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Sorenstam Back in the Mix for Six

She makes a big move on the back nine for a 67, but she still trails by seven shots with 36 holes to play today.

May 08, 2005|Thomas Bonk | Times Staff Writer

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. — She sent a message, but Annika Sorenstam just wishes she could have yelled a little louder.

After a four-under-par 67 in the second round that moved her up 81 places, Sorenstam begins today's 36-hole marathon finale at the rain-delayed Michelob Ultra Open seven shots behind Cristie Kerr with a chance for a record sixth consecutive LPGA victory not quite as remote as when she showed up Saturday at soggy Kingsmill Resort & Spa.

Sorenstam birdied four of five holes in a fist-pumping stretch on the back side, atoned for her opening round of 76 and gave the 25 players in front of her something to think about today -- herself.

"A few more birdies would have been great, to get on the leaderboard and tell them I am still here." she said.

"I think they know I am here, I just don't know how badly they know I am here."

In danger of missing the cut after Thursday's wobbling first round, Sorenstam regrouped Friday when the second round was washed out and rescheduled for Saturday.

As it turned out, the biggest change in her fortune came when she started leaning on caddie Terry McNamara to read her putts for her -- all of them.

"We got a little momentum," McNamara said. "We need some more of it."

Kerr's 68 could have been even better, but she played the last five holes in two over and said she was taxed mentally and physically.

Kerr, who has a 36-hole total of six-under 136, also said that if she does hold on to win and end Sorenstam's streak, it would mean more to her.

Kerr is a four-time winner on the LPGA Tour, but she has never won a tournament with Sorenstam in the field. After all, Kerr said, Sorenstam isn't perfect.

"She wins a lot, yes, but sometimes she doesn't win," Kerr said. "When she finishes fifth or sixth, nobody seems to remember those times."

The most recent Kerr-Sorenstam matchup was in Mexico in March when Kerr led by three shots after two rounds, shot a 75 and lost to Sorenstam by three shots.

Comebacks of major proportions are not foreign to Sorenstam. In 2001 at the Office Depot at Wilshire Country Club, she trailed Pat Hurst by 10 shots to begin the last round and still won.

Kerr lead Sorenstam at one point by 11 shots, but there was a good reason for that.

For a while, Sorenstam's march looked more like a sleepwalk. She parred the first 10 holes, including the par-five seventh, where she stood over an eagle putt from 40 feet, but walked away instead with a three-putt par.

She left a 15-footer for birdie short at the eighth and at the ninth, where she chipped in for birdie Thursday, Sorenstam missed the green but saved par by steering in a four-foot putt.

So when Sorenstam made the turn, she was right where she started the day, at five over par.

As it turns out, she was just getting started. The roll started at the 336-yard par-four 11th, where Sorenstam rolled in a 15-footer for birdie and pumped her fist. When she sank a four-footer to birdie the 12th, she was on her way. Back-to-back birdies at the 14th and 15th -- her first birdie on a par-five hole in two rounds -- put Sorenstam at one over for the tournament and squarely back into contention.

Her birdie at the 15th came after she knocked a four-wood onto the green and two-putted from 35 feet.

With 36 holes left today, Sorenstam hopes her rigorous off-season physical training regimen will pay off. She figures an endurance contest is something that favors her.

"We'll see," she said. "Thirty-six holes sounds pretty good to me. I am in pretty good shape. I don't think that is something I have to worry about. I just hope I play well. It seems like Cristie is playing good golf.

"Having said that, I am still optimistic, but I need to shoot a really low score."

Michele Redman, who shot a 69, trails Kerr by two shots, the same as A.J. Eathorne, and there are 13 players under par. But with half the tournament still to be played and one day to get it done, Sorenstam is still an object of attention.

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