Its Tough Sledding for Annika

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RANCHO MIRAGE, Cal. - It was a little like a chipping away at Mount Rushmore using only an ice pick. Annika Sorenstam is trying mightily to work herself into a contending position at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, but shes having a difficult time just keeping the ice pick moving.
 
It happened again in Round 2 Friday. She began the day at 1-under-par 71, but that was nine strokes behind leader Lorena Ochoa, who sizzled with a 62 on opening day. And by the end of her round Friday, Annika had struggled with the Mission Hills course in scratching out an even-par 72. A birdie on her final hole of the day kept her from shooting over-par the second round.
 
Now, by no means is the tournament over, and by no means is Annika completely out of the running with 36 holes still remaining. But Friday was an important day for her in closing the gap a little on the top spot. And even-par rounds dont do much very often in closing the gap.
 
The unfortunate thing ' if youre an Annika fan ' is that she feels she is hitting the ball just fine. But the darn little rascal just isnt getting in the hole. If there ever were an instance of the ball not caring who hits it, this is it.
 
Im hitting the ball good enough and driving it well enough and having good opportunities, said Sorenstam. But today my putter let me down a few times.
 
Friday was one of those wacky days. She stumbled out of the gate with bogeys on her fourth and eighth hole (she started on the back nine), but then birdied her ninth and 11th holes. And she followed with another bird on her 13th, and you felt like maybe she was taking off. She was at 2-under for the tournament now and she had a par-5 still to play, which meant that she could well be 3-under going into Saturday.
 
But, inexplicably, she missed the green on the par-3 fifth (her 14th) and had to scramble for par. And she missed the green on her 15th green and had to scramble again for a par. Her luck ran out on her 16th and 17th when she bogeyed both. And finally, she made birdie on her last, the par-5, to wind up the day exactly where she began ' at 1-under.
 
I fought really hard out there, she said. I really tried. When I finally make a birdie, a bogey comes in and it takes 10 holes to make another birdie.

Annika, of course, cant do one blasted thing about the excellence that Ochoa has shown. She isnt a hockey goalie ' she isnt allowed to bat away Lorenas putts. All she can do is control her own ball, and let the gods of golf control the fate of the players above her.
 
Thats all I can do, she said. I can only play my game and Im going to keep doing it. Im happy with the way Im hitting and I have to keep going. Thats all I can do.
 
Paula Creamer, who was paired with Sorenstam the first two days, has seen a little different Annika this tournament compared to what Annika normally does when she was won 67 LPGA events.
 
Annika hasnt been playing her best golf the last two days, said Creamer. Her putter has failed her, but thats golf.
 
Sorenstam, of course, has the avowed goal of winning all four majors. And losing this first one of the year would surely be a cruel blow to her.
 
Its a little tough at the moment, she says. I feel Im playing better. But nothing happens.
 
Ochoa, if she keeps it up the way she has played the first two days, will be virtually uncatchable ' and it doesnt matter if Annika plays the way she usually does when she has won her nine majors. But if Lorena comes back to the field a little, Sorenstam hopes to be in a position to make her move.
 
But Sorenstam will have to jump out to a good round today, and follow that up with another good round of Sunday.
 
She can shoot at least 4 or 5 under, the way Im playing, she said. But if Ochoa shoots merely even-par Saturday, there may be no way Sorenstam can get back in contention, even with a good round. Some weeks, it doesnt matter how good you are hitting it. As long as the golf ball isnt finding the 4 -inch cup, it doesnt matter.