Pak, the winner of the YourLife Vitamins LPGA Classic in January, shot an opening round of 6-under-par 66 to land herself in the No. 1 seat on the leaderboard this morning. The owner of nine career victories carded one birdie on the front side and a dramatic five birdies on the backside.
Another Swedish dynamo, Helen Alfredsson, made her way around the course at 1-under-par 71 to tie for fifth place early in the day. Two bogies - one of which fell on the par-5 6th and the other on the par-4 11th, accompanied her three birdies. Alfredsson is always fun to watch. Her body language throughout her round tells the story of exactly how her game is going. Today there were definitely peaks and valleys to be seen.
There were a lot of people waiting to see Annika Sorenstam play golf today. When she finally teed off on No. 10 this afternoon, however, she had a rough go of it. Through her first six holes of the day, the Nevada resident made two consecutive bogies. By the par-4 14th, her fifth hole of the day, she walked off the green two strokes over par. With no birdies on her card, she made the turn at 2-over 38 with only nine holes left in her round.
Sorenstams game may be unwinding as the strain of her recent success sinks in. Golf is such a mental sport, the owner of 27 career victories said yesterday. And with the history, all the shots we have to hit, and to do it under the pressure ' I mean, when I come home in the evening, Im more mentally tired than anything.
Adding to her burden this week is the heightened attention. Unlike the pathetic turnout last week - of both press and spectators - at the Office Depot hosted by Amy Alcott, the Longs Drugs Challenge is sporting a healthy gallery along with an abundance of press.
There will be no lack of attention this week as all watch ' and wait ' to see if Annika will set a new record of five consecutive titles. A feat not accomplished since Nancy Lopez did it in 1978. And dont think Lopez isnt watching. She is hoping that her record, which has remained in the books for over two decades, remains untouched. Annika seems very focused right now. . . I'm definitely pulling for her, Lopez said in a press conference this week. But if there is an American in contention, I'm going to be rooting for her. Lopez was referring to the fact that to date no American player has won an LPGA event this year.
Lopez may be thinking about her record falling but Annika has other thoughts on her mind. I think about history, about winning golf tournaments ' If I had hit that shot, made that putt. Theres always a lot in my mind, Annika said. There are a lot of hungry players here. I know that I need to play good this week and stay patient, stay in the moment. Im playing well right now. Like I said, Im not tired. And Im as excited as ever.
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