Annika Anxious to Play Reclaim Throne

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Ginn Tribute Hosted by AnnikaMOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. -- Annika Sorenstam set up as always, slowly drew back the club and followed through in her easy, effective way.
 
'Great swing there,' one of her partners, Tommy Ford, said during Wednesday's pro-am at the Ginn Tribute.
 
Annika Sorenstam
Annika Sorenstam gets in a practice round Wednesday at the Ginn Tribute. (Getty Images)
Sorenstam smiled, at last back doing what few have done better on the LPGA Tour.
 
Sorenstam is set to return to competitive golf in this week's $2.6 million event, which she's hosting. She missed nearly two months to deal with a ruptured disk and a bulging disk in her back.
 
'It's been a little weird to be away in the middle of the season,' Sorenstam said.
 
It's indeed been strange not to see her out on tour. Sorenstam has won 69 times on the LPGA Tour, including 10 majors, in her 13-year career.
 
But the 36-year-old Swede hadn't played since the Kraft Nabisco Championships that ended on April 1. She struggled through her back injuries there, shooting 296, her highest 72-hole score in a major since the '98 U.S. Women's Open.
 
Soon after, doctors discovered Sorenstam's problems. She withdrew from the Ginn Open six weeks ago and has not competed since.
 
Sorenstam said her pro-am round was her first full 18 holes since the injury. She considers herself about 85 percent and is confident her progress will continue. Sorenstam says playing golf won't make her injury worse.
 
Still, she'll take precautions to maintain her health.
 
'I'm actually not hitting as many balls as I used to. I hope to avoid the rough,' Sorenstam said. 'But I'm going to focus on the positive. It's good to be back.'
 
Lorena Ochoa has taken Sorenstam's position as No. 1 in the world since the injury. The ultra-competitive Sorenstam says she's not focused on regaining it this week.
 
'Right now, I think I have some other things on my mind,' she said.
 
Ochoa, Sorenstam and Michelle Wie, playing after her own time away with wrist injuries, are part of the stellar field -- the top 50 from the LPGA money list are here -- for the inaugural event at The RiverTowne Country Club that tees off Thursday.
 
Ochoa expects Sorenstam to chase the top ranking as her back improves.
 
'She likes to win and be in that position,' Ochoa said.
 
Sorenstam filled her time off with about 90 minutes of rehabilitation exercises each day and a few chips and putts. She also tended to her course design business and recently opened golf academy.
 
'I've not been bored at all. As a matter of fact, I've enjoyed it,' Sorenstam said. 'But then again, I realized when I was out here again, I did miss it a little bit.'
 
Sorenstam plans to keep up her playing schedule, including next week's major, the McDonald's LPGA Championship.
 
Sorenstam has enough to do here even with her reduced practice time. Her name is everywhere on the course, from tee markers to parking lot banners to spectator badges. 'It's tough to miss it,' she said, smiling.
 
As host, Sorenstam will check to ensure there are enough drinks for competitors at tee boxes and make appearances to guarantee the tournament's success.
 
Morgan Pressel, who won the Kraft Nabisco Championship, said it was good to have Sorenstam back on tour.
 
'I'm sure it will take her a little while to get totally back into it,' said Pressel, who had heard Sorenstam was still getting her swing back to full speed.
 
Sorenstam says that will come in time. She'll call on the patience and planning she typically uses at a major tournament to manage her game this week.
 
'I've got to be a lot more conservative,' she said. 'Right now, I've just got to think positive and say, 'Five weeks ago, I wasn't hitting balls.''
 
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