Originally created 08/15/97

Webb leads by three at Women's British Open

SUNNINGDALE, England (AP) - Australian Karrie Webb fired a 7-under-65 Thursday and charged to a three-stroke lead in the first-round of the Women's British Open.

Webb birdied five of her first seven holes to go out in 31. Consecutive birdies on the par-4 11th and par-5 12th helped get her home in 34 for a for what was a record score in a major tournament at the Sunningdale Golf Club.

"I got off to a very good start," Webb said. "It's the best I've played in a while. I putted really well and I only missed one green."

Three strokes back at 68 were Sweden's Liselotte Neumann and Trish Johnson of England.

Another stroke back were defending champion Emilee Klein of the United States, 1990 champion Helen Alfredsson of Sweden and American Juli Inkster, who birdied the last two holes.

There was a group of ten on 2-under-70 which included Americans Amy Alcott, Rosie Jones, Tina Barrett, Cindy Schreyer and Fumicho Muraguchi of Japan.

World No. 1 Annika Sorenstam, striving for her fifth LPGA title of the year and her first in the British Open, finished 1-under-71, as did Americans Betsy King and Deb Richard, winner of last week's Friendly's Classic.

Webb, who won the British Open in her first year as a professional in 1995, played for a birdie on nearly every hole as her long and accurate driving shots saw her ball well placed on the greens hole after hole.

She opened with a par-5, then hit four consecutive birdies on the fast Sunningdale greens.

She was in distinguished company playing with reigning U.S champion Alison Nicholas and Nancy Lopez. But while Nicholas (3-over) struggled with her drives and Lopez (5-over) was off with her putter, Webb played near-flawless golf.

The 22-year-old had a lucky break on the par-4 11th when she hit a tree and the ball bounced back onto the fairway. She chipped to 10 feet and holed her sixth birdie out of seven.

Webb's only mistake came on the longest hole of the course, the 503-yard par-5 14th. She hooked her approach shot to the left of the green, but salvaged par after chipping off the rough to 8-feet.

Klein holed six birdies on the front nine but bogeyed three times, the last time on the par-4 18th.

Britain's Laura Davies, one of 10 former champions in the field, went out in 1-under-35 but had three bogeys in a homeward run of 35 for a 2-over-74.


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