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Annika Sorenstam set to join Hall of Fame

Annika Sörenstam has packed a lifetime of achievement into five months, from playing at the Colonial to completing the career Grand Slam to winning the Solheim Cup back home in Sweden.

The best is still to come -- the LPGA Hall of Fame.

This should be the easiest task of all.

All she has to do is complete 18 holes Thursday in the first round of the Samsung Championship -- on her 33rd birthday, no less. That will be Sorenstam's 15th tournament this year, giving her 10 full seasons on tour, her final requirement for the Hall of Fame.

"At the end of the round, I guess I'm in then," Sörenstam said. "It really doesn't matter how I do this week, but obviously I'd like to play well. But when the Hall of Fame is right there, I know I'm going to be overwhelmed."

The other requirements have been taken care of for some time.

Sörenstam, who wasn't sure she could win a tournament when she turned pro in 1994, has won 47 times. Only six other women have more victories.

She has won six majors, and joined Karrie Webb, Juli Inkster, Pat Bradley, Mickey Wright and Louise Suggs as the only women to win the career Grand Slam.

Five times she has been player of the year.

Five times she has won the Vare Trophy for the lowest scoring average.

"She could go down as one of the all-time greats," Inkster said Wednesday during her pro-am round on the Tournament Players Club at The Woodlands just north of Houston.

"I respect her as a player, just how hard she works," Inkster said. "Some people get to No. 1 and realize they don't want to do what it takes to stay there. Annika has no problem with that. She's always trying to get better."

Two years ago, Sörenstam became the first woman to shoot 59 and the first woman to surpass $2 million in earnings in a year.

The following season, she won 13 times around the world, the most in nearly 40 years.

And now this.

"It's tough to compare the years," Sörenstam said. "I've experienced so much this year, especially playing at Colonial and the Solheim Cup. There's been a lot of wonderful tournaments, and so the memories are incredible.

"But it's been tougher, too. I feel worn out, and it's October. It just shows I've been very busy."

Sörenstam always knew this would be the year she made it into the Hall of Fame.

The LPGA Tour changed its criteria four years ago to require 27 points for the Hall of Fame. Players were awarded one point for a victory (two points for majors), one point for being player of the year and one point for winning the Vare Trophy.

Sörenstam has 63 points, more than double the requirement, so all that remained was to put in her 10 years.

Still, she turned her Hall-of-Fame year into a season for the history books.

In May, she became the first woman in 58 years to play on the PGA Tour when she accepted a sponsor's exemption to compete in the Bank of America Colonial. In what might have been the most anticipated swing in golf, she split the middle of the fairway on her opening tee shot, and finished at 1-over 72.

She wound up missing the cut by five shots, but became recognized on a first-name basis around the world.

"It was only two rounds, but it seemed like it was longer," Lorie Kane said. "She handled herself like the professional she is. I've always had great respect for Annika, but she went up another notch with me."

She survived a playoff to win the LPGA Championship, and hit another pressure-packed drive on the 18th hole at Royal Lytham & St. Annes to beat her latest rival, Se Ri Pak, and win the Weetabix Women's British Open for the career Grand Slam.

If that wasn't enough, she was under the spotlight in her native Sweden, the first time it hosted the Solheim Cup, and came through with the signature shot of the matches, a 20-foot birdie putt from the fringe on the 17th hole that swung momentum in Europe's favor.

The Europeans went on to a 17½-10½ victory, the largest margin ever.

"How do you top a year like this?" Meg Mallon said. "She sets her goals, and then she achieves them. Instead of a door closing, she shoves it wide open."

The Hall of Fame awaits.

First, she has to play one round at The Woodlands. Then, she will be inducted Oct. 20 along with Nick Price, Leo Diegel and Chako Higuchi at the World Golf Village in St. Augustine, Fla.

Sörenstam has made it clear she's not ready to be a ceremonial figure.

After playing in the Colonial, she won two majors. After completing the Grand Slam, she led Europe to victory in the Solheim Cup. Since returning to the LPGA Tour, she won the Safeway Classic in Portland two weeks ago.

Sörenstam is the defending champion at the Samsung Championship.

"One of these days, it'll sink in and I'll understand," she said. "But right now, it's like I'm here and I want to try to get there. I don't always look back and pat myself on the back and say, 'Good job.' I always try to look forward.

"One day, I'll look back on my career and be very proud."

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