Golfer Sorenstam chosen AP female athlete of the year

Golfer Annika Sorenstam is voted Associated Press female athlete of the year for the third time

Annika Sorenstam continued her run as the most dominant female golfer of her time in 2005. For her incredible exploits on the links, the Associated Press has named the Swede its female athlete of the year.

Sorenstam this year became the first woman in 19 years to capture the first two legs of the Grand Slam, winning 10 times on the LPGA tour.

She also won this award in a landslide, becoming the first golfer since the legendary Babe Zaharias (1945-47) to earn the honour three straight years. The versatile Zaharias landed the AP award six times in her career, one of those years in track and field.

"I am flattered and honoured to be chosen by so many different editors," said Sorenstam, who received 47 of 81 votes cast by AP newspaper and broadcast members.

Danica Patrick, the rookie race car driver whose fourth-place finish at the Indianapolis 500 was the best ever by a female, received 17 votes. Maria Sharapova got five votes for becoming the first Russian-born tennis player to reach No. 1, while Wimbledon champ Venus Williams and 16-year-old golfer Michelle Wie each got four votes.

Sorenstam has outdistanced her competition in recent years like few in sports history. In fact, in 2005 she dominated the women's circuit far more than Tiger Woods did on the men's side. Sorenstam became the first LPGA tour player to sweep the major awards five straight years: player of the year, money title and Vare Trophy for the lowest scoring average.

Her scoring average (69.33) was 1 1/2 strokes better than anyone else. She had 10 victories while no one else had more than two. She shot under par 74 per cent of the time; the next best was 55 per cent.

"When Annika comes to play, Annika comes to win," said Lorie Kane of Charlottetown.

Sorenstam's year did have its upsets as she filed for divorce from her husband of eight years. But she won the first three tournaments anyway, giving her five straight LPGA Tour victories dating to the end of 2004 to match the record set by Nancy Lopez.

"I believe people have a better overall feeling for who I am," she said. "I think they accept me and my competitive nature. I am always trying to find different ways to take my game to a new level."

Sorenstam has bandied about the idea of early retirement but may want to stick around long enough to best Kathy Whitworth's record of 88 career victories, a mark that was once considered untouchable.

Sorenstam has 66 victories including 43 in the last five years, meaning she needs 23 wins to pass Whitworth and reach golf immortality.

with files from Associated Press