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With LPGA Championship Win, Sorenstam Completes Impressive Month - 2003-06-09

The top women's golfer in the world, Annika Sorenstam of Sweden, has completed a month of impressive play by winning one of the major tournaments.

Annika Sorenstam won her first LPGA Championship in dramatic fashion, beating South Korean Grace Park on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff Sunday in Wilmington, Delaware.

The 32-year-old Sorenstam had four major women's golf titles among her 44 previous career LPGA tour victories, but never the LPGA. She had said one of the reasons she had decided to play against the men in a PGA event this year was to prepare herself for the LPGA Championship. She believes that challenge was instrumental in her success.

"The more I am under extreme pressure, the more I have to hit a certain shot under tough circumstances," she said. "The more I do it, the more comfortable I get and, hopefully, the better I get. Those are the times that you remember - when you hit it when you have to. I love that challenge. That's what it's all about."

Annika Sorenstam's impressive four-week run began when she won a women's tournament in Japan on May 11. She took a week off to practice, and then headed to Fort Worth, Texas, where she played in the PGA Colonial, against men, after accepting a sponsor's exemption into the tournament.

While she did not shoot a score low enough to make the halfway cut after two days of play, she won legions of new fans, who admired her for her courageousness. In her closing news conference at that tournament, Sorenstam said she did not plan to play in any more men's golf tournaments, and that she was looking forward to playing in the next LPGA event.

That was the Kellogg-Keebler Classic near Chicago, and Sorenstam won it by three strokes, shooting a brilliant 17-under par. There is no doubt it gave her confidence heading into the second major women's tournament of the year, the LPGA Championship.

The rainy weather forced Annika to play 34 holes on Sunday, because Saturday's play was almost completely washed out. She shot one over par (72) for her final round, while South Korean Grace Park carded four under par (67) to tie the Swede after the regulation four rounds.

But Sorenstam came through under pressure, winning on the first hole of a sudden death playoff by making a short putt for par on the 18th green. Her previous best finish at the LPGA had been third.

"I wanted it so badly, and I had the chance today, and I did not want to let it go," she said. "Nothing was going to stop me. You know, I thought I could run a marathon when I was walking down 18 [the playoff hole]. I had so much energy. It was not the energy that I was lacking. It was just some of the short putts I wished I had made early on. But I was patient, I kept trying, and it worked."

Annika Sorenstam earned $240,000 for the victory, and she has now won 12 of the 16 times she has been in playoffs. She will tee it up again this week, when she plays in the Giant Eagle LPGA Classic tournament in Vienna, Ohio.

Later this year, she will try to complete a career grand slam with a victory in the Women's British Open. Only seven other women players have accomplished winning all the LPGA major tournaments during their careers.