AMONG THE manyreasons to prefer the LPGA to the PGA Tour is because the best women alwaysseem to be in the mix at the most important events, as opposed to the othertour, where entire seasons can go by without a meaningful battle of the bigboys. Last week's duel between would-be fifth majors was a case in point. ThePlayers Championship offered an ugly scrum between two journeymen (Paul Goydosand Jeff Quinney) and one putative headliner who in reality hadn't won a thingin years (Sergio García). At the Michelob Ultra Open—"our PlayersChampionship," according to Annika Sorenstam—the LPGA served up an excessof star power, intrigue and dazzling golf.
The first tworounds at the Michelob featured a blockbuster group of Sorenstam, Lorena Ochoaand Suzann Petterson, the three best players in the women's game (withapologies to Paula Creamer). The matchup of Sorenstam versus Ochoa wasparticularly juicy, pitting the past and present No. 1--ranked players againsteach other, and both met expectations during a lively first round in whichOchoa's 65 wasn't good enough, leaving her one back of Sorenstam and two inarrears of Mhairi McKay, who tied the River course record at Kingsmill Resort& Spa in Williamsburg, Va.
Sorenstam kepther foot on the gas during round 2, shooting a 66 to take the lead, three infront of Ochoa. It was a display of vintage precision by Annika, who didn'tmake a bogey over the opening 36 holes. Following the first round, she wasasked if she was trying to prove something to the woman who has supplanted herin the rankings. "It's not about making a statement; it's about playinggood golf," she said, but no one believed her.
Sorenstam andOchoa went at it again in Saturday's final pairing, and 37-year-old Annikaseemed to break her 26-year-old rival's will by scrambling relentlessly incold, misty, windy conditions. Her 69 put her three up on the field and eightin front of a down-in-the-mouth Ochoa, who drove the ball erratically andstruggled all day with her speed on the greens en route to a 74.
May 18, 2008
Sorenstam cappedher seven-stroke victory with a spectacular back nine on Sunday, during whichshe made five birdies. "That is probably as good as I can hit my ironshots," she said. Her aggregate 19 under was a tournament record.
This wasSorenstam's third win of the year but, more important, the first with Ochoa inthe field. Finally healthy and motivated after a year and a half compromised byinjuries and off-course pursuits, Sorenstam says, "I can't wait for thenext month or so to come with the big tournaments and the majors. I'mexcited."
The season justgot a lot more interesting, at least on one tour.
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"Tiger's fitness is part of his superioritycomplex."
—MY SHOT, PAGE G20
KEY STAT 1
Players champ who won his first major the same year (Hal Sutton, 1983).
SHE SAID | SHE SAID
The LPGA's No. 1 and No. 2 size each other up
"She plays with a lot more feel, a little bit morewith her heart."
"She has so much experience, and I believe in golfexperience is everything."