Originally created 04/02/02

Sorenstam dominating golf



RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. -- The best player wears red on Sunday, and that no longer applies only to Tiger Woods.

Is anyone in golf more dominant right now than Annika Sorenstam?

The 31-year-old Swede became the first back-to-back winner of the Kraft Nabisco Championship, where she was the only player to break par all four rounds on a difficult Dinah Shore tournament course at Mission Hills.

It was her 33rd career victory, and 10th in her last 26 tournaments. And it sounds as though Sorenstam is just warming up.

"I want to see how good I can be and how good I can play," she said. "That's what drives me every day. Just because I had a great year last year doesn't mean I'm happy with that. Victories like this push me more, and make me want to see what else I can win."

The LPGA's emphasis on "Five Points of Celebrity" made no mention of its top players wearing shiny red shoes for the final round of the first major championship.

Sorenstam broke out the ruby slippers on a whim, a gutsy move to make a fashion statement on such an important day - tied for the lead with chief rival Karrie Webb and Liselotte Neumann, whom Sorenstam idolized as a teen.

"If I'm not afraid to wear these, then I'm not afraid to play," Sorenstam said.

The only thing to fear in women's golf is how long Sorenstam can keep up this pace.

She has not swept the four majors. She has not won more tournaments than anyone in the last 50 years. She has not won a U.S. Open by 15 strokes.

She is not Tiger Woods.

Still, Sorenstam is beginning to separate herself from her competitors the way Woods did two years ago during his record-setting season.

When Woods won the Masters last year to hold the titles of all four majors at the same time, it was his 19th victory in his last 38 tour events. Since then, Woods has won three of his last 18 tournaments, and finished out of the top 10 in the last three majors.

Some were expecting Sorenstam to go through a similar letdown after one of the greatest seasons in women's golf.

She became the first woman to shoot 59. She won the Nabisco for her first major in five years. She came from 10 strokes behind on the final day for her fourth consecutive victory, the longest streak on the LPGA Tour in 24 years.

When her sensational season ended with eight victories, Sorenstam broke the season scoring average (69.42) and became the first woman to surpass $2 million in one year.

What next? Plenty, apparently.

"I don't want to stop here," she said. "I want to constantly push myself. They say you can't do better than last year, and inside I was saying, 'Yes, I can."'

A year ago, she spent hours on the practice green to improve her putting. During the LPGA's two-month break, she practiced her bunker game and a variety of short-game shots because she considered that a weakness.

The woman who grew up dreaming of the perfect round - 18 birdies for a 54 - expects nothing short of that from her game.

Even before winning the Nabisco, Sorenstam started her season by beating Webb in a playoff at the Australian Ladies Masters, then opening the LPGA Tour season with a playoff victory over Lorie Kane in Hawaii.

Sorenstam defends another title this week in The Office Depot Championship in southern California, but the real test comes later this summer.

Webb is still 1-up in the majors, having won five of the last 10. While Sorenstam has won back-to-back in the desert, her record in the majors was well below par last year.

"I have set some different goals, and one of the goals is to perform better in the majors," the Swede said. "The majors mean a lot to me."

These days, Sorenstam seems to get whatever she wants.



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