Believe it or not, there's more than one player at The Players Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.

Tiger Woods and his dominant game took a detour yesterday by spraying the ball around TPC at Sawgrass. That cleared the way for 49-year-old Jay Haas and an older generation to take the early lead in golf's first big event of the year.

One year away from the Champions Tour, Haas pieced together a 4-under-par 68 in swirling winds and under the threat of rain to share the clubhouse lead with Rocco Mediate, Bob Tway and Skip Kendall.

All of the leaders are in their forties, except for Kendall -- he's a spry 38.

Woods, coming off an 11-stroke victory at Bay Hill for his third win in four tournaments this year, spent most of his morning playing from ankle-deep grass and rallied over the final few holes for an even-par 72.

"Just trying to get to even par would have been a heck of an accomplishment considering the way I was hitting it today," Woods said. "I'm very happy to end up where I was."

Overnight showers drenched TPC at Sawgrass, and a batch of afternoon thunderstorms finally suspended the first round with 68 players still on the course. They will return at 7:30 this morning. . . .

Annika Sorenstam began the day thinking even par would be a very good score. Then the wind died down, the birdies started coming and she found herself in a familiar place at the Nabisco Championship in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

Sorenstam shot a 4-under 68 to take a two-shot lead over Karrie Webb and three others after one round in the first LPGA Tour major championship of the year.

Trying to become the first woman to win the same major championship three years in a row in 64 years, Sorenstam birdied the final two holes in a round that was efficient even by her standards.

Courts

Puckett Trial Opens

The woman accusing Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett of sexual assault testified in Minneapolis that she was terrified and tried to escape when he dragged her into a restaurant bathroom. The woman was the first witness called by prosecutors as the trial opened for a former player who was once one of baseball's most popular figures.

Pausing several times and fighting back tears, she described an attack that began with Puckett grabbing her arm last September at about 12:30 a.m., tugging her toward the men's room.

"He's pulling me, and I'm afraid," she testified. "I tried to drag my feet." At the bathroom door, she said, she tried to hook her ankle around the doorway but Puckett forced her inside.

Puckett was in the courtroom as the trial began, and his lawyer presented a different version in his opening statement. He said the former Minnesota Twins star was only trying to escort the woman to the men's room because the women's bathroom was full.

Pro Football

Redskins Test Punters

The Washington Redskins auditioned five punters, including NFL veteran Leo Araguz. Team officials didn't sign any of the punters and likely will continue to study their options through next month's draft.

Araguz was the Oakland Raiders' punter from 1997 to '99, and averaged a career-best 45 yards per punt in 1997. He also had a short stint with the Detroit Lions and has averaged 42.9 yards per punt in 54 career NFL games.

Young punters Andrew Bayes, Aaron Edmonds, Gabe Lindstrom and Kent McCullough also worked out, along with long snapper Mitch Palmer.

Pro Basketball

Forte Suspended

The Seattle SuperSonics suspended guard Joseph Forte (DeMatha) for tonight's game against Memphis for conduct detrimental to the team. General Manager Rick Sund did not provide any details about the conduct that led to the penalty.

Soccer

Jie to Miss Opener

Washington Freedom forward Bai Jie will miss the April 5 season opener at the Carolina Courage due to a delay in the renewal of her visa, General Manager Katy Button confirmed yesterday. Bai has been abroad with the Chinese women's national team and has been unable to complete some parts of the renewal process. Her visa is expected to be ready by April 12, when the Freedom open their home schedule against the New York Power. . . .

The Freedom defeated the Philadelphia Charge, 1-0, in a scrimmage at Trinity College. Rookie forward Laura Schott, who is training with the Freedom even though she was left off the 16-player active roster announced March 24, scored the only goal.

Locally

Book Presentation

Brad Snyder will present "Beyond the Shadow of the Senators: The Untold Story of the Homestead Grays and the Integration of Baseball" on Sunday at 11 a.m. at the DC Jewish Community Center. The event costs $5 for JCC members, $8 for non-members. For more information call 202-777-3254 or send an e-mail to rachels@dcjcc.org.