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Sorenstam is Sweden's top golfer for 7th time

Annika Sörenstam was voted Sweden's golfer of the year on Monday for a record seventh time and third straight year.

Sörenstam was considered an easy choice after playing at the Bank of America Colonial on the PGA TOUR, winning two majors on the LPGA Tour, being inducted in the World Golf Hall of Fame, and helping Europe win the Solheim Cup.

The 33-year-old Stockholmer beat Fredrik Jacobson by 53 points in the poll.

"But the other Swedes are coming along very well, and Fredrik really played well this year," Sörenstam told reporters at a news conference from North Carolina, where she's on holiday.

Jacobson, a PGA Tour regular, shared fifth place at the U.S. Open, tied for sixth at the British Open and became the first Swede to win three events on the European Tour. He capped his best season ever by winning the Volvo Masters at Valderrama, Spain, automatically qualifying him for all four majors in 2004.

But it was Sörenstam who made the biggest headlines of the year, gaining worldwide attention when she became the first woman in 58 years to play on the PGA Tour. She missed the 36-hole cut in May in Texas.

But her appearance resulted in record TV ratings for golf in Sweden and unprecedented media coverage. In less than a week, she became the hottest celebrity in her homeland.

Not since the days of former world heavyweight boxing champion Ingemar Johansson, tennis ace Björn Borg and Alpine skiing great Ingemar Stenmark did a Swedish athlete generate more headlines worldwide.

Sörenstam's two major titles came in the LPGA Championship and the Women's British Open that enabled her to complete a career Grand Slam.

Surprisingly, one of her few disappointments came in Stockholm. A week after the British Open win, Sörenstam finished third and two shots behind fellow Swede Sophie Gustafson as defending champion in the HP Open, before a record final-day gallery of 21,500 fans.

A month later, Sörenstam returned to Sweden and was a key player on Europe's team that beat the United States in the Solheim Cup.

Asked to rank her 2003 accomplishments, Sörenstam said: "1, The Colonial. 2, My two majors. 3, Hall of Fame. 4, Solheim Cup ... and then my other (four) LPGA titles this year."

The Grand Slam, winning all four majors, is her big goal next year.

She'll start preparing for that unprecedented feat among the women on Jan. 20 with her longtime Swedish coach Henry Reis in Orlando, Florida. She's also likely to continue working out occasionally with Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia.

"I think she can make it," Reis said about her Grand Slam chances.

Sörenstam topped the Swedish poll for the first time in 1995. Since then, only two-time British Open runner-up Jesper Parnevik (1999) and Gustafson (2000) have managed to win the award.

Writers at Svensk Golf, Europe's largest golf publication, and members of the Swedish Golf Writers Association, the Swedish Golf Federation, the Swedish PGA and the Swedish Golf Tour voted in the poll.

Although golf can be played for only about six months of the year in most parts of Sweden, it's the second most popular sport in Sweden behind soccer.

With more than 500,000 club members in a country of 9 million, Sweden has the world's highest per capita of golfers in the world.

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