LPGA veterans still hungry

IAN HUTCHINSON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:46 AM ET

If the most pressing question about this year's CN Canadian Women's Open is whether Annika Sorenstam is going to show up or not at Ottawa Hunt in August, then this country's lone LPGA Tour stop is in fine shape.

The Sorenstam question seemed to be biggest concern among the media during a teleconference on Friday, but the fact is that the former No. 1 player in the world is required to be in the field, whether she likes it or not.

Last year, Sorenstam used a little-known loophole that allowed her to escape playing at Edmonton's Royal Mayfair, where she was supposed to participate after a long absence in Canada. Citing injury, Sorenstam wiggled out of playing, but she won't be allowed to use that excuse again, so expect her in the nation's capital this summer.

The classy Swede is usually the model of good form, so let's forgive her for this transgression. As good as it would have been to have a career great in last year's field, Sorenstam's absence wasn't all that noticeable with 45 of the top 50 players on the money list, including the No. 1 and eventual champion Lorena Ochoa.

With new guard players such as Ochoa, Morgan Pressel and Paula Creamer, among others, operating at peak capacity, it would have been tough to see past them to watch Sorenstam in the midst of some serious struggles in a season that started with a ruptured disc in her back that kept her out of action for a couple of months last spring.

Mercifully, those problems seem to have corrected themselves.

"I'll say I'm disappointed about '07," Sorenstam said last week. "I had a chance to play 13 events and half of it was just trying to get back to playing some good golf."

Sorenstam started this season off right with a win at the SBS Open at Turtle Bay.

Sorenstam already has proven that she still is capable of winning, but will those Ws come as often as they used to just a couple of years ago. She put in another good performance at the just-concluded HSBC Women's Champions event in Singapore where she contended for second place behind Ochoa.

That appears to be the consistent story these days as Ochoa makes like Tiger Woods at most tournaments. Whether Sorenstam is up for the challenge of dethroning the mighty Mexican at the top of the rankings remains to be seen.

"I have always said that, as long as I enjoy it, as long as my motivation is there, then that's what matters," Sorenstam, 37, said. "I don't think it's a matter of age, even though I'm getting up there. I would probably say that I'm on the back nine of my career -- I'm not really sure what hole I'm on."

Using the same analogy, Canadian Lorie Kane is more optimistic, even though she's six years older than Sorenstam. Kane figures she has yet to make the turn in her career. "I do believe I haven't peaked yet," she said on Friday.

"Contrary to other people's belief that maybe I'm coming to the end of my career, I definitely feel like I'm still somewhere in the middle of the front nine, making my way to the back," said Kane, who missed the cut in both Hawaiian events this year. She will tee it up again in Mexico City in a couple of weeks.

Kane is correct about some people wondering about where her career is headed. Last year, she made $138,465, her lowest total as a full-time tour player and one that left her 74th on the money list. That came on the heels of a 2006 in which Kane placed 42nd on the money list, a far cry from the top 15 position she got used to for most of her career.

"I am in a very good position," said Kane, who scoring average rose from 70.97 in 2003 to 73.19 last year. "My game is probably the best it's been in a long time, minus the fact that I maybe need to hole a few more putts."

With all of the youngsters now making noise on the LPGA Tour, it's getting tougher on the veterans. The question is not whether they can win or show well at any particular tournament, but whether they can do that regularly, which they did in the early parts of their careers.

The times are changing and the big question is not whether Sorenstam or Kane will be in the field at Ottawa Hunt, but will they have marquee roles by the time the CN Canadian Women's Open rolls around in August.

THE SHORT GAME

Keeping with tradition, the benefactor of proceeds from the CN Canadian Women's Open will be a children's hospital. As part of the CN Miracle Match program, the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario will receive at least $100,000 Canadian, while public donations will be sought, with CN matching those donations. CN also has donated $125,000 to the Ottawa Senators Foundation/Roger Neilson Fund, which will also help in the efforts to raise funds for the children's hospital.


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