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Pettersen takes lead at Kapalua

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[October 17, 2008]  KAPALUA, Hawaii (AP) -- The more it blew, the better Suzann Pettersen played.

Pettersen birdied the final two holes for a 4-under 68 to take the first-round lead Thursday in the inaugural and windswept Kapalua LPGA Classic.

Auto RepairTop-ranked Lorena Ochoa, seeking her eighth victory of the season, opened with a 74. She was paired with No. 2 Annika Sorenstam, who struggled to a 77.

Tracy Hanson aced the 165-yard 12th hole to match Brittany Lang at 69. Australian rookie Anna Rawson was another stroke back along with Laura Diaz, Kristy McPherson, Ji Young Oh, Brandie Burton and Sun Young Yoo.

After a relatively calm morning, Maui's trademark tradewinds picked up and kept the players from attacking the pine tree-lined Bay Course.

Only 19 of the 132 players in the field were able to break par, with only five players from the afternoon groups shooting below par.

"The wind is the only thing that can protect this course from the players, and if it stays like this, I would take four rounds at 4 under," said Pettersen, who took advantage of her early start time.

Despite the breezes, Pettersen made a move at the end, birdieing three of her final four holes. She hit a wedge to 3 feet on No. 8 and to 10 feet on the next hole.

"I like to play in the windy conditions because I like to create different shots," said Pettersen, who started the day on No. 10 and made the turn with two birdies.

She sank a 10-foot birdie putt on the par-5 first to move to 3 under. Her bogeys came when she three-putted from 20 feet on the par-4 fourth and her second shot landed in the bunker on the par-4 seventh.

The 27-year-old Pettersen is seeking her first LPGA Tour victory of the year after a breakout season in 2007 when she won five times, including the LPGA Championship.

This year, the Norwegian star is ranked No. 5 in the world and has seven top-10 finishes in 19 starts, including a runner-up finish at the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

"Last year, I played great and when I had a chance, I got it," she said. "This year, I had a chance, but I haven't got it. ... It's such a fine line of what kind of defines a great year, a good year (and) an average year."

She did win twice this year on the European tour.

"I know that if I'm patient and I play well, I'm capable of winning and that's the most important thing," she said.

Hanson opened with 11 straight pars and aced the 165-yard 12th to reach 2 under. She birdied three holes later to finish a stroke behind Pettersen.

Hanson is trying to finish strong after a difficult season. She has missed the cut in eight of 17 events with a 38th-place tie in the Sybase Classic as her best finish.

Ochoa and Sorenstam were among the afternoon starters who took the brunt of the winds. Ochoa was steady most of the day but got into trouble in the rough and bogeyed Nos. 15 and 16.

They were outscored by their playing partner and Kapalua touring pro, Morgan Pressel, who birdied two of her final four holes for a 72.

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It was an uncharacteristic round for Sorenstam, especially in Hawaii. She opened the season with a victory at Turtle Bay and finished fourth the following week at Ko Olina.

Sorenstam had trouble with her short game and navigating the fast and undulating greens. She had two double bogeys and two bogeys in a horrendous six-hole stretch to make the turn at 5 over.

On the par-4 fourth, Sorenstam had to chip over a small hill, directly into the howling wind three times from almost the same spot just to get it on the green.

The 72-time tour winner had just two birdies and dropped to near the bottom of the leaderboard at 6 over when she missed a 7-foot par putt on No. 13.

She'll have more favorable conditions Friday with an early tee time but will still require a better round to make it to the weekend. The last time she failed to make the cut was the 2006 Michelob ULTRA Open.

Sorenstam is making one of her last competitive appearances in the United States. Sorenstam, who drew the loudest applause during introductions, plans to retire at the end of the year.

The group at 71 included Pat Hurst, Cristie Kerr and Hee-Won Han.

Divots: The event marked the return of women's golf to Maui. The Kemper Open, which was played at Wailea, left in 1992. ... Kapalua also hosts the PGA Tour's Mercedes-Benz Championship, which is played on the Plantation Course. ... Hilary Lunke and China's Shanshan Feng withdrew because of undisclosed reasons.

[Associated Press; By JAYMES SONG]

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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