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Annika's back; all are happy

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Published May 27, 2004

CORNING, N.Y. - Annika Sorenstam is at the Corning Classic for the first time in nine years, and the place is abuzz.

"It's a great thing," said defending champion Juli Inkster, who shot 10-under 62 in the final round last year to beat Lorie Kane. "I think it's a thrill for Corning to be able to see Annika this week. They will be very impressed with what they see."

The gallery and players were impressed with what Sorenstam did during last year's Corning Classic. She became the first woman in 58 years to play in a PGA Tour event, missing the cut at the Colonial. Tournament officials here put up a big-screen TV near the 18th green for people to watch, and just about everybody glanced up at some point during her two rounds.

"She did an awesome job, not only with her golf but with the media, and the notoriety it brought to the LPGA was phenomenal," Inkster said. "And to come back here and play, I think it's just a testament to her doing the right thing. Hopefully, it won't be just a one-time thing."

Sorenstam, who was expected to arrive Wednesday night, hasn't played at Corning since tying for seventh in 1995. The Swedish star's only other appearance in the tournament came the year before when she tied for 21st as a rookie.

"I'm looking forward to coming back to Corning," Sorenstam said in a statement. "I'm extremely appreciative of Corning's support of my participation in the Colonial tournament last year and excited to get back this year."

Corning Classic president Jack Benjamin said when Sorenstam committed just minutes before the May 18 deadline to play the event, it prompted a surge in ticket sales. "It's a big deal for us," he said.

Besides Inkster, past Corning champions Rosie Jones, Betsy King, Kelli Kuehne, Colleen Walker and Beth Daniel are in the field of 144. Jones and King are the only two-time Corning winners.

PGA TOUR: Loren Roberts has never seen the TPC at Southwind course play this tough.

"It's playing like a major championship. The greens are firm. The ball is running through the fairways. ... It's going to play a lot tougher than in the past," Roberts said after a practice round in the pro-am on the Memphis course. "I like it."

He would know.

Roberts lives near the course and has missed the St. Jude Classic, which begins today, only once since it moved here in 1989. He also hopes the harder greens will put a premium on putting and play to the strengths of the "Boss of the Moss."

"Obviously, you know I'd like to win this tournament more than anything outside of a major," said Roberts, whose best finish was a tie for fifth in 1984.

An eight-time tour winner, Roberts hasn't won since the Valero Texas Open in 2002. His best finish this year is a tie for 10th at the Nissan Open, and he tied for 12th last week at Colonial.

The St. Jude tournament is known as a scorer's paradise with its usually soft and receptive greens. But tournament organizers are preparing to make it tougher in an attempt to attract the tour's top players.

Defending champion David Toms and Fredrik Jacobson are the only golfers among the top 30 in the world rankings at this week's event.

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