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OTSU, Shiga Pref. Annika Sorenstam started her quest for a record fourth consecutive Mizuno Classic golf title with an eagle Friday and held a share of the lead after the first round of the $1 million LPGA Tour event.

News photoAnnika Sorenstam acknowledges the gallery after holing a
birdie putt on the 18th hole during the first round of the Mizuno Classic on Friday. The Swede carded a 63 and was joint
leader with Chihiro Nakajima.

The top-ranked Swede carded a 63 and was joint leader with Japan’s Chihiro Nakajima at 9-under going into the weekend.

Sorenstam opened with an eagle at the par-5 first and had seven birdies in a bogey-free round, while Nakajima fired 30 on the back nine — including six birdies — to storm into a share of the lead.

The pair was three strokes clear of Australia’s Rachel Teske and Aree Song of Thailand at 66.

Laura Davies, Karrie Webb, South Koreans Grace Park and Han Hee Won, and Mexico’s Lorena Ochoa were one stroke further back at 5-under 67.

Sorenstam, who has six LPGA Tour titles this year, was Mizuno Classic champion in 2001 and 2002, and outclassed the field here last November, winning by nine strokes after carding 63-63-66–192 for an LPGA record lowest 54-hole score.

Only Davies has won the same LPGA Tour event in four consecutive years, holding the Standard Register Ping title from 1994-97.

Sorenstam and six other women have successfully defended LPGA tournament title twice.

Izawa stays hot

KEISEN, Fukuoka Pref. (Kyodo) Overnight joint leader Toshimitsu Izawa opened up a three-stroke lead after shooting a 5-under-par 67 in the second round of the Asahi Ryokuken Yomiuri Memorial on Friday.

Izawa followed up his opening 65 with a round featuring six birdies and one bogey as he moved to 12-under 132 at Aso Iizuka Golf Club.

Katsumasa Miyamoto matched Izawa with a 67 after carding seven birdies and two bogeys on his favorite course and reached the midpoint of the tournament at 9-under 135, one shot ahead of Tatsuya Mitsuhashi, Taichiro Kiyota, Shinichi Yokota and Ryoken Kawagishi.

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