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Sorenstam Climbs Leader Board

By Brendan Tierney, USGA

South Hadley, Mass. -- With storms and darkness delaying round one of the 2004 U.S. Women's Open, Annika Sorenstam knew that Friday wasn't going to be easy.

Waking up at 4:30 a.m., she faced starting her day on the notoriously tough 16th, 17th and 18th holes of the Orchards Golf Club.

"Yesterday was a really long day and I didn't get a lot of sleep," she said. "Today we were out there for five hours grinding on every shot."

Choosing select areas to play aggressive Friday, Annika Sorenstam's strategy paid off. (Sam Greenwood/USGA)

Sorenstam's start was not what she envisioned, as she double bogeyed the 16th hole to fall to even par with 20 holes left to play on the day. "It wasn't really the start I had in mind," she said about the hole, on which her tee shot faded right before the approach tumbled off the green.

That, however, would be the last of Sorenstam's problems for quite a while. She would go on to par the final two holes of her first round before getting a 25-minute break before the start of round two. Keeping the momentum, she played bogey-free golf the first 16 holes to move up the leader board.

The two-time Open champion would finish the round with a score of 3-under 68 to move into a tie for third, although numerous groups had afternoon tee times. With four birdies on holes 3, 10, 12, and 18, and a lone bogey on the 8th hole when her par putt hit the left lip of the hole and fell out, Sorenstam pieced together nothing but a steady round.

It was an impressive day, even by Sorenstam's standards. By nailing 17 greens in regulation, she gave herself a chance.

"Ball stroking-wise, this is one of the better rounds I've had [at the Open]," said Sorenstam, who has two second-place finishes in the last three years. "The more I play this course, the more I like it.

"You want to be aggressive, but you really can't. I'm playing aggressive when I can."

After birdieing the 18th hole, her ninth of the round, Sorenstam was feeling confident - so confident that she decided to take a chance on No. 1. She pulled out driver on the tee. What makes that notable is that a creek looms 272 yards out. She cleared it. Her strategy was to lay up with a 4-iron and have 180 yards to the hole, or hit driver and hope for a lazy 9-iron. In any event, with the breeze with her, she opted for driver.

"Maybe it wasn't the smartest move," she said, "but it was fun to do."

And with the way Sorenstam managed the course Friday, playing near-flawless golf, she cannot be blamed for taking chances.

Finally, looking forward to a nap, Sorenstam seemed satisfied. All she wanted to do was give herself a chance, which she did.

"I'm glad I'm done for the day," she said. "I like my position for the weekend."