Annika tops Creamer, successfully defends title

BROKEN ARROW, Okla. -- Annika Sorenstam hopes her second
straight victory at the John Q. Hammons Classic is a springboard to
another strong finish to the season.
Sorenstam closed with a 2-over 73 Sunday and withstood a late
charge from rookie Paula Creamer to win the Hammons Classic for the
third time in four years.
Sorenstam made 15 straight pars to start the final round and
overcame bogeys on two of the last three holes to finish one shot
ahead of Creamer at 5-under 208 for her seventh LPGA Tour win in 14
starts this season and 63rd overall. She also won a European Tour
event in Sweden this year.
After winning the Hammons Classic last year, Sorenstam went on
to win three of her next five events and picked up her seventh
player of the year award.
"For me, it's important to play good at the end of the year,"
Sorenstam said. "There's a lot of things that are at stake. We're
talking money list, we're talking player of the year, Vare Trophy.
Those are goals of mine and they mean a lot.
"A victory here sets me up a little closer to my goals."
Of the eight tournaments she won last year, she has now defended
her title in three, tied for second in another and has four left to
play -- the Office Depot Championship, the Samsung World
Championship, the Mizuno Classic and the ADT Championship.
After playing in a charity event Monday, the Office Depot is up
next, in two weeks. Just like last year, the victory at the Hammons
Classic was Sorenstam's first since June at the McDonald's LPGA
"The season is far from over for me and for some other
players," Sorenstam said. "It's key to play well in the end.
"It's great to get off to a good start, but I think it's also
important to finish well."
The 19-year-old Creamer, who paced the United States to a
15½-12½ victory over Sorenstam and the European team in last week's
Solheim Cup, started the final round five strokes off the lead.
The rookie opened with six straight pars and closed out the
front nine birdie-bogey-birdie. After three pars on the back nine,
she birdied Nos. 13 and 14 to get to 5 under, but gave the strokes
back with bogeys at the 16th and 17th as Sorenstam's lead reached
four strokes.
Creamer, a two-time winner this year, birdied the 18th for a
2-under 69 and a 4 under total.
"I knew I had to play good golf. She's not going to make
mistakes come Sunday," said Creamer, who is No. 3 in the world
rankings. "I knew she was going to play the way she always plays,
and she doesn't have to turn it on when no one is pressuring her
and making birdies. And there for a while, I did."
Sorenstam's precision play was perfect for the 6,551-yard, Cedar
Ridge Country Club layout, where 2½-inch rough punished players for
missing the narrow, tree-lined fairways. The Swede also won the
event in 2002 at Tulsa Country Club.
"I think the key is patience," Sorenstam said. "You have to
place it in the right spots here."
Entering the round with a one-stroke lead, Sorenstam pounded
fairways and greens, but was unable to convert birdie putts at Nos.
2, 3, 5, 6 and 8 to pull away.
"I wasn't trying to just make pars, because I figured there's
some birdies out there, and the last thing you want to do is just
go out there cruising and all of a sudden somebody catches you and
it's tough to change gears at the time," Sorenstam said.
At No. 9, Sorenstam's drive sailed left of the fairway and
settled among trees. With her heels against the cart path,
Sorenstam hit a low liner that ran through the green to the back
fringe. She popped her third shot to within 12 feet and saved par,
her ninth in a row.
While Sorenstam was steady, the three players closest after the
second round -- Sweden's Maria Hjorth, Australia's Michelle Ellis
and France's Karine Icher -- faltered.
Hjorth bogeyed the first and ninth holes, while Icher had
back-to-back bogeys at Nos. 2 and 3. Ellis quickly fell back after
a double bogey on the first and triple bogey on the third.
The three were the only players to start less than four strokes
behind Sorenstam and each was in search of her first LPGA Tour win.
Hjorth (75) and American Diana D'Alessio (69) tied for third at
2 under. Icher closed with a 75 and was the only other player under
par for the tournament, finishing at 1 under.
Ellis (79) fell to 2 over for the tournament and finished in a
tie for 13th.