2005: Less than her best, Annika still tops

Broken Arrow, Okla.

It wasn’t vintage Annika. But the result was the same, and it just served to underscore what remains a fundamental truth in women’s golf: Even when Annika Sorenstam’s not quite at her best, she’s still better than anyone else.

The world’s No. 1 player started the final round of the John Q. Hammons Hotel Classic with a one-stroke lead, shot 1-over 73 and bogeyed two of her final three holes. Yet at the end, she was one shot ahead of Paula Creamer and had posted her seventh LPGA victory in 14 events this season and her 63rd career title.

“For me, it’s important to play good at the end of the year,” Sorenstam said. “There’s a lot of things that are at stake. We’re talking money list, we’re talking Player of the Year, Vare Trophy. Those are goals of mine and they mean a lot.”

Sorenstam, who led by a stroke over Maria Hjorth and Michelle Ellis after two rounds, made 15 consecutive pars to start the final round and built a four-stroke lead before making bogeys on Nos. 16 and 18. She finished with a 5-under 208 total in winning the event for the third time in four years.

“Luckily I had a little cushion, and at the end it seemed like I needed it,” she said. “For me, a win is a win.”

Creamer, 19, who had helped lead the U.S. to a victory over Sorenstam and the European team at the previous week’s Solheim Cup, started Sunday five shots out of the lead. She birdied Nos. 13 and 14 to get to 5 under and within two strokes of Sorenstam, putting her in the hunt for her third title of a standout rookie season. But Creamer made bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 to give the strokes back. She birdied the 18th to finish with a 2-under 69 and a 4-under total.

Hjorth and American Diana D’Alessio (69) tied for third at 2 under. Karine Icher was fifth at 1 under.

For the first 15 holes at the demanding Cedar Ridge Country Club, Sorenstam was unerringly precise, pounding fairways and greens, although she missed birdie chances at Nos. 2, 3, 5, 6 and 8.

“I wasn’t trying to just make pars,” she said, “because I figured there’s some birdies out there, and the last thing you want to do is just go out there cruising and all of a sudden somebody catches you.”

Creamer certainly tried.

“I knew I had to play good golf.

She’s not going to make mistakes come Sunday,” said Creamer, who regained the No. 2 spot on the LPGA money list with $1,332,042, behind only Sorenstam’s $1,957,200. “I knew she was going to play the way she always plays, and she doesn’t have to turn it on when no one is pressuring her and making birdies. And there for a while, I did.”

Sorenstam won her first three tournaments of the year and six of her first eight, but hadn’t won since the McDonald’s LPGA Championship in June. That is reminiscent of last season, when the Swede won the McDonald’s, then went two months without a title before reeling off victories at the Hammons, the Samsung World Championship, the Mizuno Classic and the season-ending ADT Championship.

“The season is far from over for me and for some other players,” Sorenstam said. “It’s great to get off

to a good start, but I think it’s also important to finish well.”

Would we expect anything less?

– Staff and wire reports

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