'It's a great thing,' said defending champion Juli Inkster, who shot a 10-under 62 in the final round last year to beat Lorie Kane. 'I think it's a thrill for Corning to be able to see Annika this week. They will be very impressed with what they see.'
The gallery and players were impressed with what Sorenstam did during last year's Corning Classic. She became the first woman in 58 years to play in a PGA Tour event, missing the cut at the Colonial. Tournament officials here put up a big-screen TV near the 18th green for people to watch, and just about everybody glanced up at some point during her two rounds.
'She did an awesome job, not only with her golf but with the media, and the notoriety it brought to the LPGA was phenomenal,' Inkster said. 'And to come back here and play, I think it's just a testament to her doing the right thing. Hopefully, it won't be just a one-time thing.'
Sorenstam, who was expected to arrive Wednesday night, hasn't played at Corning since finishing in a tie for seventh in 1995. The Swedish star's only other appearance in the tournament came the year before when she finished in a tie for 21st as a rookie.
'I'm looking forward to coming back to Corning,' Sorenstam said in a statement. 'I'm extremely appreciative of Corning's support of my participation in the Colonial tournament last year and excited to get back this year.'
Corning Classic president Jack Benjamin said when Sorenstam committed just minutes before the May 18 deadline to play the event, it prompted a surge in ticket sales. 'It's a big deal for us,' he said.
'People just love to come out and watch her play,' said Sherri Steinhauer, whose victory in last week's Sybase Classic was her first on tour since 1999. 'She brings a lot of excitement to each tournament.'
Inkster provided the drama last year with the 17th come-from-behind victory of her Hall of Fame career. The 62 equaled the lowest final-round score by a winner in the history of the LPGA Tour and was the lowest round of her career.
'It feels great to be back,' Inkster said. 'It was a memorable round, one that you don't forget. I would like it to come down to me (again) on Sunday. I would love it.'
Divots:@ Past Corning champions Rosie Jones, Betsy King, Kelli Kuehne, Colleen Walker and Beth Daniel are in the field of 144 golfers competing this week. Jones and King are the only two-time Corning Classic winners. Jones won in 1996 and 1997, and King in 1991 and 2000. ... Jones, who has 13 career LPGA wins, is first on Corning's money list with $528,328 in 17 appearances.
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.