Sorenstam chasing third straight victory


Friday, June 13th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


VIENNA, Ohio (AP) _ Sweden's Annika Sorenstam is tired and Mi Hyun Kim of South Korea is sick, so luckily for the two stars, the Giant Eagle LPGA Classic is a 54-hole sprint instead of a four-day marathon.

Kim, the defending champion, has not practiced much this week. Suffering from nausea and headaches, she has found it difficult to just get out of bed.

``I feel very sick and bad. My condition is bad,'' she said Thursday. ``I cannot hit the ball well.''

A reigning champion is usually busy making appearances and being pursued by reporters. That hasn't been the case for Kim because Sorenstam is in the field for the first time since 1998.

``My English is bad, so I feel uncomfortable with media and TV,'' Kim said. ``So it's OK.''

The Giant Eagle field includes the top three money-winners (Sorenstam, Grace Park and Se Ri Pak) and the winners of eight of the 12 LPGA events this season.

It figures to be another challenge for Sorenstam, who has never seen the course before.

``It will be a total surprise on the first tee,'' Sorenstam said.

Sorenstam, of course, has spent the past month creating challenges for herself.

First she took on the PGA Tour in the Colonial, missing the cut but proving her game isn't far behind the world's greatest male players. Smiling throughout the 36 holes and crying after finishing, she collected admiring fans around the world.

A week later _ with many expecting a letdown after the glut of emotions at the Colonial _ she opened with a 62 in the first round at the Kellogg-Keebler Classic on the way to a three-shot victory.

She made it two in a row by winning the LPGA Championship for the first time in her glittering career last week, holding off Park to win on the first playoff hole. It was Sorenstam's fifth major championship and 45th victory in her LPGA career.

Sorenstam has disdained making an early appearance in suburban Youngstown, choosing instead to hang around her home in Orlando, Fla. While others were getting to know the course, she was shopping at the mall. While the rest of the field was working on the practice range, she spent five hours wake boarding on a Florida lake.

Her caddie, Terry McNamara, arrived at Squaw Creek on Monday and has spent the weak measuring distances and noting the break in the soggy greens.

``The course will be totally new to me,'' Sorenstam said. ``I've got a good caddie. He knows my game really well. He'll let me know where to hit the ball.''

Sorenstam has not played in the event since tying for ninth in 1998 when it was played at Avalon Lakes. She said she has had difficulty fitting the tournament into her schedule because it frequently is a week before or a week after a major championship.

This is not the first time Sorenstam has failed to do her homework for a tournament. She had never played the Country Club of the North prior to the first round of the 1997 Firstar Classic in suburban Dayton.

All she did was shoot 66-65-66 to go 19 under and win the tournament by a shot over Australia's Karrie Webb and Christie Kerr.