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LPGA Gives Off Mixed Signs in 2006

Sorenstam had an off year for her, Wie played in only a few events and new commissioner drew flak.

October 12, 2006|Thomas Bonk | Times Staff Writer

The LPGA is resilient, and for every unfavorable story, there are counterbalances, such as Karrie Webb's sudden and unexpected return to prominence, Juli Inkster winning once and producing eight other top 10s at 46, Se Ri Pak finding her game again and winning the LPGA Championship in a playoff over Webb, and Christie Kerr cementing her status as the top U.S. player with three victories.

What's more, Sherri Steinhauer, 41, won the British Open, further derailing the notion of a kid-powered LPGA. And with Pak, Sorenstam and Webb winning majors, it seemed more like 1999 than the 2006 that was forecast to be controlled by a much younger generation.

The star power in the women's game is nevertheless controlled by Wie, despite the limitations on her playing on the LPGA Tour. She was consistent in the majors -- tied for third at the Kraft Nabisco, the LPGA Championship and the U.S. Open, and tied for 26th at the British Open.

Wie, who was disqualified in this tournament last year over an infraction that involved incorrectly marking her ball and signing an incorrect scorecard, is back again. Wie said she has no problem remembering what happened a year ago.

"Well, there are a lot of memories," she said, "but obviously, let's put it this way . . . I have been practicing my drops."

Wie played against men in six tournaments this year and tied for 35th at the SK Telcom Open on the Asian Tour, but she missed the cut in the other five and was last in the final two -- the European Masters and the PGA Tour's 84 Lumber Classic.

This is her last LPGA tournament this year -- she's playing against the men on the Japan Tour at the Casio Open in Japan in November -- but at least she's at home, sort of, this week. Wie and her parents, B.J. and Bo, bought a house at the Bighorn's Mountain Course, across the street from the Canyons Course, where the Samsung starts.

Sorenstam, who still has a chance at her ninth player-of-the-year award, said she has been working with coach Henry Reiss to achieve more distance on her drives. Sorenstam thinks she's on the right track. Off the course, she's busy trying to convince Bivens that the LPGA should co-sanction Sorenstam's tournament in Sweden.

Sorenstam hopes that will happen in 2008, but Bivens said scheduling remains a problem.

Maybe they can work it out, because if there's anything the LPGA doesn't need to end this year is another wrong turn, this one involving the tour's best player and its commissioner.

As Sorenstam said, the commissioner matters, no matter who it is.

"Personally, I don't think she got off to the greatest start, but I didn't either," she said. "Maybe we've both turned things around."

thomas.bonk@latimes.com

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