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Sorenstam Burns Courses, Not Her Meals

Thomas Bonk Los Angeles Times

Another year, another U.S. Open victory for Annika Sorenstam. That’s sort of the progression for the 26-year-old Swede with the drop-dead perfect swing and the cool demeanor of one of those glaciers high atop the Kjolen Mountains.

She won the 1995 U.S. Open at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs and that was sort of a surprise. Then she won it again last year at Pine Needles in Southern Pines, N.C., and that wasn’t.

“It was just so fantastic, everything went my way,” Sorenstam said. “Even when I was in the car. I kept getting green lights. That never happens. I couldn’t believe it.”

Sorenstam also had a hard time believing she could begin this year by winning the Tournament of Champions, especially since she had been married only five days before, then had to play with borrowed clubs after hers were damaged at the airport.

“I had no expectations whatsoever,” Sorenstam said. “It was so much fun. I could finish last in the field and it would have been all right. It’s like, it didn’t mean anything to me and the next thing you know I’m tied for the lead. I played so relaxed. That’s a good feeling.”

It also may be a familiar feeling. Sorenstam’s credits now read seven victories and two major championships in just over three years. If she finds she has a tough act to follow, it’s her own fault.

This weekend’s Los Angeles Women’s Championship at Oakmont Country Club in Glendale is her first tournament since the Tournament of Champions. It’s also her first since she and her groom, David Esch, visited Sorenstam’s family in Sweden.

The newlyweds were guests at a dinner hosted by King Carl Gustaf, where there might have been as many hands to shake as Volvos in Stockholm. Then Sorenstam and Esch flew back home to Incline Village, Nev., to ski.

Sorenstam said she also experimented in the kitchen, producing a pasta and melon dish for Esch and her agent, Mark Steinberg of IMG.

“It was a disaster,” Sorenstam said. “But David and Mark said they loved it.”

Now it’s back to the golf course, where Sorenstam feels no pressure. And that hasn’t always been the case.

“When she won the U.S. Open the first time, she kind of caught a whirlwind by the tail,” Esch said. “She had trouble adjusting, but I think it’s all come together now. She’s got nothing to prove.”

Sorenstam said she feels her priorities are in perfect order. At home, there are skiing, the cooking … heck, she doesn’t even mind doing the laundry.

“I’m just so happy about myself,” she said. “I’m not afraid to try anything. I am no longer so structured, following routines. Now, I just take the day as it comes.”

But there is one routine she still tries to follow.

“Once I tee it up, it doesn’t matter what tournament, I want to win.”

Transcontinental Woods

If that runaway Tiger Woods bandwagon was a distraction in North America at Pebble Beach and in Asia at the tournament in Thailand, a third continent was exposed to it Thursday.

When Woods played in the first round of the Australian Masters at Melbourne, a gallery estimated at 10,000 lined up six and seven deep along the fairways.

So many fans were jockeying for positions to see Woods that playing partners Brett Ogle and Robert Allenby became upset.

Ogle yelled at one point, “Tiger’s not the only one playing out here.”

Rodriguez likes alternatives

You can’t say Chi Chi Rodriguez won’t try something new. Last year, Rodriguez took lamb embryo injections so he could feel younger. Now he’s into homeopathic dentistry.

His shoulder was hurting, so he did what anyone would do. He went to a dentist. The dentist took one look at Rodriguez’s teeth and spotted the problem right off. He said mercury was leaking from Rodriguez’s silver fillings.

Rodriguez had the silver fillings changed to gold and before you could say “Crown me,” the pain went adios.

Hey, loft is too much

Bob Murphy noticed he was losing distance, so he had his clubs checked out before last week’s LG Championship in Naples, Fla. He learned that the clubs had 1-3 degrees more loft than they should.

So he got some new clubs, shot a 65 on Sunday and finished second.

More on Woods

Guess who leads the PGA Tour driving statistics. If you said Woods, nice guess.

Woods is averaging 293.8 yards on the two driving holes that are measured each round and Scott McCarron is second at 282.6. Woods also leads in scoring average with 68.60 and Jesper Parnevik is second with 68.67.

For what it’s worth, the last round at Pebble Beach, with Woods making a charge, had a 5.2 Neilson rating.

That compares to 5.0 in 1995 and 5.2 in 1994. There was no last round in 1996 because the tournament was rained out.

Hale Irwin said he fears for Woods if things keep going the way they are.

“I’m concerned about the individual Tiger, that we should not be placing so much hype and so much pressure and putting monumental askings on him,” Irwin said. “Even though he might be the chosen one, we still have to keep in mind he’s a very young man.

“I don’t care how invincible he may seem, he’s still fallible.”

O’Meara reaches $8 million

The $270,000 Mark O’Meara made when he won the Buick Invitational last weekend did not go unnoticed in banking circles. O’Meara became only the fifth PGA Tour player to pass $8 million in earnings. The top five: Greg Norman, $10.5 million; Tom Kite, $9.6 million; Fred Couples, $8.5 million; O’Meara, $8.09 million and Corey Pavin, $8.07.

Lucky seven

What do Donnie Hammond, David Ogrin, Mike Hulbert, Lee Janzen, Parnevik, Craig Stadler and Duffy Waldorf have in common? They all finished second last week at Torrey Pines and set a record in doing so. It was the first seven-way tie for second place in PGA Tour history.

Actually, the biggest surprise probably isn’t that seven tied for second, it’s that David Duval wasn’t one of them. Duval has six second-place finishes the last two years.

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