The challenges keep coming for Annika Sorenstam. She also seems to meet every one.
Her latest goal will be the LPGA Championship on June 9-12. With a victory, Sorenstam can become the first player to win an LPGA major three years in a row, and she will have the first two legs of the LPGA Grand Slam.
However, she'll have to do it at a new venue - the Bulle Rock Golf Course in Havre de Grace, Md. It replaces the venerable DuPont Country Club in Wilmington, Del., which had been the site for the LPGA for 18 years.
Bulle Rock was designed by Pete Dye, and has more elevation changes than DuPont, plus fast, undulating greens and, yes, railroad ties. The LPGA field will play the course at about 6,500 yards. Sorenstam, who averaged 68.6 in eight rounds at DuPont in winning the LPGA in 2003 and 2004, admits she'll miss the course.
"I love the old, traditional golf courses, with the tall trees," she said earlier this week in a conference call sponsored by the LPGA. "You have to hit it long, you have to be accurate, you have firm greens and you have rough. Put that together and that means a great golf course for a major championship.
"I finally figured out the course and they're moving the event," Sorenstam added. "I've heard a lot of wonderful things about the new place. I just hope it won't take seven or eight years to figure it out."
Sorenstam, who has won four of her five starts this year - including the Chick-fil-A Charity Championship - had DuPont figured out. In last year's final round on the 16th hole, she played down the wrong fairway and hit a wedge from just under 100 yards over a row of trees and past a bunker to within 3 feet for a birdie that helped secure a three-shot victory.
"It was one of those career shots that I'll never forget," she said.
Before winning the past two years, Sorenstam was 16th in 1999, 12th in 2000, fifth in 2001 and third in 2002.
FLESCH AND BLOOD: When Steve Flesch won the Bank of America Colonial last year, he joined Phil Mickelson and Mike Weir as left-handed winners in the 2004 PGA Tour season and went on to a career year, finishing 18th on the money list with more than $2.4 million.
This year, Flesch limps to the Colonial Country Club to defend his title in the midst of his worst slump since reaching the Tour in 1998.
Since tying for fourth at the FBR Open in February, Flesch has missed the cut or withdrawn in five of nine starts, and hasn't shot a round in the 60s since he closed 67-69 during the weekend at the FBR.
Flesch enters the week 142nd on Tour in driving distance, 158th in greens in regulation and 176th in putting. He's 81st on the money list but more than half his $421,244 was earned at FBR ($214,933).
BATTLE SET: Vijay Singh opted out, so the Lincoln Financial Battle at The Bridges will have to settle for three of the top-five ranked players in the world, plus fan favorite John Daly.
Tiger Woods will partner with John Daly to take on Mickelson and Retief Goosen on Monday, July 25 at The Bridges at Rancho Santa Fe, in California. The 18-hole, best-ball event will be on ABC-Ch. 6 from 8-11 p.m., with early holes on ESPN2 from 7-8 p.m.
GOLF EXTRA: One of the biggest question marks about moving The Players Championship to May is the condition of the course.
If the PGA Tour wants the TPC at Sawgrass Stadium Course to be in the same shape as it's been for the final week of March - high, thick rough and fast greens - superintendent Fred Klauk will have to find a way to keep the rye grass rough alive at a time of year when it begins to die and the dormant Bermuda grass begins to regenerate.
Klauk said renovations planned for the course after the 2006 Players, which include resoddding and installing a new irrigation system that will enable him to water the rough, but not the fairways, will help get the course ready for a May date.
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