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Sorenstam-Creamer dispute overshadows first round

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Paula Creamer wasn't about to give
Annika Sorenstam an inch.

The season-ending ADT Championship got off to a rocky start
Thursday when the top two players on the LPGA Tour got into a tense
dispute on the 18th fairway over where Sorenstam should have taken
a drop from the hazard.

"Neither one of them was going to budge," rules official Janet
Lindsay said.

After a debate that lasted so long it was almost too dark to
finish at Trump International, the ruling ultimately went
Sorenstam's way. She was allowed to go to a ball drop instead of
returning to the tee, although she still made double bogey and fell
out of a tie for the lead.

Hee-Won Han led with a 5-under 67 that essentially went
unnoticed.

This round might be remembered as the start of a rivalry between
the LPGA Tour's best players -- one the undisputed star who already
is in the Hall of Fame, the other a 19-year-old rookie with the
moxie to stand up for what she thought was right.

"We were trying to determine where it went in," Sorenstam
said. "We're standing 220 yards away, and we're talking about
inches."

Creamer, who finished with a two-putt par for a 68, stared hard
at Sorenstam as the Swede spoke to reporters, and the rookie later
had an animated discussion with LPGA Tour commissioner Carolyn
Bivens and Lindsay.

She said there were no hard feelings. But she didn't think
Sorenstam took the right drop.

"It was her word versus my word," Creamer said. "I don't feel
that it crossed [the hazard]. We're never going to agree because
she saw it differently. ... In my heart of hearts, I did not see it
cross. It's her conscience. If she thinks it did, it did."

It wasn't their only dispute.

On the 16th green, after Sorenstam played a difficult chip from
the side of a bunker to about 6 feet, the Swede asked if she could
fix what appeared to be a pitch mark in the line of her putt.
Creamer thought it was a scuff mark, made by spikes, that could not
be repaired.

When Sorenstam called for a rules official, Creamer told her to
go ahead and fix it, then turned her back as Sorenstam stooped down
to make the repair. Sorenstam missed the putt.

But that was nothing compared with the 18th.

The 420-yard closing hole is among the most daunting at Trump
International, with water down the right side as it bends to the
right toward the green, with a bunker that feeds into the lake.
Creamer hit the middle of the fairway. As evening clouds gathered,
Sorenstam hit a 4-wood that the strong breeze carried slightly to
the right.

There was no splash. They found the ball inside the red hazard
line, plugged.

And that's when the dispute began.

"It came in as a little banana," Sorenstam said, reasoning
that it had to cross the land before going beyond the red hazard
line.

Creamer thought it was over the water during its entire flight,
meaning Sorenstam would have had to hit her third shot from the
tee. The walking scorer tried to get involved, saying he saw it hit
land.

"How could it trickle in if it's in the sand?" Creamer later
said.

Another person in the gallery also said he saw it hit land,
adding to the confusion.

"I don't know if it was a banana ball," Creamer said. "I
think it did not cross up there. It was her word. She's the
player."

That's the conclusion Lindsay, the rules official, reached. In
case of a tie, the decision goes to who hit the ball.

Creamer is only a rookie, but she already has made it clear she
has designs on replacing Sorenstam at No. 1. She won twice this
year, including an eight-shot victory at the Evian Masters in
France, and further stated her case as a rising star with her play
at the Solheim Cup.

Sorenstam already sent one message to the youngsters. She won by
eight shots at the Samsung World Championship last month when
16-year-old Michelle Wie made her professional debut. The Swede is
going for her 10th victory of the year at Trump International, and
already has 65 career wins.

But the gloves came off in the gloaming at Trump International.

Asked if Creamer was satisfied with the drop, Sorenstam said,
"She didn't have to worry. She was in the fairway. It was probably
the most fair thing."

Lost in the argument was a roller coaster round for both of
them.

Creamer started strong with four birdies on the first six holes,
until she hit a hybrid club into the water on the par-3 seventh and
made double bogey.

Sorenstam, the defending champion, made four birdies in a
five-hole stretch to put her name atop the leaderboard, and reached
6 under with a 20-foot birdie on the 13th.

But she caught a buried lie in the slope of a bunker right of
the 14th green, barely able to identify the ball. She dug in her
heels, knowing it was unlikely she could get out of the sand. She
blasted away, only to see the ball roll back into her footprint.
She was lucky to get that one out, to about 45 feet, and had to
made a 12-footer for double bogey.

Back she came, hitting 7-wood from 210 yards to 15 feet for
eagle to restore her lead.

Then came the bogey on the 16th, and the final hole that could
serve as the beginning of some interesting times.