Sorenstam grabs third win in eight events with Michelob triumph
WILLIAMSBURG, Va. -- Annika Sorenstam is on her way back, and a performance that harkened memories of her game before an injury-filled 2007 season suggests she's close.
"That's the way I used to play," Sorenstam said Sunday after hitting every fairway and almost every green in a 5-under-par 66 that made her the runaway winner of the Michelob Ultra Open with a tournament-record 19-under 265. She beat four others by a record-tying seven strokes.
Two of them -- Jeong Jang and Christina Kim -- played with her in the final threesome.
"She hit a perfect iron shot every single hole," Jang said. "Annika's back."
"It's good to see that she is where she was when she was No. 1," added Kim, who also was tied with Allison Fouch and Karen Stupples. "It's just -- flawless is the best way to put it."
It's never flawless with Sorenstam, who believes that it's possible to make birdie at every hole in a round and shoot 54, but coming down the stretch she was very close. She had five birdies on the back nine, including three in a row, before a bogey on the final hole.
"That's about as good as I can hit my iron shots," she said. "Make a few more putts and get some distance on my drives and I'm going to tell you that's as good as I can play."
The victory was the Swede's third in eight events this season, and in the process she also answered the doubters who said she could no longer play with new No. 1 Lorena Ochoa.
The eight-time player of the year pulled away from Ochoa on Saturday, using her typical steadiness for a 2-under 69, then did the same to Jang on Sunday, leaving no doubt that her injuries are behind her, and that her once-unrivaled game is almost all the way back.
She still has a long way to go to get back to the top, but even if she does, Sorenstam said it will be as a much different person.
Before she said, "I was just focusing on golf and, you know, that's all I did. Now, I feel like I'm a more rounded person and have a better perspective on things."
Sorenstam is planning a January wedding to fiance Mike McGee, has opened her own golf academy and also developed an appreciation for playing golf when her back didn't let her.
"The last year, you know, going through what I did, you appreciate making cuts, you appreciate being in the top 10 and having a chance to win," she said. "There's so many players out here that I think when you step away for a while, you see it in a different light."
Jang, too, saw things in a different way after missing a 1-foot putt on the final hole, costing her a second-place finish by herself and approximately $60,000.
Michelob Ultra Open Leaderboard
1. Sorenstam (-19)
T-2. Fouch (-12)
T-2. Jang (-12)
T-2. Kim (-12)
T-2. Stupples (-12)
6. Hull (-11)
"I was really happy -- until the 18th hole," she said.
Kim needed a birdie on the final hole to move into the four-way tie for second, while Fouch shot a closing 64 and Stupples had a 66 in her first Mother's Day event as a mom.
Her son, Logan, was born April 21.
But the story was Sorenstam, who said this weekend she knew there were people that thought her best days were behind her. She also said she'd love to play her way back to No. 1.
She looked ready all day long en route to her 72nd career victory.
Jang, playing with a sore wrist that she said has bothered her for more than a year, made a 15-foot birdie putt on the fifth hole to get within two. Sorenstam promptly hit her approach on the par-4 sixth to within 12 feet and made it to restore the three-shot edge.
When Jang chipped in from 40 yards on the par-4 ninth, Sorenstam left her long birdie putt just short, but hit her approach to within a few feet on No. 10 for another birdie.
By then, it was all but over. Sorenstam made sure with three consecutive birdies beginning on the par-3 13th, then another by hitting it close on the par-3 17th.
She was all smiles while waiting on the tee at the par-4 18th hole, where she snap-hooked her drive into the water on Saturday, one of only two mistakes that hurt her all weekend.
Besides Sorenstam, the day was remarkable for several other players.
Katherine Hull, who started the day tied for 21st, made the first double-eagle of the year when she hit a 3-wood 229 yards on the par-5 seventh, part of a 64 that lifted her into sixth. The best round of her career also included a double bogey at the par-4 10th.
And Shi Hyun Ahn, whose first three rounds were 71, 71 and 72, tied the course record with a 63, making nine birdies and eight pars before a bogey on the par-4 ninth, her last hole.
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
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