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Golf Today > Tour Schedules > 2006 > LPGA > Mastercard Classic > Round 3


Annika Sorenstam defends title

Annika Sorenstam opened her LPGA Tour season with a successful title defense in the MasterCard Classic, closing with a 2-under 70 for a one-stroke victory over Helen Alfredsson and Seon Hwa Lee.

Sorenstam, even par and tied for the lead after nine holes, reeled off three birdies in four holes to take the tournament with an 8-under 208 total.

On the 18th hole, the Swede three-putted from 40 feet away, winning with a tap-in bogey. It was the 21st time she has successfully defended a title.

"You come here with high expectations to defend a title, it's always tough, but I thought I played really well this week," she said. "This is a great event to start off the season. I got off to a great start."

A mariachi band played as Sorenstam held the trophy high, and one of the band members placed a massive brown and black sombrero on her head.

The event at Bosque Real Country Club, outside Mexico City, marked Sorenstam's first LPGA Tour start since winning the ADT Championship in November and her first competitive appearance since teaming with Liselotte Neumann in January to win the Women's World Cup in South Africa.

Last year, Sorenstam also won in Mexico to start her season, closing with a 68 for a three-stroke victory. She has won 11 of her last 21 LPGA Tour starts and has 67 career victories -- 21 short of Kathy Whitworth's record.

"Last year, I won by three, so there was a bit more breathing room than this year," Sorenstam said. "I had some great players next to me. It was just a loaded leaderboard."

Lee, a rookie from South Korea, had five birdies to offset three bogeys for a 70 and a share of second place at 7 under. Alfredsson had an eagle on the 498-yard, par-4 12th to go with five birdies and two bogeys for a 67.

Natalie Gulbis shot a 66, the best round of the day. She had seven birdies and a bogey to move to 6 under and tie for fourth with South Korea's Mi Hyun Kim (72) and Paul Creamer (72). Gulbis missed 15-foot putts for birdie on Nos. 17 and 18.

Playing in front of thousands of fans who cheered and chanted for her through the weekend, Mexico's Lorena Ochoa shot a 2-over 74 to finish 2 over.

That was a stroke worse than another native of the western city of Guadalajara, amateur Sophia Sheridan, who shot a 70 to finish 1 over.

The 24-year-old Ochoa has three LPGA Tour victories, but has not been a factor in any of a trio of tournaments played south of the border since March 2005.

"This is like a major for me so I learned a lot," Ochoa said. "I know for sure that next week is going to be a lot easier."


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