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Sorenstam Still Setting Lofty Goals

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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Her history-making year is almost over, and already Annika Sorenstam is thinking of new ways to shake up the golf world.

'I would like to win more majors,' Sorenstam said Wednesday. 'I do believe it's possible to win four in a row, same year, and that's what I'm going to try to do next year.'
 
It's never been done, and it could very well take something that momentous for her to top 2003, a year in which she entered the World Golf Hall of Fame, was named LPGA Player of the Year and, oh yeah, captured the world's attention by teeing it up with the men at the Bank of America Colonial.
 
She is sandwiching this week's ADT LPGA Tour Championship, beginning Thursday, inside a Skins Game last week against the men in Singapore and another next week in California.
 
But, she says, her days of playing serious tournament golf against the guys are over for the foreseeable future, for one overriding reason.
 
'I want to win,' she said. 'It's tough when you stand on every hole with a 5-iron or a 7-wood trying to hit the green and you know you have to make a long putt to make a birdie.'
 
That was precisely the case at the Colonial where, despite missing the cut and shooting 5-over-par 145 over two days, she showed she could hang with the best men in the world.
 
When she received the invitation to play, she was surprised, and when she accepted, she thought her appearance would just be about her.
 
It wasn't. Instead, the first appearance by a woman in a PGA Tour event since 1945 was a transcendent moment for both sports and culture, one that galvanized people into two factions: those who thought it was great and those who thought women had no place in the men's game.
 
Sorenstam cried when her two rounds were over, but maybe the most memorable moment was her reaction after the first tee shot -- breathing a huge sigh of relief and jokingly wobbling away from the first tee, her knees buckling from all the pressure.
 
'It was a special moment,' said Sorenstam, who conceded it was always tough trying to be like the effervescent Nancy Lopez when she really wasn't like her at all. 'I think people saw me as a human being, that I have feelings.'
 
While the machinelike veneer was peeled away against the men, it remained firmly in place on the LPGA Tour. Sorenstam won her fifth and sixth majors, led Europe to victory at the Solheim Cup, topped the money list, and put herself in position to top $2 million in prize money for the third straight year.
 
She says her game improved because of the experience with the men, mainly because she saw new mental and emotional challenges that she never had to face against other women.
 
Meanwhile, the Swede further separated herself from the rest of the pack, as much on the money list as in the court of public opinion.
 
The big talk on tour for the last month or so has been about the influx of Asians to the LPGA, led by Se Ri Pak, and their inability to connect with the average American fan.
 
Pak, who could earn her own spot in the Hall of Fame by winning this week, insists she is not jealous of Sorenstam. The South Korean, second on the money list, acknowledges the world's top-ranked player has worked for what she's earned. Sure, Pak would love to be No. 1, but she can't make a particular effort to be a star.
 
'That's the second thing,' she said. 'The first thing is just to take my job seriously and do my best to do well.'
 
That's Sorenstam's goal, too, although she knows topping 2003 will be hard.
 
She's very noncommittal when asked how long she can keep up this pace.
 
On one hand, she claims to have lots of interests she'd like to pursue outside of golf, and she feels like the last, exciting year has helped her grow and prepare for life after retirement.
 
But she insists her retirement is not imminent, and there are still goals ahead, most notably for 2004.
 
'Right now, you're talking to me at the end of the year, where I feel like I've been everywhere and my energy level is pretty low,' she said. 'But like I said, it's the four majors that I'm going for next year. Those goals are pretty clear. Other than that, I don't really have any more.'
 
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