(Lytham St Annes, July 31 2003) With the best players in the world assembled at Royal Lytham and St Annes GC, there were few shocks after the first day of the £1.05million Weetabix Women’s British Open as three former world number one players rose into contention for this years final major championship.

Annika – pressure filled 68

“If you tell me that’s going to be the worst year of my career, I would be very happy about that.”

Ward, who has three victories under her belt on the LPGA Tour, notched up six birdies and a solitary bogey at the eighth, where she gladly escaped with a bogey, despite visiting two menacing pot bunkers.

The 30-year-old from Washington now feels she is ready to contend for major championships and was unsurprised to be in this position.

“I’m never surprised,” said Ward. “I’m surprised I’ve not been here more often. There’s been some frustrating weeks this year, I’ve either been in the hunt or completely off the board, so it feels pretty good to get my game back to a level I know I can play at.

“Golf over here is extremely challenging, but to me, the creative side comes out so much and that helps me not be so mechanical and just play the shot at hand.”

But lurking ominously is Sorenstam, who admitted to feeling under the gun when she began her quest.

After swapping a bogey at the third for a birdie at the third, the 32-year-old from Stockholm clicked into gear on her back nine with birdies at the 11th and 12th to delve into red figures.

And despite a bogey at the par five 15th, the Swede fought back with a 32-foot putt for a priceless birdie at the notoriously difficult 17th hole, the hole where the legendary Bobby Jones effectively won the 1926 Open Championship ahead of Al Watrous.

“You stand on the first tee, you see five under and you wish that was you – and then you have 18 tough holes ahead of you!” said Sorenstam, who admitted she would like the wind to blow for the rest of the week.

“I was telling myself not to worry about the score, just try to do the best I can, I mean, that’s the key here. It either goes your way, or it doesn’t. Today, it went my way.”

English amateur star Alex Keighley from Lightcliffe, who stands at just 4’11 inches tall, rose head and shoulders above most of her compatriots to post a two under par 70.

The diminutive 22-year-old England International fired five birdies during her round and leads such luminaries as Trish Johnson, who endured a rollercoaster 72, which included seven birdies and two double bogies, and Laura Davies, England’s finest ever female player, who found herself four over par after five holes, but eventually battled hard to post a 75.

“I’m not out of it,” said Davies. “It was a disappointing start. I three putted the third, which was disappointing, then on number five I hit the right side bunker and it was so badly plugged, I couldn’t get it out.

“I know there are people at five under, but you can’t shoot five under every day so I have to have three really good rounds. I’ve been having three good rounds and a bad round, so hopefully this is my bad round out of the way.”