SORENSTAM looking for third Big Apple title

Thursday, July 19th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW ROCHELLE, New York (AP) _ One name can be said without the other, but it just doesn't sound right.

Annika and Karrie. Karrie and Annika. Whichever way they're said, they always seem to be together.

Annika Sorenstam and Karrie Webb are the top two players on the LPGA Tour by almost every set of criteria imaginable.

But Sorenstam is alone this week as she defends her title in the dlrs 950,000 Big Apple Classic, which got under way Thursday. Yet when she met the media on Wednesday, Webb's name came up before the first pen hit paper.

``You'd like to have to best field at each event, but you have to understand you can't play every week,'' Sorenstam said when asked is she was disappointed Webb wasn't in this week's field.

Sorenstam, who also won this tournament in 1998, doesn't mind talking about the rivalry.

``I think it's good. I enjoy it,'' she said. ``It's a challenge even though there's 142 other players besides Karrie and me. The way she has played the last few years has motivated me to practice and get better. It hasn't come down to a head-to-head on a Sunday, but maybe if we did that a few times, it would even spice it up a little bit.''

The two will come down to the final hole against each other on July 30, in ``The Battle at Bighorn,'' a made-for-TV event featuring Sorenstam and Tiger Woods against Webb and David Duval.

``I don't know the guy very well at all,'' Sorenstam said of Woods. ``I've talked to him a few times on the phone. But I've already told him to bring his `A' game. I'll need his help. It's my first chance to see him play live.''

Sorenstam thinks the alternate-shot event will help women's golf.

``I think it's great. Obviously, I'm playing in it so I'm excited, but I think it's great for women's golf for us to play on a Monday on prime time TV playing with the best guys in the world. We couldn't ask for anything better. It will be relaxed, not a battle of the sexes. It will be a show. It will be good golf.''

That's what everyone has come to expect of Sorenstam, a five-time winner this year who leads the money list at dlrs 1,212,357. Webb, whose only two wins this year were majors, is second, about dlrs 70,000 behind.

Four of Sorenstam's wins came in consecutive weeks in March and April.

``In the beginning of the year everything went my way and came together,'' Sorenstam said. ``The last few weeks have been up and down. One week I would hit it good, but the short game would be off, the next week would be totally opposite. It just hasn't really fit the way it did early in the year.''

Sorenstam is one of nine winners this year in the Big Apple Classic field. The others are Wendy Doolan, Juli Inkster, Rosie Jones, Lorie Kane, Betsy King, Catriona Matthew, Rachel Teske and Emilee Klein.

The par-71, 6,161-yard Wykagyl Country Club course is a hilly, tree-lined layout.

``This is a shot-maker's course. You have to think on every shot,'' said Klein, who won last week's Michelob Light Classic. ``You just can't hit it and find it. You really have to think.''

Sorenstam won last year with a 7-under total as rain shortened the tournament to 54 holes.

``This is a difficult golf course,'' she said. ``You have to hit the ball to certain places. This is not a forgiving golf course in any way.''

Inkster, who won this tournament in 1992, called Wykagyl a demanding course.

``It is a very pure golf course,'' she said. ``I think this could be a major golf course. You can make a good run on a lot of the holes up the middle, but you should also take it where you can get it.''

Inkster admitted even an LPGA Hall of Famer like herself gets caught up in the Sorenstam-Webb rivalry.

``It's fun to watch,'' she said. ``When I check the paper when I am home, I look to see how they are playing. They are two very different players. Annika is more methodical, down the middle and on the green, she lays up. Karrie is more powerful, she goes for it, she's more aggressive. In the end, they end up the same.''