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Sorenstam back in swing of things

| Friday, July 20, 2007

NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. - Annika Sorenstam got exactly what she wanted -- and then some -- in the first round of the HSBC Women's World Match Play Championship.

Making her fourth start since returning from disk injuries in her back and neck, the 37-year-old Swede outlasted 62nd-seeded Katherine Hull in 20 holes Thursday in hazy and humid conditions at Wykagyl Country Club.

"It's key for me to just get to play and the more holes the better," said Sorenstam, seeded third in the 64-player event. "It's good for me to really get some pressure on myself again. I really haven't had that this year because I really haven't been in contention or I just haven't even played."

All square after 12 holes, Sorenstam and Hull each won three of the final six holes of regulation. Sorenstam took the 219-yard 13th with a par and won the 16th and 17th with birdies, while the Australian won 14, 15 and 18 with birdies.

"It was a thriller. There was a lot of drama," said Sorenstam, a stroke-play winner at Wykagyl in 1998 and 2000.

After halving the first extra hole with a par, Sorenstam won the match with a conceded par on the par-4 second. Hull made a double bogey, hitting into two bunkers.

"I'm just going to keep giving myself opportunities and keep working hard," Hull said. "I think I can compete out here and win tournaments."

Top-seeded Lorena Ochoa easily advanced, while No. 2 Karrie Webb, major winners Cristie Kerr and Morgan Pressel and 2006 winner Brittany Lincicome were eliminated.

Ochoa, the 2006 Sybase Classic winner at Wykagyl, routed South African teenager Ashleigh Simon, 6 and 5, matching the largest margin of victory in the three-year history of the event.

"It was a good day," Ochoa said. "In match play, it's always important to get off to a good start. ... I hope to keep going the same the next few days."

Charlotte Mayorkas, at No. 63 the highest seed to advance in tournament history, beat Webb with a birdie on No. 18. Down three holes after five, Mayorkas tied Webb with a birdie on No. 12.

The fourth-seeded Kerr, the U.S. Women's Open champion, dropped a 5-and-4 decision to 61st-seeded Amy Hung, while 59th-seeded Birdie Kim again got the best of the sixth-seeded Pressel, beating the Kraft Nabisco winner 2-up. Two years ago, Kim holed out from a bunker to beat Pressel in the U.S. Women's Open.

PGA Tour

In Milwaukee, Jeff Maggert turned to an old friend to help straighten out his sagging golf game, dusting off a Ping Anser putter that might be older than his five children.

Maggert, who missed the cut in his previous four tournaments, put a putter he has had for "probably 15 or 20 years" and a new set of irons to good use at Brown Deer Park yesterday, shooting a 7-under 63 to tie rookie Brendon de Jonge for the lead in the first round of the U.S. Bank Championship.

For all the technological advances to hit the golf world in the past two decades, Maggert said the familiar feel of an older club sometimes makes all the difference.

"It made me think a little bit more about making putts instead of worrying about missing putts," Maggert said. "It's confidence more than anything, I guess."

Confidence has been fleeting lately for Maggert, a PGA Tour veteran with three career victories. At 43, family obligations keep him from practicing as intensely as he used to, and he admits he's having a hard time keeping up with golf's hard-charging younger generation.

That group might now include De Jonge, a native of Zimbabwe who played collegiate golf at Virginia Tech. One day after his 27th birthday, he shot a 63 to claim a share of the lead.

With most of the top PGA Tour players overseas for the British Open this week, de Jonge said this tournament could be an opportunity for a young player to break through.

"It's a good chance for any young guy to get a win," de Jonge said. "Obviously, it's not as strong a field by any means, but it's still always going to be a good field. It's a great chance for one of us to make a move, definitely."

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