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Annika Sorenstam set for run at majors

Annika Sorenstam warmed up for the next two LPGA majors and got another tournament title in the process.

Rallying from a slow start, Sorenstam shot a 7-under par 64 in the final round of the ShopRite LPGA Classic on Sunday, good enough for a four-stroke victory. In the next three weeks, she'll be playing in the LPGA Championship and the U.S. Women's Open.

``Coming into next week, I could not have gotten a better preparation,'' Sorenstam said. ``I feel like I'm putting the ball well.''

Given her sterling 17-under performance in the Classic, the world's best woman golfer might not need any help.

She finished this one in style, hitting a 38-foot putt for eagle on the par-5 18th hole to clinch her victory over Juli Inkster.

Sorenstam trailed Inkster after one round, and the two shared the lead after 36 holes. The Swede overtook Inkster when it counted most, rallying from an unremarkable start with near-flawless iron play and precise putting.

She won the Classic for the third time and claimed the $210,000 winner's share. Inkster closed with a 68 and was 13 under. Catriona Matthew (64) and Laura Davies (68) were five strokes back at 12 under.

What began as a duel between Sorenstam and fellow Hall of Famer Inkster quickly included Davies, who shot a tournament-record 62 on Saturday and opened with three straight birdies to take the lead at 12 under

Sorenstam, who made par on her first three holes, didn't make any great shots but didn't make any early mistakes, either. She stayed out of trouble, taking advantage of her birdie opportunities when Inkster and Davies started to struggle.

Sorenstam made a 28-footer for birdie at No. 9 to take the lead at 12 under, flashing a smile, raising her arms up over her head and waving to the crowd after pulling the ball out of the hole.

But the push was just starting. On the next hole, she sent her second shot over the green, but holed a 21-foot birdie putt from the back fringe to pick up another stroke.

``She doesn't make any mistakes,'' Inkster said. ``She's just very consistent.''

Sorenstam added birdies on Nos. 13 and 17 and then made the eagle putt on the par-5 closing hole to punctuate the win, capping a bogey-free round.

When it dropped, the sun-drenched crowd in the bleachers and skyboxes surrounding the green roared. Sorenstam kissed her putter and raised her hands in triumph. She hugged her caddie and then walked toward playing partner Inkster and stuck out her hands, palms up, as if to say ``I can't help it.''

``I was just steady the whole day and I think that was the key,'' Sorenstam said.

It was the sixth consecutive tournament Sorenstam won after leading or sharing the lead heading into the final round.

``I knew I could play some good golf,'' she said. ``The conditions were perfect. It was warm, there was hardly any wind. It was just turning out to be a perfect, low-scoring day.''

After taking the lead at 12 under, Davies began spraying her tee shots and went nine holes without a birdie to fall out of contention.

On the 187-yard par-3 No. 11, Davies overshot the green by 15 feet, her ball hitting a water bottle between the feet of a spectator before bouncing back into the rough behind the green. She scrambled to save par.

Inkster, the 44-year-old who shared the lead with Sorenstam at the start of the day at 10 under, struggled early but rallied to within two strokes at the end.

Playing alongside Sorenstam, she couldn't replicate the putting of her earlier rounds, repeatedly missing birdie good chances.

Inkster, a two-time Classic winner, had an outside chance coming into No. 18, two shots back of Sorenstam. But she landed her approach shot in the rough right of the fairway and could only manage par.

Divots

Jimin Kang made LPGA history, shooting a 27 on the back nine, the lowest nine-hole score in tour history. The 24-year-old Korean who joined the tour in 2001, had nine birdies and an eagle on the 6,071-yard Seaview Marriott Resort course, eclipsing the previous record (held by 10 golfers) by one stroke. The 27 tied the LPGA record for lowest nine holes vs. par at 8 under. Her round of 62, meanwhile, matched the tournament record, set a day earlier by Davies. ... Sorenstam previously won the Classic in 1998 and 2002.

 

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