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Sorenstam Eyeing Three-Peat

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. ' More history looms on the horizon for LPGA star Annika Sorenstam, as the reigning Rolex Player of the Year heads into this weeks Kraft Nabisco Championship with a chance to become the first player to win a major championship three consecutive years since the formation of the LPGA Tour in 1950.
The Swede looks to match Founder and LPGA Tour and World Golf Halls of Fame member Patty Bergs three consecutive Western Open victories as an amateur from 1937-39. With a win this week, Sorenstam will become the first LPGA player to win three consecutive titles at an LPGA major championship, a feat she attempted in 1997 at the U.S. Womens Open after winning back-to-back titles in 1995-96. No player has done so in LPGA Tour history, and the last time someone did so on the PGA Tour was 1954-56 at the British Open (Peter Thomson).
Sorenstam has had success with winning back-to-back-to-back titles, although not at a major championship (1997-99 Michelob Light Classic). The other five players to win the same event on three consecutive occasions are: Louise Suggs (1959-61 Dallas Civitan Open); Kathy Whitworth (1968-70 Orange Blossom Classic); Sandra Haynie (1973-75 Charity Golf Classic); Karrie Webb (1998-2000 Australian Ladies Masters); and Laura Davies with a record four consecutive wins (1994-97 Standard Register PING).
Testing Sorenstam this week are 2003 tournament winners Wendy Doolan and Se Ri Pak. Up-and-coming players Lorena Ochoa, who finished in eighth place at the 2002 Kraft Nabisco Championship and leads the Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year race, Christina Kim and Beth Bauer, who grabbed last years top rookie honor, will also put Sorenstam to the challenge. Three players are vying for more than the $240,000 first-prize check.
Meg Mallon, Laura Davies and Se Ri Pak could complete the LPGA Career Grand Slam with a win at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, joining an illustrious list of LPGA greats: Louise Suggs (1957); Mickey Wright (1962); Pat Bradley (1968); Juli Inkster (1999); and Karrie Webb (2001). No player has ever completed the Career Grand Slam at the Kraft Nabisco Championship.
Pak, at age 25, would become the youngest player in LPGA history to complete the Career Grand Slam. Davies, a 20-time LPGA tournament champion, would not only complete the Career Grand Slam with a victory this week, but would also earn the two points she needs to qualify for the LPGA Tour Hall of Fame.
The Kraft Nabisco Championship is a limited-field event, hosting 94 of the worlds top women professionals and six amateurs. Six past champions and LPGA Tour and World Halls of Famers are in the field this year: Amy Alcott (1983, 1988, 1991); Pat Bradley (1986); Betsy King (1987, 1990, 1997); Juli Inkster (1984, 1989); Nancy Lopez (1981); and Patty Sheehan (1996). Other past champions include Helen Alfredsson (1993); Nanci Bowen (1995); Pat Hurst (1998); Alice Miller (1985); and Sally Little (1982).
Thai twins Aree and Naree Song (formerly Wongluekiet), 16, are making their fourth appearance in the Kraft Nabisco Championship as two of the six amateurs invited to compete; a total of eight sponsor exemptions are in the field. The other four amateurs invited to the event are 13-year-old sensation Michelle Wie; 2002 British Amateur Champion Lindsey Wright; 2002 U.S. Womens Amateur Champion Becky Lucidi; and 2002 NCAA Individual Champion Virada Nirapathpongporn.
Wie played three LPGA events in 2002 after becoming the youngest player in LPGA history to Monday qualify for an LPGA event at the age of 12 at the LPGA Takefuji Classic. Last year, Sorenstam sported the famed red shoes and showed that Tiger Woods is not the only professional golfer that can make a statement with red on Sunday, firing a 68 (-4) and finishing one stroke ahead of Liselotte Neumann. It marked the first time in history that Swedes finished first and second in an LPGA major. On the par-5 18th, Neumann gave herself one last chance to claim her first victory in nearly four years when she hit a pitching wedge to 16 feet. Her birdie putt, however, just missed, and Sorenstam two-putted for par and the victory.
Sorenstam once again took the ceremonial dip in Champions Lake off the 18th green'although her entry into the shallow water was a little more subdued than her belly flop of 2001. Sorenstam hopped in feet first with her caddie, Terry McNamara, and his 4-year-old daughter, Reilly.
Neumanns runner-up finish was her best since placing second at the 1999 McDonalds LPGA Championship. Rosie Jones, who began the day one shot off the lead, carded a 69 to finish tied for third with Cristie Kerr (68). Another Swede, Carin Koch, and Japans Akiko Fukushima, a runner-up at the event in 2001, posted the low rounds of the tournament with 66s in the final round, finishing at 283 (-5) and in a tie for fifth.
Statistical Preview of the Kraft Nabisco Championship