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Sorenstam Strolls to Eighth Major Title

Associated Press
Monday, March 28, 2005; Page D12

The suspense was over before the leaders left the putting green and headed for the first tee. The question wasn't whether Annika Sorenstam would win her fifth straight tournament and the first major championship of the year, but by how much.

Plenty, it turned out, as Sorenstam turned a runaway into a blowout yesterday, shooting a final-round 68 to finish at 15 under and win the Nabisco Championship by eight shots in Rancho Mirage, Calif. In doing so, golf's most dominant player not only added another entry to the LPGA record books, but showed that the best may be yet to come.


Annika Sorenstam takes the traditional winner's plunge into the pond next to the 18th green at the Nabisco Championship, the first major of the year. (Robert Galbraith -- Reuters)


_____On the Next Tee_____
On the Next Tee

PGA TOUR

Event: BellSouth Classic.

When: Thursday-Sunday.

Course: TPC at Sugarloaf (7,259 yards, par 72), Duluth, Ga.

Purse: $5 million ($900,000 to winner).

TV: USA (Thursday-Friday, 4 p.m.); NBC (Saturday-Sunday, 3 p.m.).

Defending Champion: Zach Johnson.

OTHER TOURS

European PGA: Open de Portugal; Oitavos Golfe; Quinta da Marinha, Portugal.

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She also got very wet, getting doused in champagne after sinking her putt, before taking the traditional winner's plunge into the pond next to the 18th green along with her sister, Charlotta, and her mother, Gunilla.

"I'm going to remember this Easter weekend for a long time," Sorenstam said.

So will golf fans, who witnessed the best player of her generation -- perhaps the best ever -- turn the first major championship of the year into a romp with a weekend that included 10 birdies and no bogeys over the final 36 holes.

"It only shows that she's that much better than the rest of us," defending champion Grace Park said.

The win was Sorenstam's fifth in a row over two seasons, tying a record set by Nancy Lopez in 1978. It was also Sorenstam's eighth major.

Sorenstam started the day with a five-shot lead over Rosie Jones and promptly birdied three of the first five holes in what was little more than a stroll around Mission Lakes Country Club.

Sorenstam led by eight shots after eight holes before Jones birdied the ninth and 10th holes to draw a bit closer. But, after opening up a five-shot lead with a 66 on Saturday, there was never any doubt this was going to be Sorenstam's day.

"She didn't show any nerves at all," Jones said. "Her ball striking was just great."

Sorenstam didn't bogey all weekend, playing the last 36 holes 11 under par as she methodically made her way around a 6,535-yard course that was supposed to play tough with narrow fairways and deeper than normal rough.

Sorenstam capped off her performance by going for the green in two on the 485-yard final hole. Her 4-wood safely cleared the water, and Sorenstam took a victory lap on her way to the green, exchanging high-fives with spectators.

She promptly three-putted from about 100 feet, but it was of little consequence. When she tapped in for the win, her sister and a few others raced on the green and sprayed her with champagne.

Sorenstam's fellow players were just as much in awe as the gallery that enjoyed a beautiful day of golf, but one with little suspense.

"I think really, and truly, she's better than Tiger Woods," Lopez said. "We have a lot of great players out here and nobody is even coming close to her."

Sorenstam was impressive with her driver and her short game. She was the longest hitter in the tournament, consistently hitting the ball 50 to 60 yards past her playing partners, and made almost every putt under 10 feet when it counted.

Michelle Wie finished outside the top 10 for the first time in three years in the Nabisco, shooting a final-round 71 to finish at even par, 15 shots back.

EUROPEAN TOUR: Thaworn Wiratchant of Thailand won the Indonesia Open in Jakarta by five strokes, but it was Colin Montgomerie who had a final round to remember.

Montgomerie fired a 10-under 60, and saw his chance at 59 end when he missed a birdie putt on his last hole. He finished tied for fourth with Frankie Minoza of the Philippines at 18-under 262, seven shots behind Thaworn.

Thaworn had eight birdies and a bogey to finish with a four-day 25-under 255.


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