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A burst of birdies keeps Ochoa near the top in Kraft Nabisco Championship

A burst of birdies keeps Ochoa near the top in Kraft Nabisco Championship

Lorena Ochoa birdied four straight holes around the turn and settled for an opening round of 4-under 68 Thursday, leaving her one shot behind Karen Stupples at the Kraft Nabisco Championship.
Starting with a sand wedge to 2 feet on the 18th hole that she called her best of the day, Ochoa climbed the leaderboard, and only a three-putt bogey from the fringe and over severe humps on the par-3 eighth kept her from a share of the lead.
"It was important to get a couple of birdies early in the round and get some momentum," Ochoa said.
Ochoa is trying to become the first woman since Annika Sorenstam in 2005 to win consecutive majors, having won her first last summer at St. Andrews in the Women's British Open.
Playing with defending champion Morgan Pressel, she powered one tee shot after another down the middle of the fairway, well past trouble and usually 40 yards by Pressel. It finally paid off with the four straight birdies, three from inside 6 feet.
Stupples, who won the Women's British Open in 2004 and is getting back into the swing after giving birth to her first child last year, was the first to play and made it around Mission Hills without a bogey for 67.
Ai Miyazato of Japan birdied her last hole for a 68 to join Ochoa. Natalie Gulbis was among those at 69, while Maria Jose Uribe was the low amateur and in a group at 70 that included Liselotte Neumann.
Annika Sorenstam tried to stay with the leaders, but she failed to take advantage of the par 5s and had to settle for a 71. It was her 15th consecutive round under par this year, but left her trailing Ochoa.
"It's a long way to go," Sorenstam said. "You just have to go out and battle it day by day, stroke by stroke, and take it as it comes."
Laura Davies lost her battle on one hole.
Needing only this major to complete the career Grand Slam and qualify for the World Golf Hall of Fame, the big hitter from England took a 10 on the 18th hole as she was making the turn.
Davies hit her third shot into the water. After taking a penalty drop and hitting her fifth over the green, she chipped through the green and back into the water. Her eighth shot spun back off the green and nearly into the water, and she got up-and-down to spare herself an even higher number. Davies wound up with a 76.
"I walk off with a 10 and the tournament is over for me," she said. "It's sickening."
Under bright sunshine and a strong wind that was still manageable, Stupples found her confidence early by finding the fairways, and saving par the one time she strayed. She picked up easy birdies on two of the par 5s, then capped off her round with a 6-iron on the par-3 17th to within 6 feet.
It was a good sign that her strength is back nearly a year after her son, Logan, was born.
"Up until about a month ago, I hadn't really regained my full strength," she said. "All of a sudden, it came back almost overnight. And that was really good to see, that I was able to get through the ball."


Updated : 2021-10-20 00:12 GMT+08:00