Annika Back to Business in Georgia


Annika Sorenstam returns to Eagle's Landing Country Club this week, the site of her most lopsided victory of 2005.
A year ago, she had a six-shot lead after two rounds and then she saw that margin swell to 10 shots after 54 holes. The final round was merely a formality as the story quickly became whether Sorenstam could break the LPGA's record for largest margin of victory (14 strokes).
A final-round 67 made her a winner by 10 shots, four shy of the record, but she gets another chance at history this week at the Florida's Natural Charity Championship hosted by Nancy Lopez.
Sorenstam, owner of 67 LPGA wins, is a two-time winner of this event, having earned the crown last year and also in 2001. After a two-week break, her quest for win No. 68 begins this week, and she is clearly the favorite. Sorenstam has not shot above par at the Florida's Natural Charity Championship hosted by Nancy Lopez since 2002, when the tournament was shortened to 36 holes because of inclement weather.
This is the fourth of 10 title defenses for Sorenstam this season. To date, she is one-for-three, having successfully defended the MasterCard Classic honoring Alejo Peralta. She came up short in her bid for repeat victories at the Safeway International Presented by Coca-Cola and the Kraft Nabisco Championship. She wants nothing more than to increase her title defense average to .500 this week.
Still, it would be sophomoric to think that Sorenstam, even with her stellar track record at the event, will not have plenty of competition for the $210,000 first-place paycheck.
Seven past champions are in the field and all know how to navigate their way to a win over the tricky Eagle's Landing layout: Jennifer Rosales (2004); Se Ri Pak (2003); Juli Inkster (2002); Sophie Gustafson (2000); Rachel Hetherington (1999); Barb Kolb (1996); and Laura Davies (1995).
Inkster won the Safeway International Presented by Coca-Cola this year, denying Sorenstam a coveted three-peat, and would like to take another trophy from the Swede's mantle. After going winless in 2004 and 2005, Inkster, 45, reworked her swing in the off-season, and the dividends are paying off. The LPGA Tour and World Golf Halls of Fame member has shown no signs of slowing down, and in addition to her win this year, she has accumulated three more top-10 finishes in five starts.
While worrying about the veteran Inskter, Sorenstam would be wise to keep a keen eye on the youngsters of the LPGA as well. Reigning Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Paula Creamer will be back this year with a chip on her shoulder. Out of 25 tournaments last year, Creamer missed only one cut and it took place at this event, so she comes in with something to prove. Morgan Pressel, winner of the 2006 Nancy Lopez Award, is also in the field this week and is looking to improve on her tie for 23rd she recorded last year as an amateur. Seon-Hwa Lee, who currently leads the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year race with 360 points, is also looking for her first LPGA win to go along with her three runner-up finishes already this year.
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Florida's Natural Charity Championship