Originally created 05/04/02

Field chases Robbins in Chick-fil-A Championship



STOCKBRIDGE, Ga. -- After the first thunderstorm rumbled past Eagles Landing Country Club, Kelly Robbins sank a testy putt, then attacked the soft greens.

Robbins shot an 8-under 64 in the opening round of the Chick-fil-A Charity Championship before another storm arrived, halting play with many of the top players still on the course Friday.

Annika Sorenstam, Karrie Webb and Se Ri Pak were among those unable to finish because of drenching rain and howling wind. The round was suspended until Saturday morning, when the players will face a sloppy course even if the rain relents through the night.

Sorenstam, who has dominated the LPGA Tour this season, got off to a rather lackluster start but was still 2 under through 12 holes.

Pak also was at 2 under with six holes left, while Webb was 3 under after playing 10 holes.

They'll have to work hard to catch up with Robbins, who was on her second hole when morning showers halted play for 1 hours, 20 minutes.

Upon returning to the course, Robbins faced a testy 7-footer to save par. She made that putt, then went on to post six birdies and an eagle.

"After a rain delay, it's pretty nice to come out and do that," Robbins said.

The rain-soaked fairways favored long hitters such as Robbins, who didn't have to rely on getting a lengthy roll from her tee shots. She was usually pulling a short iron out of the bag, setting up plenty of easy putts on the soft greens.

Robbins made four birdies from 6 feet and closer, plus an 8-footer for eagle at the par-5 sixth hole.

"Being a long hitter, I carry things a little farther," she said. "I had just about everything working today."

Robbins has never won the 11-year-old tournament, but she's always played well at the course in suburban Atlanta. She's finished sixth or better five times, including a pair of runner-up showings.

Half the field - 72 players - failed to complete the round. Of those who did, Laura Diaz and Juli Inkster were two shots behind Robbins at 66. Five other players were at 67.

Sorenstam is the defending tournament champion and a heavy favorite. In five tour events this year, she already has won twice, finished second twice and earned $563,330.

Starting at No. 10, the Swede parred her first four holes, wasting a chance at the par-5 13th when her third shot - a chip from just off the green - came up about 15 feet short. She missed that putt, but came back to sink an 8-footer at 14 for her first birdie.

The other players are aware of Sorenstam's positioning on the scoreboard.

"You always know how she's doing because she usually wins the tournament," Inkster quipped. "You kind of know where players like that are. You know they're going to make a charge."

Inkster got off to a sluggish start with eight straight pars on the back side. She finally got things going by sinking a 10-footer for eagle at No. 18, going on to play her last 10 holes at 6 under - even with a three-putt bogey at 5.

"Once I made that putt at 18, I was like, 'OK, here we go,"' Inkster said. "Up to that point, I felt like it was a track meet and I was stuck in the mud."

Diaz also was a strong finisher, putting up six birdies on her final 11 holes.

"I seemed to hit it close to the pin most of the day," she said, having given herself five birdie putts from no longer than 6 feet. "The irons were definitely the best part of my game today."

All of those who finished were relieved to avoid a grueling day on Saturday, when some players faced the prospect of trying to get in up to 30 holes.

"I'm glad I got an early draw," Diaz said. "It's a lot better not coming back in the morning."

Divots: Susie Parry had a hole-in-one at the 11th, while Luciana Bemvenuti followed suit at the 16th. Parry made a 6-iron from 157 yards for her third career ace; she finished with a 71. Bemvenuti connected with a 7-iron from 137 yards, also the third hole-in-one of her career. She was 2 under through 10 holes. ... LPGA officials allowed the players to lift-and-clean throughout the round, knowing that rain was in the forecast. "I think it was a good decision," Diaz said. "There was a lot of muck out there." ... Tournament host Nancy Lopez was 1 over through 11 holes. ... While inclement weather had continually plagued the tournament, this was the first uncompleted round since 1998.