KAPOLEI, Hawaii (AP) — It took Annika Sorenstam 17 months to hoist a trophy again in the U.S. She’s now seeking her second title in as many weeks and third straight victory in Hawaii while rising in the rankings.
Fresh off a two-stroke victory in the season-opening SBS Open, Sorenstam is trying to complete the Hawaiian sweep at the Fields Open, which starts on Thursday. The victory was the 70th of her U.S. LPGA Tour career and first since September 2006.
“I’m thrilled and I’m happy, and that gives you motivation to continue and work hard,” said Sorenstam, the 37-year-old Swedish star who had an injury-shortened U.S. season in 2007 in which she was winless for the first time since her rookie season in 1994.
The win vaulted Sorenstam two spots to No. 2 in the world behind Lorena Ochoa.
“I’m not complaining,” said Sorenstam, who moved past Suzann Pettersen and Karrie Webb.
Ochoa, who will start her season next week in Singapore in the HSBC Women’s Champions, still leads Sorenstam by a large margin behind her impressive eight-win season in 2007.
“There’s a lot of catching up to do,” Sorenstam said. “I’m just going to focus on the things that I can control, which is my golf and my swing.”
Sorenstam was limited to 13 events because of neck and back injuries and managed six top-10s finishes. Her scoring average of 71.27 was the highest and her earnings ($532,718, 363,500) the lowest since she was a rookie.
The 54-hold event at Ko Olina also features Michelle Wie’s 2008 debut.
Wie, also coming off a trying year, is now healthy, stronger and eager for a strong showing at Ko Olina, where she missed a playoff by a shot in 2006, when she was a high school student.
Wie injured both wrists last year but kept playing, and struggling. She made only three cuts. In nine starts, she withdrew twice and broke par only twice in 19 rounds against women.
Sorenstam recommended that Wie take care of her body first for her long-term success.
“Golf is important and it’s a big part of my life. You go as much as you can but you have to remember — and I can tell you from last year — if you’re not healthy, you cannot do what you want to do,” Sorenstam said. “I don’t know what she’s doing rehab-wise, working out-wise. But you really need to take care of yourself.”
Wie withdrew from last year’s Ginn Tribute, hosted by Sorenstam, after shooting 14 over through 16 holes, saying she aggravated a wrist injury.
Wie said she withdrew because she “tweaked” the injury and not because of a LPGA Tour rule that bans non-tour members for the year if they shoot 88 or higher. Wie was two bogeys from that scenario when she stopped.
Two days later, Wie was hitting balls on the range, drawing sharp words from Sorenstam.
On Wednesday, Sorenstam said she wasn’t sure if Wie would receive another invitation to the tournament, or even if the teen had requested one.
When asked if all was smoothed about between the two, Sorenstam said she hasn’t talked to Wie.
“So it’s not (about) being smooth or not,” she said. “I’m just minding my own business. It’s nothing I walk around thinking about. She has her career and I have mine. That’s kind of how it is. I respect her as a golfer and I know she has a lot of talent and I wish her best.”
Last year, Stacy Prammanasudh won her second LPGA Tour title at Ko Olina, leading all the way en route to a one-stroke victory over Jee Young Lee.
Prammanasudh is paired with Sorenstam and Japan’s Ai Miyazato for the first two rounds. Scores should be low if the winds stay down on the resort course with generous fairways.
“You can make birdies from 50 yards off the fairway,” Prammanasudh said. “On a golf course like this, you really don’t know who you anticipate playing well. Obviously, (Sorenstam) has won 70 times. There’s a reason for that. But it is anybody’s golf course.”