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Annika Sorenstam seeking 10th win of 2005

World number one Annika Sorenstam, who defends her title this week at the season-ending LPGA Tour Championship, says golf has been her saviour during a period of personal turmoil.

The 35-year-old, a winner of 10 titles worldwide this season, had to negotiate a divorce from her American husband David Esch earlier this year.

"Last year was a blur with all I was going through (off the course) and sometimes I don't know how I managed to stay focused when I was inside the ropes," Sorenstam told a news conference on Wednesday.

"Golf has definitely been my saviour during this period and I'm very proud of the way I have performed again this season."

The Swede has already sealed a record eighth LPGA Player of the Year title. She heads the LPGA money list for a fifth year in a row with earnings of $2,373,240 and also leads the chase for the Vare Trophy for the season's lowest stroke average.

The game has once again become her number one priority after she had hinted a few years ago at retirement and her desire to start a family.

"Obviously my goals have changed and golf is now an even more important part of my life," she added. "If I gave up, I don't really know what I would do."

Sorenstam has accumulated 65 titles in her 12 years on the LPGA Tour, including a remarkable 42 in her last five seasons of domination in the women's game.

However, she maintains that overhauling Kathy Whitworth's LPGA record of 88 career wins is not one of her main targets.

"It still seems so unrealistic," she said. "If I keep going at this pace, then it is within reach. But I don't know how long I can maintain this level.

"It's still a very long ladder. But if I get to 86 or 87 then I'll definitely push for it."

Her top priority is her bid to become the first player -- male or female -- to win all four professional major titles in a single season. This year, she triumphed in the first two: the Kraft Nabisco and the LPGA Championship.

"I love setting high goals," she added. "It's the type of challenge I need at this stage.

"This year, it was great to go to the U.S. Open with the first two in the bag. I didn't achieve it, but next year I hope I maybe can. I certainly think it is possible."

Sorenstam has won the season-ending Tour Championship three times, twice in the last three years at Trump International.

"I would love to end the LPGA season on a high note, but the best 30 players on Tour are here so I know it is going to be tough," she said as she prepared for Thursday's opening round.

"But I've played well here in the past and I'm looking forward to another good week."

American teenager Paula Creamer, who has already wrapped up the LPGA rookie of the year award, is Sorenstam's closest challenger in the money list with $1,495,447.

"My goal next year is to be the number one," said the confident 19-year-old.

"I need to get longer and stronger to catch Annika, but I'm going to be working hard on every aspect of my game over the winter to try and close the gap next season."

November 17, 2005

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