LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The milestone victory was typical Annika Sorenstam. Sinking a couple of pressure-packed birdie putts, and knocking her approach
shot near the pin on another green, Sorenstam birdied three of the final five holes Sunday to win her 50th LPGA Tour title.
"Fifty is kind of a magical number. I've thought about this for a while. I really wanted to do it this week," Sorenstam said after a 3-under 69 gave
her a three-stroke victory in the Office Depot Championship.
The LPGA Hall of Famer, also the tournament winner in 2001 and 2003 and the runner-up in 2002, had a 9-under 207 total.
Ashli Bunch closed with a 65 to tie for second with Meg Mallon at 6 under. Mallon, two shots off Sorenstam's lead beginning the day, shot a 70.
Sorenstam, who came on the tour full-time in 1994, became the sixth LPGA player to win 50 or more tournaments, and the first in almost 35 years.
The most recent was Kathy Whitworth in 1969. Whitworth also won the most titles, 88.
Sorenstam played the final round at El Caballero Country Club mostly conservatively, but turned it on when she had to down the stretch.
"Starting today, I just wanted to have great patience because I know anything can happen out there," she said.
Sorenstam led all three days of the tournament, although Bunch tied her at the top briefly during the final round.
Bunch, winless in four years on the tour, pulled even at 6 under with Sorenstam, who was on No. 13 while Bunch was completing her round.
It got Sorenstam's attention.
"I felt the heat and thought that I've got to do something," she said.
And she did.
At par for the day when she stepped up to a 12-foot birdie putt on No. 14, she sank it to go to 7-under, built a two-shot lead with a similar birdie
on No. 16, then added a tap-in birdie on the next hole.
By then, she was smiling and looking relaxed. As she walked up the 18th fairway, Sorenstam and Mallon shared a laugh and pats on the back.
Starting the round, the 33-year-old Sorenstam wasn't quite so relaxed -- she was thinking about the possibility of winning No. 50.
"Teeing off, I was nervous and my caddie [Terry McNamara] said he felt the same way," she said. "Then on the second hole, he said, `That just shows we
The 28-year-old Bunch, who had never finished higher than fourth, just missed a birdie putt on the 18th that would have given her the lead.
She tapped in for par, and she and Isabelle Beisiegel both had closing 65s, the lowest score in the three years the tournament has been played at El
"To be honest, I didn't tee it up thinking I could win the tournament," Bunch said. "I knew I could pass a lot of people, but my husband [Michael,
also her caddie] said last night that Annika is going to be tough to beat."
Sorenstam became the second fastest to 50 wins on the LPGA Tour. She reached the milestone in 10 years, three months and 19 days. Mickey Wright won
her 50th when she had been on the tour for eight years, eight months and 21 days.
Sorenstam, 13th last week in the Kraft Nabisco, won for the third time in her four tournaments this year. She began by winning a non-tour event in
Australia, then won the tour stop in Arizona two weeks ago.
The Swedish star proved again that she's hard to beat when she's in front heading into the final round. She's led 53 times with 18 holes to go, and
has won 34 of those.
She also is tough as defending champion: she has repeated in seven tournaments, including two majors, the U.S. Women's Open (1995-96) and Kraft
Rosie Jones, tied with Mallon two shots behind the leader beginning the last round, struggled to a 79 that dropped her into a tie for 26th.
Se Ri Pak, the 2002 winner who tied for second a year ago, tied for 13th this time, 10 shots behind Sorenstam. Last week's Kraft Nabisco winner, Grace
Park, tied for 17th at 218.
Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved.