Sorenstam surges to lead

Annika Sorenstam, her sights set on a fifth Samsung World Championship crown, surged to a four-stroke lead on Saturday.

Sorenstam fired a third-round 66 on the Canyons course at Bighorn Golf Club for 201 and a four-stroke lead over South Korea’s Gloria Park, whose bogey-free 68 put her at 11-under 205.

Michelle Wie, the 16-year-old schoolgirl sensation who is playing her first tournament as a professional, carded a 71 for 206 and sole possession of third place in the 20-woman field.

Wie had fired a 65 on Friday to earn a place in Saturday’s final pairing with overnight leader Grace Park of South Korea, who ballooned to a 76 for 209.

Sorenstam nabbed three straight birdies from the second and picked up another at the seventh.

She gave shots back at the ninth and 11th, but birdied four of her final five holes to take control of the tournament.

Her six-under effort improved on a disappointing second round that saw her bogey two of her last three holes in a 71.

“I thought I played really well all day,” Sorenstam said. “I started really strong, had a tougher stretch in the middle and finished well.

“Obviously I finished a lot better than yesterday, finished with four birdies the last five holes.
So I’m very pleased with my round.”

Sorenstam said her long birdie putt at the second hole boosted her confidence.

“On the second hole, I probably made a 16-, 17-footer for birdie. I haven’t made a lot of putts this week, and I thought this could be my day,” she said.

“I think that’s a key to better scores to make a few. They were just less than 20 feet, so we are not talking about massive putts. But at least they are opportunities that I took advantage of.”

With a win here this week, Sorenstam would tie Mickey Wright for the most victories at a single LPGA event. Wright won the Sea Island Open five times in a seven-year span starting in 1957.

Both Gloria Park and Sorenstam said the course was playing longer and tougher in breezy conditions.

“That’s what I like about this course and the set-ups,” said Sorenstam, whose eight titles worldwide this year include the first two majors of the year. “It’s not the same every day. We have to think a little bit more. The holes are just different, and it makes it a little tougher.”

Wie, who last week signed contracts with Nike and Sony worth an estimated $10-million, had a three-putt bogey at the second and a double-bogey at the par-five third, where she was right off the tee, topped a three-wood and finally three-putted from five feet.

“The third hole was pretty stupid,” Wie said. “I could have easily made a birdie there if I had laid it up. I decided to take my three-wood out there.”

She said with hindsight the three-wood choice and the three-putt were equally irritating.

“If I didn’t hit my three-wood, then I wouldn’t have had that three-putt,” she said. “You know, next time around if that happens, I think I’m probably going to lay up.”

Wie showed her resiliency with four birdies in the rest of her round, including one at the last to keep Sorenstam in sight.

“It felt really good that I actually brought it back,” Wie said. “I hadn’t been feeling that great after I was three-over after three holes. But I just calmed myself down and made a realistic goal, and I’m really happy that I achieved it.”

Grace Park dropped to a tie for 10th after a four-over effort that featured two bogeys and a seven on the par-three eighth.—Sapa-AFP

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