Annika Turns Down Elite Samsung Invitation

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Annika Sorenstam turned down her invitation Friday to the Samsung World Championship, not wanting to cause hardship with any players who felt she might be taking their spot in the 20-player field.
 
In an effort to upgrade the event, tournament organizers last week eliminated a criteria that had not been used in nine years -- the option to exempt the U.S. Women's Amateur champion -- and replaced it with an exemption for an active Hall of Fame member.
 
That spot went to Sorenstam, inducted in 2003 and a five-time winner of the Samsung World Championship.
 
Mark Steinberg, head of the golf division at IMG and Sorenstam's agent, said the Swede became concerned last week upon hearing that some players were told the top 18 on the LPGA Tour money list would get in to the event at Bighorn Golf Club in Palm Desert, Calif.
 
The rest of the field is comprised of the defending champion, four major champions, leader on the Ladies European Tour money list, one special exemption (Michelle Wie), and the rest coming from the money list.
 
'She didn't want the perception that she was taking a spot,' Steinberg said. 'She decided to do what's best for the LPGA.'
 
The tournament starts Thursday. Women's British Open champion Lorena Ochoa also is the defending champion after rallying from three shots to beat Sorenstam last year.
 
The other major champions who qualified are Morgan Pressel, Suzann Pettersen and Cristie Kerr, with Bettina Hauert qualifying from the European money list. From the LPGA Tour money list, Sarah Lee at No. 18 earned the final spot at Bighorn.
 
Wie, who has made only two cuts on the LPGA this year and just began her freshman year at Stanford, accepted the special exemption in March. This will be her fourth straight year playing the tournament.
 
If not for Wie getting a special exemption, the last spot in the field would have gone to Evian Masters champion Natalie Gulbis.
 
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