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LPGA Watching, Cheering Annika

May 23, 2003|From Associated Press

CORNING, N.Y. — After Britain's Karen Stupples matched the best round of her five years on the LPGA Tour, she did what most of the other players did at the Corning Classic -- she watched Annika Sorenstam.

"I am rooting for Annika 110%," Stupples said Thursday after shooting an eight-under-par 64 to take the first-round lead. "It's always at the back of your mind. It's going to be such a big part of what we do this week -- how she's doing there -- and that's fantastic."

Stupples tied the best opening round at Corning, set in 1994 by Nancy Ramsbottom. And she did it in the shadow of Sorenstam, the tour's best player, whose one-over 71 against the men at Colonial was shown on a giant TV screen near the 18th green.

"There was a big holler in the locker room when she got her first birdie," Rosie Jones said before shooting a 66. "Wherever there's a TV, people are watching."

Jones, a two-time Corning champion, was tied for second with Helen Alfredsson of Sweden and Michele Redman.

Natalie Gulbis, Lorie Kane, Dottie Pepper, Mi-Hyun Kim, Amy Fruhwirth and Meg Mallon were tied for fifth at 67. Juli Inkster and Sweden's Catriona Matthew led a group of eight players at 68.

Charlotta Sorenstam, besieged all week by questions about her famous sister, had a 71 on the 6,062-yard Corning Country Club course, which is 1,018 yards shorter than Colonial.

Defending Corning champion Laura Diaz, ailing with a torn tendon in her left ankle, shot an even-par 72.

A year ago, Stupples missed her tee time on opening day here and was disqualified. She atoned for that nicely with eight birdies and no bogeys on a near-perfect day for golf, holing a 30-foot birdie putt at No. 1 to get off to a flying start.

"I felt pretty good coming in here," said Stupples, who tied for seventh two weeks ago at Asahi Ryokuken International, her best finish this year. "I really feel I should be contending week in and week out. Mentally, I've got to make sure that I get myself there now."

People here have a vested interest in Annika Sorenstam. If she makes the cut at Colonial, she has pledged to donate half her winnings to the charities of the Corning Classic.

When players reached No. 18 while Sorenstam was shooting, most stopped ever-so-briefly to look up. Kris Tschetter couldn't take her eyes off the big screen as she waited to putt for par.

"I'm too distracted," she said to caddie Forrest Forbes, who quickly replied: "Time to refocus."

Then Tschetter, who shot a 69, missed the putt.

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