Sorenstam to Defend Classic Title

Friday, September 5th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ From playing at the Colonial to winning two majors to complete the career Grand Slam on the LPGA Tour, Annika Sorenstam put her name in the record books during 11 amazing weeks of golf.

Her next project might be a scrap book.

Topping the list is the Colonial in May, when Sorenstam became the first woman in 58 years to compete on the PGA Tour. She hasn't had any time to soak up the moment because the Swede was too nervous during her two rounds, and then had to get ready for three LPGA majors.

Sorenstam is coming off a three-week break, which gave her a chance to reflect on her historic feats.

``On my floor I have all the news clippings and all the letters and everything that I received from people,'' Sorenstam said. ``I had a chance to look through some of them, and that's when everything comes back again. That's what I mean by catching up and absorbing, because it was the most special week I've ever had in golf.''

Now, it's time to move on.

Even after a banner year, Sorenstam came to the Tulsa Country Club this week to defend her title in the John Q. Hammons Hotel Classic, which she won last year by four shots.

``I still love to compete,'' Sorenstam said. ``That's why I'm here. I'm ready to go now.''

Twenty-five of the LPGA's top 30 money leaders are among the 144 players that begin the three-day 54-hole tournament Friday. That includes Se Ri Pak, Juli Inkster, Rosie Jones and Candie Kung, who will try to win her third straight LPGA event.

Kung, a 22-year-old in only her second year on the tournament, said ``everything came together'' in the last few weeks, particularly her putts inside 15 feet.

``Hopefully I'll be able to do it again this week,'' she said. ``But I'm not going to think about it.''

More than 9 inches of rain since last week have left the course sodden, but conditions were expected to improve by the opening round Friday.

For several players, it will be the final tune-up for the Solheim Cup next week in Sorenstam's native Sweden.

``I think I've been more nervous in Solheims than I have been in some of the majors I've played in because you don't want to let your team down,'' she said.

Sorenstam has done just fine in the majors this year.

She said she came close to fulfilling her goals by winning the LPGA Championship and the Women's British Open, where she beat Pak by one stroke. Those were the only two majors she had not won, and the British Open made her the sixth woman to complete the LPGA career Grand Slam.

She won't repeat the Colonial because she wants to remember the experience ``for what it was.''

``I've come to a point in my career where I do feel kind of satisfied with what I've done. But a few more majors,'' she said, ``and then I'll be full.''

All she needs is three more tournaments and then she'll be in the Hall of Fame.

Sorenstam always saw that as something reserved for the end of a golfer's career. Here she is at age 32, not even at her prime, and she already has qualified. All she needs is 10 years on the LPGA Tour, which she will compete by playing in 15 tournaments.

``I don't think it has sunk in yet,'' she said, almost marveling at the thought of her forthcoming induction. ``Here I am reaching my peak, and here I'm going to be inducted by the end of the year. Obviously, I'm flattered. It's something I'm going to be very, very proud of.''

Her 15th event will be the Samsung World Championship outside Houston. Sorenstam official qualifies after the first round that week, which happens to be Oct. 9 _ her birthday.