Toe-to-toe with Annika

IAN HUTCHINSON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:24 AM ET

The No. 1 player in the world still is gunning for that elusive first career major and, before you do a double-take, you know we're not talking Tiger Woods.

It's a unique distinction to hold such a lofty position without a major title, but Mexican Lorena Ochoa, now the female counterpart to Woods, plans to change all that.

"When I was playing here in Mexico, every time I had a 10-footer or 12-footer, I'd say, 'Okay, this is to win the U.S. Open, this is to win the Nabisco Championship.' You kind of have it in your head, just winning tournaments and especially winning majors," Ochoa said.

"It's obviously something very important that we all, as professionals, dream on winning majors. It would be great to do it this year."

Awaiting Ochoa, 25, is the LPGA Championship next week and a couple of weeks later the U.S. Women's Open. Ochoa will get a good tune-up this week at the inaugural Ginn Tribute Hosted by Annika -- only the host may not be in a hospitable mood.

Also returning to action in charming Charleston S.C., is Annika Sorenstam who, while out with a disc injury, lost the No. 1 ranking to Ochoa just a couple of weeks ago. Ochoa took a breather at home in Guadalajara last week, which may be a good plan.

The Ginn Tribute could be the start of something special, touching off a summer-long rivalry between Ochoa and Sorenstam that could reach its peak by the time the CN Canadian Women's Open is played at Edmonton's Royal Mayfair in August.

"Yes, I will go to Canada. Actually, I'm very excited to go to Edmonton. It's a place where I have a lot of friends," said Ochoa, who doesn't want to get too far ahead of herself with Sorenstam charging from behind.

"She's always strong and ready to win, so the competition is going to be tough, but I've been preparing myself. My game is in good shape," she said.

"We always try to prepare and peak during the summertime for all the big tournaments. I'm just excited to go. We still have some big tournaments before we go to Canada."

Sorenstam also is expected to be in Edmonton thanks to a one-in-four rule that states every player must attend each tournament on the schedule at least once every four years.

Are you listening PGA Tour?

With her 69 wins and 10 majors, Sorenstam is gunning for career records in both categories, but her 2006 season wasn't outstanding by her own standards. Still, she had three wins, including the U.S. Women's Open, and 16 top-10s.

"I admire Annika so much, respect her so much," Ochoa said. "She is really the one that changed the game. Because of her, we make sure we work harder. We go to the gym, get strong. We try to hit the ball far. The scores are really getting better and better.

RISES TO NO. 1

"She's the one who really motivates me. My dream was to follow her and be at the top," said Ochoa, who has two wins and eight top-10s this year.

Oochow elevated to he No. 1 spot with Sorenstam out of action.

"It was just something that happened that way. She got injured. I hope she's doing better and ready to get back and start playing," Ochoa said.

"I've been playing five years with her, next to her, tournament to tournament. I think it's going to be fun to see what happens in the next few months."

It could be fun for more reasons than Ochoa vs. Sorenstam.

Several of the young U.S. stars who have been hyped the past few seasons, including Morgan Pressel and Paula Creamer, are starting to make noise that they may also join in the race for No. 1 after going winless in 2006.

It's summertime and the living won't be easy, says Ochoa.

"I can only tell you this is going to be a big challenge, but my dream is to stay in that position.

" I'm going to do everything it takes to maintain my first place."


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