Annika Pak Among Open Leaders


2006 U.S. Womens OpenNEWPORT, R.I. -- Annika Sorenstam, a two-time winner of this event, shot a 2-under 69 on Friday and is among the leaders after the first round of the U.S. Women's Open at Newport Country Club.
Se Ri Pak, who won the LPGA Championship in a playoff earlier this month, also shot a 69 and joined Sorenstam, Pat Hurst and amateur Jane Park atop the leaderboard.
Se Ri Pak
Se Ri Pak is in search of her second consecutive major title.
Michelle Wie played very well on Friday and shot a 1-under-par 70. Amateur Amanda Blumenherst, Sung Ah Yim, Gloria Hee Jung Park and Becky Morgan are tied for fifth with the 16-year-old star.
The opening round finally went off without a hitch on Friday. Not a single shot was struck on Thursday as a dense fog never left Newport Country Club. The plan is to complete the second round on Saturday and play 36 holes on Sunday.
Wie collected her first birdie of the round at the par-3 fifth when her tee ball stopped a foot from the hole. She tapped that in, but then dropped a shot at nine when she missed the fairway, then a 4-footer for the save.
Par is a good score at U.S. Opens and Wie collected them on the back nine. She parred every hole on the second nine until she hit her approach 15 feet right of the flag at the closing hole. Wie rolled in the birdie putt to break par in the opening round.
'I felt like I had a very solid round today, lots of pars. That's what the U.S. Open is. You have to have pars when you're in trouble,' said Wie. 'I know that it's going to get better and better. And I think that's a good opening round.'
Not as good as Sorenstam's.
The No. 1 player in the world, who has only one victory this season, collected her first birdie on the par-4 third. Sorenstam hit a 5-iron to 17 feet and ran home the birdie putt.
She dropped a shot at the sixth after her 7-wood approach sailed over the green. Sorenstam chipped to 20 feet, but two-putted for the lone bogey on her card.
At the ninth, Sorenstam used a 4-iron for her second shot and drained the 12-footer. Throughout her round, Sorenstam had a lot of birdie chances from that length, but failed to convert.
Sorenstam, the only co-leader who teed off in the afternoon groups, finally caught the leaders at the par-5 16th. The Swede hit a sand-wedge to 8 feet and stroked that home as she tries to win her third U.S. Open title.
'It was a great start, and hopefully I can continue this,' said Sorenstam. 'I feel like I've come a long ways the last few days, and today I really showed that, so it was good.'
Rain has also been a problem in the Newport area as 13 inches of water inundated the course in the last six weeks. That meant a lot of casual water rulings and much slower pace of play.
'I'm hitting it here and somebody else is hitting it there, so the rules official has a lot of work to do,' said Pak. 'There is so much water on the golf course still, but we can't do anything about it.'
Pak, who estimated she took close to 30 drops on Friday, started on the 10th tee and birdied the 12th, but dropped a shot at the par-3 13th. She birdied the par-5 16th to make the turn at 1-under-par 35.
She bogeyed the third hole, but reclaimed the lost stroke with a long birdie putt from the fringe at six. Pak added another birdie at the next hole to reach 2 under par.
'I just so much enjoyed it out there all day long and am so much more comfortable and the confidence in myself, it helped me out with a good round,' said Pak.
Pak had fallen off the golf radar with poor play and injuries over the last several years. When she dramatically defeated Karrie Webb in a playoff for the LPGA Championship, it signaled a return for Pak, who proclaimed herself 'back.'
'I'll always be here if anyone forgets about me,' joked Pak. 'Actually I feel great to be back. At the same time my game is back, too. I feel so great, I feel so much confidence in my game right now. The last couple weeks have been perfect.'
Hurst also began at 10 and mixed four birdies and two bogeys on her opening nine. At the par-3 fourth, Hurst hit her tee ball to 4 feet to set up birdie and reach 3 under par. Unfortunately a bogey at the eighth thanks to an errant drive dropped her into a tie for the lead.
'I basically try to go out and do the best I can, and wherever that takes me, great,' said Hurst. 'I know if I give it 100 percent that's all I can ask from myself.'
Park played the course from the first and recorded two birdies through her first seven holes. She dropped a shot at eight, but got back to 2 under with a birdie at the 10th.
Like Wie, Park made all pars from there, but squandered a chance at the final hole. She knocked her second 10 feet over the flag, but missed the birdie putt that could have separated herself from the field.
'I haven't been in this kind of atmosphere here for a year,' said Park. 'I really missed this. I haven't been in a professional tournament in a year. It's great to be out here again, seeing all these people and the people I look up to. It inspires me to play my best and be my best.'
The leading money winner on the LPGA Tour, Lorena Ochoa, opened with a respectable even-par 71. Reigning Rookie of the Year Paula Creamer, Silvia Cavalleri, Jee Young Lee, Kim Saiki, Brandie Burton and Shi Hyun Ahn joined Ochoa in a tie for 10th.
Webb carded a 2-over-par 73 on Friday and along with Cristie Kerr, is part of a group tied for 28th.
Defending champion Birdie Kim has a lot of work to do if she is going to be the first repeat champion since Webb in 2000-2001. Kim struggled to an 8-over-par 79 on Friday and is tied for 122nd place.
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - U.S. Women's Open
  • Full Coverage - U.S. Women's Open