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Sorenstam in familiar territory

Hall of Famer has led the LPGA Championship before with a daylong marathon ahead of her.

By Associated Press
Published June 13, 2004

WILMINGTON, Del. - A day lost to rain. A marathon finish in the second major of the year. Annika Sorenstam in the lead and on top of her game.

One year later, not much has changed in the LPGA Championship.

Keeping her cool while missing a half-dozen good looks at birdie, Sorenstam broke loose with four straight birdies that carried her to 4-under-par 67 in the second round Saturday and a one-shot lead over Juli Inkster and Jennifer Rosales, the leader by one after the first round.

Next up: A 36-hole finish to make up for lost time in the rain-delayed tournament.

That's old news for Sorenstam.

"I don't mind," she said. "Last year, I had played 34. This will be two more. I hope I can handle it."

Indeed, Sorenstam has a chance to repeat in more ways than one. A year ago today, she had to play 15 holes to finish her third round, 18 holes of regulation and one hole in a playoff to beat Grace Park.

The biggest difference this year? Sorenstam pumped weights to pass time during the rainout instead of staying in her room to watch My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

"It's going to be an early start and a long day," she said. "I love to play when you play well. It should be fun."

The way Sorenstam is playing, it could be a long day for those chasing her. She had a birdie putt on every hole, only one of them from just off the green, and says her swing feels better than ever. The only glitch was a three-putt bogey on the final hole from 40 feet that left her at 7-under 135.

Inkster, who made up a two-shot deficit against Sorenstam to win the U.S. Women's Open at Prairie Dunes two years ago, also found a groove with her swing and started to fearlessly aim at flags. She shot 5-under 66, polishing off her round with a big drive and a 7-wood to the front edge of the par-5 ninth.

"I like my position," said Inkster, who finished her round as Sorenstam was just getting started. "I have a chance (today), and that's pretty much what you want to do."

Inkster played with Rosales, who recovered from two bogeys on her first three holes to shoot 70.

If a comeback is available, who better than Reilley Rankin? The LPGA Tour rookie, who was seriously injured taking a 70-foot jump into a lake five years ago, had 67 and was at 5-under 137.

"Every step means a lot to me, no matter what tournament it is," Rankin said.

Grace Park had 70 and was three back.

For most of the sunny afternoon, Sorenstam was sticking it within 20 feet and walking off with par on bumpy greens that can knock even good putts off line. It all changed on No. 10, where she holed a short but tricky birdie putt.

She made a 10-foot birdie on the 11th, hit sand wedge into 6 feet on the next hole, then closed out her run with a 25-foot putt that swung sharply to the right.

Inkster also got on a roll, starting with a 40-foot birdie from the fringe that went up, down and sideways before plopping into the cup for birdie on No. 5, her 14th hole. But her round almost came undone with one swing.

On the par-3 eighth, the toughest hole at DuPont, Inkster decided to hit a hard 5-iron, then forgot to finish her swing. The ball went well right, bounced around the trees and dropped in the rough. With trees overhead and a bunker in front of her, she chipped safely to the back rough and chipped down to take bogey.

"It was a great bogey," Inkster said. "And in major championships, you've sometimes got to make great bogeys."

Rosales is coming off her first LPGA Tour win last month, so this is new territory for her.

Ditto for Rankin, who wasn't sure she would ever play again.

"I couldn't walk," she said of the plunge five years ago. Doctors said she'd never play golf at the same level. "But I don't think they can ever predict somebody's determination. They don't know somebody's mind."

[Last modified June 12, 2004, 23:37:23]


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