Sorenstam begins quest for No. 1 today

KAHUKU, Hawaii (AP) — Annika Sorenstam has lofty goals after her worst season in years.

The world’s former No. 1 player failed to hoist an LPGA Tour trophy last year for the first time since her rookie season in 1994. Her scoring average of 71.27 was the highest and her earnings $532,718 were the lowest since she was a rookie.

So her goals this year?

“I’d like to win the money list. I’d like to win tournaments. I want to go back to the top,” Sorenstam said.

The Hall of Famer’s quest to regain dominance in a sport that is quickly being taken over by younger stars such as Lorena Ochoa, Suzann Pettersen and Paula Creamer begins on Thursday at the LPGA Tour’s season-opening SBS Open.

“It is tough out here. There’s no doubt about it,” she said. “I’m just looking forward to playing my own game. I haven’t good golf for quite some time so that’s really my goal, to play ‘Annika golf.”‘

The 37-year-old Swede is playing at Turtle Bay for the first time and beginning her season a month earlier than usual. In the past, Sorenstam usually took a skiing trip to unwind and relax before returning full time to the tour.

“But now I feel like I didn’t play as much last year and that I really didn’t need a long break,” she said. “I’m happy to be back.”

Sorenstam was limited to 13 events last year because of neck and back injuries. She had six top-10s finishes, including a playoff loss to Meaghan Francella in the MasterCard Classic in Mexico.

Sorenstam plans to play a full schedule of 20 to 22 tournaments this year.

“No more kinks,” she said. “I feel great. I’ve had a good two months off where I’ve just been working out a lot, working on my game.”

The 69-time LPGA Tour winner has enjoyed success in Hawaii.

Sorenstam won the last time she played here in the 2002 LPGA Takefuji Classic at Waikoloa. At the event, a 12-year-old girl named Michelle Wie made her LPGA Tour debut through a qualifier.

Wie, who tied for second at Turtle Bay in 2005, will open the season next week in the Fields Open at Ko Olina.

Sorenstam finished second in the Takefuji in 2000 and 2001 when it was played at Kona Country Club and had four top-five finishes in the Cup Noodles Hawaiian Ladies Open. She also won a couple of University of Hawaii tournaments when she starred at the University of Arizona.

Now, it’s Mexico’s Ochoa who is missing.

Ochoa, an eight-time winner last year, is skipping the Hawaii swing and will start her season at the HSBC Women’s Champions, a new tournament in Singapore.

Creamer won the SBS last year for the American’s first victory since 2005, holing a long birdie putt on the 17th hole to beat Julieta Granada of Paraguay by a stroke. Creamer also won the Tournament of Champions in November.

Creamer, who finished third on the money list, said the Turtle Bay win helped with her confidence for the rest of the season and immediately helped relieve the burden of winning, which she failed to do in 2006.

“I’m just going out this year with the same mind-set, trying to win every tournament and let’s see what happens,” she said.

Pettersen is hoping to continue her success after a breakout season last year when she won five times, including the LPGA Championship. The Norwegian finished second to Ochoa on the money list with more than $1.8 million, nearly doubling her career earnings.

“I just tried to make the game as simple as I could,” Pettersen said. “When you win once, you get confidence. And then twice, you get more confidence. Then you feel like you can do whatever you want.”

Pettersen said she doesn’t feel pressure to repeat her performance. But she does have her sights on moving up a spot to No. 1.

“My big dream is to be the best golfer in the world,” she said. “But there’s one ahead of me who’s very good and lots of other great players.”

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