful summer's day but scoring was never easy with only a handful of players breaking into the 60s. One was Laura Davies, who was alongside Sorenstam at five under. They were four strokes off the pace set by Stupples, who was three ahead of veteran American Beth Daniel and Jeong Jang, of South Korea.

Sorenstam, three under on the front nine to get within two of the lead, had to settle for a 71 after a most uncharacteristic inward half. A noise right at the top of her backswing on the tee at the 12th seemed to unsettle the world No 1. Photographers are usually the first to get the blame, and there were a trio of snappers in the firing line, but in this case it was a clatter from the scoreboard by the 11th green.

Sorenstam ended up deep in some thick heather and failed to save par. At the 14th, the last par-five, she both drove into a bunker and put her third into sand to drop another shot.

A week ago, Stupples led Sorenstam by one at the halfway stage but neither went on to win. Done for the day by lunchtime, Stupples went off to do some laundry and get some rest. She had risen at 5am after a night of fitful sleep. "I was excited about the way I had played yesterday and I was excited about today," she said.

"I just couldn't wait to get started. I was looking at the clock every hour and I did feel a bit tired. Perhaps that's why my putts were coming up short."

It was the first time Stupples could ever remember going 36 holes without a bogey. "There were a lot of people in the crowd willing me to make birdies and it was a bit frustrating. But it was very satisfying that I didn't start to push too hard.

"I am going to stick to the gameplan to stay patient," she added. "I really enjoyed being in contention when I won in Tucson [in March]. It was a fantastic experience and I can't wait for the next time."

* Birdies were plentiful in the first round of the Buick Open in Grand Blanc, Michigan, and no one took more advantage than Vijay Singh. The Fijian signed for a nine-under-par 63 after playing the back nine in 29 and took a one-shot lead over Olin Browne.

Attempting his fourth win of the year, Singh played the first eight holes in one under, but a birdie on the ninth started a run in which he played the next seven holes in seven under.

During the blistering stretch, he had five birdies, an eagle and a par. Singh added a final birdie - his eighth of the day - on the 18th. A birdie at the 12th began a stretch in which Singh played four holes in five under. He holed a five-footer for eagle on the par-five 13th, and then added birdies on the 14th and 15th. His only blemish was a bogey on the par-three third.

Tiger Woods, seeking his first win of the year in a strokeplay event, was one of seven to shoot 67. Woods scrambled to a bogey-free round, hitting eight of 14 fairways.

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