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DESERT EVENT OPENS AS A SHOOTOUT

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - The shootout is on in the desert.

Doug LaBelle and John Mallinger shot 7-under 63 on Thursday to share the first-round lead in what promises to be a flurry of birdies at the Frys.com Open.

"It's fun to make a lot of birdies," said LaBelle, who lives in north Phoenix, a 10-minute drive from the tournament. "We know we're going to have to make some to have a chance to win."

Richard Johnson, the '07 Nationwide Tour earnings leader who has struggled in his first PGA Tour season, was one shot back.

Aaron Oberholser was among six players to shoot 65 under ideal conditions - cloudless and temperatures in the mid 80s.

Mallinger, in his second season on the tour, has five career third-place finishes, including two third-place ties this year. The most recent was Sunday at the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospital for Children Open.

"It's going to be a shootout," said Mallinger, who had eight birdies and a bogey. "You take last week, I think I was 22 under and I didn't win the golf tournament. You have to make a lot of birdies these last tournaments."

Meanwhile, LaBelle had birdies on three of the last four holes to move into a tie for the lead.

"It's just nice to hit some good shots, make some putts and shoot a nice score," LaBelle said.

Oberholser, winner of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am two years ago, is in his second tournament after recovering from two surgeries on his left wrist in a span of nine months.

"I don't know if this is going to give me great confidence," he said, "but it's definitely building in that direction."

Chris Stroud, Mathias Gronberg, J.J. Henry, Marco Dawson and Todd Demsey opened with 65 as well.

Sorenstam having second thoughts?

HAIKOU, China - Annika Sorenstam said in June that she is "stepping away" from golf after this season, a phrase the 10-time major winner has repeatedly used rather than say she's retiring.

Now, with a half-dozen events left before she plays the Dec. 11-14 Dubai Masters - a European Tour event - Sorenstam is hedging a bit more.

"We'll see if I will come back in a few years to play," Sorenstam said on the eve of the 54-hole Grand China Air tournament, the first LPGA event in China.

"As of now, I'm leaving the door open. ... That's why I'm not using the 'R' word."

The Swede, 38, is getting married in January, and she expects family and business interests to keep her occupied. She designs golf courses, runs a golf academy and has a clothing line and a charitable foundation.

Sorenstam said she won't miss the "daily grind" of professional golf - practice, gym sessions and pressure to perform.

Still, she has reservations and is choosing her words carefully.

"If I get the urge to come back, I have a chance," Sorenstam said. "That's why I have never said this is the end. But we'll see."

European: Soren Kjeldsen shot 7-under 64 to hold a one-shot lead after the first round of the Castello Masters in Castellon, Spain. Former U.S. Open champion Angel Cabrera, Richard Finch, Ignacio Garrido and Peter Hanson were at 65.

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