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WORLD'S BEST GATHER AT SUNNINGDALE



The finest women golfers in the world have arrived in this beautiful corner of Berkshire for the Evian Tour's first "Major" championship, the 1 million Weetabix Women's British Open, played over the Old Course at Sunningdale.

This prestigious event, played for the first time at Sunningdale since 1997, is sure to live up to its billing with playing representatives from 26 countries around the world competing for the 155,000 first prize.

Heading the cast are World numbers one and two respectively, Australia's
Karrie Webb and Sweden's Annika Sorenstam, both arriving straight from their
'Battle of the Bighorn' with Tiger Woods and David Duval, a made-for-TV event where the Swede and World number one Woods won at the first extra hole.

Sorenstam and Webb, who flew into England late on Tuesday evening from
California, were admittedly tired. But they wouldn't have missed the match with their male counterparts under any circumstances.

"I knew it could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play on Monday, and I feel like I've got plenty of British Opens ahead of me," said Webb, winner of this title in 1995 and 1997.

"I won here five years ago, so I feel good about playing here. I wasn't going to give up the opportunity to do what I did."

And the World number one, who became only the fifth player to win the grand
slam after winning the US Open in June, feels that she can win again this week and complete the "Super Career Grand Slam" - winning every Major championship title in her playing career.

"I don't really feel my game is where I want it now, compared to a month ago, it's a shadow of that. My swing doesn't feel as good, but I know that I've felt that before and have won the tournament," added Webb, who has won two Majors already this year and is gunning to be the first player since 1986 to win three in one season.

Sorenstam, who usually prepares meticulously for any Major championship,
admitted that it wasn't ideal. But like Webb, she was never going to turn down the opportunity to play with the best men in the world.

"Normally, I come in early, especially when I'm coming overseas, just to get adjusted to the time, the weather and so forth," said the World number two.

"Here, I'm not getting here until the last minute and I'm going from extremely different weather and to a totally different golf course. It's not the best preparation, but it was well worth it. I had a great time on Monday and it was worth every minute - I don't regret it at all."

Sweden's Sophie Gustafson, the defending champion, is also confident that
she can retain her title that she won by two shots last year at Royal Birkdale.

"I'm obviously happy to come back and defend my title. The course is in great shape. It probably doesn't suit me as well as Birkdale did. But I'm looking forward to tomorrow," said the big hitter from Saro.

"It's not as much of a links course and there's not much wind here. It's more of a chipper and putter's golf course than Birkdale was. But my game's in decent shape - you never know!"

England's Laura Davies, winner of this title in 1986 hopes that she can take the title this week to become the latest addition to the World Golf Hall of Fame.

"That would be too much to ask, probably," said Davies about winning this week to add the two points needed to be eligible for membership.

"I mean, the way I'm playing now, it could happen. But the golfing gods have been too good to me already. It's a tournament I wouldn't even miss and one I definitely want to win.

And the Solheim Cup star made mention of two of the rising stars on the Evian Tour.

"Suzann Pettersen has played very well," added Davies. "Alfie (Helen Alfredsson) just nipped her out of a win last week and I'm very impressed with Paula Marti. I've played with her and she's one for the future. Well, I guess she's won twice already, so maybe not for the future-for now."

Spanish sensation Marti is keen to impress in her biggest event in her first year on Tour. The 21-year-old from Barcelona is happy with her preparation and looks forward to showing the world her skills against a top class field.

"I am ready for it," said Marti winner of the La Perla Italian Open in May and the Ladies British Masters last month. "I have been playing really well lately and if I can get my putting going around here, I hope to have a good week.

"My first goal is to make the cut and then I will be looking at getting in the top 15, maybe top ten, but who knows?"

Pettersen from Norway, runner up in the WPGA Championship at Porthcawl last
week, is looking forward to her biggest week in her rookie season.

Having won the French Open in June, the 20-year-old is keen to add another title soon and feels she has the game to compete at the highest level.

"If you want to be the best in the world, you have to compete with the best and I will be trying very hard to keep my form from last week and take it here.

"It is a similar style of course to Porthcawl here, and as long as I play the par threes and par fours well, I have every chance of making a good score on the par fives. It will be great experience for me to play with some of the top players such as Se Ri Pak and I am really looking forward to it."

 

 
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