First Day of Women's Open Has Shank and Contraction

From Associated Press

Annika Sorenstam was steady but not spectacular Thursday in the U.S. Women's Open, an uninspired par round of 70 that left her in good shape as she pursues the second leg of the Grand Slam.

Everything else at Pine Needles was one surprise after another.

The leaders after one round at three-under 67 were A.J. Eathorne of Canada, who hit only nine greens in regulation, and Cindy Figg-Currier, who has never finished higher than 26th in 11 previous championships (she missed the cut eight times).

Morgan Pressel, at 13 the youngest qualifier in Women's Open history, showed plenty of fight by playing the final seven holes in one over. She made a rare birdie on the 18th for a 77, and stands a decent chance of making the cut.

"You'd be surprised how far a three-foot putt looks in the Open," she said.

And then there was Brenda Corrie Kuehn, who doubled over on No. 11 after a tee shot because of a contraction. That's to be expected for someone who's eight months pregnant.

The real surprise was when Kuehn got to the first tee and discovered one of her playing partners, Jennifer Greggain, was also pregnant, in her 21st week.

"She's at the stage where you really don't want to ask," Kuehn said. "I think it's great."

Both shot 79, tying for low score among pregnant women.

Even Sorenstam left the gallery buzzing, although not the way she planned. Playing from a difficult stance out of the rough, she slipped and hit the ball sideways about 35 yards with a five-iron, drawing gasps from the crowd.

The Swede managed a smile, realizing that a U.S. Open is never won on Thursday, only lost, and she at least didn't lose her patience.

Despite only four birdie opportunities from inside 15 feet, and a shank that led to a double bogey, she was only three strokes out of the lead.

Juli Inkster, one of only two Americans to win on the LPGA Tour this year, overcame an early double bogey for a 68 and was tied with Mi Hyun Kim and Jill McGill.

The only other players to break par were former champion Se Ri Pak, Cristie Kerr, Dina Ammaccapane and amateur Stephanie Keever, all with 69s.

Eathorne, a former Canadian Amateur champion, hardly brought a U.S. Open-type game to Pine Needles. Only half of her tee shots found the fairway, and she missed nine greens. But her putter saved her.

She took only 24 putts, including a 20-footer for birdie on the tough 17th and another 20-footer to save par on the final hole.

"I don't think I left any out there," Eathorne said. "I made a couple of real good 20-footers for par, and making those five-footers is even harder."

Figg-Currier was another unlikely leader, especially because of her record in the Open.

She missed only three fairways, which she feels is just as essential as putting.

"The Donald Ross design requires you to think off the tee," she said. "You have to manage your game the best you can."


In Front

Leaders after first round of the U.S. Women's Open held at Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club in Southern Pines, N.C. (Par 70, 35-35):

Cindy Figg-Currier: 32-35--67 -3

A.J. Eathorne: 34-33--67 -3

Juli Inkster: 34-34--68 -2

Jill McGill: 36-32--68 -2

Mi Hyun Kim: 35-33--68 -2

Stephanie Keever: 34-35--69 -1

Se Ri Pak: 35-34--69 -1

Cristie Kerr: 34-35--69 -1

Dina Ammaccapane: 34-35--69 -1

Complete scores: D12

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