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We'll see this week what Annika learned at Colonial

6/5/2003

Among the reasons for playing against the men at the Bank of America Colonial was a stated goal to perform better in the LPGA's major championships. Annika Sorenstam gets her first opportunity to test that objective this week at the McDonald's LPGA Championship.

Sorenstam left the Colonial a big winner, if not on the scoreboard then in the eyes of many who wondered if she'd be able to hold up to the pressure of competing against men. Although Sorenstam missed the cut and couldn't break par, she left with confidence and parlayed that into a victory last week at the Kellogg-Keebler Classic, her 44th career LPGA title.

Attendance increased at the tournament, as did media interest, and it will be interesting to see as time goes on if Sorenstam's foray into men's golf translates to more interest in the LPGA Tour.

That question will likely be answered over time.

But when it comes to majors, there are just four a year, and this is the second on the LPGA Tour. Sorenstam finished second to Patricia Meunier-Lebouc at the year's first, the Kraft Nabisco Championship.

And for all her success in the game -- 44 victories, five Player of the Year awards, five money titles -- she has just four major championships.

Two of them came in back-to-back U.S. Women's Opens in 1995-96, long before she elevated her game to superstar status. Since then, she's added two Kraft Nabisco titles.

She's never won the LPGA Championship, nor the other majors, the former du Maurier and the current British Women's Open.

"My problem is I want it so badly I get in my own way,'' Sorenstam said. "My caddie always tells me that you try too hard. I have to just go out and play. That's what I do the other weeks. It just seems when a major comes, the more I try to play. I just have to control my brain a little bit. I know I have the shots. And I've won majors before. It's just controlling it, I believe.

"I think I put more pressure on myself early on. Like Thursday. It's like I try to win it on Thursday, which we all know it comes down to the back nine on Sunday. You'd think I'd know that by now. I just get so anxious sometimes. I think my chances are better if I'm in the middle of the pack going into Saturday or Sunday.''

While there is no doubt about Sorenstam's standing in the women's game, she is not ahead of the pack in terms of majors. Juli Inkster has won seven, while Karrie Webb, who has yet to win this year, has six. Se Ri Pak is tied with Sorenstam with four, but is seven years younger.

On the all-time list of LPGA majors, Sorenstam is tied for 13th.

"Majors is where the history is and a lot of people look at somebody's career depending on how they do in the majors,'' Sorenstam said. "I'd like to win more majors. I'd like to do better there and I believe I can.''

Sorenstam believes Colonial helped her cause. To prepare for the PGA Tour event, she played a lot of golf from the back tees, forcing her to hit long-iron approach shots. She worked on her short game, tried to become more adept at hitting lob shots and tricky shots around the green. She also took note of how the men went about their business.

How it translates will begin to unfold this weekend. One thing is certain, however. It is hard to imagine Sorenstam feeling any more pressure standing on the tee at an LPGA major than she did two weeks ago.

"It's the majors that I've been gearing up for all year,'' she said. "The Colonial was just one step towards it. The confidence is high and I feel like I'm hitting the ball well, so I don't think I could have asked for better preparation for the McDonald's Championship.''

The Question

Can Sorenstam ride a wave of momentum to a major championship?
Sorenstam is the first to admit that she is lacking in major titles for all her success. That was among the reasons for playing on the PGA Tour, to better prepare for this. Now here's another chance.

Five Things To Watch
1. The LPGA Tour has its second major of the year, the McDonald's LPGA Championship, in Wilmington, Del. Pak, who trails only Sorenstam on the money list, is the defending champion.

2. Not far away is the year's first senior major, the Senior PGA Championship at Aronimink Golf Club in Newton Square, Pa. Fuzzy Zoeller defends his title as the Champions Tour looks for its first repeat winner in its 15th event. Craig Stadler is also scheduled to make his Champions Tour debut after almost 30 years on the PGA Tour.

3. The FBR Capital Open, previously known as the Kemper Open, returns to a more favorable date the week before the U.S. Open. The tournament has three of the top 10 in the world in the field: Davis Love III, Phil Mickelson and Padraig Harrington.

Also in the field are 64 players who are competing in a U.S. Open qualifier down the road at Woodmont CC in Rockville, Md. The qualifier was scheduled to finish up Tuesday, but rain pushed it back to Wednesday. Should they not finish Wednesday, those players may have to decide between playing the qualifier or the Capital Open on Thursday.

4. Love, the PGA Tour's leading money winner, returns to the PGA Tour for the first time since the suicide death of his brother-in-law and friend two weeks ago.

5. Over the past 20 years, the Capital Open has produced 10 first-time winners.



FOUR MORE TO WATCH


Bob Harig covers golf for the St. Petersburg Times and is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at harig@sptimes.com.