Saturday, July 24, 2004

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Michelle Wie had four bogeys in five holes on the way to a 76 yesterday at the Evian Masters.

Sorenstam holds lead

EVIAN, France » Annika Sorenstam vaulted into a three-shot lead at the Evian Masters tournament with an impressive 7-under 65 in a storm-delayed third round yesterday.

In a hallmark display of cool, controlled play, the world No. 1 rattled off seven birdies on an unblemished card to put her three shots clear of overnight leader Karen Stupples in second.

"What can I say? I hit a lot of good irons and was solid all day," said Sorenstam, who had five birdie putts from inside four feet. "Even when I made a mistake I was able to make par, and even a tap-in birdie at the 18th."

Heavy rain fell as the last group played the last two holes. Sorenstam drove into the left rough at the par-5 18th, got her 9-iron grabbed by the wet grass and only advanced the ball 74 yards. With 170 yards to the pin, the 33-year-old Swede then flighted a 7-iron to two inches from the hole and tapped in her seventh birdie.

Honolulu's Michelle Wie, plagued by the same putting problems as on Thursday -- when she had five three-putts -- had four bogeys in five holes from the second, then had twelve pars for a 76.

"I had the stupidest three-putt in my life at the second hole," Wie said. "I saw the downhill but still putted hard."

The 14-year-old's travails on the notoriously tricky Evian greens continued at the fourth when she came out of the right greenside bunker but missed the putt.

Three putts from beyond 24 feet at the fifth then an overcooked chip from the fringe rough at the next had her 4-over for the day.

"I just had no confidence in my putting," Wie confessed. "These last two days I've had no feel."

Overall, Sorenstam sits 16-under-par. Stupples slipped to second with a 69. Mexico's Lorena Ochoa was in third after carding a 67, and Australia's Wendy Doolan shot a 69 to finish in fourth.

Sorenstam will be aiming for her fifth victory of the season today in the $2.5 million tournament and her third Evian title. She has led 54 times going into the final round and won 35 of those times.

She has finished outside the top-three only twice.

Stupples, who made four birdies and a bogey, crafted a 9-ard chip-in to birdie 17 then birdied the last to maintain contact with Sorenstam.

"I was very relieved the chip went in," Stupples said. "Then the birdie at 18 was really nice."

The 31-year-old Stupples knows what to expect playing with Sorenstam today.

She has partnered with her three times this year and each time the Swede had a 65.

"Even when there's a glimmer of hope, like at 18, then she nearly holes it," Stupples said, smiling in disbelief. "She's number one. That's what you've got to expect."

Ochoa, who opened her LPGA victory account this year, had four birdies on the back-nine to pull into contention.

"It'll be something special to play in the last group with Annika," Ochoa said.

The Mexican has never been paired with Sorenstam.

"It will be something fun to catch up with her," she said.

Defending champion Juli Inkster had a 67 to tie 11th at 210.

Meg Mallon, a winner at the U.S. Women's Open and in Canada in her last two outings, will not threepeat here.

Mallon had a 72 to tie 17th at 212, twelve shots off the pace.


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