Sorenstam, Pak, Mallon tied for lead

Posted: Friday, November 22, 2002

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Annika Sorenstam was right where everyone expected her to be Thursday -- on top of her game and at the top of the leaderboard in the season-ending ADT Champion-ship.

The surprise was who joined her.

Se Ri Pak thought about going home before the first round even started. She has an impacted tooth that has kept her from eating solid food the last week, leaving her body so weak that a golf club felt as heavy as a sledge hammer.

''It's too much pain,'' Pak said. ''I shouldn't be here. However, I'm here. I'll try my best.''

She certainly held up her end of the bargain.

Sorenstam and Pak, the top two players on the LPGA Tour this year, traded birdies and avoided major mistakes on a balmy, breezy day at Trump International to tie for the lead at 5-under 67, along with Meg Mallon.

Pak rarely spoke during the round, although Sorenstam could tell she was in pain. At one point, she jokingly said to Pak, ''You're shorts are falling down.''

''She's so skinny and so pale,'' Sorenstam said. ''I know that her tooth is hurting. For her to play this well today is pretty incredible.''

Pak has had her best season on tour, with five victories and her fourth major. That has been lost in another spectacular year by Sorenstam, whose 10 victories are the most on the LPGA Tour in 34 years.

A victory this week might put an exclamation point on the year, although Sorenstam doesn't see it that way.

''I've already done that,'' she said. ''Obviously, winning 11 is one better. But I'm just so satisfied with my season. This tournament is not going to hurt it in any way.''

Sorenstam missed only one green in regulation, made her only bogey by three-putting on No. 14 and was never too far away from the cup.

Was she upset at missing so many birdie chances, or happy that she hit the ball well enough to have that many looks at birdie?

Dunlop Phoenix

MIYAZAKI, Japan -- Tiger Woods was happy to be at par after the way he played Thursday.

Woods, in his first tournament since the Tour Championship in Atlanta almost three weeks ago, settled for a 71 Thursday at the $1.65 million Dunlop Phoenix. He is seven strokes behind leader Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland.

''To shoot even par is a minor miracle,'' Woods said. ''I didn't hit it well and didn't putt well but managed to salvage the round with a couple of birdies near the end.''

Clarke, who is competing in his fifth Dunlop Phoenix, has a two-stroke lead over England's Justin Rose and Japan's Kaname Yokoo and Tsukasa Watanabe. Spanish star Sergio Garcia topped a five-player group at 67.

Clarke had six birdies on the front nine. He dropped a stroke with a bogey on No. 16, but rebounded with birdies on Nos. 17 and 18.

''The changes they've made to this course make it a lot more tricky,'' Clarke said. ''But I putted as well as I have in years and got a couple of breaks that I made the most of.''

Woods, playing in his third tournament in Japan, had four birdies and four bogeys in wet conditions at the 6,917-yard, par-71 Dunlop Phoenix Country Club.

''The weather wasn't really a factor,'' Woods said. ''The fairways were a bit soft but the cold didn't bother me at all.''

Rose, who added an eagle on No. 18 and finished with five birdies and a pair of bogeys, said having Woods in the field had benefits.

''The field is great with Tiger,'' Rose said. ''There's a benefit to having the No. 1 ranked player because you get extra world ranking points for majors.''

Woods, who started play on the 10th hole, bogeyed the par-4 12th and 13th holes. He three-putted the 12th green, then pulled his drive to the left on the 13th before hitting a branch trying to blast it out of the pine trees.

''I didn't put myself out of the tournament,'' Woods said. ''There were a lot of guys who didn't make par, and I still have a chance to win this.''

Woods birdied the 16th and 17th holes to get back to even par but had consecutive bogeys on No. 2 and No. 3.

''The bogey on No. 2 was especially frustrating because I worked so hard to get back to even par,'' said Woods.

Woods' second shot on the par-4 No. 2 found the bunker in front of the green. His sand wedge out of the trap landed 4 feet from the hole, and he missed the par putt.

Woods birdied Nos. 4 and 7 before closing out with par on the final two holes.

Defending champion David Duval shot a 69 with six birdies and two bogeys.

''I hit it all over the place today,'' Duval said. ''But 2-under with three unplayables is pretty good. It was cold out there, and it's always hard to get warmed up in those conditions.''

Garcia, winner of the Mercedes Championships, had four birdies, two bogeys and an eagle on the par-5 No. 7.

''I had a great drive in the middle of the fairway,'' Garcia said of his eagle. ''I hit it to about 35 feet and holed it and it felt great.''

Garcia said it was nice to put a little distance between himself and Woods.

''It's always better when you're ahead of him, and the further the better,'' Garcia said. ''But there are still three rounds left and when I play well, I feel I can beat anyone.''

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