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Coe-Jones Leads at Titleholders

May 2, 1998

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) _ Going three years without a victory doesn’t make Dawn Coe-Jones any more anxious about her chances at the Mercury Titleholders Championship.

Sure, she could have kicked herself for the way she finished off the second round on Friday, hitting tee shots into the water on the final two holes to turn a runaway into a race.

Instead, she saw her name atop the leaderboard on a cloudy day and found the silver lining.

``I’m 9-under through two rounds, and I haven’t been like that all year,″ she shrugged.

The way the first two rounds have gone, the 2-under-par 70 she had on Friday won’t be enough to keep the lead much longer.

For the second day, players blitzed the LPGA International course _ 29 players scored in the 60s _ to set up a weekend full of opportunities.

Coe-Jones was at 135, one stroke ahead of LPGA champion Chris Johnson, Kris Monaghan and hard-charging Annika Sorenstam of Sweden. Three other Swedes were among those at 137. Carin Koch and Catrin Nilsmark each had a 68, while Eva Dahllof had a 71.

In all, 20 players are within four strokes of the lead.

``You can build a lead quickly and it can go away quickly,″ said Coe-Jones. ``I’ve been in this position before.″

Still, it’s been a while. Coe-Jones hasn’t felt this good since she won the Tournament of Champions to open the season in 1995. And with one puff of wind, it fell apart so quickly.

After making five birdies, all of them from inside 6 feet, she was at 12 under for the tournament when she came to No. 17, a par 3 that is playing harder than any hole this week.

``I could hear the wind blowing,″ she said. ``I think subconsciously I said, `You better hit it hard.′ I just got enthusiastic.″

The ball bounded into the water for a double bogey, and then Coe-Jones got a little quick on her swing at the par-5 18th and pulled her tee shot into the water for a bogey.

``If I take it back really fast, then I’m cooked,″ she said.

Sorenstam was also in a hurry.

She has won 12 times on the LPGA, including two U.S. Open titles, but says she is hitting the ball as well as ever. Sorenstam has not finished out of the top 10 this year, even though she’s looking for her first victory.

One day after playing what she called her best round of the year, she found her groove on the driving range and couldn’t wait to get started.

After two bogeys on the first seven holes, she had a change of heart.

``I knew the swing was there and the putting was there,″ Sorenstam said. ``I was anxious to play. But after making a few bogeys, my steps got slower, and I think that helped me.″

She turned it around with a sand wedge into 4 feet for birdie at No. 9, and finished off her 69 with a 7-wood into 7 feet for an eagle on the 18th.

``I’m playing the best I have in a very long time,″ Sorenstam said. ``Hopefully, that will lead to something.″

Swedes have won four times this year _ two each by Helen Alfredsson and Liselotte Neumann, who are 1-2 on the money list. But they both missed the cut, which at 1-under 143 tied for the lowest cut on the LPGA Tour this year.

Nancy Lopez also missed the cut, marking the first time since 1994 she has missed the cut two straight weeks. Laura Davies and defending champion Tammie Green also won’t be around for the weekend.

But there always seems to be enough Swedes around the lead.

``I got fired up because Catrin is a good friend and I saw she was at 7-under,″ said Koch. ``That gave me something to shoot for. You always want to be the No. 1 Swede out here.″

If having Sorenstam in her rearview mirror isn’t enough, Coe-Jones also has Johnson trying to chase her down.

Johnson has won nine times on tour and is coming off her best season, when she won her first major and finished fourth on the money list.

Her challenge Friday was to stay patient when they didn’t come right away, or when she stumbled to a bogey after hitting into the water on No. 4.

``You know the birdies are going to come. I knew I could get that back,″ Johnson said. She rebounded with an eagle on the next hole, hitting a 3-iron to 12 feet.

At 8-under 136, that makes Johnson and Monaghan the low Americans. Coe-Jones is a Canadian.

Johnson shrugged when asked about the foreign invasion, particularly the play of the Swedes. For now, they are just names on a leaderboard.

``Obviously, they’re in good position,″ Johnson said. ``But I see them as part of the LPGA tour. At the Solheim Cup ... maybe I’ll see them as foreigners then.″

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