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Pak aiming for success on links courses

Defending champion Se Ri Pak doesn't have great memories of the first and only time she played a links course at the Women's British Open.

Arriving with a reputation as one of the rising stars in women's golf, the Korean found her game blown away at Lytham St Annes in 1998 and hopes the same won't happen as the championship makes its debut at Turnberry.

``Those were horrible memories. I don't want to think about that,'' she said on the eve of the championship.

``That was the first time I ever played links golf. The wind was there and it was raining every day. I shot a really, really bad score and I was just out of control. I just didn't know how to play those conditions.

``After that I thought I'd never come back again.''

Pak, who tied for 34th place with a 20-over total of 308, didn't play the British Opens of 1999 and 2000 but came back last year when the LPGA made it a major as replacement for the du Maurier Classic, held in Canada. That tournament dropped off the Tour because the Canadian government would no longer allow tobacco sponsorship of sports events.

The British Open, sponsored by the manufacturers of breakfast cereal Weetabix, now carries the flag of a major even though it has been on LPGA Tour since 1994 and the 1 million pound ($1.5 million) championship, with a top prize of 155,000 pounds ($233,000), attracts all the top names on the LPGA Tour. Dottie Pepper is missing with a left shoulder injury but is the only big absentee.

In contrast to Lytham and Turnberry, last year's venue Sunningdale is in southern-central England, a long way from the coastal winds and, in any case, with fairways protected by tall trees. Pak finished with a 66 to post an 11-under 277 and then watched those playing behind fail to catch her.

``Last year there was no choice because the LPGA made it a major and I had to play,'' Pak said. ``But last year was pretty good, it was fun.

``This is going to be different from last year again.''

Already winner of a major this year, the LPGA Championship at the DuPont County Club, Wilmington, Delaware, the 24-year-old Korean has already won four.

When she went to Lytham, having won two majors in her rookie year, she just couldn't handle the strong winds blowing off the sea with no treelined fairways around to act as windbreaks.

She at least arrives at Turnberry, one of the courses regularly on the rotation for the men's British Open, with some experience of links golf.

And she's won the event, which is more than can be said for Sweden's Annika Sorenstam, herself the winner of four majors including this year's Nabisco Championship at Rancho Mirage, Calif.

British Open runner-up three times, the Swede said she had not played any of the links courses in Scotland since she was an amateur in 1987.

``Coming here this week I played at Troon, Glasgow Gailes and Prestwick to get a little feel for the links,'' Sorenstam said. ``I love it. I like the history behind it. It's the sort of golf course that makes you think.

``It's seaside. It's windy. You have to avoid the fairway bunkers. But it's still beautiful. It's still really a challenge.

``Being a European this event has always been one of the bigger tournaments,'' Sorenstam said. ``I've finished second a few times so I always come here hoping it's going to be my year. I'm still hoping.''

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