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Sorenstam opens her first course in China

This has been a year of firsts for the world's top ranked woman golfer Annika Sorenstam.

The Swede became the first woman to take on the men in a PGA Tour event for nearly six decades in May and also completed a career grand slam in 2003.

And on Sunday, the Swedish superstar launched her first-ever golf course at Mission Hills golf resort in southern China to join the illustrious list of elite golfers boasting signature courses at the complex.

Jack Nicklaus, six-time major winner Nick Faldo, Japanese star Jumbo Ozaki, former U.S. Masters champion Vijay Singh and 2002 British Open champion Ernie Els have already designed courses at Mission Hills.

"I was very proud of the golf course, which is a shot-maker's course and not designed with power hitters in mind," Sorenstam told AFP, adding she would like to pursue more design projects in the future.

Sorenstam's design takes the total number of courses at Mission Hills to six. With four more courses scheduled to be opened by year-end, it will become the largest golf facility in the world, surpassing Pinehurst in North Carolina which has eight, said vice-chairman of Mission Hills Group, Ken Chu.

Sorenstam, 33, has been the dominant woman golfer for the past three years and was inducted into golf's Hall of Fame on October 20, becoming its second youngest inductee.

She has broken more than 30 records and most notably became the first woman in LPGA history to shoot a 59 in 2001 at the Standard Register Ping tournament.

Sorenstam became the first woman in 58 years to take on the men in a PGA Tour event in May when she failed to make the halfway cut at the Colonial tournament. But she insisted she would not be tempted to repeat the experience, even though arch-rival Se Ri Pak recently notched a top-10 finish against the men on the Korean PGA tour.

"It was the best golf experience I've ever had. But I'm not going to do it again," she said firmly.

Sorenstam's solid performance at the Colonial silenced critics and encouraged other female players such as teen prodigy Michelle Wie on developmental tours and Australian Jan Stephenson on the over-50 tour to try their luck without success before Pak's breakthrough.

Stephenson has recently criticized the growing band of Korean's who have begun to stamp their mark on the LPGA tour as being detrimental for the game because they were reluctant to conduct interviews in English in order to promote the sport.

However, Sorenstam said she disagreed with Stephenson.

"The Koreans have been good for the game. They have brought a new country into the LPGA and helped raise the level of golf.

"The work ethic of Se Ri Pak and Grace Park is something we need to learn from," she said, adding the Korean duo would be her major challengers in her quest for more honours.

Sorenstam, who has already racked up 47 victories on the LPGA tour, placing her seventh on the all-time list, hinted her desire to remain at the pinnacle of the game was on the wane.

"I have other interests and would consider trying something else."

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