Inkster Takes Charge Big Names Struggle

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2006 Weetabix WomenLYTHAM ST. ANNES, England -- A 31-time winner on the LPGA Tour, Juli Inkster knows it's all about position heading into the weekend.
 
'You are always chasing the horse,' the Hall of Famer said after taking the first-round lead at the Women's British Open with a 6-under 66. 'So it's nice to be the horse.'
 
Inkster, 46, is off to her best start of the year after scorching Royal Lytham & St. Annes for one eagle and five birdies on Thursday. She leads by three shots -- a deficit trimmed only by a bogey from a fairway bunker at the 18th.
 
Michelle Wie
Michelle Wie had big plans for the week, but came up short on Thursday with a 2-over 74.
'You know, I've always kind of struggled at the British Open and I don't really know why,' said Inkster, who owns seven major wins but none at the British Open.
 
'This is probably one of my best rounds I've played out here.'
 
It was good enough for a comfortable lead over Silvia Cavalleri and Maria Hjorth, who both shot 3-under 69 to share second place at the fourth and final women's major of the year.
 
Allison Hanna, Nina Reis and top Ladies European Tour player Gwladys Nocera are tied for fourth place at 2-under.
 
Cristie Kerr and Christina Kim lead a group of nine players who are tied for seventh place at minus-1, one shot ahead of a pack of 15 women at even-par.
 
That group includes some of the game's biggest names, including world No. 1 Annika Sorenstam, reigning Rookie of the Year Paula Creamer and Natalie Gulbis.
 
Michelle Wie opened with three consecutive bogeys and could never recover, ending at 2-over 74 and tied for 44th place following her fifth career round at this event.
 
The 16-year-old Wie, who has not finished worse than tied for fifth in her six previous 2006 starts on the LPGA Tour, tied for third place at her first Women's British Open last year when she birdied her final two holes.
 
With the winds down Thursday, Wie had to change her approach on the course.
 
'I think I should have adapted a little bit quicker, but I went out there this morning and didn't really do anything wrong,' Wie said. 'It was like I was half-alive almost.'
 
Sorenstam, the 2003 winner at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, was as low as 3 under Thursday before a double-bogey at the par-4 17th and a bogey at the 18th.
 
On both holes, Sorenstam found greenside bunkers. But she isn't worried about being six shots back after one round.
 
'It's only the first day,' she said. 'I am not going to worry too much about it...I look at the leaderboard and so forth, but there is a long ways to go and anything can happen.
 
'I think I proved on the last two holes that you can lose three shots in no time.'
 
Inkster avoided the mistakes Sorenstam made late in her round. Beginning with a 16-foot birdie putt at the first hole, she consistently made big shots.
 
At the par-five sixth, Inkster reached 3 under with an eagle after knocking a 5-iron within 18 feet. She followed that with birdie putts of four and 10 feet on the next two holes and made the turn at 5 under.
 
Inkster slowed down on the back nine, but she was already well in front. She birdied 11 and 15 with short putts, then dropped her only shot when she two-putted for a five at 18.
 
'I hit a lot of fairways. I hit a lot of greens. I played the par fives well today,' Inkster said. 'I gave myself a lot of opportunities. So, you know, overall it was a very good day.'
 
Defending champion Jeong Jang, who went wire-to-wire last year for her first title, did not have a good day. She opened with a 6-over 78 and is tied for 113th place.
 
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