Tour rookie leads last women's major of 2000

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LPGA Tour rookie Diana D'Alessio needed only 23 putts in a 5-under-par 67 that gave her the first-round lead in the du Maurier Classic, the final major of the year in women's golf.

LPGA Tour rookie Diana D'Alessio needed only 23 putts in a 5-under-par 67 that gave her the first-round lead in the du Maurier Classic, the final major of the year in women's golf.

D'Alessio's career-best round Thursday gave her a two-stroke lead over Se Ri Pak, Annika Sorenstam, Kristi Albers, Marisa Baena and Tracy Hanson.

Karrie Webb, seeking to become the first golfer since 1986 to win three majors in one year, shot a 71 at the 6,403-yard Royal Ottawa Golf Club.

D'Alessio missed the cut in four of the 12 tour events she has played this year. Her dlrs 43,693 in winnings was thanks mainly to the dlrs 31,072 she won for finishing fourth in the Hawaiian Ladies Open in February. She has made only dlrs 5,094 since April.

But the 25-year-old native of Dover, New Jersey, said her "lull" from playing on Saturdays and Sundays has been mainly due to a mental battle over maintaining self-confidence throughout an entire round rather than hitting the ball poorly.

On Thursday, she said she stepped on every tee "knowing that I could make birdie."

Starting on the back nine in one of the first threesomes off the tee in the morning, D'Alessio made birdie putts of 15 feet on No. 10, 40 feet on No. 11 and 2 feet on No. 14 to start the day at the top of the leaderboard.

An errant drive on 15 cost her a stroke, but she made a 4-footer for birdie on No. 1, chipped in from about 25 feet on No. 2 and made a 36-foot putt for another birdie on No. 5. After making a bogey from the sand on the par-3 8th, D'Alessio closed out her round with a two-putt birdie on the short par-5 9th.

"Everything went my way today," she said. "I made a lot of putts. I've never had 23 putts before in my life. That's my career-low putting for a day."

Those who played in the afternoon had to contend with winds and, because of a nearly two-hour rain delay, soggy fairways and unpredictable greens.

Sorenstam, tied with Webb for most tour wins this year with five, hasn't won a major since the 1996 U.S. Open and has often played herself out of contention in the first rounds of those events. Not so Thursday, with a solid five-birdie, two-bogey round which would have been even better if she had converted birdie opportunities on 16, 17 and 18 after the rain delay.

"It's a great first round," Sorenstam said. "It's the best first round I've had in a major in a long time."

Albers, who is struggling with a bad back, said she stretched and "did everything that I possibly could during the delay to stay warm" except hit balls. Once play resumed, she had two birdies.

Baena, a Colombia native in her second year on the tour, would have had second place to herself except for a bogey on 18.

Pak made four birdie putts under 10 feet and had one bogey, but said she spent most of her round scrambling for pars or trying to stay out of trouble.

"I don't have any kind of big problem today," said Pak, who is trying to win her third career major and first since the 1998 U.S. Women's Open. "It's just OK, but it's the consistency. That's why I have a lot of up-and-down."

Webb would claim a $1 million bonus for winning the du Maurier and becoming the first women's golfer since Pat Bradley 14 years ago to win three majors in one year. She previously won the Nabisco Championship and the U.S. Women's Open.

Juli Inkster, who won the year's other major at the LPGA Championship, shot an even-par 72 Thursday. Prince Edward Island native Lorie Kane, Canada's best hope in the only tour event played on Canadian soil, also shot 72.

Scores after the first round of the $1.2 million du Maurier Classic, played on the 6,403-yard, par 36-36-72 Royal Ottawa Golf Club. (a-denotes amateur):

Diana D'Alessio 33-34-67 Kristi Albers 34-35-69 Annika Sorenstam 35-34-69 Se Ri Pak 35-34-69 Tracy Hanson 34-35-69 Marisa Baena 33-36-69 Leigh Ann Mills 33-37-70 Mhairi McKay 32-38-70 Audra Burks 36-34-70 Kim Williams 34-37-71 Joan Pitcock 36-35-71 Tina Barrett 34-37-71 Danielle Ammaccapane 36-35-71 Karrie Webb 36-35-71 Leslie Spalding 36-35-71 Laura Philo 34-37-71 Karen Pearce 37-34-71 Dorothy Delasin 35-36-71 Trish Johnson 37-35-72 Juli Inkster 34-38-72 Dana Dormann 37-35-72 Wendy Ward 37-35-72 Leta Lindley 37-35-72 Kelli Kuehne 35-37-72 Carin Koch 35-37-72 Mi Hyun Kim 34-38-72 Lorie Kane 36-36-72 Rachel Hetherington 32-40-72 Maggie Will 37-36-73 Val Skinner 38-35-73 Meg Mallon 35-38-73 Hiromi Kobayashi 37-36-73 Betsy King 38-35-73 Beth Daniel 37-36-73 Dawn Coe-Jones 37-36-73 Donna Andrews 36-37-73 Shani Waugh 36-37-73 Pat Hurst 36-37-73 A.J. Eathorne 37-36-73 Ashli Bunch 37-36-73 Barb Whitehead 36-38-74 Sherri Steinhauer 37-37-74 Rosie Jones 37-37-74 Cindy Flom 38-36-74 Laura Davies 39-35-74 Jane Crafter 38-36-74 Pat Bradley 36-38-74 Heather Daly-Donofrio 37-37-74 Melinda Daniels-Price 36-38-74 Kim Saiki 36-38-74 Michele Redman 37-37-74 Gloria Park 37-37-74 Vickie Odegard 38-36-74 Catriona Matthew 35-39-74 Tracy Lipp 36-38-74 Becky Iverson 35-39-74 Carmen Hajjar 37-37-74 Susan Ginter 37-37-74

Selected Others

Cindy McCurdy 38-37-75 Jane Geddes 38-37-75 Amy Fruhwirth 38-37-75 Michelle McGann 39-37-76 Michelle Estill 37-39-76 Dale Eggeling 37-39-76 Kelly Robbins 38-38-76 Maria Hjorth 35-41-76 Sophie Gustafson 36-40-76 Cindy Figg-Currier 39-38-77 Amy Alcott 38-39-77 Helen Alfredsson 38-39-77 Sherri Turner 41-37-78 Liselotte Neumann 39-39-78 Tammie Green 41-37-78 Charlotta Sorenstam 37-42-79