Annika Hardly Thrilled with Start of Season

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REUNION, Fla. -- She's earned nearly $500,000 this season, leads the LPGA with four top-10 finishes in five events and holds her customary spot among tour leaders in several statistical categories.
 
A fine start for some. In Annika Sorenstam's world, this is practically a major slump.

Sorenstam is winless in her last four starts, finishing fourth Sunday at the Ginn Clubs & Resorts Open near Orlando, where a final-round 67 was her lone sub-70 round of the week. And considering how quickly the top-ranked women's player has started recent seasons, maybe this qualifies as a bit of a slide.
 
'Resultswise, I'm not so pleased,' Sorenstam said. 'But I'm happy with the way I'm playing. I'm just going to keep on grinding. Hopefully, it will turn around.'
 
Grinding?
 
Sorenstam?
 
Those are two words not typically associated with one another -- especially early in the year.
 
She opened this season with a victory at the MasterCard Classic, the third straight year that Sorenstam has won the first event she enters. Another win looked likely three events later at the Florida's National Charity Championship, but she dropped the lead with a final-round 75 and lost by two shots.
 
'Maybe it's changing,' said Cristie Kerr, who finished tied for second with Sorenstam after that final round debacle. 'But in the past, you would never be able to catch her.'
 
Sorenstam won six of her first eight tournaments in 2005, breaking 70 a total of 22 times in those 30 rounds. Her knack for strong starts is all but an annual rite:
 
-- She won four times in her first eight starts in 2004.
 
-- She was first or second five times in a seven-start span to open 2003.
 
-- She won three of seven early events in 2002.
 
-- She was first or second seven times in her first eight starts in 2001.
 
This year, Sorenstam is on the leaderboards with the same regularity -- just not atop them. And she said there's only one real problem with her game.
 
'Just the scoring part, which is the biggest part,' Sorenstam said. 'I mean, I'm working on everything and at least the last week I've been hitting it really well. I'm hoping that it's all turning around. I really am.'
 
At the Ginn, on a course she knew better than most of the field, Sorenstam was never in position make a run at the lead. Ball-striking wasn't an issue; she hit about two of every three fairways and four out of every five greens. But 124 putts -- 12 more than winner Mi Hyun Kim took over the four days -- was her undoing.
 
'I had a lot of chances,' Sorenstam said. 'I'm just not converting anything and when you don't, then you're making mistakes and walking away with bogey. So it's very frustrating and that's kind of how I feel like it's been the last month or so.'
 
Sorenstam's next event is in two weeks, the Michelob Ultra Open at Kingsmill. This week, her goal is simply to figure out what's lacking right now and correct it -- a challenge she said she'd welcome.
 
'I love the competition and to see all the young players come up,' Sorenstam said. 'Their games are getting better and I've got to step up, myself, which I think is good for me. I've got to find new ways to practice and new ways to get better.'
 
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