Annika Sorenstam shot a 3-under 69, racing to finish before dark, to take a three-stroke lead Friday in the U.S. Senior Women’s Open.
The 50-year-old Sorenstam, a three-time U.S. Women’s Open champion making her first appearance in the senior event, birdied Nos. 7-9 to get to 8 under and closed with pars on Nos. 1 and 2 at Brooklawn Country Club.
Sorenstam has hit 32 of 36 greens in regulation, with husband Mike McGee working as her caddie.
“I’m super-pleased, I really am,” Sorenstam said. “The driver today was maybe not as sharp, but my irons were really on spot. Mike and I think we have a good system in trying to figure out where to go, and of course the rain last night makes the greens quite receptive, so I was able to fire more at the holes today.”
Playing partner and fellow Swede Liselotte Neumann was second, birdieing the final two holes for a 69. She won the 1988 U.S. Women’s Open to become the first Swedish major champion.
“That’s what I’ve been working for, just trying to be somewhere close to the lead going into the weekend, that’s what you hope for,” Neumann said. “I’ve been trying to spend a lot time on the golf course lately, so I’m extremely happy.”
Fifteen players were unable to finish the round. The first-round was completed Friday morning after rain prevented half the field from finishing Thursday.
Amateur Ellen Port (69) and Yuko Saito (70) were 4 under. The 59-year-old Port, a teacher in St. Louis, is a seven-time USGA champion.
“I’ve had a lot of practice with mental toughness and fighting through, trying to score,” Port said. “My swing was in a little better place coming into this. It was just starting to trend that way, and you never know it if it’s going to all come together. I knew it was at some point; I didn’t know if it would be this week.”
Rosie Jones (70), Kris Tschetter (72) and Dana Ebster (74) were 3 under. Catriona Matthew was the only other player under par. She was 2 under with three holes left.
Tschetter played a five-hole stretch in 5 under — capped by an eagle on the par-5 eighth — to offset two double bogeys and a bogey.
Ebster, tied with Sorenstam for the first-round lead after a 67, is a part-time golf instructor and assistant coach at Modesto Junior College in California.
Past champions Helen Alfredsson (72) and Laura Davies (75) were 2 over. Davies was in the group with Sorenstam and Neumann.
Juli Inkster was 3 over after a 74.
JoAnne Carner, at 82 the oldest player to compete in a USGA championship, shot a 78 to miss the cut at 18 under. She opened with an 82. She played alongside Port and seven-time USGA champion Carol Semple Thompson.
“I was trying to make the cut, but I just hit too many bad shots,” Carner said. “I would hit a really good shot and then two holes later I would drop-kick it. It was just very erratic for me.”