2002: The more Sorenstam wins, the more she likes it

Evian-les-Bains, France

Winning isn’t getting old for Annika Sorenstam.

As good as her eight-victory season of 2001 was, she thinks she can do better in 2002. After her four-stroke victory June 15 at the Evian Masters, she seems well on her way.

Sorenstam failed to win her second consecutive major at the previous week’s McDonald’s LPGA Championship, but she rebounded nicely by capturing her fifth LPGA title of the year.

“I’ve won a lot, and I love to win,” said Sorenstam, who finished with a 19-under-par 269 total. “I think with the more I’ve done it, I realize how much winning means to me. It never gets old. Actually, it makes me want more of it. It’s an addicting feeling.”

Sorenstam’s four-stroke victory over fellow Swede Maria Hjörth and South Korea’s Mi Hyun Kim was worth $315,000 and pushed her earnings through 11 events to more than $1.35 million, almost $300,000 ahead of her pace through the same number of events in 2001. With half the season remaining, Sorenstam is on pace to break her single-season record of $1.8 million.

“When I said I was going to improve on last year, a lot of people said, ‘You can’t do that,’ ” she said. “But I was determined. With the way I’m playing now, I really feel like I’m playing better than last year. And I know I have not reached my peak yet. So I’m going to push and push, and see how far I can go.”

Sorenstam’s 36th LPGA title was one of her easiest. She shot four consecutive rounds in the 60s – 68-67-65-69 – and had only one bogey and four birdies in her final-round 69.

Kim, the first-round leader, was paired with Sorenstam in the final group. She birdied Nos. 3, 4 and 5 in the final round to pull within two shots, but dropped back with a bogey on No. 7. She then had 10 consecutive pars before sinking a 2-foot birdie putt on the final hole to tie Hjörth for second.

American Laura Diaz tied her career-low of 65 to tie for fourth with Se Ri Pak (69), the McDonald’s LPGA Championship winner.

Hjörth began the final round nine shots behind Sorenstam, but fashioned a brilliant 8-under 64 the final day. That made her a runner-up for the second consecutive year, although she missed a 3-foot birdie try on the final hole that would have put her alone in second and broken the course scoring record.

Hjörth, trying to qualify for the European Solheim Cup team for the first time, is eighth in the points standings. The top seven automatically make the team.

Sorenstam doesn’t have to worry about a Solheim spot. Her Evian victory put her first in the standings and clinched a spot on the team, capping off what for her was a perfect week.

“This was my goal this week, to come here and to do well,” Sorenstam said. “I love this event. It’s a beautiful setting, a first-class event, a top field. It’s one of the biggest tournaments on our schedule, and definitely on the European Tour. I’ve achieved my goal, and I couldn’t feel any better.”

– From staff and wire reports

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