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Sorenstam looking forward to title defence

Sweden's Annika Sorenstam sets out to defend her title at the LPGA Championship starting Thursday, coming off a triumph and a runner-up finish in the past two weeks.

"I feel like Im ready to play this year, ready to defend my title," Sorenstam said Tuesday. "I've been playing really well the last few weeks and very happy about that. I feel like Im coming into my rhythm a little bit."

Sorenstam defeated South Korea's Grace Park last year in a playoff to capture the women's golf major title for the first time at the 6,408-yard DuPont Country Club's par-71 layout.

"To walk away a winner last year meant a lot to me and to win another major and to win one I had not won, wonderful memories," Sorenstam said.

Sorenstam had set a lofty goal of sweeping the majors this year but was forced to re-evaluate her goals and game after Park's first major triumph at the Nabisco earlier this year.

"Things just didnt click that week for whatever reason, and maybe I put a lot of pressure on myself," she said. "When I want something badly, I try too hard.

"After that disappointment, it was time to set up some new goals. Now I want to win the next three. So now I have pressure on myself this week.

"I love the challenge. I love to see if I can win when I want to win. What keeps me motivated nowadays is a challenge. Thats what makes me want to practice and if I dont practice really hard, I dont get into it."

Sorenstam's latest challenger is teen prodigy Michelle Wie, who received a special exemption from the US Golf Association (USGA) into next month's US Women's Open, a decision that has upset several LPGA veterans.

Sorenstam is not among those, however.

"Ive always supported Michelle. I think that shes a wonderful player and does a lot of good for the tour," Sorenstam said. "My stand on the US Open invite, its up to the USGA. Its nothing I can control.

"I think its great for womens golf. Whether shes too young or not, its not my decision. So I havent taken an opinion on that. I do think shes very, very good and very talented and hopefully in the future she will play full-time on the LPGA and will be wonderful."

Reassessments have kept competitive fires burning for Sorenstam, who made a groundbreaking PGA appearance in May of last year at the Colonial.

"To find new goals and keep me motivated and keep on practicing (is vital) because Im getting to the point in my career where I feel very, very satisfied with what Ive achieved," she said.

Sorenstam insists that her PGA appearance was a one-time deal, even though she would welcome the chance to correct a couple of mistakes and try to make the cut.

"I think about that, but I do think I got a true test at the Colonial," said Sorenstam. "It was such a great week, and I feel inside if I would have made the two putts here and there, I would have made the cut.

"I know some of the putts I could have made. Just I was nervous and everything was built up so much. You know, I really wasnt in my element. Looking back at that, I think I could do better.

But I want to win tournaments and Ill never win tournaments out there. The thrill Im looking for is to be in contention on Sunday and hold the trophy. Thats what really matters.

If I would play a few more PGA events, I would probably get more experience and probably get better but I did feel a responsibility for this tour and one time - a lot of experience. So Im just thankful Ill be there."

Leaving the game is not something Sorenstam has in mind although most of her dreams have been achieved as she prepares for this 1.6 million-dollar event.

"Ive always said as long as I enjoy the game, as long as I wake up in the morning and feel like I want to work hard and continue to grind on my swing or whatever it is, I will do that," she said.

"But you know, when you start to feel satisfied in other things, you look for more attractive things. Yeah I look around for other things to do. One day I want to pursue those interests that I have."

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