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Sorenstam racks up 15th LPGA victory

SHARE Sorenstam racks up 15th LPGA victory

Michelle Estill was the first one to broach the subject.

When asked if anybody had a chance to catch Annika Sorenstam, Estill said: "If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, chalk up another win for her on the way to the Hall of Fame."No one got closer than four strokes Sunday as Sorenstam finished her assault on the JAL Big Apple Classic record book. The 27-year-old Swede closed with a 4-under-par 67 for her 15th LPGA victory.

That, along with her two majors - the 1995 and 1996 U.S. Opens - has her halfway to the LPGA Hall of Fame.

"For me to reach the Hall of Fame I would probably need five or six years the way I've been doing things, and that's probably not possible," said Sorenstam, the LPGA player of the year two of the past three years, including 1997 when she set the earnings record with more than $1.2 million.

"The Hall of Fame is impressive, but it is not one of my goals because it is very hard to reach. I love golf, but I don't know if I'll be playing competitively that long."

Sorenstam won six times last season and had eight other top-five finishes. This year she has three wins - all since the first weekend in June - and has been in the top 10 in 11 of the 13 official events she has played.

She might have been the most impressive this week as she became the first player to record four rounds in the 60s in the 10 years the tournament has been played on the 6,161-yard Wykagyl Country Club course. She established tournament marks for 72-hole total (265), strokes under par and margin of victory (eight) after setting the 54-hole record Saturday.

"I was extremely lucky this week," she said. "I took advantage of all the opportunities I had, and that was the best thing of the week."

Joan Pitcock had three birdies in a four-hole stretch on the back nine and closed with a 66 to finish second at 273.

She knew there wasn't much hope of catching Sorenstam.

"She is unbelievable," Pitcock said. "People have `No Fear' on their bag and on bumper stickers, but that girl is not afraid of anything."

Not even losing some of the attention the last two weeks to rookie sensation Se Ri Pak, who followed a 20-hole playoff win in the U.S. Open with one at the Jamie Farr Kroger Classic last week that included LPGA records for low round and total (23-under 261).

"Se Ri got a lot of attention and she deserved it," Sorenstam said. "I know inside I can play and I proved it to myself."

AMERITECH SENIOR OPEN: At Long Grove, Ill., after two days of total dominance, Hale Irwin needed some luck and a couple of bad shots from Larry Nelson to hang on for a three-stroke victory in the Ameritech Senior Open.

Nelson kept the pressure on the struggling Irwin all day, making eight birdies and trying a gutsy drive over 60-foot trees on the 18th. But he put two shots in the water on the back nine, and missed birdie putts on the 17th and 18th.

Irwin birdied just two holes on his way to a 73 - his first plus-70 score in 11 rounds - and finished at 15-under 201. Nelson shot a 68 to finish at 12-under 204.

The senior circuit's money leader picked up $195,000 for the victory, giving him $1,735,250 for the year. Nelson, who's won two tournaments this season, earned $114,400.

DEPOSIT GUARANTY CLASSIC: At Madison, Miss., Fred Funk used a stretch of birdies on the back nine Sunday to win the Deposit Guaranty Golf Classic for his fifth PGA Tour victory.

Funk, who had finished in the top five in three of his last four tournaments, had four birdies down the stretch for a final-round 68. He finished with a four-day total of 18-under 270 and his first victory since the 1996 B.C. Open.

Franklin Langham, who was trying to become the PGA Tour's fourth first-time winner in six weeks, blew a four-stroke lead on the back nine and lost any chance for a victory by messing up at No. 17 for the second day in a row.

Langham finished two strokes back in second place with Paul Goydos and Tim Loustalot, who carded a final-round 66 for his first top 30 finish in 37 tournaments.