Saturday, July 05, 2008

ROGERS, Ark. (AP) — Seon Hwa Lee's approach shot hopped to the back of the green and stopped about 3 feet from the hole.

One last birdie on a back nine full of them.

Lee birdied five of her final six holes Friday for an 8-under 64 at the LPGA Tour's NW Arkansas Championship. She ended with a flourish, hitting a pitching wedge from 104 yards on No. 18 to set up an easy putt for her last birdie.

"My swing feels really good now," said Lee, who won the Ginn Tribute last month. "When I practiced this afternoon ... I hit it pretty solid."

Lee led overnight before being matched by Kristy McPherson, who finished her 64 Saturday morning before play was suspended because of rain with a handful of groups still trying to finish the first round. Friday's start was delayed about five hours.

The delays brought back memories of last September, when the inaugural event was shortened to 18 holes from 54 because of heavy rain. It rained hard early Friday morning, and the fairway below the 18th green at Pinnacle Country Club was flooded after a water hazard overflowed.

When the first groups finally started, Stacy Lewis took center stage. With a gallery of around 200 cheering her on, the former University of Arkansas star began with birdies on Nos. 1, 3 and 4.

"The first couple of holes I honestly didn't expect that many people to be out there," Lewis said. "The first tee was awesome. It was so loud out there, and it was pretty cool."

Lewis finished with a 69 on the 6,238-yard course, four strokes worse than her tournament-best score a year ago. Because the event lasted only 18 holes last year, she didn't get credit for an official victory. This weekend, she hopes to earn one.

"I would like to shoot a better score," said Lewis, who was tied for eighth. "But I feel like I'm in a good position going into the next couple days, and I just hope we get all the rounds in."

McPherson started on No. 10 Friday and birdied six of her first seven holes. She shot a first-round 66 at Pinnacle last year.

Helen Alfredsson finished her first-round 65 Saturday.

Lewis, the 2007 NCAA champion, competed as an amateur in this tournament last year. She finished her career at Arkansas earlier this year - and might end up being the biggest draw this weekend. That's saying something, considering stars such as Paula Creamer, Morgan Pressel and Natalie Gulbis are in the field.

Lewis led the U.S. Women's Open after three rounds last weekend in her pro debut, then finished five shots behind Inbee Park.

Park shot a 70 Friday while playing in a group with Pressel (69) and Creamer (73).

The tournament is sponsored by P&G Beauty and presented by John Q. Hammons.

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