With a victory, Sorenstam can become the first LPGA Tour player to win the same major three straight years. But she wont be able to rely on her winning experiences at DuPont Country Club to accomplish the feat.
The Swedish star will have to figure out Bulle Rock golf course, the new home of the event.
After 18 years in Wilmington, Del., the LPGA Championship shifted 40 miles south to Maryland and Bulle Rock, a Pete Dye design with plenty of elevation changes, challenging short and long holes, slick, undulating greens and the Dye staple'railroad ties.
Bulle Rock will play about 6,500 yards to a par of 72 for the event June 9-12 that also will feature 15-year-old Michelle Wie.
Sorenstam said she will miss DuPont.
I love the old, traditional golf courses, with the tall trees, she said. Its a demanding golf course in many ways. 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.
In last years final round, Sorenstam played down the wrong fairway and hit a wedge from just under 100 yards over a row of trees and past a bunker within 3 feet for a birdie at No. 16 that helped secure a three-shot victory.
It was one of those career shots that Ill never forget, she said.
The venue change leaves Sorenstam with mixed feelings.
I finally figured out the course and theyre moving the event, Sorenstam said Monday in a conference call at the tournaments media day. Ive heard a lot of wonderful things about the new place ... I just hope it wont take seven or eight years to figure it out.
After a tie for 30th in the 1998 LPGA, Sorenstam finished tied for 16th (99), tied for 12th (2000), fifth (01) and third (02) before winning consecutive titles.
Not much has stumped Sorenstam during the last few years. She has won six of her last seven tournaments, and eight of the last 11.
She failed in a bid to win a record six straight events at Kingsmill two weeks ago, and settled for tying Nancy Lopezs record of five in a row.
Since the start of the 2001 season, she has won 37 times overall and raised her LPGA Tour win total to 60, tied with Patty Berg for third place on the career list behind Kathy Whitworth (88) and Mickey Wright (82).
But records dont drive Sorenstam, goals do. And one of her pursuits this year is the Grand Slam. After a victory in the Kraft Nabisco Championship, the LPGA Championship is the next step.
Its in the back of my mind, Sorenstam said. I know what I want to do, and now Im focusing more on the process of how to do it.
Sorenstam doesnt expect to change the way she prepares for the event just because theres a possible record in the offing.
Im going to stay with my routine, she said. Ive tried different strategies to try to defend a title, coming in a few weeks early to play a round or two. But it never really worked out for me. So, Im going to stick to what I normally do.
Im excited about the opportunity to play a new golf course.
Patty Sheehan, a three-time winner of the LPGA Championship, is confident Sorenstam can adapt quickly to the conditions at Bulle Rock.
Shes winning more than shes losing, said Sheehan, a six-time major champion with 35 career titles. So, I think the odds are that shes going to come in here and learn the golf course quickly, and if she doesnt win, Ill be surprised.
And while Sorenstam has shown she can get from tee to green as well as any player, she might need to brush up on her geography heading into the second major of the year.
Laying out her plans heading into the event, Sorenstam mixed up her directions.
Ill defend my title at the Corning Classic in two weeks, and then Im playing ShopRite (outside Atlantic City), she said.
Ill head a little north, Sorenstam said, drawing a few chuckles from the crowd before being corrected.
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