But the 30-something woman just smiles and goes about her daily chore of winning golf tournaments. The others are just kids, she realizes ' albeit very talented kids. But Annika Sorenstam, who turned 35 earlier this week, isnt about to give up her throne to the youngsters. She might have given them hope for a brief moment when she didnt win an LPGA event for the better part of three months. But lest the children start celebrating too soon, she DID win a European event in her native Sweden in August. And she DID resume her winning ways on the LPGA with a win just three tournaments ago.
Wie is 16, Pressel 17, Lang 19 and Creamer is 19. Ochoa is all of 23. They may be the future of womens golf, but the present is still the same as it was last year, the year before and the year before that. Annika is the name, and if she doesnt quite win six of every eight tournaments she enters ' she did that to start the year, you know ' she will easily win often enough to keep her name No. 1.
I am competitive, really doesn't matter who it is, said Annika, who has turned into an elder stateswoman before our very eyes.
I mean, I love to compete and that's one of the reasons I think I can continue to play at this high level - because I enjoy the challenge. I love the feeling and the adrenaline that pumps when you have a chance to win. Whether it's Paula, whether it's Lorena, whether it's Grace Park or Cristie Kerr - you name it; to me, it's just another player, it's somebody that I like to beat to be able to stay on top.
Creamer has gotten a lot of publicity for her excellent season ' she has 10 top-10 finishes. The other teens ' Wie, Pressel, Lang ' have numerous successes this year, also. Ochoa has either finished second or tied for second four times.
But wins? Forget it. Annika has won seven times, eight if you count the victory in Switzerland. And the next highest winner is hmmm, let me see oh ' Creamer and Kerr. Uh ' they both have two. They, along with the rest of the LPGA field, will have to go a long way before they are as successful as Mother Annika.
How far ahead of everyone is Annika? Light years, as much as a titanium golf ball is to a featherie. Example(s)?
Well, shes No. 1 on the money parade by more than $600,000 ' thats almost as big a difference as between No. 2 Creamer and No. 13 Birdie Kim. Shes No. 1 in scoring average ' by a large margin. Shes No. 1 in greens in regulation ' by a large margin. Shes tied for first in putting. Shes third in driving distance ' better work on that driving, Annika.
She enjoys the youngsters, though. She loves the challenge, loves the fact that, if she doesnt keep up the hard work, she will get trampled from behind.
It's great to be a part of it, Annika said. And for me, obviously I like to stay where I'm at. I love being at the top and a challenge is what I need to continue to get motivated. There are so many great players out here, you've got to work hard all the time to stay on top, and I love the challenge.
The gals better not count on her slowing down anytime soon. Annika had spoken quite often about putting it in the barn someday soon for the last 3-4 years, but a divorce last year derailed those hopes. With plans for starting a family definitely on hold ' maybe forever ' she has plowed straight ahead.
Who knows how long I will continue to play? said Annika. I love what I do and I've always said that if I wake up in the morning and I feel motivated to practice, if I feel excited to go to a golf tournament, then I will do that.
We'll just see. I haven't set a time line or anything like that. I know my limits. I know I can win the Grand Slam. I'm just going to try and figure out how to do it, and that's going to be my next few months, that's what's going to be on my mind, see how I can prepare for 2006.
Sounds like business as usual for the queen ' which is not exactly great news for the youngsters of the LPGA. But its great news for aficionados of golf. Sixty-three victories and still going as strong as she always has been - Annika Forever!
Email your thoughts to George White