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Sorenstam slowly getting back in the swing

| Thursday, July 19, 2007

NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. — Annika Sorenstam is too busy trying to get her game together to worry about reclaiming the top spot in women's golf.

"Right now, I'm not really trying to chase anybody," Sorenstam said Wednesday before her rainy pro-am round in the HSBC Women's World Match Play Championship.

"I'm just trying to get into the swing of things. I'm just trying to get back to me and the way I played. I'm not really at the level I know I can be."

She's making her fourth start after missing two months because of a bulging disk in her back and ruptured disk in her neck. The 37-year-old Swede took last week off after tying for 32nd in the U.S. Women's Open.

"With the competition being so tough today, you just can't take a break like I have for two months not competing and just kind of come out and compete with just a few hundred balls in practice rather than the thousand that I need."

After winning the State Farm Classic last September for her 69th LPGA Tour title, she's winless in her past 11 starts and has dropped to third in the world behind top-ranked Lorena Ochoa and Karrie Webb.

"I've got to think long term," Sorenstam said. "I have no pain. I feel great and I'm starting to swing the club a little better. So give me a few weeks and I'm going to start chasing some people."

In two weeks, she'll get to test her game at St. Andrews when the Women's British Open makes its first stop at the Old Course.

"I think it's a big, big, big deal," Sorenstam said. "It's a huge step for women's golf to go there. ... I'm going to enjoy every minute."

Set to open against Katherine Hull on Thursday on the rain-soaked Wykagyl Country Club course, Sorenstam won stroke-play titles in 1998 and 2000 on the traditional layout recently renovated by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore.

"I love the changes. I think it's fantastic," Sorenstam said. "They took down a lot of trees. You can see the course a bit more. They totally changed the look and feel around the greens. ... The way they set up the course this year we're a lot farther back. I think this sets up fantastic for this format."

She reached the quarterfinals the past two seasons at Hamilton Farm in New Jersey, losing to Candie Kung in 2005 and Juli Inkster last year. If Sorenstam wins her first three matches, she could face Kraft Nabisco winner Morgan Pressel in the quarters.

"One match is like one tournament," Sorenstam said. "It's just one day at a time."

Pressel, seeded sixth, will open against Birdie Kim, the South Korean player who holed out from a bunker to beat her in the 2005 U.S. Open. Sorenstam and Pressel are in the lower bracket along with the second-seeded Webb and seventh-seeded Suzann Pettersen, the LPGA Championship winner.

In the upper bracket, U.S. Open champion Cristie Kerr, seeded fourth, tops the most interesting quarter of the draw.

Kerr will open against Amy Hung and could face defending champion Brittany Lincicome in the third round and fifth-seeded Se Ri Pak in the fourth.

"You just try and focus on your own game as much as you can and not really let what the other person does affect you," Kerr said.

Pak, coming off her fifth Jamie Farr Owens Corning Classic victory Sunday, will start play against Beth Bader, with the winner facing the Natalie Gulbis-Christina Kim survivor. Lincicome will open against Carin Koch.

Also in the upper bracket, Ochoa, the 2006 Sybase Classic winner at Wykagyl, will face South African teenager Ashleigh Simon.

The tour leader with three victories, Ochoa could play eighth-seeded Paula Creamer, the 2005 Sybase champion, in the quarterfinals.

"I love the place," Ochoa said. "I like my chances."

Notes: Heavy rain wiped out the morning pro-am. Nearly 1 1/2 inches fell on the course Wednesday. ... After single rounds Thursday and Friday, the third round and quarterfinals will be played Saturday and the semifinals and final are set for Sunday. ... The winner will receive $500,000 from the $2 million purse. ... Inkster (1992), Sherri Steinhauer (1999 and 2004) and Michelle Redman (1997) also have won at Wykagyl. ... Marisa Baena won the inaugural event in 2005. ... The tour will be in Europe the next two weeks for the Evian Masters in France and the Women's British Open. ... The LPGA Tour acquired the Duramed Futures Tour on Wednesday. The 27-year-old developmental circuit has been the LPGA Tour's official developmental tour since 1999.

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