Sorenstam is going where few have been

IN men's golf, there's a Big Four, but in women's golf, there's just a Big One. Actually a Big One and Only: Annika Sorenstam.

As rain continued to soak the men's Players Championship, it was as if the golf gods had allowed Sorenstam to do a solo on the stage, and she responded with her fifth consecutive victory on the L.P.G.A. Tour, tying the record set by Nancy Lopez in 1978.

By winning her eighth career major title with the Nabisco Championship, she evoked many of golf's most hallowed names, male or female.

To appreciate Sorenstam's dominance of the women's tour in comparison with the Big Four of the men's tour — Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson — consider that since the start of 2001, she has won 36 tournaments. Over that span, Woods and Els have each won 21 worldwide, Singh 17, Mickelson 8.

Yes, Sorenstam plays courses that are somewhat shorter and somewhat less difficult, but the object for any tournament golfer, man or woman, is to shoot the lowest score. And for more than four years, she has been able to do that better than any golfer on either tour.

"I had one of those great weeks when everything went my way," she told ABC after her final-round 68 at Mission Hills.

With seven victories in her last nine events, Sorenstam has been having one of "those great weeks" almost every week. And her triumph by eight strokes in the year's first L.P.G.A. major pushed her toward her stated ambition this year, what she calls the Soren-slam. That would be a sweep of the four women's majors, including the L.P.G.A. Championship, the United States Women's Open and the Women's British Open.

Stroke by stroke, victory by victory, year by year, Sorenstam is building a monument to herself as the best female golfer ever.

Through the years, most L.P.G.A. observers insisted that Mickey Wright, with 4 United States Women's Open titles and 24 tournament victories during 1963 and 1964, was the best. Others held out for Kathy Whitworth because of her record 88 victories.

Those who saw Babe Didrikson Zaharias raved that she was the best, pointing to her return from rectal-cancer surgery to win the 1954 United States Women's Open by a record 12 strokes two years before her death.

But Sorenstam keeps building her case with a third Nabisco title to accompany two United States Women's Open championships, two L.P.G.A. titles and one Women's British Open triumph.

With 59 victories on the L.P.G.A. Tour, she has climbed to fourth on the career list and needs only two more to move into third, ahead of Patty Berg. At age 34, she has both the time and the talent to catch Wright's total of 82 and to surpass Whitworth's record of 88.

With eight majors, Sorenstam has tied Betsy Rawls for fifth on the career list, behind Berg's record 15, Wright's 13, Louise Suggs's 11 and Zaharias's 10. — Dave Anderson/New York Times News Service