Creamer, Mallon lead Tournament of Champions leaderboard

11/8/2007 - Golf

MOBILE, Ala. -- Paula Creamer birdied the final seven holes
for a share of the first-round lead with Meg Mallon on Thursday in
the Tournament of Champions, ending Suzann Pettersen's run at the
top of the leaderboard at six rounds.

Creamer and Mallon shot 5-under 67s, leaving them two strokes
ahead of Pettersen, Natalie Gulbis, Pat Hurst, Mi Hyun Kim and Seon
Hwa Lee.

Annika Sorenstam opened with a 71, and defending champion Lorena
Ochoa shot a 74 on The Crossing Course at the Robert Trent Jones
Golf Trail's Magnolia Grove complex. The event is limited to
tournament winners from 2004-07 and active Hall of Famers.

After making the turn at 2 over, Creamer played the back nine in
7-under 29. She began the birdie run with a 15-foot putt on the
par-5 13th, then hit 7-iron shots to 5 and 8 feet on 14 and 15.
Creamer two-putted from 35 feet on the par-5 16th, hit a 6-iron to
8 feet on the par-3 17th and made another 8-footer on the par-4

"It's kind of hard to explain because the front nine I had two
three putts," Creamer said. "I was missing putts left and right.
I was joking around with my caddie because this guy had a club out
there. He said he found it in the woods and I said, 'Yeah, that's
where I wanted to throw my putter right now -- in the woods.'

"Then I go out and I make seven in a row. It was good. You have
to hit it close to make a lot of birdies and you have to give
yourself the chances for it."

Creamer tied In-Kyung Kim for the longest birdie streak on the
tour this year. Kim birdied the first seven holes in the third
round of the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic. The tour record is
nine by Beth Daniel in the 1999 Philips Invitational.

"I have done six in a row a lot, but never seven. My first 29,
too," Creamer said. "Obviously, I have a ton of confidence right
now coming off the back nine that I played. I am feeling good."

Pettersen is coming off consecutive victories in South Korea and
Thailand and has won three of her last four starts. She's second
behind Ochoa with five LPGA Tour victories this year and earnings
of $1,753,309. Entering week, the Norwegian had at least a share of
the lead in six straight rounds and nine of 12.

"I had a week off. I feel a little rusty," Pettersen said. "I
want to get in the groove again, get in the rhythm and play
competitive. The good shots are good. I don't quite feel as
comfortable with some of my irons, but I'm going to work on that

She eagled the par-4 ninth, holing out from 94 yards.

"I hit a pretty good drive straight down the middle, and I had
94 to the pin, a perfect gap wedge," Pettersen said. "I hit it a
little bit right. I lost it down to the left and it fell straight
down in the hole."

The 44-year-old Mallon, winless since 2004, matched Creamer with
seven birdies and two bogeys.

"Even though I did well today, I felt like I could hit it
better," Mallon said. "So, I'm going to go out and practice a
good bit this afternoon and hit a lot of good balls. Just try to
get a good swing groove going so that I can keep that consistency.
It's nice to make all of those putts today. I would certainly like
to hit it closer the next three days so I have more opportunities,
but, you know, it was all cylinders today. It was nice. I must have
been inspired. I don't know."

The start of play was delayed an hour because of frost.

"That extra hour was a huge bonus," said Mallon, who birdied
three of her last four holes. "I bet it warmed up 15 degrees from
the time when I got here to when I could tee off. Fifty degrees as
opposed to 35 is a huge difference."

Ochoa, already the player of the year, has won seven times this
season and earned a record $3,337,993. Last year at Magnolia Grove,
the Mexican star had weekend rounds of 63 and 65 for a 10-stroke
victory and 21-under 267 total, both tournament records.

"I'm a little behind now, but I'll try to play good tomorrow
and get back to a good position on the weekend," Ochoa said.

Sorenstam, sidelined for nearly two months this season by neck
and back injuries, is winless since September 2006.

"I thought I played well today," Sorenstam said. "I had a lot
of good shots, had a lot of opportunities. I don't think I scored
as well. I felt really good about my game. I hit a lot of fairways
a lot of greens and just had a lot of opportunities."

Gulbis is making her first appearance in the event after winning
the Evian Masters. She teamed with John Elway on Monday to win the
ADT Skills.