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Golf

Neumann shows little rust with 6-under 66

By wire services
Published November 11, 2005

MOBILE, Ala. - Sweden's Liselotte Neumann returned from a monthlong layoff and shot 6-under 66 Thursday to take a one-stroke lead after the opening round of the LPGA Tournament of Champions.

Neumann, who won the event in 1996 at Grand Cypress Resort in Orlando, had six birdies, including four on the back nine.

"It was just a good solid round," said Neumann, whose best finish this season was a tie for third at the Longs Drugs Challenge, her last event. "My irons were the key today. I hit a lot of good shots and made all of the putts I should have made."

Juli Inkster and Christina Kim, teammates on the winning U.S. Solheim Cup squad, shot 67. Defending champion Heather Daly-Donofrio and Patricia Meunier-Lebouc were two back, and Candie Kung, Hee-Won Han and Lorena Ochoa were another stroke off the lead.

Because of wet fairways, lift, clean and place rules were in effect. As a result, players took aim at the pins and the field of 43 LPGA winners from the past four years and active Hall of Fame members produced 24 under-par rounds.

"Even though it was still wet, I don't think the course played that long and the greens were holding," said Neumann, who finished 10th last year. "The greens are really not that fast, so you can make good aggressive strokes. If the weather stays like this, I think you're going to see a lot of birdies.

"I only missed one green and that was on a par 5 and I left myself with an easy chip, so I never really had to work for pars. It was a nice, stress-free round."

Neumann earned a spot in the tournament with a win at the 2004 Asahi Ryokuken Championship - her first since 1998.

Kim and Inkster each birdied the difficult 18th hole to close within a shot of Neumann.

"This course is by no means easy," Kim said. "It rewards you if you hit good iron shots on the right part of the green and it punishes you if you don't. The course is very scoreable."

Paula Creamer of Bradenton shot 70. Tampa's Moira Dunn was at par 72.

Annika Sorenstam, the 1997 winner at Westin Hills, is skipping the event to rest for the season-ending ADT Championship next week in West Palm Beach.

EUROPEAN PGA: Tiger Woods bogeyed his last hole after hitting a tee shot into a bunker, costing him a share of the first-round lead in the $5-million HSBC Champions at Shanghai, China.

Scotland's Paul Lawrie, the 1999 British Open winner, England's Nick Dougherty and Australia's Peter O'Malley led at 8-under-par 64. Woods was at 65 with England's David Howell, the Netherlands' Robert-Jan Derksen and South Korea's K.J. Choi.

The European Tour opened its season with Asia's most lucrative tournament, one sanctioned by four tours. Play began under mostly overcast skies, but hard rain came when Woods was playing his last hole and O'Malley was on his next-to-last hole.

U.S. Open champion Michael Campbell and Kenneth Ferrie were at 66, a shot ahead of an eight-player group featuring Vijay Singh. Colin Montgomerie, who won the European money title, opened with 74 that included double bogey on his last hole.

Woods mixed 10 birdies, including five in a row, with three bogeys. The last bogey came when he hit a 3-wood into a large fairway bunker on No. 9, with the ball plugging deep in the sand.

"I've never seen anything like it," Woods said. "I did well to get it out of there. I think I played really well overall, even though I had three bogeys. I think 10 birdies usually offsets that."

FUTURES TOUR: Song-Hee Kim shot 9-under 63 at the Schalamar Creek Golf Club in the third round of the Qualifying Tournament in Lakeland. At 16-under-par 200, the South Korean held a seven-shot lead over former Duke All-American Brittany Lang, who played at Huntington Hills Golf & Country Club and shot her third consecutive 69.

[Last modified November 11, 2005, 01:19:18]


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