Sorenstam Surprises at Skins

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LA QUINTA, Calif. -- Annika Sorenstam won as much money in her first Skins Game as Tiger Woods managed in his four appearances combined.
 
So much for the theory that inviting the world's best female golfer to this otherwise all-male, made-for-TV event was merely a gimmick to bring attention since Woods opted out this year.
 
'I've played with a lot of fine players,' said Mark O'Meara, Woods' close friend, 'and I'd have to put Annika at the top of the list.'
 
With her parents and husband among those watching, Sorenstam won five skins and $225,000, finishing second to Mr. Skins himself, Fred Couples, who earned $605,000 in winning the game for a record fourth time.
 
'I think she played terrific golf. I certainly didn't play better than Annika,' Couples said. 'I just made a few more putts and a couple of lucky shots.'
 
Phil Mickelson was third after Sunday's final nine holes of the 18-hole competition with $170,000. O'Meara, the defending champion, wound up with nothing after winning $405,000 in the event a year ago.
 
Despite her success, Sorenstam thought an invitation to return next year was unlikely.
 
'I would definitely accept it, but I don't expect one,' she said. 'I was just flattered to get an invitation to be here this year. There's a lot of people who deserve to be here, but obviously I'm very thankful to have a chance to experience this, because it's been wonderful.'
 
Sorenstam impressed her competitors with her unfailingly accurate drives off the tee.
 
'I was surprised at how far she hit the golf ball,' Mickelson said. 'I think if she were to attempt to play the men's tour full-time - not that she would, but if she were going to - I don't think distance would be a hindrance for her. She hits the ball plenty long.'
 
The 18-hole competition brought an end to Sorenstam's long season.
 
She led the LPGA Tour with six wins, won her sixth money title and was inducted into the LPGA Hall of Fame. In May, she became the first woman to compete in a PGA Tour event in 58 years, playing two solid rounds at The Colonial but missing the cut.
 
Her season ended with a skins competition in Singapore, the LPGA finale at the ADT Championship in Florida, and a cross-country flight to California for the Skins Game.
 
Now it's time for 'a long break,' she said, before she begins practicing for what she expects to be another triumphant year.
 
'It's majors I want to win. I've been fortunate to win six of them, but I believe inside that I can win more than that,' Sorenstam said. 'Next year I'm going to go out and try to win four in one year. Therefore, I need all the experience and all the education I can get.'
 
Sorenstam provided one of the most memorable moments in the Skins Game's 21-year history.
 
The 39-yard bunker shot for an eagle to win $175,000 on the ninth and final hole Saturday brought the sagging event to life. She started Sunday's play with another skin, a 15-foot birdie putt on the 10th hole.
 
'I was happy to make another skin other than that fluke shot, the bunker shot I hit,' Sorenstam said.
 
Couples won $580,000 on Sunday, the second-largest earnings on the final nine holes in the event's 21-year history. Only Greg Norman's $1 million sweep in 2001 was larger. Couples' $605,000 is the third-largest total.
 
In his 10 Skins Game appearances, Couples has won a record $2.875 million. He birdied the par-3 17th hole three times on Sunday, the first one with a 55-foot putt. The other two came as part of the four playoff holes that finally resulted in Couples winning the $200,000 'Super Skin.'
 
'It's a fish bowl and pot luck,' Couples said of the format. 'I feel like I can pull off any shot at any time, and if I don't it doesn't take me three holes to figure my swing out. And I think the best thing that I do, I don't get flustered.'
 
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