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Hjorth shoots 7 under to take early State Farm lead

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- Annika Sorenstam smiled and pumped her fist. She had reason to feel good after watching the ball drop into the cup for an eagle.

The positive vibe didn't last.

By the end of the day, Sorenstam was frustrated. And another Swede held the lead at the State Farm Classic.

Sorenstam was five strokes behind Maria Hjorth, who shot a 7-under 65 on Thursday for a one-shot lead over Dina Ammaccapane, Nina Reis and Brittany Lang.

Lorena Ochoa was at 5 under, and 2004 winner Cristie Kerr was another shot back.

"I'm just disappointed, obviously," said Sorenstam, who bogeyed the 16th and 18th holes. "It's no fun to finish the way I did."

Three weeks after a one-stroke victory on her home course at the TPC of Scandinavia, Sorenstam met Ochoa again. They were grouped with Kerr this time. The gallery on the 18th hole at The Rail Golf Club was smaller -- several hundred, compared to 20,000. And they left the course record book as is, after setting marks for the lowest round at Bro-Balsta -- where Sorenstam started playing when she was 12.

"I enjoyed playing with them," Ochoa said. "They make you concentrate on your game. I always enjoy playing with Annika and Cristie, so it should be fun [Friday], too."

Sorenstam and Ochoa were 3 under at the turn Thursday. A birdie on No. 14 put Sorenstam at 4 under, but things unraveled at the end.

Her 6-iron on 16 settled near the edge of the water, and she chipped and two-putted. On 18, Sorenstam hit a bunker near the front of the green. She dug out, but missed a short putt for par.

It was a rough finish after a strong start.

"I'm not going to dwell on that," Sorenstam said. "We have three more days."

Sorenstam birdied the first hole after her approach stopped about 2 feet from the cup. She pumped her fist after knocking in a 20-foot putt for an eagle on the par-5 fourth to go 3 under, but her smile disappeared when she bogeyed the par-3 fifth.

Like Sorenstam, Ochoa birdied the first hole, sinking a 15-foot putt. She was 3 under after converting a 20-foot putt for birdie on No. 4 and knocking in an 8-footer on the fifth.

She birdied the par-4 10th and bogeyed the 13th. But while Sorenstam struggled on the 16th and 18th holes, Ochoa birdied them. Her day ended with a short putt, after her approach stopped a few feet from the cup.

"A course like this, scores can be very low so you have to be aggressive," Ochoa said. "You have to hit it close to the hole and make as many birdies as you can because there are so many good players out here on this course and you have to go low."

Hjorth, seeking her third victory and her first since 1999, started from the 10th tee and had seven birdies -- five on her back nine. She birdied Nos. 4, 5, 6 and 7, and walked away with another on No. 9.

The 65 was her third this year, tying her season-low. The four straight birdies? Hjorth thinks she has hit five in a row at some point.

"Maybe," she said. "But it's great when you get them, get on that run. All of a sudden, you see the line clearly on the greens, the putts are going in, you are hitting good shots and hitting the ball close."

She has played well here in the past, tying for fifth last year and for 17th two years ago -- her best finish in 2004.

"It's a course that I like," Hjorth said. "You just have to make your putts to make birdies because it's really kind of a birdie course out here. You have to take advantage of the chances that you get."

Kerr was 1 under at the turn after narrowly missing three birdies on the front nine. She had a birdie putt lip out on No. 3, just missed a 30-footer on the fourth, and sent an 8-footer past the edge of the cup on the fifth.

"There were a lot of putts that could have gone in," said Kerr, who hit eight fairways. "I didn't hit it particularly well. I only hit eight fairways, but I hung in there."

Defending champion Pat Hurst shot 1 over, while Se Ri Pak was 3 over.