2002: Sorenstam gets a grip, continues hold over LPGA Tulsa, Okla.

Maybe Annika Sorenstam was getting bored winning the conventional way.

As if her old putting grip hadn’t helped her win enough events the last couple of years, she changed to a new cross-handed grip during the Williams Championship. The result? Sorenstam rolled in birdies on four of the last six holes Sept. 8 in a four-stroke victory over Lorie Kane at Tulsa Country Club.

“I made some great putts when I needed to,” said Sorenstam, whose new left-hand low grip helped her to a final-round, 5-under-par 65 and an 11-under 199 total.

It was her seventh LPGA victory of the year, then Sorenstam matched her eight 2001 titles by following up with a Sept. 15 win at the Safeway Classic. Her $150,000 check in Tulsa put her over $2 million in earnings for the second consecutive year. She is the only woman to achieve that milestone.

“This is shaping up to be my best season,” said Sorenstam, who was coming off a two-week break after her Compaq Open victory Aug. 18 in her home country of Sweden.

Sorenstam led Kane and Cristie Kerr by one shot at the start of the day, but bogeyed the first hole.

Kerr also bogeyed No. 1, but briefly took a one-stroke lead with three consecutive birdies on Nos. 3-5. However, Sorenstam birdied No. 3, then followed with birdies at 7 and 8 to regain control. She followed another bogey at No. 12 with birdies at 13 and 15.

Kerr’s bid for her second victory ended with back-to-back bogeys at the 11th and 12th. She finished with a 69 and tied for third at 204 with Australian Joanne Mills (67).

Kane (68) opened with 14 consecutive pars before birdies at 15 and 16 closed her to within two strokes of Sorenstam. But her playing partner quickly answered with 7-foot birdie putts on the last two holes for the final margin.

“I wanted to birdie the last four holes to see what she could do,” said Kane, who just missed a 7-foot birdie attempt of her own on No. 17. “As you know, she’s such an awesome player and steady. She never gets in her own way.”

With Sorenstam’s new putting grip and a new Callaway Big Bertha II driver in her bag, she could be even better the rest of the year, including when she leads Europe against the United States at this weekend’s Solheim Cup.

“I have a tendency to aim too much to the left, and I’ve been working on that all year,” she said. “When I was at home, I tried left-hand low just to see if I could aim a little better, and suddenly, I’m aiming exactly where I want to.”

The driver – which she received in the mail a few days before the Williams – also was a nice surprise.

“I’m probably carrying it at least 10 yards farther,” said Sorenstam.

“Now I know how Tiger feels every week when he’s 40 yards ahead of the other players. It’s a wonderful feeling.”

For her fellow pros, probably not.

– Staff and wire reports

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