Castrale leads LPGA Championship

Friday, June 9, 2006

A string of birdies over the closing holes at Bulle Rock paid off in different ways for Michelle Wie and Nicole Castrale. It spared Wie a shaky start, and it sparked the hard-luck Castrale to a career-low round of 64 and a two-shot lead Thursday in the LPGA Championship at Havre de Grace, Md.

Three days after Wie made a respectable bid for the U.S. Open at Winged Foot, she found that not much had changed in a major championship for women. She still couldn't make a putt.

"On the fifth hole I made a double and I was ready to yank my hair out," she said after birdies on three of her last four holes gave her a 71. "I hung in there and fought through the round. My hair is still in, so I'm happy."

Three-time defending champion Annika Sorenstam struggled at times off the tee and around the green, and the best she could muster was a 71 that left her seven shots behind the surprising score from Castrale.

Sorenstam has not won in her last seven tournaments, and she was never in contention at the Kraft Nabisco Championship as her annual goal -- the Grand Slam -- evaporated. Now, she has some catching up to do if she wants to become the first woman to win the same major four straight times.

"I think it kind of summarized my year a little bit, so I'm not surprised," she said of her up-and-down day on a course that yielded two dozen rounds in the 60s.

Pat Hurst and Cristie Kerr each shot 66. The group at 67 included South Korean rookie Seon Hwa Lee, coming off her first LPGA Tour victory last week at the ShopRite Classic, and Dorothy Delasin, who played with Wie.

Karrie Webb, who won the first major of the year at the Kraft Nabisco, and Juli Inkster each opened with 70s, as did Dalhousie Golf Club touring professional Karen Stupples.

PGA Tour

Adam Scott holed out twice from off the green and made long birdie putts on the final two holes for a 6-under 65 and a one-stroke lead after the first round of the Barclays Classic at the Westchester Country Club in Harrison, N.Y.

Scott holed out from 105 yards for eagle on the par-4 seventh, chipped in from 50 feet on No. 12, made a 23-foot putt on 17 and closed with a 25-footer on the par-5 18th.

David Howell and Billy Andrade were tied for second. Fredrik Jacobson opened with a 67 and U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Lehman, David Toms, Rocco Mediate, Arron Oberholser, Joey Sindelar and Daisuke Maruyama shot 68s.

Masters champion Phil Mickelson, preparing for the U.S. Open next week at nearby Winged Foot, had a 70.

European PGA Tour

Markus Brier had an ace and six birdies in a 6-under 65 that gave him a one-stroke lead after the first round of the BA-CA Austrian Open in Oberwaltersdorf, Austria.

Sven Struever, Jorge Benedetti, Simon Dyson and Oliver Whiteley were all 66 at Fontana Golf Club

Colin Montgomerie was two strokes back in a group that also included Miguel Angel Jimenez.

-- The Associated Press

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