AFTER A 14-MONTHlayoff from the LPGA during which she ballooned to 210 pounds and got so sickthat she thought she might die, Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez launched a comebacklast week at the Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic in Sylvania, Ohio. Lopez, 49,looked refreshed and invigorated, having lost 28 pounds by junking herjunk-food diet and starting an intense workout regimen, and she came out firingat Highland Meadows Golf Club--not on the course, where she opened with a10-over 81 and followed with a 77 to miss the cut by 14 strokes--but in thepressroom, where she ripped Michelle Wie for playing in the PGA Tour's JohnDeere Classic.
"If I had a16-year-old who could play the way Michelle does, I would never encourage herto play the men's tour," Lopez said. "When I was a girl I wanted towin, and I think it's impossible for Michelle to win on the men's tour. Plus,most PGA Tour players probably don't want her on their tour. They won't saythat, but I'm speaking for them."
Lopez said Wiehas an obligation to play on the LPGA tour. "We need Michelle to bringpeople in the gates," said Lopez. "The LPGA has great young playerswith personality, and Michelle is one of them.... Michelle is a woman andshould support the women's tour."
Lopez hopes topersuade Wie to focus solely on the LPGA but doesn't feel comfortable speakingto her directly. "I'd like to talk to Michelle, but she's not approachableto me," Lopez said. "I don't feel I can go up to her."
With or withoutWie, Lopez is going full bore with her comeback. In March, Lopez suffered about of vertigo that compounded the stress and severe pain she was feelingthroughout her body. "My doctor told me my blood pressure was 116 over95"--the second number, measuring diastolic pressure, is considered awarning sign for hypertension--"that my triglycerides were sky-high andthat I could have a stroke at any moment," Lopez said. "I was afraidfor my life, especially because Ray [Knight, Lopez's husband] recently had afourth stent put into his heart. I want to be around for my kids."
Lopez, who hasthree daughters between the ages of 14 and 22, declined medication. Instead shepromised her doctor that she'd change her diet and become a fitness fanatic."No more Doritos, chunky sandwiches and huge steaks," said Lopez, whoworks out 90 minutes a day in her backyard pool in Albany, Ga., with trainerLeah Vann. "I don't swim, but I run in there and do things like wateraerobics, squats and arm exercises. I feel awesome now."
Lopez hopes toplay in a few more tournaments this year and about 10 events in 2007. By thetime she turns 50 next January, she hopes to have shed another 30 pounds andhave her game sharp enough to contend. "It might not be realistic,"Lopez said, "but my dream is to have a chance to be in the final group onSunday and go head-to-head against the best player in the world."
Who's that?"No doubt, it's Annika."