LOS ANGELES -- Annika Sorenstam will face a great deal of
pressure over the next several weeks, and getting her first victory
of the season should help her deal with it.
Sorenstam, who will compete against the men at the Colonial next
month, shot a 1-under-par 71 Sunday to win the Office Depot
Championship by four strokes.
''Right now, I'm totally relieved. I fought so hard,'' said
Sorenstam, who struggled for much of the three-day tournament. ''My
game hasn't been on top, but I fought through it.''
Sorenstam finished at 5-under 211. Defending champion Se Ri Pak,
Pat Hurst and Heather Bowie tied for second at 215. Pak shot 71
Sunday, Hurst had a 72 and Bowie a 73.
Sorenstam played well in her first two events this year, but
winning 11 times in 2002 created some lofty expectations.
''This is only April, and I'm very, very tired,'' she said.
''Even though I haven't played any in January or February, a lot as
been going on. I feel it in my head. I am worn out mentally.''
Sorenstam has been at the center of a whirlwind of attention
since she accepted a sponsor's exemption to play in the Colonial on
May 22-25 in Fort Worth, Texas. She will become the first woman in
58 years to compete on the PGA Tour.
''I've had a lot of attention the last two months,'' she said.
''Obviously, something big is going to happen at Colonial, and I
look forward to it. I would never do it, with all the hoopla, if I
didn't think I would enjoy it.
''Right now I just want to enjoy this win, and my next week off,
and start from there.''
Sorenstam's final round at El Caballero Country Club was similar
to her first two -- a mix of grimaces and smiles. She began Sunday
with two bogeys, frowning and shaking her head after three-putting
on the par-5 No. 1.
''You think, 'You can go 500 yards with your first two shots,
then take four shots for the last 20 feet,''' Sorenstam said. ''Bogey-bogey was not a good start, and I started struggling with
Her frown turned into a grin by the end of No. 7, when she
rolled in her third consecutive birdie putt.
''I would hit great shots, then I would hit something out of the
blue,'' she said. ''It was really a roller-coaster day.''
Fast, sloping greens kept scores relatively high, and Sorenstam
and the group at 215 were the only players to finish the 54-hole
event under par.
Last year, a late charge by Sorenstam fell just short and left
her in second place, one stroke behind Pak. Pak said she was happy
with her play this time, but not completely happy.
''I was 5 over after my first 11 holes here,'' she said of her
shaky start Friday, when she shot a 73. ''It was tough here, windy
and cold the first two days, and the course played really, really
hard. Judging the speed on the greens was really difficult.''
Pak, playing in a group ahead of Sorenstam, said she was aware
she had a chance to catch the leader.
''But I knew she was going to play well,'' Pak said. ''The way
she has played the last couple of years, she is never going to give
Sorenstam's win was the 43rd LPGA title for the 32-year-old
Swedish star. Her dominant performances in 2002 earned her a fifth
LPGA player of the year award.
This year, she finished tied for third at Phoenix, where Pak
won, and one stroke behind winner Patricia Meunier-Lebouc last week
in the Kraft Nabisco, the first women's major of the year.