Sorenstam, Creamer four shots behind at Sybase
NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. -- Natalie Gulbis and Beth Bauer are sharing more than just a good friendship.
The two, who battled it out for LPGA rookie of the year honors in 2002, and Hee-Won Han were tied for the first-round lead at the Sybase Classic on Thursday with 3-under-par 68s.
The start of play Friday has been delayed again because of rain and course conditions. The 15 players who have yet to complete the first round are scheduled to resume at 3 p.m. ET, and the second round is scheduled to begin at 3:15.
The golfers attracting the most attention coming into the 72-hole event at the 6,227-yard Wykagyl Country Club course were both four shots behind the leaders.
Paula Creamer, who won this tournament last year four days before her high school graduation, and Annika Sorenstam, who missed the cut last week for the first time since 2002, had 1-over 72s.
Gulbis, who is ninth on this year's money list after finishing sixth in 2005, eagled the par-4 8th with a 100-yard sand wedge and had four birdies -- including a chip-in from 60 feet -- on the back nine in her 68.
"When I holed that wedge it changed my momentum and I played well on the back nine," said the 23-year-old who was beat out by Bauer for the rookie award. "I like this course because it plays like a major. Players are not going to be able to shoot 62, 63 out here."
Bauer's only bogey came on the par-3 16th and she was one of only two players to get to 4 under in the morning round when the wind seemed to cause quite a few problems on the tree-lined course.
"It was awesome. It was a lot of fun out there," said Bauer, who was 100th and 110th the last two years on the money list and who missed the cut in all four events she entered this year. "I just feel like it's been coming. The scores have been getting lower and lower and my confidence has been growing so I'm definitely excited for things to come."
Gulbis called Bauer a "good friend and a good player."
"We're really close and she calls me after every round and we look forward to seeing each other," Gulbis said. "We were pretty close our first year on tour."
Han, the 2003 Sybase champion, missed only one fairway in her round and her lone bogey was on the par-3 16th.
Allison Hanna, Nancy Scranton, Kim Saiki and Teresa Lu all had opening 69s.
Sun Young Yoo and Lu were both 3 under when play was stopped at 6:13 p.m. ET because of heavy rain. Yoo had four holes to play, one more than Lu. But both bogeyed their first full hole after a delay of 1 hour, 23 minutes. Yoo had one hole left when play was called, and she was to finish her first round Friday afternoon.
Creamer ended her round on a high note, while Sorenstam bogeyed two of her last three holes.
It was Creamer's first tournament as a defending champion and she admitted there were nerves when the round started.
"I felt a little nervous on the first tee because I had never been in that position before," she said, "but I hit a good drive."
Creamer was 18 when she won this tournament last year, the youngest winner ever of a multiround LPGA event. She also won the Evian Masters last year.
Double-bogeys on Nos. 4 and 11 had Creamer at 5 over, but a 9-iron out of the rough on No. 12 led to the first of four birdies in her final seven holes.
"After I hit that 9-iron out of the first cut, it was on from there," said Creamer, who became the youngest LPGA winner said. "I made a 10-12 footer there for birdie and it was like the hole was opening for me. It was a matter of momentum. After that, I was really consistent. I don't know what was going on at the beginning, I can't even tell you. It was like an out-of-body experience."
Creamer closed with a 5-foot birdie putt on the par-5 18th.
Sorenstam, who won this tournament in 1998 and 2000, started on No. 10, and birdies on Nos. 13 and 15 had her 2 under. Three bogeys in a seven-hole span capped by a three-putt on No. 8 left her 1 over.
"I thought I played well, it was very difficult, very, very difficult out there. I thought I played really, really good, just the two bogeys at the end," said Sorenstam, who had an afternoon tee time when the greens started to get bumpy. "Tomorrow, I'm off early, I'm going to have smooth greens. I'm going to go low tomorrow."
Sorenstam shots two 73s last week in missing the cut at the Michelob Ultra Open by one stroke.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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