Sorenstam Even Two Back as Play Called

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2005 U.S. WomenCHERRY HILLS VILLAGE, Colo. -- Annika Sorenstam is certainly in the mix as she tries to secure the third leg of the single season Grand Slam.
 
She opened with an even-par 71 Thursday at the U.S. Women's Open, trailing Angela Stanford, amateur Brittany Lang and Karine Icher by two at Cherry Hills Country Club.
 
Annika Sorenstam
Annika Sorenstam reacts to one of her three birdies in the first round.
Stanford, a runner-up in 2003, and Lang completed their first rounds, while Icher is through 14 holes.
 
Inclement weather played havoc with the opening round. There was a 90-minute weather delay in the first round, then another stoppage late on Thursday. A few minutes after that delay, officials suspended the round.
 
Sixty players did not complete their opening rounds and will return to Cherry Hills at 9:30 a.m. (ET) Friday morning to finish. The second round will begin as scheduled at 9:00 a.m.
 
Nicole Perrot, Young-A Yang, Natalie Gulbis and 1988 winner Liselotte Neumann share fourth place at 1-under-par 70.
 
Michelle Wie, the amateur star who finished second to Sorenstam at the LPGA Championship, is also 1 under par through 15 holes.
 
Wie's accomplishment not withstanding, the story this week is Sorenstam. She won the Nabisco Championship and LPGA Championship to grab the first two legs of the Grand Slam.
 
Sorenstam began on the 10th hole Thursday and missed the fairway with her drive. She made bogey, then hit another errant tee shot at No. 11. The Swede saved par on her second hole, but admitted that nerves were the biggest factor.
 
'U.S. Open, a lot of people, tough golf course, a lot on my mind. There's a lot of things,' said Sorenstam, referring to what caused her nervousness on Thursday.
 
The top player in the game calmed down throughout her front nine. She hit a 7-iron to 5 feet to set up birdie at the 16th. Sorenstam came up short of the green with her second at the par-4 18th and wedged her third to 12 feet. She two-putted for another bogey, making the turn at 1-over 37.
 
Sorenstam recovered with a birdie at the first. She added another birdie at the seventh when she rolled in a 7-footer, but hit a 5-iron over the green at nine and made bogey.
 
Despite the inconsistency of her round, Sorenstam is still within striking distance. The two-time former champion of this event also knows par is a good score for a U.S. Women's Open.
 
'I think if somebody would have told me on the first tee, we'll give you level par, I think I would have taken it,' said Sorenstam. 'Having said that, it's a good start. It's a marathon.'
 
Sorenstam was joined in a tie for ninth place with defending champion Meg Mallon, Sophie Gustafson and amateur Morgan Pressel, who had the lead by herself, but dropped three strokes in her last two holes.
 
Maria Hjorth is even with two holes to play.
 
Stanford, who lost in a playoff to Hilary Lunke two years ago, hit a sandwedge to 12 feet to set up a birdie at the first. She made an unlikely birdie at four when her drive came to rest in the first cut. Stanford ran a 4-iron 30 feet from the hole and converted the putt.
 
She used a 5-iron off the tee at the par-5 fifth, but played a wedge to 5 feet with her third. Stanford drained that birdie putt, but bogeyed Nos. 6, 8 and 9 to fall back to even for the championship.
 
At the par-3 15th, Stanford hit a 5-iron to 10 feet. She ran in the birdie putt, sank a 20-footer for birdie at 17 and holed a clutch 7-foot par save at 18 to share the first-round lead of the U.S. Women's Open.
 
Stanford used some clutch putting two years ago at Pumpkin Ridge when she and Kelly Robbins lost an 18-hole playoff to Hilary Lunke. The 27-year-old did notice some similarities.
 
'Similar in that I feel like I am really in the moment,' said Stanford. 'I think in 2003, each shot I hit I was really in the moment. I felt like that today. So that was a good feeling.'
 
Lang, who will turn professional at the end of the summer, collected three birdies in her first seven holes. She drove into the rough at nine and never recovered, leaving with a bogey.
 
The back nine featured more of the inconsistent play. She drained a 5-foot birdie putt at the 10th, but gave the shot back at 12 when she three-putted from 20 feet.
 
Lang hit an 8-iron to 12 feet to set up birdie at the 14th and go ahead by one. She then fell back into a tie at 18 when she hit a poor drive and an even poorer second shot.
 
Still, the Duke University star, shares the lead.
 
'I am just going to play golf like I have been playing,' said Lang. 'I am sure I will be nervous, but it will be a lot of fun just getting the crowds on my side.'
 
Icher began on the back nine and tallied three birdies and one bogey over her first nine holes. She traded a birdie and a bogey at one and two, and parred her last three holes before the horn sounded.
 
'It's my best beginning on the major, so I hope to keep my play and my game for tomorrow morning,' said Icher, a Frenchwoman who lives in Switzerland. 'I have tried to hit the middle of the fairway, hit the green, try to keep a good rhythm on the greens and that's it.'
 
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