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Women focused on LPGA Tour this year

There is much less boy talk at the McDonald's LPGA Championship this year. And that means more time to relax.

A year ago at this time, Annika Sorenstam was here still causing a frenzy two weeks after she had played in the Colonial as the first woman to play a PGA Tour event since 1945. A year ago at this time, Suzy Whaley was here preparing for the PGA's Greater Hartford Open, which she would take part in seven weeks later.

If anyone wonders why Sorenstam hasn't tried to play in another PGA event since then, only Sorenstam, Whaley and 14-year-old Michelle Wie, who played on the PGA Tour this year, can really understand the entire context of the situation. It doesn't just change your life, it takes over your life.

"It's funny, but we still talk about the Colonial," Sorenstam said Tuesday, "but obviously not on the same level. I feel very rested."

"I feel the same way," Whaley said. "Much more relaxed. It's definitely mentally easier for me this year compared to last year."

Last year, Sorenstam won the McDonald's for the first time, continuing a tear that began with playing well at the Colonial [shooting 71-74 and missing the cut by four strokes], winning the Kellogg-Keebler Classic on the LPGA Tour the following week and then coming to Wilmington.

Last year, Whaley missed the cut at her second McDonald's by 13 shots, as she felt under the weather yet tried to get her game in shape for the PGA, having already qualified for the Greater Hartford Open by winning a men's club professional qualifier.

Sorenstam is the best player in women's golf. Whaley is a club professional. Sorenstam does not have children yet. Whaley has two children.

A year after her historic tournament, Sorenstam is satisfied with her golfing career and her life, the Colonial and her wins at the McDonald's and the Weetabix Women's British Open concluding an amazing year in her era of dominance. Whaley is satisfied, too.

"I'm not as excited as when I came out," Sorenstam said. "When I was younger, I was so excited I would be out there all day [practicing]. Nowadays, I might go out for a few hours. Before, I would be out there until it was dark. Being a rookie, I wanted to play well, I wanted to get my card, I wanted to win a tournament, I wanted to win a major. I had these things to look forward to. Now, I've achieved all that."

She still thinks about some of the putts she missed at the Colonial and thinks she could do better in another PGA event. But she is ready for other things in her life and has talked about starting a family and possibly leaving golf. She has said she'll reevaluate her career at the end of this season.

"There's a point where you're happy, and I'm getting there. When you start to feel satisfied in other things, you look for more attractive things," Sorenstam said. "Yeah, I look around for other things to do. One day I want to pursue those interests that I have."

Whaley had set aside those other interests and was eager to get her focus back on her life after her 2003 was dominated by playing against the men. She shot 75-78 at Hartford and missed the cut by 13 strokes.

"You woke up thinking about it, you went to bed thinking about it," Whaley said. "You didn't want to, you didn't try to, it's just that's what you did. I have a lot of other things going on in my life, but it was a big deal. I'm glad I did it, it well was worth it. But there was no doubt it was more stressful at each event. This year, I can just have some fun."

But Sorenstam and Whaley know what a step onto the PGA stage does to a player, on the course and off.

"I would not want to do it every year," Whaley said. "I don't know that anybody else would, either. Maybe in the future, you'll see that. I can't speak for Annika, but the toll it took on my body and my family - to do that more than one time would really take a lot of thought."

But Whaley and Sorenstam also know the thrill a challenge like that can provide.

"I watched the coverage," Sorenstam said of the Colonial this year. "It wasn't as exciting."

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