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Sorenstam trying to start another win streak

STOCKBRIDGE, Ga. -- Annika Sorenstam was back in her comfort
zone Thursday -- making birdies, staying out of trouble and looking
to get started on a new winning streak.
Sorenstam shot a bogey-free 67 in the opening round of the
Chick-fil-A Charity Championship, though plenty of big names were
lining up to challenge the world's No. 1 player.
There's Karrie Webb, the last player not named Sorenstam to be
ranked No. 1. She also started with a 5-under 67.
Cristie Kerr was right in the thick of things, coming off a
victory at Kingsmill last weekend that snapped Sorenstam's
record-tying run of five straight LPGA Tour wins.
After scrambling for a 68 that left her just one stroke behind
Sorenstam, Kerr didn't defer at all to the super Swede.
"Obviously, she's been the best player in the world for a long
time, but there's a lot of players willing to step up and challenge
her," Kerr said. "I'm not too concerned about her. I'm just going
to play my game."
They were all chasing England's Laura Davies, a four-time major
champion who hasn't won on tour since 2001. She took advantage of
prime scoring conditions to shoot a 66 at Eagles Landing Country
Club.
"Maybe today was a good turning point for me," said Davies,
who won this event a decade ago.
Sorenstam's quest for a record sixth straight victory was doomed
when she opened the Michelob Ultra Open with a 76 -- her highest
score in relation to par (5 over) in nearly three years.
She tried to get back in the mix, but a shaky putter ruined
those hopes.
No such worries on Thursday. Sorenstam made a couple of nice
saves from the sand but was never in serious trouble, leaving her
just one stroke behind Davies.
"It's always nice to get off to a good start and get some
momentum for the week," Sorenstam said. "It's no fun getting off
to a rotten start. You have to fight back all the way, and you
don't feel like you can make any mistakes."
Sorenstam's tremendous distance off the tee allowed her to take
aim at the flag with short irons, setting up plenty of birdie
changes. Only one of her five birdie putts was longer than 10 feet,
and she actually missed a couple of chances to take her score even
lower down the stretch.
At No. 7 -- Sorenstam finished on the front nine -- her drive on
the 306-yard, downhill hole snuggled up alongside the green. She
chipped to about 6 feet, but couldn't make the putt.
Still, Sorenstam was more steady with the putter than the last
time out. She's obviously comfortable at Eagles Landing, having won
the Atlanta-area tournament in 2001.
"I'm happy to come out and be able to read some greens,"
Sorenstam said. "Last week, I couldn't see a single thing. I would
tell my caddie, 'I think it's left edge,' and he would say, 'No, I
think it's on the right.' I really didn't know what to do. Here, I
have a good feel, and it's nice to be back on the right track
again."
Sorenstam's one-week letdown pales in comparison to Davies, who
is on her fourth putter in five weeks. Finally, she found one to
her liking, shooting her lowest score of the year at one of her
favorite events.
Davies didn't make any long putts, but she watched a bunch of
short ones drop. The only stumble: a three-putt from 20 feet on her
third hole.
"Most of my birdies, they were pretty close in there," said
Davies, who broke 70 for only the second time in 26 rounds. "But I
wasn't missing them, and that made a big difference."
Italy's Giulia Sergas, seeking her first win on tour, shot 31 on
the back nine and joined Sorenstam and Webb in a three-way tie for
second. Defending tournament champion Jennifer Rosales was in
contention again despite a nagging wrist injury that knocked her
out of two recent tournaments.
"I was a little nervous coming in because I've never defended a
title here," said Rosales, who joined Kerr in a big group at 68.
"I made some putts and my ball striking is getting there."
It was certainly a day for going low. The Chick-fil-A has been
plagued by stormy conditions throughout its history, but this
year's tournament was bumped back two weeks in hopes of getting
better weather.
So far, so good. With temperatures in the 80s on a sunny, humid
day, the players got plenty of distance on the rock-hard fairways.
Only the firm greens kept scores from getting totally out of hand.
Kerr is ready for all comers. The top-ranked American on tour
isn't lacking for confidence after her fifth tour victory -- but the
first with Sorenstam in the field.
"You always kind of know she's there, and you know she's
capable of playing really well," Kerr said. "But I think I'm
capable of playing just as well."

Divots:

Tournament host Nancy Lopez took advantage of the
conditions with a respectable 72 and hopes of making the cut for
the first time since 2001. ... Also at 68: Lorena Ochoa, Lorie
Kane, Nicole Jeray, Heather Bowie, A.J. Eathorne and Denise
Killeen. ... Erica Blasberg was knocked out by a rookie mistake.
The 20-year-old Californian shot a 70, but left the scoring tent
with her scorecard and was disqualified.