Forget history, Sorenstam now chasing cut

Posted: Friday, May 06, 2005

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. — There's a Swede in the lead at the Michelob Ultra Open.

No, not THAT one.

Trying to become the first LPGA player to win six straight tournaments, Annika Sorenstam instead had one of her worst rounds in recent memory Thursday. She shot a 5-over 76, leaving her nine strokes behind leaders Silvia Cavalleri and Catrin Nilsmark.

''I don't know what to say about this round,'' Sorenstam said. ''I thought I played pretty good today. It just didn't go my way at all.''

No, it didn't. Sorenstam's score was her highest in relation to par since a 5-over 77 in the second round of the 2002 British Open. That, by the way, was also the last time she missed a cut. She shot a 76 in the second round of the Kraft Nabisco Championship last year, but par was 72.

It also was her highest score in an opening round since a 76 in the 2000 Rochester International, and it ended a stretch of 43 rounds at par or better.

''I can't remember it. And I don't want to remember it,'' Sorenstam said when asked the last time she had a round this bad. ''I just want to move forward. I've got to go low the next three days, and I know I can do it.''

She's going to have to Friday if she wants to play this weekend. The top 70 players and ties make the cut, and 82 are at 2-over or better.

Wachovia Championship

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Sergio Garcia hardly missed a shot in his round of 6-under 66, took a two-shot lead Thursday in the Wachovia Championship and was mildly disgusted.

Masters champion Tiger Woods made mental blunders and was relieved to shoot 70.

In a round where five guys atop the leaderboard made a mess of the final hole, Garcia finished with a 5-iron into a cool breeze that stopped 6 feet away on the 486-yard ninth hole, giving him a birdie he felt was overdue — even though it was his eighth of the day.

''I'm happy about the round,'' Garcia said. ''But at the same time, I look at it and say, 'This could have been amazing.' I didn't make as many putts as I deserved. I could have easily shot 61 or 62 — easily could have shot that.''

He broke by two shots the back-nine record at Quail Hollow with a 30, then turned a brilliant day into a minor struggle with back-to-back bogeys, including a 30-inch miss for par on the second hole.

Still, it was enough to give him a two-shot lead over defending champion Joey Sindelar, Kenny Perry, Patrick Sheehan and Richard Johnson of Sweden, and plenty of momentum heading into the second round.

''Don't get me wrong — I'm happy about my score,'' Garcia said. ''But I feel I only got 60 percent out of my round.''

Woods had reason to smile about his 70.

Playing for the first time since his playoff victory at Augusta National three weeks ago, he didn't commit himself to shots and looked out of sync playing his first five holes in 2 over par.

He recovered, only to lose ground with a poor club selection on the par-5 seventh — a 7-iron from 191 yards that came up short into the water. Still, he finished with back-to-back birdies, including a 40-footer on the ninth hole.

''I was trying to rip a 7-iron in there, and the prudent play would have been a 6-iron over the ridge, two-putt for birdie,'' Woods said of No. 7. ''It was one of the mental mistakes I made. It was just a horrible hole.''

There was plenty of that going around.

Jim Furyk was in the lead until a double bogey from the bunker on the 18th hole, dropping him to a 69. Sindelar hit a driver and two 3-woods on the 18th — one of them went only 15 feet — and made bogey. Johnson dropped two shots on the last two holes, Perry missed a 4-foot par putt and Sheehan took double bogey on the ninth.

And those were the guys who had a chance to take the lead.

Vijay Singh three-putted for bogey three times, but rallied with three birdies on his final five holes for a 70. Phil Mickelson, also playing for the first time since the Masters, twice hit spectators with his tee shots and missed a couple of short putts, but there were no reports of spike marks. He shot 71.

''On my last hole, I hit a gentleman on the head, and he had a decent amount of blood,'' Mickelson said. ''Boy, I feel terrible. I certainly wasn't trying to hit it there. To have that happen, it was not the greatest finish to his day.''

Woods had no complaints about his finish, but he could have done without the rest of it.

Right when he was moving up the leaderboard, he lipped out a 4-foot par putt on the sixth, then turned an easy birdie into an ugly bogey on the seventh.

''I came out a little on the rusty side,'' Woods said. ''I got it back, and all of a sudden, I throw it all away.''

Garcia felt the same way, and it was easy to see why.

He missed only one green, at No. 1 when he drove into the right rough and had to play a shot through a tiny gap in the trees just to get close to the putting surface. He twice missed birdie putts inside 8 feet, and another from 12 feet.

''I'd love to make all of them,'' Garcia said. ''If you leave yourself 10 to 12 putts inside 10 feet, you're going to miss some, for sure. At the moment, I seem to be missing far more than the other guys.''

Despite a cool spring that has kept any serious rough from growing, Quail Hollow was no cupcake. Temperatures in the 50s and a mild wind from the opposite direction created some problems, especially on the closing holes.

Sindelar hit his tee shot so far right into the trees on the 18th that his only shot was to bump a 3-wood toward the fairway. That went about 15 feet, leaving him another 3-wood to the green. He hit a low cut shot that ran up to the green about 30 feet away, limiting the damage to a bogey.

''The bogey at 18 was a disaster,'' Sindelar said. ''You don't want to tell a lot of people that you hit your 3-wood for your third shot.''

Thousands of fans who lined both sides of the fairway saw a stronger finish in the afternoon, especially with groups that had Woods, Singh, Garcia and Mickelson playing in consecutively. All of them made birdie on their final hole except for Mickelson, and his par was equally entertaining, getting up-and-down from 35 yards over the green.

There were pockets of roars along the way.

''It was like playing the last day of a tournament,'' Singh said. ''It was nice. They were all into it. The golf course was not yielding too many birdies, except for Sergio.''

He might have a hard time convincing Garcia of that.

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