Thursday, June 26, 2008

EDINA, Minn. (AP) — Korean Ji Young Oh surged to a two-stroke lead Thursday in the first round of the U.S. Women's Open, using seven birdies to shoot a 6-under 67 in dry and calm conditions at Interlachen Country Club.

Louise Friberg was tied for second with a 69 when she just missed a birdie on No. 9 after her putt skimmed the left side of the cup on the tricky, sloped green. The Swede was tied with Colombian amateur Maria Jose Uribe.

Laura Davies, who last won this event in 1987, formed a three-way tie for fourth at 70. Yani Tseng, who won the McDonald's LPGA Championship, was in a bigger group at 71. Lorena Ochoa struggled to a 73, turning in three birdies over the final five holes after playing the first 13 without one.

Michelle Wie imploded on No. 9, taking a quintuple-bogey 9 on her way to an 81.

Uribe was one of the stars of this sunny day, walking the long course featuring the most total yardage in tournament history with defending champion Cristie Kerr and Ochoa, the world's No. 1 woman golfer.

It was Uribe who took away the top score of the trio. She's an 18-year-old who plans to return to UCLA in the fall as a sophomore - unless, she acknowledged with a laugh, something crazy happened.

"If I like win the U.S. Open," Uribe said.

Well, this was a step in the right direction. She birdied No. 18 and bumped fists with her caddy, Pedro Russi.

"I was just having fun out there and staying patient," Uribe said. "I know that it's the U.S. Open, and I'm not going to think about the scoreboard right now. It's four days, so I'm just having fun out there."

Nervous?

"Well, you're always nervous, but I like that," she said. "I like to play under pressure, so I was looking forward to it and I knew that I was going to play good today. I don't know. It's just like me. Like every time I'm under pressure I do better than when I'm just playing for fun and stuff. If you play with me on a Saturday in my golf course, I know that you won't think that I'm a good player."

Ochoa said she was happy with score, but acknowledged her substandard performance.

"I know there are some low scores today, and I'm a little disappointed I didn't take advantage of the great conditions," she said.

Davies, the 44-year-old Brit whose only Open victory came in her second season on the LPGA Tour, has missed the cut in this tournament seven of the last 11 years. But she shot a 3-under 34 on the back nine, and maintained that score over the front nine.

Ochoa acknowledged this week about how mentally draining the U.S. Women's Open can be. Kerr talked about the "teeth" of this year's course. The soon-to-be-retired Annika Sorenstam, who teed off later Thursday, spoke of the lifelong reverence she's had for the most prestigious event on a female professional golfer's schedule.

Yes, this year's Open was set up for plenty of drama this weekend in the woods of Edina.

Kerr was at the forefront of it last year, when she beat Ochoa by two strokes at Pine Needles in North Carolina. Her game was peaking toward the Open again this summer, and she was out to try to repeat her feat by maintaining that bring-it-on attitude toward this layout of 6,789 yards.

Kerr was one ahead of Ochoa with a 72.

Sorenstam started her last U.S. Women's Open as one of the main attractions, especially in this state with so many Scandinavian descendants. One house next to the course has hoisted a big banner outside reading "Skol Annika" colored in Sweden's blue and yellow.

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