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Sorenstam struggles in spotlight

Posted: Friday, April 20, 2001

LINCOLN, Calif. -- While Annika Sorenstam struggled amid all the attention of trying for a record-tying fifth straight LPGA victory, Si Re Pak overcame cool temperatures and occasional showers to take an early first-round lead in the Longs Drugs Challenge on Thursday.

Pak shot a 6-under-par 66 before periodic afternoon downpours slowed the action and held a two-stroke lead over Michele Redman.

Sorenstam finished with a 1-over 73.

Play was suspended for nearly an hour in the late afternoon because of lightning, and the last group did not finish until nearly 8 p.m. PDT.

Starting the day on the back nine, Sorenstam bogeyed the par-3 13th and par-4 14th. Having teed off late, she had to play at times in a driving rain.

''What makes me feel better is it's a four-day tournament,'' she said. ''I have three more days.''

Despite the finish, Sorenstam felt confident.

''When you feel good about your game, you can't really worry,'' she said.

With four consecutive tour victories, Sorenstam was vying to tie Nancy Lopez's streak of five straight tournament wins set in 1978 when she exploded onto the scene as a 21-year-old rookie.

Sorenstam, in her eighth year on the tour, won in Los Angeles last weekend by recovering from a 10-shot deficit with a final-round 66. Playing in six events so far, she placed second in two and won the rest.

She also shot the first 59 ever recorded in women's competition, in the second round of the Standard Register Ping in Phoenix; and grabbed her first major title in five years by winning the Nabisco Championship.

Pak, who didn't make the cut last week in Los Angeles, won the first tournament of the year in Orlando, and finished second in two others. She is currently third on the money list.

Shell Houston Open

THE WOODLANDS, Texas -- Joe Durant, riding a hot putter, and Lee Janzen, using a late charge, shot 5-under-par 67s Thursday and shared a one-shot lead after the first round of the Shell Houston Open.

Former University of Houston golfer Fred Couples delighted his hometown gallery with a 68 and was tied for third with Australian Adam Scott and Carl Paulson at TPC at The Woodlands.

Durant made a 30-foot birdie putt on the par-4 7th and ran in two others from about 20 feet. His final birdie putt came from 15 feet on the final hole, the same distance he made his first one from on No. 2.

''I putted as well as I putted all year today,'' Durant said. ''I hit the ball in play but I never got it really close a lot of times but I just made a bunch of putts.

''At this time last year if I'd have hit like this, I'd have probably shot over par. But I was able to save some good pars early in the round and then I made a few putts I wouldn't have made last year.''

After missing the cut in his season debut at the Tucson Open, Durant shot par or better in 24 of his next 26 rounds and at one point had straight 19 rounds in red numbers. That hot run included victories at the Bob Hope Classic and the Genuity Championship and a tie for fifth at the Honda Classic.

Durant missed the cut at the Masters but started getting back on track with three good rounds at last week's Worldcom Classic.

Janzen, who began on the back nine, overcame a rough start. He had bogeys on two of his first five holes but he had three straight birdies starting at the par-4 18th where he made a 35-foot putt.

''I played today like I had confidence,'' Janzen said. ''When I took out a club, I felt I was doing the right thing. Coming up on the last tee, I knew I was tied for the lead and it felt good.''

Janzen hit a 7-iron 25 feet from the hole on the par-4 5th and made the putt to gain a share of the lead.

Janzen missed the cut in his first three tournaments and attributed his slow start to cracking his favorite driver. It took awhile to get the right replacement.

''I used a different driver just about every round on the West Coast,'' Janzen said. ''I think it affected the way I played because I didn't have the confidence off the tee.''

Defending champion Robert Allenby, who won a four-hole playoff over Craig Stadler last year, was in a group at 69. Allenby birdied the par-4 17th to go 4 under, but bogeyed the final hole.

Also at 3 under in the tournament with a purse of $3.4 million were Kevin Sutherland, Brandt Jobe, Chris DiMarco, John Cook, Kanami Yokoo and Craig Kanada.

David Duval, runner-up in the Masters to Tiger Woods, was 3 under after 10 holes but had a double bogey and a bogey on two par-3s and finished with an even-par 72.

Vijay Singh, the tour's No. 2 money-winner, shot a 73.



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