MOBILE, Alabama (AP) — Annika Sorenstam has not played the LPGA Tournament of Champions in Alabama since 2002, but she is there this week out of necessity.
It is her last chance to qualify for the season-ending ADT Championship at Trump International, where a victory pays $1 million (690,000) and could turn her worst year on the course into a decent one.
U.S. LPGA Tour officials are still trying to sort out what Sorenstam needs to qualify, although showing up is a good start.
Sorenstam is 14th in the second-half points list, and the top 13 qualify. Sophie Gustafson and Rachel Hetherington (Nos. 12 and 13) are not playing in Alabama, which helps Sorenstam’s cause.
Even if she doesn’t make it, she is 29th on the money list and could qualify as one of the two wild cards.
Sorenstam is playing for only the 12th time this year, having missed nearly two months with neck and back injuries this spring. But thanks to a rule change last year – this one not aimed at her – the Swede’s eligibility on the U.S. LPGA Tour is not affected.
Players who elect international status, such as Sorenstam, must play at least 15 times on the U.S. LPGA to keep their membership. That rule was to allow flexibility so players could compete on their home tours, mainly in Europe.
“Over the past few years, with more and more international players and great longevity of their careers, we took a new look at the policy,” deputy commissioner Libba Galloway said.
A change to the constitution in August 2006 waived the 15-event policy for those players who have been in good standing for 10 straight years on the U.S. tour. Sorenstam has played at least 17 tournaments each year since her rookie season in 1994.
“These are players who have supported the LPGA, and we didn’t feel like they should have to be held to that standard,” Galloway said.