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Daniel Ties Record to Open Safeway Classic

September 27, 2003

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) _ The oldest player to win on the LPGA Tour has put herself in position to accomplish the feat again.

Beth Daniel shot a 10-under 62 to take a four-stroke lead Friday in the LPGA Safeway Classic and tie the course record set by defending champion Annika Sorenstam.

``Beth played exceptionally,″ Sorenstam said. ``She made a lot of putts and was very good, tee to green.″

Daniel, who earlier this year became the oldest player to win on the LPGA Tour, birdied seven of the last nine holes at the 6,327-yard Columbia Edgewater Country Club course.

``Everything just went right for me,″ said Daniel, who won the Canadian Women’s Open in July at age 46 for her 33rd career title and first since 1995.

The LPGA Hall of Famer admitted her latest impressive feat came about 15 years after she first planned to retire.

``I came out on tour when I was 22 and I thought I’d play eight to 10 years and I’d retire, that’s how naive I was,″ Daniel said.

Even though it takes her longer to prepare and recover from daily play, including a couple of hours before every round spent on fitness training, Daniel said she plans to keep going as long as she’s playing well.

``I think I’ve been pretty competitive,″ she said. ``But it’s harder now because I’m older. The thing is, I’m playing well enough, it would almost be silly to retire.″

Grace Park and Cristie Kerr were tied for second at 66, while Sorenstam, who played in the same threesome as Daniel, was another stroke back.

Park said her putting rescued her round from problems with her drives and irons.

``I didn’t hit anything that was close,″ Park said. ``My ball striking wasn’t the best _ in fact, it was horrible.″

Kerr bemoaned the fact that she made nine birdies and still was four strokes behind Daniel.

``That’s insane,″ Kerr said. ``She played great. It would be kind of hard to shoot another 10 under to back it up, but theoretically it’s definitely possible.″

Daniel’s play overshadowed the youngest player at the tournament, 13-year-old Michelle Wie. The 6-footer from Hawaii, who failed to make the cut last week playing with the men at the Boise Open on the Nationwide Tour, capped her 69 with a birdie.

When asked whether she got nervous, Wie responded with a laugh and a smile.

``I only get nervous when I’m taking tests,″ the high school freshman said.

Daniel didn’t have to putt from farther than 14 feet on her last four birdies of the round. Her first one of the day was a 36-footer on No. 6.

It was her putt on the 383-yard closing hole that gave her the most satisfaction, with Sorenstam watching Daniel tie the record she set last year.

``That last one was really sweet,″ Daniel said.

The 10-under round tied a personal best that Daniel had achieved only twice before, once at a tournament in Austin, Texas, and once playing with her father, who she said put more pressure on her during that round than Sorenstam did on Friday.

``I had to back off that last putt that day because my dad was going like this to everyone in the clubhouse,″ Daniel said waving.

Sorenstam got off to a poor start. She hit the back of the green on the first hole to put herself within easy birdie range at about 15 feet, but she bogeyed after running her first putt well past the cup and missing the return.

She also missed an eagle putt on No. 10 after a near perfect approach shot on the 501-yard par 5 hole. She then missed the birdie and had to settle for par.

``Sometimes that happens but you can’t dwell on those things,″ Sorenstam said.

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