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Sorenstam aiming for historic Major win

Annika Sorenstam can make history on the golf course before she plays against men at the Colonial.

This week at the Kraft Nabisco Championship, Sorenstam will try to become the first woman to win a major championship three years in a row since Patty Berg won three straight Titleholders in the 1930s.

If it means much to her, it's hard to tell from the taciturn Swede whose thoughts rarely seem to stray far from her next shot.

"I'm very familiar with the history of the LPGA and so forth," Sorenstam said. "But you stand on the first tee and I try not to think about those things. I just want to focus on my game, hit one shot at a time, just turn to things I can control."

Sorenstam's not the only player with more at stake than just a major title win beginning Thursday at Mission Hills Country Club. Se Ri Pak, who beat Sorenstam last week in Phoenix, could become the youngest player to win the career grand slam by winning here.

And Laura Davies could not only complete the grand slam but get enough points to qualify for the LPGA Hall of Fame if she were to win.

But all the attention is on Sorenstam, who would like nothing better than to take another plunge Sunday into the pond next to the 18th green, where she has taken a victory swim the last two years.

Unlike last year, she's not likely to do it in the shiny red golf shoes she wore on her final 18 holes.

"After throwing them in the lake they really didn't smell that nice," Sorenstam said. "But I've still got them."

Sorenstam's decision to play in the Colonial in May has threatened to overshadow the rest of the players on the LPGA tour, which she dominated last year by winning 11 times.

Sorenstam drew the largest galleries in her season debut last week in Phoenix, and nearly all the media attention. But she faded in the final round and it was Pak who won with a final round 64 to Sorenstam's 71.

For all the focus on Sorenstam, Pak is the one player who has shown she's not intimidated. Pak won five times last year -- four victories coming in head-to-head competition with Sorenstam -- and she's eager to do it in a tournament she's never won.

"I haven't done much swimming in a couple of years," Pak said. "Hopefully Sunday, I can swim a little bit."

Pak has as many major championship wins as Sorenstam, whose record in the majors outside of the Kraft Nabisco has been mediocre at best. Take away the two titles here, and she hasn't won a major since the U.S. Open in 1996.

"I believe I can do better in the majors," Sorenstam said. "A lot of times I believe I've been in my own way. I get almost too excited when the majors come and put too much pressure on myself."

That shouldn't be a problem this week in a tournament in which she is very comfortable. The Kraft Nabisco comes in only the third week of the LPGA Tour, when players are just getting into competitive shape.

After two weeks of playing courses set up for easy scoring, the women will find Mission Hills a lot tougher. The course plays 6,460 yards but has rough lining the fairways and greens where pins can be hidden behind bunkers.

"It's just a matter of getting into the tournament mode, which I felt really good about last week," Sorenstam said. "I'm hitting the ball where I want to hit it. I'm putting well. We'll just see if it's going to click this week or not."

Sorenstam held a two-shot lead entering Sunday's final round in Phoenix but played indifferently and wasn't a factor on the back nine. Pak, meanwhile, is beginning to believe that she doesn't always have to be No. 2 to Sorenstam on any of the money or winning lists.

Inspired by Sorenstam's regimen, Pak also spent time working out over the off season to try and gain an advantage. It didn't give her any extra distance off the tee, but she believes she is more fit and relaxed.

"It seems like my game is much more improved than last year," Pak said. "That makes me feel much better, too."

Sorenstam and Pak aren't the only developing stories this week. Former winner Karrie Webb is playing well and a pair of rookies, Lorena Ochoa and Christina Kim, have had promising starts to their seasons.

In a tournament tradition much like the plunge into the pond on 18, the Kraft Nabisco wouldn't be complete without a teenager or two. This year's sensation is 13-year-old Michelle Wie, the eighth-grader from Honolulu who already hits the ball farther than most tour players.

Wie is playing in six LPGA events this year, after playing three last year at the tender age of 12. She missed the cut each time last year, but believes this may be her year.

"I'm more mature and I have more skills," Wie said.

Wie also displayed a sense of humor to go with a game far beyond her years. Asked what her goal is this week, she said:

"Jump into the lake."

 

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