Sweden’s Sörenstam wins season-opener in Hawaii

Swedish star Annika Sörenstam had plenty of spark in her debut, by posting a three-under 69 Saturday to capture the season-opening SBS Open at Kahuku in Hawaii.

“I could not have asked for a better start,” Sorenstam said. “We all have talked so much about 2007. I think it’s time to talk about 2008.”

It was the 70th LPGA Tour title for Sörenstam, who was winless in 2007 and was limited to 13 events due to back and neck injuries.

It was the first year since 1994 Sörenstam failed to win a tournament.

Sörenstam, who was making her first appearance in this $1.1 million event at Turtle Bay, finished at 10-under 206 and won by two strokes over Thailand’s Russamee Gulyanamitta, Laura Diaz and Jane Park.

“I’m obviously very, very thrilled. It’s great to win tournaments. There’s some tournaments that mean a little bit more and they come at a special time. I would say this is one of them, as you know for many reasons,” Sörenstam said.

Erica Blasberg, who was tied with Sörenstam for the lead entering the final round, stumbled to a two-over 74 and finished five strokes adrift.

Defending champion Paula Creamer closed with a 69 and finished at four-under 212.

Sörenstam turned it on when needed, overcoming her lone bogey on the 11th hole with back-to-back birdies on Nos. 16 and 17 before wrapping up the championship with a par on the 18th.

“It was huge,” Sörenstam said of her birdie putt on the 17th hole.

“It was one of those putts that I’m going to remember for a long time. I mean, it’s nice to have a one-stroke lead going into 18.

“But to have two especially when it’s a par-five, a lot of players had birdies. Coming back like this, it’s nice to have a little extra cushion. So that was key.”

In her final 32 holes of the tournament, Sörenstam recorded 10 birdies against just the one bogey. She earned $165,000 for the win.

Sörenstam said she wanted this tournament more than any other in the past year.

“Last year, the desire wasn’t there,” Sörenstam said. “And my swing was definitely not there.

“Now it is. And, like I said, those are two important components you need to play well and to be the top player out here.”

Russamee, of Rayong, had four birdies in her bogey-free 68 while Diaz and

Park each were hurt by a costly double-bogey on the front side.