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Published: Friday, 8/15/2003

Long putts spur Diaz in Farr

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

The lights went out for a short while, but there was no shortage of electricity on the golf course yesterday during the opening round of the Jamie Farr Kroger Classic.

Laura Diaz saw two long putts fall to spark a 6-under-par 65 that was good for a one-shot lead over defending champion Rachel Teske.

Power failure? Not with 45 players breaking par under perfect scoring conditions on a hot, humid, windless day at Highland Meadows Golf Club.

The clubhouse went dark at about 4:15 p.m. and was without power for about 20 minutes, but tournament operations were hardly affected, since electronic scoreboards and most on-course facilities run off of generator power. The only glitch was in the cellular phone system that reports hole-by-hole results to central scoring.

“Some of the cellular service went down, but we caught up pretty quickly,” said tournament director Judd Silverman. “It wasn't a big deal.”

Performances by Diaz and Teske were big deals, indeed.

Diaz, who began her round on the back nine, was treading water at even par through her first six holes and followed with a chunky 8-iron approach shot to No. 16. Her ball died on the front of the green, 60 feet from the pin.

Mi-Hyun Kim started at No. 10 and was 1-over on the back nine, then shot a 6-under 29 on the front. Mi-Hyun Kim started at No. 10 and was 1-over on the back nine, then shot a 6-under 29 on the front.
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When that monster putt fell, it ignited Diaz to seven birdies in a 10-hole stretch.

“It's been a little bit of a struggle this year, so it really feels good to shoot a low number,” she said.

At Nos. 3 and 4, Diaz managed birdies despite scattering her tee shots into trees. The second of those came when a 40-foot putt fell.

“Neither of the two [recovery] shots was magnificent, but I was certainly happy to walk away from those two holes with 3s,” she said. “Those two long putts I made were huge. You're not usually making many of those.”

Luck, skill or a little of both, Diaz used those putts - only 21 for the entire round - and an array of other fine shots to move to the top of the leaderboard. Teske trailed by one while the foursome of Mi-Hyun Kim, Dottie Pepper, Heather Bowie and Carri Wood were two shots behind after 4-under 67s.

Eleven players, including Korean Hee-Won Han, who has two wins and a runner-up finish in her last four starts, carded 68s. Three-time Farr champion Se Ri Pak was among those at 69.

Teske picked up right where she left off last July when she scored a two-shot victory in the Farr.

She knocked in a 10-foot birdie putt at No. 1 and was off to the races in a round that included six birdies, none coming on a putt outside 10 feet, and a lone bogey.

Defending champion Rachel Teske had six birdies - all on putts of less than 10 feet. Defending champion Rachel Teske had six birdies - all on putts of less than 10 feet.
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“I got a little bit of momentum early,” she said. “The greens were rolling really well and I enjoyed making a few putts.

“During the first couple of days, you just play as well as you can and try to take advantage of whatever birdie chances you have. I wanted to make the most of it because I really want to do my best when I'm the defending champion, especially on a course like this one that I really like.

“But we have a really good field here and this is only the first of four rounds. A lot can happen.”

Especially with more red-hot rounds on red-hot days.

The thermometer jumped into the low 90s at the Meadows yesterday and Teske said, “That's the hottest day that I can remember playing this year. Certainly, it was the most humid. I had the sun umbrella working.”

Perhaps she should have shared it with playing partner Kim, who certainly got torrid after making the turn [from No. 18 to No. 1] at 1-over. The Korean, probably the finest fairway woods player on the LPGA Tour, responded with six birdies on the front side en route to a 29, and then declined interview requests saying she was feeling ill.

Later, on a quote sheet released through tour officials, Kim said her strong finish was prompted by fears of missing the cut.

“I saw the scoreboard and there were a lot of people doing well and I just thought I have to make the cut,” Kim said. “I saw Rachel playing and I tried to follow her tempo. I think Rachel has the perfect rhythm and tempo.”

Diaz's wasn't bad either. A two-time winner in 2002, Diaz has a pair of top-10 finishes, but no wins thus far this year.

“I've been fighting a left ankle injury and it looked like I was going to need surgery,” she said. “I saw four doctors and then decided to try alternative treatment from a massage therapist, who gives electronic acupuncture and deep tissue massage. It has made a huge difference. I'm not 100 per cent yet, but it's maybe 90 per cent and that's a big improvement. I'm going to stick with it because I definitely don't want to go under the knife. “

But she's never opposed to going under par, especially in the Farr Classic, where she posted her career-low score of 64 in last year's second round.



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