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Juli Inkster aiming for title defence

Veteran Juli Inkster has the burning desire of a rookie as she looks to defend her title in the U.S. Women's Open starting on Thursday.

Not even the presence of a record 14 teenagers is going to put off the American, who celebrated her 43rd birthday last month, in her bid for a third title and eighth major at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club this week.

"My game feels good and it would be fantastic to win the title for a third time," said Inkster, who won her first in U.S. Open in 1999.

"When I was growing up, winning the U.S. Open was almost the ultimate and so now I feel that anything else I do in my career is the icing on the cake," she said.

"I actually feel better about my swing than I did coming into the Open last year so I hope it works out the same way.

"I'm a momentum player and it always takes me a little while to get into the season. But I always seem to play better in the summer and over the tougher courses. I love the challenge and I still get up every day loving what I do for a living."

Inkster held off Sweden's Annika Sorenstam to win the title for the second time in Kansas last year.

This season, she has won the Corning Classic, while she was tied third in last week's LPGA event in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

While world number one Sorenstam starts as favourite, South Korea's Pak Se-ri is another strong challenger in search of a second U.S. Open to set alongside her win as a rookie in 1998 at Blackwolf Run in Wisconsin.

The 25-year-old made her debut when the championship last visited Pumpkin Ridge back in 1997, when she tied for 21st.

"I've got good memories coming back," said the world number two.

"Now, I'm much stronger mentally than I was even when I won five years ago. I'm much more in control of my game."

Pak played the practice rounds with her right wrist in strapping, but she shrugged off any injury scare.

"I tweaked a muscle in practice on Monday, but it's OK. The bandage is really just a precaution."


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