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Warren Bennett

Sorenstam looking to close out excellent 2001

Annika Sorenstam had one accomplishment that stood out in a season that featured streaks, record scores and more money than any other woman has earned playing golf.

``This one,'' she said, caressing a Steuben crystal replica of her scorecard from the Standard Register Ping, where she became the first player in LPGA history to shoot 59.

There were plenty of other choices.

-- Four straight victories, the longest LPGA winning streak in 23 years.

-- A major championship at the Nabisco, her first since 1996.

-- Eight victories, the most since Nancy Lopez in 1979.

The conclusion to the LPGA season starts Thursday with the Tour Championship at Trump International, and Sorenstam is feeling greedy.

She wants more.

``There are some records out there that I still have a chance to break,'' she said Wednesday after a pro-am round with Donald Trump, who owns the course and is pampering the 30 women in the field.

``I still have had a great season, whatever happens this week,'' Sorenstam said. ``But when you climb this far, one more step would make it really a memorable year.''

One record seems certain. The other will take some work.

Sorenstam needs only to finish 27th in the field of 30 players to become the first LPGA player to break the $2 million mark in one season.

Of greater importance is the LPGA's scoring record of 69.43, established two years ago by her Aussie rival, Karrie Webb. Sorenstam's average is 69.38, and she would need to post a 7-under 281 or better to break the record.

``I've set really high goals for myself,'' Sorenstam said. ``This was the year that I decided to give everything. I wanted to be the best player out here. I have achieved that, for at least a little while.''

She'll get no argument from Webb.

A year ago, Webb was the toast of women's golf after winning seven times, including two majors, and sweeping all the awards. Now, the stage belongs to Sorenstam.

``She really wanted to be the best,'' Webb said. ``She went out and did it.''

Sorenstam's motivation can be traced to Webb's success and her own pedestrian performance in 1999, when she finished fourth on the money list.

Her determination goes back even further.

It was a rainy day in Sweden when the 15-year-old Sorenstam was finished practicing and called her father to pick her up. As Tom Sorenstam drove away, he noticed other kids still hitting balls.

``On the way home, he said, 'There are no shortcuts to being good,''' Sorenstam said. ``I knew what he meant. It's something I remembered.''

She kept that in mind when she doubled her practice time in the offseason, repeating that sweet, fluid swing and then working on her short game until dark. That was only part of the workload. Sorenstam became a fitness freak -- running, cycling, swimming, kickboxing and doing more crunches than she cares to reveal.

``A year like this makes you really appreciate what you do,'' she said. ``I want to continue this and see how long I can do it. It takes a lot of hard work.''

The only void in her season was failing to contend in the other three majors. That was to be expected. Sorenstam achieved so much so quickly that she was worn out by the time the LPGA's biggest events arrived in the summer.

Then, Se Ri Pak surpassed her on the money list by winning the British Open.

A new challenger didn't last long. In her next three tournaments, Sorenstam had one victory and two second-place finishes, and she wrapped up her fourth player-of-the-year award by beating Pak in the final of the Match Play Championship in Japan.

``When you're off to such a good start, I felt like I could win every week,'' Sorenstam said. ``When I didn't, I got down on myself. Then after the British, I got the energy back and I played really good since then.''

Now she finds out whether she has one more week left in the tank.

``I'm satisfied with the year,'' Sorenstam said. ``But to top it off would make it incredible. To win nine times and break the scoring average, that would be the ultimate.''

The Tour Championship, sponsored by Tyco-ADT, makes it debut at Trump International, a pristine course owned by the Donald.

While Sorenstam is aiming for a sweet finish to the year, the rest of the women also are in for a treat. Trump is putting up the top 30 women in his Mar-a-Lago Club.

``It beats the Holiday Inn,'' Trump said after playing with Sorenstam in the pro-am.

He also has arranged for them to have courtesy cars -- BMWs, no less -- and has made sure the women have their own brand of golf balls on the practice range, which has never been done on the LPGA Tour.

``I could get used to this,'' Sorenstam said.

What the 31-year-old Swede would really like to make routine are seasons like this one.



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