Annika Sorenstam Annika Sorenstam hopes to be healthy by June to defend U.S. Open title

Annika Sorenstam's off-course activities are growing these days, but competition remains a priority for the 36-year-old golfer, who said yesterday she hopes to be healthy enough by June to defend her U.S. Women's Open title.

Sorenstam, who has been off the LPGA Tour with a back injury since the beginning of April, would be going for her fourth U.S. Open, held this year at Pine Needles in Southern Pines, N.C, June 25-July 1. Sorenstam won her second U.S. Open at Pine Needles in 1996.

"Pine Needles has a special place in my heart for several reasons," Sorenstam told reporters yesterday. "I love that whole area … and I love coming back."

Sorenstam will out be out at least another three weeks with the bulging disk in her back and ruptured disk in her neck that forced the golfer to withdraw from the Ginn Open in Florida earlier this month. Doctors told Sorenstam last week that she had improved by around 50-60 percent, she said in a conference call during the U.S. Open's media day, as reported by the Associated Press (AP).

This will be Pine Needles' third time hosting the U.S. Open, and if Sorenstam makes it to the event, she'll be playing a redesigned course with an additional 400 yards.

The extension affects four holes, with No. 15, at an additional 125 yards that bumped it to a par 5, coming out the most different, said Mike Davis, the USGA's senior director of rules and competition, as reported by the AP.

Greens were also redone, pin placements were moved and the course's rye grass surface was replaced with Bermuda grass, Davis told the AP.

"Accuracy is going to be required, but with a 2-to 2-and-a-half-inch rough, it's going to be short enough so that the women will be able to certainly advance the ball around the greens, but they will be challenged with distance," Davis said.

April 24, 2007

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