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Sorenstam aiming for more Ohio wins

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SYLVANIA, Ohio — The Buckeye state is just one big ATM for Annika Sorenstam.

Every year, the Swede plays in three or four tournaments in Ohio, makes a sizable withdrawal, then moves on.

"It's hard to explain," she said. "There are places you just feel comfortable: the courses, the greens, the conditions, whatever. Of course, it doesn't hurt to be playing well."

Sorenstam is back this week to defend her title at the Jamie Farr Kroger Classic. Her victory last year was her third in a row in the state, following wins in Beavercreek earlier in the season and the 1999 New Albany Golf Classic.

She has finished in the top 10 in her last six tournaments in Ohio and has pocketed $475,195 in eight starts. She missed the cut the first time she played in Ohio at the 1994 Jamie Farr, then finished tied for 20th in the 1995 Farr.

Since then, Sorenstam has three wins and has finished sixth, tied for seventh and tied for ninth, while averaging more than $78,000 per tournament.

Seven of the top 10 on the LPGA money list will be on hand for the 72-hole event that begins Thursday at Highland Meadows Golf Club in suburban Toledo.

U.S. Open champion Karrie Webb, back on tour after returning to Australia to attend her grandfather's funeral, leads the list of contenders. She is joined by 1998 and 1999 Farr winner Se Ri Pak and Sweden's Maria Hjorth, who has won twice on tour this season.

Sorenstam took a four-shot lead into the rainy final round a year ago, but Rachel Teske caught her with a final-round 67 that included birdies on the last two holes of regulation. On the second playoff hole, Sorenstam rolled in an 11-foot birdie putt for the win.

Playing well isn't just a one-state phenomenon for Sorenstam, however.

She has already won five times on tour this season, including four in a row early in the spring. She also posted an LPGA scoring record with a 13-under-par 59 in the second round of the Standard Register PING.

She's looking forward to returning to Toledo.

Besides Pak, past winners Kelly Robbins, Joan Pitcock, Brandie Burton, Penny Hammel and Jane Geddes are also expected to compete.