Originally created 07/25/02

Big names at the Big Apple Classic



NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. -- The best of the LPGA Tour are on a first name basis with those who follow the sport.

Nothing more than Annika, Karrie and Juli are necessary for anyone to know you're talking about three of the top women golfers.

Annika Sorenstam, Karrie Webb and Juli Inkster are in the field for the Big Apple Classic, which gets underway Thursday at Wykagyl Country Club, just north of New York City.

Sorenstam comes in No. 1 on the money list, having won six times already this year. She's had success here as well, winning the tournament in 1998 and 2000, finishing second in 1997 and was tied for eighth last year.

"Besides that, I have played well here and really like coming to New York. I just like this course. It is one of those tree-lined, traditional courses with small greens," Sorenstam said Wednesday of the par-71, 6,161-yard layout. "I decided I would play here the week after the Open. I wanted to see if I was tired and how I came out of the Open."

The U.S. Open came down to a final-round battle between Sorenstam and Inkster. Sorenstam had a two-stroke lead entering the final round on July 7, but Inkster came up with one of the best closing rounds in Open history and won it for the second time.

"I took a couple of weeks off after the Open and they were very busy but not much golf," Inkster said. "There was a lot of softball because my daughter was in two tournaments.

"The Open was real stressful and I needed to get away."

Sorenstam and Webb can't seem to get away from each other. One or the other has led the money list each of the last seven years, with Sorenstam breaking the $2 million mark last season.

Sorenstam was the player of the year in 2001, ending Webb's two-year run and giving them the honor seven of the last eight years.

"Golf is not a game where you can ever say you've completely gotten it. You'll always find things in your game to improve," Webb said. "I had some really good years like '99 and 2000 and I want to get back to that again.

"I have been No. 1 and how many people in any line of work can say that they ever got there let alone for two years?" Webb said.

Then she added the frustration of explaining being the best. "I could never put my finger on it when I was No. 1."

The Big Apple field will include seven of the current top 10 on the money list.

Se Ri Pak, third on the money list behind Sorenstam and Inkster, withdrew Monday without giving a reason. She played seven of the last eight weeks and in the first six of those tournaments she was no worse than 11th, including winning the LPGA Championship to join Sorenstam and Inkster as winners of majors this year. Last week, at the Giant Eagle Classic, Pak finished tied for 41st.

Rosie Jones is the defending champion of the Big Apple Classic, which is sponsored by Sybase. She took the last two weeks off and hasn't had a top 10 finish since being second to Laura Diaz in the Corning Classic on May 26. Diaz finished one stroke behind Jones at this event last year.

Divots: Helen Alfredsson and Jan Stephenson both withdrew Wednesday. Alfredsson was an off-site withdrawal, so no reason was given. Stephenson was sick. ... The first prize from the purse of $950,000 is $142,500. ... The last of the majors is the Women's British Open at Turnberry starting Aug. 8, and Pak is defending champion.