Sorenstam sets up Singapore showdown with Ochoa

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 18 February, 2008, 12:00am

Annika Sorenstam put her money where her mouth is, winning the LPGA's season-opening SBS Open to add credibility to her stated goal of challenging Lorena Ochoa's world number-one status.

The 37-year-old showed the sign of a true champion, switching into overdrive in the closing stages at the Turtle Bay Resort to win by two shots, close the book on her first winless LPGA season since her rookie year in 1994 and throw down the gauntlet for Ochoa when the Mexican joins the fray at next week's HSBC Women's Champions tournament in Singapore.

'My clubs have done the talking this week. I'm obviously very, very thrilled. There are some tournaments that mean a little bit more and they come at a special time. I would say this is one of them for many reasons,' said Sorenstam who claimed the 70th LPGA win of her career.

The Swede revealed a friend had prepared a bottle of wine ready for this moment when she won her 69th event in September 2006.

'It's mature now! It's probably even better,' she joked, after a final-round 69 gave her a 10-under-par total of 206 for the three-round event.

'I played solid golf for three days. That's what I love to do, just play good golf. In a way, I was kind of protecting the lead, and I didn't really feel comfortable. I felt almost more stress, than just playing good golf and seeing what happened.'

This latest win was certainly no parade. Sorenstam had challengers from all quarters until she rattled home successive birdies on the 16th and 17th holes.

Veterans and virtual unknowns hounded Sorenstam before she burst free.

In her wake the Scandinavian left a three-way tie for second between Americans Laura Diaz and Jane Park and Thailand's Russamee Gulyanamitta, who until then had managed to win only a total of US$4,411 in her LPGA career.

'It's not the money. I just feel so great that I represented my country well,' said Gulyanamitta, who estimated she earned only US$50,000 or US$60,000 last year playing on the Ladies Asian Golf Tour and Phoenix, Arizona's Cactus Tour.