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Sorenstam wins Tournament of Champions

January 12, 1997

WESTON, Fla. (AP) _ Annika Sorenstam gave herself a belated wedding gift Sunday.

Married just eight days, Sorenstam shot a 6-under-par 66 to win the LPGA Tournament of Champions by four shots.

``I’m walking on clouds,″ she said. ``I’m really happy inside, and I think that helped my golf game.″

Sorenstam finished at 272, 16 under par at the Weston Hills Country Club. She earned $115,000, along with a hug and kiss on the 18th green from her husband, David Esch.

Now comes the honeymoon. Sorenstam, 26, will take several weeks off and travel home to Sweden with her husband.

Sorenstam’s hot new putter turned her anticipated duel with Karrie Webb into a rout. Webb shot a 70, her worst round of the week, and finished second at 276. She won $72,000.

Barb Mucha, who had two eagles and a double-bogey on her way to a bizarre 70, finished third at 277. Nancy Lopez and Michelle McGann were a distant fourth at 285 in the season-opening tournament, sponsored by Chrysler Plymouth.

Sorenstam won even though five of her clubs _ including the putter _ were damaged while being shipped to the tournament. She chose a new putter with less loft and immediately felt comfortable using it.

``I’m amazed at how I played all week, and especially at how I putted,″ she said. ``One of my weaknesses has been putts in the range of nine to 20 feet, and it seems like two-thirds of those dropped this week.″

The two-time defending U.S. Women’s Open champion made eight birdie putts in the final round, including three in a row beginning on No. 15.

``It was pretty depressing to watch Annika hole all those putts,″ Webb said. ``She generally likes to make a lot of putts when I play with her.″

Sorenstam’s score could have been even lower. On the front nine, she left par putts of 12 and 20 feet on the lip of the cup.

Sorenstam and Webb, paired together in the last group for the second day in a row, began the round tied for the lead. While Sorenstam had the shorter drive on all but one hole, she fared better on Weston’s fast greens.

Webb trailed by only one shot before she bogeyed No. 14, missing a 2 1/2-footer. Sorenstam then increased her lead with birdie putts of 15 feet at No. 15, 30 feet at No. 16 and six feet at No. 17.

The putt at the 16th hole was especially impressive, rolling downhill with a big break. When the ball disappeared into the cup, Sorenstam dropped her club in astonished delight.

``I couldn’t believe it,″ she said. ``I said, `I’m just going to try to get it close,′ and it went in.″

Webb made a six-foot birdie putt on No. 18 to clinch second place in the tournament for the second consecutive year. In 1996, she went on to become the LPGA’s rookie of the year and the first $1 million winner.

``I’m off to a good start again,″ she said, ``so I’m happy with second.″

DIVOTS: Jenny Lidback became the first player to score a hole-in-one on consecutive days in an LPGA tournament. Lidback aced the 146-yard No. 11 with a 6-iron Sunday. She also had an ace at the 147-yard No. 17 with a 5-iron Saturday. ... Vicki Fergon began the final round last in the field of 37. She teed off alone at 8 a.m. and finished in 2 1/2 hours with a 72-308, 36 shots off the lead. ... Lopez eagled No. 1 but had a double-bogey at No. 10. ... Defending champion Liselotte Neumann shot 72-292.

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