Tschetter shreds course record in Phoenix

Associated Press
Thursday, March 15

PHOENIX -- Kris Tschetter wasted little time giving herself some breathing room at the LPGA's Standard Register Ping.

 Kris Tschetter
Kris Tschetter never went more than two holes without a birdie during her opening-round 63.
Taking advantage of an early start and greens softened by dew, Tschetter shot a record 9-under 63 Thursday for a two-shot lead over Se Ri Pak and Annika Sorenstam.

It would have been a record in any case, because the 6,459-yard Moon Valley Country Club course was taken out of play after the 1999 tournament and shortened from par-73 to 72 during a $5 million facelift. But Tschetter's score was equal to any on the books -- Juli Inkster had a 9-under 64 in 1998, and Charlotta Sorenstam carded an 8-under 64 at the Legacy Golf Resort on her way to last year's title.

"I really love the changes," Tschetter said. "When they started changing the course, I didn't want them to because I always liked this course, and I thought the greens really fit (it), and I think they did a great job of keeping the greens, you know, fitting the course."

Tschetter, a 14th-year pro who tied her career-best round, easily could have had a bigger lead. But Annika Sorenstam, the winner last week in Tucson, and Pak, who tied for second, made late surges.

Sorenstam had a birdie-birdie finish, and Pak eagled the next-to-last hole for her 65.

Cathy Johnston-Forbes, Michelle Ellis and Hiromi Kobayashi were three shots back, with Lorie Kane, Maggie Will, Laura Diaz and Rachel Teske at 67.

The tournament's three most recent champions got off to disappointing starts.

Charlotta Sorenstam shot 74. Karrie Webb, the world No. 1 and the 1999 winner, shot 73, and 1998 champion Liselotte Neumann was disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard.

Neumann two-putted for par off a practice green on the ninth hole. She overlooked the red line that distinguishes the two greens, failed to take relief on the errant shot -- a two-shot penalty -- and signed for a 74 instead of a 76.

Tschetter had surgery to stimulate cartilage growth in her hip in June and another surgery in October. She skipped the first three events this year, pulled out of the Hawaiian Open after hurting her back and tied for 16th in Tucson.

She said the hip felt fine, and it was obvious nothing affected her swing.

Tschetter birdied five of the first eight holes and added others on the 12th, 13th, 15th and 16th holes -- all after hitting sand or pitching wedges within 6 feet.

"I was feeling good," Tschetter said. "I mean, we've been working hard, and it's just one of those good days where things go your way."

Pak's 5-iron second shot from 220 yards out ran up within 3 feet of the pin on the 17th hole of her round, and she sank the eagle putt.

"It was still bouncing -- you know, huge bounce to the green or rough, doesn't matter. So we have more chance to get more distance," she said.

Sorenstam had played 49 holes without a bogey until her approach shot on the seventh hole bounced over the green. She chipped up, but two-putted for a bogey to go even.

Sorenstam overshot again on the next hole, but holed a 7-foot birdie putt after the chip and added four more birdies after the turn.

She noted the similarities between Phoenix and her first round in Tucson, when she also shot 65 after Jen Hanna opened with a 63.

"A lot of the women are working harder, practicing harder, working out much harder," Sorenstam said. "I think everybody is putting the time in. When you see somebody do so well, you want to do well too, and that just pushes everybody."