Annika Up Against Tough Field


WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The 2004 LPGA season ends this week with one of the most exclusive events on tour. An elite field will gather at the pristine Trump International Golf Club to compete for $1 million in prize money at the ADT Championship.
The best players in the world are competing as the field includes only the top-30 players from the ADT official money list.
The name at the top of that list for the fourth consecutive year is Annika Sorenstam, but the 34-year-old is not the defending champion this week. That honor belongs to Meg Mallon, who with three wins this year is looking to put the bow on an already finely wrapped season.
During the summer, Mallon went through a stretch of winning three of five events in which she competed. Her streak began at the U.S. Women's Open conducted by the USGA, where she played the weekend at 10-under-par to win her second national championship.
A week later, Mallon captured the BMO Financial Group Canadian Women's Open, and two weeks after that, she won the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic Presented by Kroger.
A win this week would be Mallon's fourth title of the year, something she has only done once before, 13 years ago in 1991. But of course, a victory at the ADT Championship will be more difficult than just putting a tee in the ground and the ball in the hole, as 29 other players and a difficult golf course will serve as worthy adversaries to Mallon.
The first of those 'other' 29 players is Sorenstam, who comes into this week with wins in three of her last five LPGA events played. Sorenstam is a two-time champion of the ADT Championship, and a win this week would be her eighth of the season.
Sorenstam is enjoying her second-best season on the LPGA Tour financially, and is aiming to equal her number of wins from 2001. Sorenstam won 11 events in 2002 and amassed more than $2.8 million for her best year on Tour.
Grace Park, who is ranked second on the ADT Official Money List, is a multiple winner this year and has been playing some great golf recently. Park won the Kraft Nabisco Championship in March and put the additional bookend on a fine season when she won the CJ Nine Bridges Classic Presented by Sports Today last month in Korea.
Park is also locked in a heated battle for the Vare Trophy, which goes to the player with the lowest scoring average with a minimum of 70 rounds played. Park enters the week with a 69.86 scoring average, just .04 less than two-time tournament champion Lorena Ochoa (69.90).
In addition to challenging for the Vare Trophy, Ochoa is sure to be a threat for the ADT Championship trophy as well. Ochoa, ranked third on the ADT Official Money List, brings an aggressive style of play that has produced LPGA season records in birdies (417), eagles (20), rounds in the 60s (50) and rounds under par (74) to Trump International. Ochoa is one of the most consistent players on Tour with two wins and an additional 16 top-10 finishes in 2004.
There are 18 international players in the field including Shi Hyun Ahn, winner of the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year award. Ahn and Aree Song, also from Korea, are the only two rookies in the field. Other first-timers include Weetabix Women's British Open champion Karen Stupples, Longs Drugs Challenge champion Christina Kim, Wegmans Rochester LPGA Presented by Lincoln Mercury champion Kim Saiki and Stacy Prammanasudh.
Prammanasudh, 31st on the ADT Official Money List, and Sherri Steinhauer
(32) are competing this week because Mi Hyun Kim (7) and Se Ri Pak (9) withdrew due to injury.
Last year, Mallon entered the final round trailing Sorenstam by three shots.
Sorenstam increased the lead to four on the front nine, but could not withstand a birdie barrage by Mallon coming home. Mallon played the back nine at 5-under-par 31 to surge past Sorenstam and win by one stroke. Sorenstam missed a 10-foot par putt on 18 to force a sudden-death playoff.
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