Annika Sorenstam teed off on the sixth hole during yesterday's third round of the LPGA Samsung Championship at Bighorn Golf Club in Palm Desert, Calif.
Sorenstam defends her turf
The LPGA’s greatest golfer tears up the Bighorn Golf Club to take the 54-hole lead
PALM DESERT, Calif. » This is Annika Sorenstam's house.
» 4:15 a.m. Lorena Ochoa and Heather Bowie
» 4:25 a.m. Lorie Kane and Wendy Ward
» 4:35 a.m. Jeong Jang and Birdie Kim
» 4:45 a.m. Candie Kung and Meena Lee
» 4:55 a.m. Grace Park and Natalie Gublis
» 5:05 a.m. Paula Creamer and Rosie Jones
» 5:15 a.m. Sophie Gustafson and Marisa Baena
» 5:25 a.m. Cristie Kerr and Pat Hurst
» 5:35 a.m. Michelle Wie and Catriona Matthew
» 5:45 a.m. Annika Sorenstam and Gloria Park
Or, at least, her house is really close. The world's greatest female golfer owns a home near the Bighorn Golf Club, and Sorenstam is a member there.
She pretty much owns this tournament, too. She won it last year, and three other times when it was played elsewhere.
There's no way she's going to let anyone -- especially a 16-year-old kid, even one she likes -- beat her here without a fight.
Sorenstam took control of the Samsung World Championships yesterday, firing the best round of the day, a 6-under 66 that included eight birdies. Her 201 was four ahead of Gloria Park and five in front of Michelle Wie going into today's final round.
If history means anything, Sorenstam is a good bet to win her unprecedented fifth World Championship and the $212,500 that goes with it. She has held a final-round lead 63 times in her career and won 43 of those (68.25 percent).
The LPGA's money leader is not taking victory today for granted, though.
"I'm one of those players, I always look at leaderboards. It doesn't matter if I'm leading, second or last. I always look at leaderboards and I assume tomorrow is going to be the same thing," she said yesterday.
Sorenstam and Park said the Canyons Course was tougher yesterday than during the first two rounds. The statistics agree, as the average round was 71.25, compared to 68.6 on Thursday and 69.85 on Friday.
"We had a little bit of a breeze. You can definitely tell. Let's say on the 8th hole, a par-3, I have been hitting an 8-iron. Today I hit a good 6-iron, I was still a little short," Sorenstam said. "So some of the holes play a little different. That's what I like about this course and the set-ups. It's different, it's not the same every day. We have to think a little bit more."
Park said she played conservatively because of the differences, and it put her back into contention.
"They moved the tees back to normal, like when we practiced, the course plays longer, and the last couple of holes (were) tucked on the side over the bunkers and stuff," Park said after her bogey-free round. "For me that kind of hole is not really a birdie hole at all, so I try to keep to the fairway ... and make a two-putt, so that's how I planned the game today and it worked for me."
Bluster: The wind whipped up a little bit yesterday afternoon after the round, and there could be gusts in the 10-to 30-mph range today. Forecasts even call for rain.
One observer said a strong breeze could possibly help Wie make up some strokes on Sorenstam and Park.
"She may have a better chance to play well in the wind because of her experience at Waialae, where there's usually a breeze," NBC commentator Mark Rolfing said. "But it is Annika's course, and that's why she was able to do what she did at the end of today's round (four birdies in the last five holes)."
Wie said she thinks she can win, but it will be difficult regardless of the conditions.
"Either way it's going to be tough," Wie said. "I'm not really sure if the wind is going to help me in any way.
"Definitely I think I can win. I'm really positive about that. I'm just going to play as hard as I can," she said.
Drawing a crowd: The galleries grew yesterday, as they normally do for weekend rounds. Spectators were three rows deep when Wie and Grace Park, the last pair of the day, reached the 18th hole.
Paid attendance was 4,415 yesterday. Officials said it represents a 70 percent increase from last year's third round.
Around 250 media credentials have been issued, up from 129 last year.