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Status Quo - Annika Still on Form

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HAWAII -- One full-field event in the books and nothings really changed, has it? Not that its a bad thing for golf fans or the LPGA. Annika Sorenstam is the LPGA darling for a reason. And while she didnt begin the final round of the Takefuji Classic with the lead, I guess the rest of the field was chasing Annika all along.
 
Annika found a self-admitted zone on the back nine to hole four birdie putts varying in length between 10 and 30 feet. At one point said she was so confident that she started telling her caddy I got it before the putts even dropped.
 
Sorenstam caught defending champ Lorie Kane and then birdied the first playoff hole to make it 1-for-1 in LPGA full-field events this year and 2-for-2 in tournaments played in this year. Annika beat her closest rival, Karrie Webb, in a playoff just days before the Takefuji in Australia. The Takefuji win marks her 11th comeback win on tour and makes her 11-4 in career playoffs on the LPGA Tour.
 
As Kane put it after the round, I always believe that top players like her will rise to the occasion. Theres never a doubt in my mind. You have to assume theyre going to hole every shot. Thats why they are where they are.
 
So where exactly is Annika? At the top of her game it appears, and on top of this tour for sure. This is a young woman who shattered more than 30 LPGA records last year on her way to an eight-victory season that included six runner-up finishes as well. Shes long since broken the necessary barrier for induction into the Hall of Fame and now must only wait for the 10-year membership requirement. She will be inducted in 2003.

What makes her so likeable is not just her game, but her character. A winner Saturday who said afterwards that she was overwhelmed and super-happy, Annikas been spotted walking, snorkeling and swimming on the Big Island. Shes been seen relaxing at the pool, shes been seen cruising through hotel lobbies and fitness centers at virtually every tour stop. All the while, shell stop to chat, sign autographs and be just who she is. Annika Sorenstam is REAL. This week she was labeled the role model of all role models and you cant help but agree.
 
While Annika Sorenstam has benefited from time on the LPGA Tour, there is no doubt who the real winner is. Its the tour itself and the fans that get the chance to see her on the course or off it. Her smile is infectious; her game is unmatched. She is the Worlds No. 1 both with clubs and without and a pleasure to cover as a journalist who spends time with this sport.
 
As Annika put it earlier this week, I will be busy this year. Yes she will! She defends eight titles and will try like heck to win the ones she isnt defending. After a week at home in Orlando, it's back to work for Annika. She heads to Phoenix, then Tucson and then the Kraft Nabisco for the years first major. Each week shell show up as the defending champ.
 
And you know what, when she does, shell do it with a smile and a bubbly personality that makes every event special and makes her the real leading lady on the LPGA Tour. Dont miss the chance to be there with her.