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Sorenstam trails Stupples by 3

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

SUNNINGDALE, England – Ex-Arizona Wildcat Annika Sorenstam’s strong start at the Women’s British Open was not quite as good as Karen Stupples’ opening round.

Stupples made seven birdies in a bogey-free 7-under-par 65 yesterday, putting her three shots ahead of defending champion Sorenstam.

Sorenstam was in a group of five players at 4-under. South Korea’s Jung Yeon Lee is alone in second place after a 67.

Stupples, whose only LPGA Tour victory came at the season-opening event in Tucson, held the lead midway through the Evian Masters last week before fading to a fourth-place finish.

Ex-UA star Natalie Gulbis, Scotland’s Catriona Matthew, Finland’s Minea Blomqvist and Germany’s Bettina Hauert are tied with Sorenstam.

“It was great to see the progress, looking at the numbers – one, two, three and so on up to seven,” Stupples said. “That was pretty good.”

By the time Stupples finished, Sorenstam was long gone.

Chasing her eighth career major victory and second of the season, Sorenstam had an early start and took advantage of the sunny, windless conditions. She held the early lead until Stupples finished five hours later.

“I’m very happy with my 68,” Sorenstam said. “It’s one of the better starts in the championship for me. I wanted to take advantage of my tee time. The conditions were great, not a breath of air. The greens were pure and they were really good scoring conditions.”

Despite coming off a loss last week at Evian when Wendy Doolan picked up six shots over the last 12 holes, Sorenstam appears to be in form to repeat her British Open triumph.

Sorenstam won at Royal Lytham and St. Annes last year to complete a career Grand Slam. She defended her LPGA Championship title in June for her seventh major victory and has four LPGA Tour victories this year and 52 in her career.

Sorenstam is trying to join Mickey Wright as the only players to defend titles in all four majors. Wright won the U.S. Women’s Open in 1958-59, the LPGA Championship in 1960-61, the Titleholders Championship in 1961-62 and the Western Opens in 1962-63.

In addition to consecutive wins at the LPGA Championship, Sorenstam won the U.S. Women’s Open in 1995-96, and the Nabisco Championship in 2001-02.

Gulbis, looking for her first victory in 2 1/2 years on tour, had a bogey-free 68.

She was initially credited with five birdies, including three straight to start her round, but pointed out that the scorer had made a mistake at No. 2, which she parred.

PHOTO CAPTION: The Associated Press

Ex-Arizona Wildcat Annika Sorenstam trails by three strokes after the first round of the Women’s British Open. She shot a 4-under-par 68.

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