Galloway Township, N.J.
The real surprise might be if Annika Sorenstam doesn’t win the Grand Slam.
Sorenstam, showing she’s in peak form for two LPGA majors in the next three weeks, tuned up for the second leg of her Grand Slam run with a final-round 64 at the ShopRite LPGA Classic. Her four-stroke victory over Juli Inkster (68) June 5 was her fifth triumph in seven events this season and the seventh in her past nine overall.
Sorenstam shot 17-under 196 at Seaview Marriott Resort, tying the tournament record she set in 1998. Laura Davies (68) and Catriona Matthew (64) tied for third at 12 under.
Sorenstam’s battle with Inkster was closer than the final margin made it appear. But the Swede’s strong finish – a birdie at No. 17 and a 38-foot, right-to-left eagle putt on the final hole – reminded everyone of how dominant she has been this season. It was her sixth consecutive victory after leading or sharing the lead heading into the final round.
“It doesn’t get much better than that,” Sorenstam said of the birdie-eagle finish. “This is when I look at my career and say, ‘Hey, this is why I do this. This is why I wake up in the morning and go to practice.’ ”
The pair of Hall of Famers were tied at the start of the final round, but Davies – coming off a tournament-record 62 in Round 2 – quickly vaulted into the lead after starting her round with three consecutive birdies. Davies, however, could manage only one birdie the rest of the way.
Sorenstam took the lead with a a 28-foot birdie on No. 9, holed a 21-footer for birdie from the back fringe on the next hole, then added another birdie at the par-3 13th.
Inkster, meanwhile, couldn’t replicate her strong putting of the first two rounds, three-putting from 6 feet for bogey on No. 6. She shot even-par 36 on the front before three back-nine birdies allowed her to stay close. The 44-year-old has 30 career victories, but none since the 2003 Evian Masters.
Still, the runner-up performance showed Inkster she may also be peaking at the right time. She has seven major victories, one fewer than Sorenstam, and has five top 10s in her past six events heading into this week’s McDonald’s LPGA Championship and the U.S. Women’s Open June 23-26.
“I’m looking forward to the next few weeks,” Inkster said. “If I keep hitting the ball that way, I’m going to be right up there (at the McDonald’s), too. (Annika’s) going to have to watch her back this week, too.”
Sorenstam, however, plans to be focused on one of the few career goals she has left – the Grand Slam.
“I don’t walk around wondering who can beat me. . . . I don’t worry too much about what everyone else is doing,” she said.
These days, why should she?
– Staff and wire reports