Annika Motivated for Title Defense


2005 John Q Hammons Hotel ClassicBROKEN ARROW, Okla. -- Annika Sorenstam enters this week's John Q. Hammons Hotel Classic in a familiar position. The 62-time winner and LPGA Tour and World Golf Halls of Fame member is the defending champion at one of the 18 tournaments that she has already won more than once.
Cedar Ridge Country Club, which was also the site of the 1983 U.S. Women's Open conducted by the USGA, is sure to once again provide a stern test this week. Only seven players finished under par last year and Sorenstam was the only player to sign a scorecard below par each day of the 54-hole event.
Sorenstam, with six wins this year, is the favorite this week, but for the first time in many years, a few players have emerged to challenge the world No. 1 and have the confidence to not only play against her, but also beat her.
Paula Creamer, the fresh-faced 19-year-old rookie with a have-no-fear attitude, has come a long way since she played in the John Q. Hammons Hotel Classic last year as an amateur via a sponsor exemption. She tied for 59th then, but has since become golf's Next Big Thing, winning twice on the LPGA Tour and taking another title in Japan.
Creamer has already clinched the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award and has crossed the $1 million mark in season earnings, becoming the youngest and fastest in LPGA history to do so. She also went 3-1-1 at last week's Solheim Cup, which included a 7&5 thumping of legendary Laura Davies in the Sunday singles.
Those are all impressive feats, but has she beaten Sorenstam? That answer is a resounding yes. This year at the Evian Masters-a tournament Sorenstam has won twice-Creamer routed the field and rolled to an eight-shot victory. She played with Sorenstam in the third round and put up a 66 against the Swede's 72.
Still, knocking Sorenstam off her perch is not going to be an easy task to accomplish. Sorenstam always seems to play her best at the end of the season, and this tournament is the one that kick-started her memorable finish last year, as she went on to win four of her final six events.
Last year, Sorenstam opened with a 5-under-par 66 to trail leader Christina Kim by one shot. Soresntam then carded a 68 in the second round to take a three-shot lead over Joanne Morley into the final round. Sorenstam never missed a beat and coasted home with a 71 to win by four shots over then-rookie Shi Hyun Ahn.
Related links:
  • Full Coverage - John Q. Hammons Hotel Classic