That Hall of Fame Feeling Hits Annika


TULSA, Okla. (AP) -- Annika Sorenstam long saw the Hall of Fame as something reserved for the end of a golfer's career. So how does it feel to be just three tournaments away from induction herself?
'A little weird,'' she said Wednesday.
Sorenstam arrived at the John Q. Hammons Hotel Classic after three weeks off ready to defend her title, not reminisce about successes in a 10-year tour career.
'I don't think it has sunk in yet,'' she said, almost marveling at the thought of her forthcoming induction. 'Here I am reaching my peak, and here I'm going to be inducted by the end of the year.
'Obviously,'' she said, 'I'm flattered. It's something I'm going to be very very proud of.''
Sorenstam is expected to qualify for the Hall of Fame on her 33rd birthday, Oct. 9, in the first round of the Samsung World Championship at The Woodlands, Texas.
The world's top-ranked female player is more accustomed to looking forward and planning what's next. But even her three weeks off were about looking back at a groundbreaking year topped by her appearance at the Colonial.
She spread news clippings about the Colonial on the floor. She read the letters of support. And for the first time since May, she said she paused to absorb what it meant to be the first woman in 58 years to play against the men.
The experience came flooding back, she said.
'That's what I mean by catching up and absorbing because it was the most special week I've ever had in golf,'' she said.
Now, she added, it's time to move on.
Even after a banner year, Sorenstam arrived at the Tulsa Country Club on Wednesday fondly recalling her four-stroke victory here a year ago when the tournament had a different sponsor and name.
The old-fashioned, tree-flanked course, with its small and tricky greens, appeals to her, she said.
Twenty-five of the LPGA's top 30 money leaders are among the 144 players that begin the three-day 54-hole tournament Friday.
'I still love to compete,'' Sorenstam said. 'That's why I'm here. I'm ready to go now.''
Her competition includes Se Ri Pak, Juli Inkster, Rosie Jones and Candie Kung, who will be trying to win a third straight LPGA tournament.
Kung, a 22-year-old in only her second year on the tournament, said 'everything came together'' in the last few weeks, particularly her putts inside 15 feet.
'Hopefully I'll be able to do it again this week,'' she said, pondering the added challenge of Sorenstam. 'But I'm not going to think about it.''
More than 9 inches of rain since last week have left the course sodden, but conditions were expected to improve by the tournament's start.
Next up for Sorenstam is the Solheim Cup Sept. 12-14 in her native Sweden.
Sorenstam said she came close to fulfilling her goals this year by winning the LPGA Championship and the Women's British Open, where she beat Pak by one stroke.
She won't repeat the Colonial, she said, because she wants to remember the experience 'for what it was.''
'I've come to a point in my career where I do feel kind of satisfied with what I've done. But a few more majors,'' she said, 'and then I'll be full.''