Defending champ eyes repeat in Fields Open
Sorenstam not allowing rift with Wie to interfere with game
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Stacy Prammanasudh and caddie-husband Pete Upton shared a poignant moment when first entering the grounds of the Ko Olina Resort.
Together they won last year's $1.3 million Fields Open in dramatic fashion. Married four years ago on Kauai, Upton gave up his day job to caddie for Prammanasudh full-time, something she enjoys as they prepare for today's opening round.
Paired with Annika Sorenstam -- who won her 70th tournament at last week's SBS Open -- the first two rounds, Prammanasudh hopes her local knowledge will mean something at the par-72 course. With the winds predicted to remain low, it could become a birdie fest, with whoever has the hot putter walking away with the win on Saturday.
"Oh yeah, definitely, especially going out in the morning," Prammanasudh said. "Fresh greens, no wind. I didn't play yesterday, but when I was out there on Monday they were pretty receptive -- shoot right at the flag. On this golf course, you have to make birdies."
As for having hubby on the bag, well, Prammanasudh likes his company. He does the heavy lifting, she does the math.
"I do a lot of it (the yardages) myself," Prammanasudh said. "It's more comfort out there, really, someone to talk to. I'm not a big talker on the golf course, but someone just to keep you loose. Basically, it's more fun traveling. You enjoy it more."
The defending champ will have her work cut out for her. Five of the top 10 players in the world and seven of the top 10 money-winners are in a field that also includes Michelle Wie, marking the fifth consecutive year she has begun her season in Hawaii.
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Annika Sorenstam, fresh off a victory at the SBS Open last week, is focused on making it two wins in a row, not on any issues she might have with Michelle Wie over an incident at last season's Ginn Tribute.
Annika Sorenstam has one sponsor's exemption left for the Ginn Tribute, an early summer event that was the focal point of a rift between Sorenstam and Michelle Wie last May.
Wie withdrew late in the opening round of this tournament that's hosted by Sorenstam -- citing weary wrists -- when it became apparent she might shoot 88 or worse, which would have left her off the LPGA Tour, by rule, for the remainder of 2007.
Battling neck and back injuries herself at the time, Sorenstam would have understood the withdrawal had Wie not been spotted hitting golf balls a few days later. It led to a sharp retort from Sorenstam, who wanted the sponsor's exemption to be used wisely.
One of the two this year is going to the winner of a major college golf tournament held next month with six top-20 teams in it. The other is up for grabs as Sorenstam sorts through the applications. She didn't know if Wie had applied and said yesterday prior to today's opening round of the $1.3 million Fields Open at Ko Olina that last summer's incident is not something she thinks about.
"I haven't talked to her, so it's not about being smoothed out. I mean, I'm just minding my own business," Sorenstam said. "It's nothing I walk around thinking about. I mean she has her career, I have mine. That's how it kind of is. You know, I respect her as a golfer. I know she has a lot of talent and I wish her the best. It would be great to have her on our tour and play here."
Wie conceded Tuesday that her wrists aren't ship-shape, due to a bad fall and overuse that left her ready and able to escape to Stanford last fall. Sorenstam showed empathy for Wie's sore wrists, then knocked on wood after conceding her career had been relatively injury-free.
"I've been lucky that way," Sorenstam said. "I grew up in sports since I was this (holding her hand low to the ground as a measuring stick). I think you have to take care of yourself. Some people have problems with the back or like the wrists, it's unfortunate, but I do think, long-term for her, she needs to take care of her body first.
"That's what I keep telling Mike (McGee, her fiance), I can only push the body for so long and so hard because I don't want to have problems when I'm 50. Golf is important, it's a big part of my life, and you go as much as you can.
"You cannot have excuse all the time. Either you do it or you don't. I think the key is to move on and not think about it. I'm sure, in her mind, if it's not a hundred percent, when is it a factor? It's a bummer. It's no fun for anybody."
Annika subdued about No. 2
Annika Sorenstam didn't do a lap around the media room, high-fiving everyone after learning that she was the No. 2 player in the world.
Instead, she took it right in stride, citing last week's win at the SBS Open as a big step in her drive to be the best she can be once more. Whether she can catch Lorena Ochoa remains to be seen, but her immediate goals are well-defined.
"You know, I love it, I'm not complaining," Sorenstam said of the ranking released on Monday. She began the year ranked fourth.
"I'm not going to worry too much about it," the 37-year-old said. "My goal is to win the money list and win tournaments out here, and we'll see what happens."
Sorenstam is paired with defending champion Stacy Prammanasudh and Japanese favorite Ai Miyazato the first two days. Sorenstam played her final round with rookie Japanese star Momoko Ueda last Saturday at the SBS Open.
Paul Arnett, Star-Bulletin