Sorenstam shot a bogey-free 8-under 64 on Thursday, matching her career low, to take a one-shot lead over Beth Bader after the first round of the LPGA Corning Classic.
Bader, who also did not make a bogey, was one shot ahead of Paula Creamer, Shi Hyun Ahn, and Jamie Hullett. Diana D'Alessio, Italian Giulia Sergas, rookie Charlotte Mayorkas, and South Koreans Hye Jung Choi and In-Kyung Kim were tied at 67.
Ai Miyazato of Japan, Jean Bartholomew, Grace Park and Canadians A.J. Eathorne and Lorie Kane were among a group of 14 players at 68 as more than half the field of 144 broke par on a warm, sun-splashed day with barely a breeze.
The long-hitting Bader took advantage of the three short par 5s on the Corning Country Club course and finally began sinking some putts on her best round of the year. She was alone at the top of the leaderboard until Sorenstam, playing in one of the final threesomes, fashioned a late charge.
Sorenstam, the former NCAA champion at Texas who won the 2000 Standard Register Ping for her long LPGA Tour victory, hit 15 of 17 greens in regulation and needed just 25 putts. She closed with four birdies over her final five holes to put at least a temporary end to what has been a forgettable two years.
In 2006, she made only four cuts in 16 tries and barely won $20,000, and this season missed the cut in the three previous events she entered, including last week's Sybase Classic after rounds of 76 and 77.
Three more rounds like Thursday and she'll have a good chance to join Annika as a Corning champion.
'I was hoping they would put a C on the board so everybody would know it's me,' Charlotta said with a big smile. 'I knew it was in me. That's why I never gave up.'
Although three holes were lengthened to add 56 yards to the narrow, tree-lined course, Bader's length off the tee enabled her to make tap-in birdies at Nos. 2 and 5. She also sank a 10-foot uphill birdie putt on the 510-yard 14th hole, failing to break par only on the final par-5, No. 12, which at 545 yards played 16 yards longer than a year ago.
'I was hitting it good and having those opportunities with short irons,' said Bader, who hit 12 of 14 fairways and made 14 greens in regulation. 'I was able to kind of pick my spots, but you have to place it in the fairways.'
More importantly, perhaps, Bader, in her seventh year on tour and still looking for that initial victory, made her putts.
'I've just missed so many,' said Bader, whose putting average of 30.09 is 78th on tour. 'It drives you bonkers. You just have to keep grinding and know these putts are going to fall.'
Ahn continued the solid play she's displayed since her rookie year of 2004. The South Korean had top-10 finishes in three majors in 2006 and posted three more in her first three starts this year, including a tie for fifth at the Kraft Nabisco Championship.
'Even though I've played well, the thing I want is a win,' said Ahn, who needed only 23 putts on her round. 'So I'm not real happy. I really want to have a win this week.'
Eathorne was relieved after what was a breakthrough day of sorts. She has struggled since a frayed ligament in her left wrist last year forced her to miss six months. But her best round in nine starts this year and first under 70, which featured her first eagle of the season, left her beaming.
'I got out of the box pretty good. I made it easy on myself,' said Eathorne, who has missed seven cuts. 'It's been a long time coming. It's been tough mentally. It's just nice to be able to put a round up there. You can breathe a little easier.'
A three-putt bogey on Eathorne's final hole, the par-4 ninth, cost her one spot on the leaderboard. Just being near the top was good enough for now.
'It just makes you feel good,' Eathorne said. 'I know my parents at home are probably going, 'Sweet, we can actually find her. You don't have to scroll down and scroll down.' They'll be happy.'