Sorenstam looks tough going into summer

Tuesday, June 4, 2002

AURORA, Ill. -- Annika Sorenstam flashes a smile so photogenic you want to frame it.

And why shouldn't she be smiling? Look at how she's playing.

After winning eight tournaments in 2001, she already has four wins this year. Last year, Sorenstam became the first on the LPGA Tour to win $2 million. She's almost halfway to that figure now -- $940,000 -- and there's still two-thirds of the schedule to be played.

Sorenstam won the year's first major, the Kraft Nabisco Championship in March, and is on a big-time roll going into the second, this week's LPGA Championship in Wilmington, Del.

The 31-year-old Swede is coming off an 11-stroke victory in the inaugural Kellogg-Keebler Classic outside Chicago, shooting a 21-under 195 that matched the best 54-hole score in LPGA history.

"I've been hitting the ball really well," Sorenstam said. "My distance control is back. I think I putted excellent. It seems like all parts of my game have come together."

They came together so well last weekend that no one else in a field that included most of this year's top-20 money winners had a chance.

Karrie Webb? She got within three strokes of Sorenstam early in the final round but finished 14 back. Se Ri Pak? Also 14 back. Juli Inkster? Try 17 back. The tour's No. 2 money winner, Laura Diaz? Didn't make the cut.

To put Sorenstam's 11-stroke margin in perspective, consider this: the combined margin in the eight previous tournaments decided in regulation was 16.

"She's on top of the world right now," said Webb, the defending champion in this week's event. "It's great for her."

But tough on everyone else. The same golfers Sorenstam beat so handily over the weekend will try to make things more competitive this time.

"If you're going to win, she's going to be the one to beat," said Danielle Ammaccapane, who was paired with Sorenstam on Sunday and finished 10 under to tie for second. "I'm not doubting myself. I believe I can beat her. But when she gets on a roll like that, it's hard to play."

Sorenstam has won this year in a variety of ways.

She took the year's first event, the Takefuji Classic, on the first hole of a playoff with Lorie Kane. At the Kraft Nabisco, Sorenstam edged Liselotte Nuemann by one stroke, and she came from behind to win the Aerus Electrolux by one stroke over Pat Hurst.

No dramatics were needed at the Kellogg-Keebler. She led there from the start.

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