ROCKLAND, Del. -- No one on the LPGA Tour has been more consistent this year than Annika Sorenstam, who has eight top-10 finishes in eight events and ranks No. 1 in scoring average.
Yet the Swede enters this weekend's LPGA Championship without a victory. Given the fact that Sorenstam won six tournaments and a record $1.24 million last year, it's almost as if she's in a slump.
Sorenstam, like Tiger Woods, is a victim of her own success. Because both won so often last year, nothing less than a victory is expected.
"You can look at it that way," Sorenstam said Wednesday. "Last year I won six times, so when you come into '98 maybe myself and other people expect me to win more. But I can't complain that I'm playing bad, because I'm not."
Not by a long shot. Sorenstam has completed 22 of her 28 rounds under par and is the leading contender for the Vare Trophy with a 70.0 average. She also is fourth on the money list and has finished in the top 4 in five events.
"I want to win. That's most important," she said. "But if I finish in the top 10 the rest of the year, I'm not complaining. It shows consistency."
It will take four consistent rounds for Sorenstam to claim the $195,000 top prize at the LPGA Championship, which begins Thursday at the DuPont Country Club.
A victory in the $1.3 million major would enable Sorenstam to squelch the annoying questions about her inability to cash a winner's check.
"I just have to keep grinding. Maybe this is the week," she said.
Picking the winner of the championship is as difficult as predicting the weather, which was just about perfect for Wednesday's Pro-Am after 12 straight days of rain. The deluge left the greens and fairways soft, which is just the way two-time winner Laura Davies likes them.
"It's nice to know the course is playing long and tough," said Davies, whose 260-yard average off the tee is best on the tour this year. "I love this course. Every hole is a friend of mine and I'm looking forward to playing them all."
Davies won the event in 1994 and 1996, but her game is not up to par thus far this year. She has yet to finish higher than third in 11 events and has missed the cut three times.
Davies, like Sorenstam, said the competition on the Tour is much tougher than ever. And that's as good a reason as any why neither has won this year.
"Who knows what the reason is, but it seems to me like a few years ago you had a few places where you were happy to make par," Davies said. "Now par is not good enough. You shoot par, you can forget it."
Davies won the rain-shortened tournament in 1996 with a par-213 and Chris Johnson won last year with a 3-under 281.
Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez, a three-time winner of the event, hopes to parlay her second-place finish at the Sara Lee Classic last week into something even more satisfying this week. Lopez hasn't won a major since 1989.
"I would love to win it," she said. "I feel good about my game and I feel good about my putting, so I think my chances are good this week."
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