Rosales sticks with Women's Open lead

She's only player to shoot all three rounds under par


July 04, 2004|By Bob Herzog | Bob Herzog,NEWSDAY

SOUTH HADLEY, Mass. -- She wears white tape on two fingers of her left hand and one finger on her right to prevent the chronic blisters she gets from gripping her golf clubs too tightly. The entire Orchards Golf Club is in need of a tape job because unheralded Jennifer Rosales is blistering the U.S. Women's Open.

"Props," she joked of the tape that she said she has been wearing for about eight years as protection. And props she has earned this week. Though she wears stylish clothes and snazzy wraparound sunglasses, Rosales, 25, isn't the hip choice of most spectators, who instead are enamored of top-ranked Annika Sorenstam and 14-year-old amateur Michelle Wie.

But Rosales, a native of the Philippines who maintains a residence there as well as in California, shot a 69 yesterday to go with her rounds of 70 and 67, and is the only player to shoot three rounds under par in the premier event on the LPGA Tour.

The 7-under-par 206 total is three shots better than the trio of Sorenstam, Meg Mallon and Kelly Robbins. Rachel Teske is at 3-under, Michelle Ellis is at 2-under and Wie is one of five players at 1-under.

"There's a little cushion there, but in an Open you never know what's going to happen," said Rosales, who gained her first victory two months ago in Atlanta. "There are a few good players behind me. Annika is Annika."

Sorenstam made three birdies and an eagle yesterday, but also had four bogeys. Rosales, who led by one shot after two rounds, had twice as many birdies (four) as bogeys (two).

"She has a lot of confidence," Sorenstam said of Rosales, "and this is a course that fits her game really well."

Rosales, who has been accurate with her irons most of the week, narrowly missed an eagle on the par-5 13th when her 6-foot putt was off line. "I told myself it's an eagle putt, but if I miss it's still a birdie," she said.

She was most pleased with her birdie on No. 16, the 439-yard par-4 that has been the toughest hole of the event. She bogeyed the 16th on Friday and said yesterday, "I was thinking about 16 when I was on the first tee."

But by the time she got to the devilish hole, where the green is protected by a creek, she was in her aggressive mode. "I hit my drive and my 5-iron where I wanted to," Rosales said of the two shots that left her a 10-foot putt that she sank for her final birdie of the afternoon.

Rosales said she came to the United States from Manila when she was 12 and immediately began playing golf. She already is the only female sports hero in that island nation and joked that if she wins the U.S. Open today, "I can run for president there."

Right now she has to run away from a formidable field on a golf course that has grown drier and more difficult since Thursday's thunderstorms while also running from her own thoughts. "It's hard to block it out," she said about the prospects of winning here.

She planned to relax last night with family members who were able to join her for this event -- her mother, her brother and her 4-year-old niece, Isabel.

"It's a great feeling to have my family here ... to help me forget about it," Rosales said. "But my brother will not let me. He's going to go, `Come on, come on, one more day, one more day.'"

Newsday is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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