Time Finally on Annikas Side

By Mercer BaggsNovember 19, 2008, 5:00 pm
ORLANDO, Fla. ' Annika Sorenstam is a thoughtful person. Such a distinguishing characteristic works on many levels, but for this particular moment in time it relates to her careful consideration of answers to questions regarding her past, present and future.
 
For one hour, Annika and her fianc, Mike McGee, sat down with GolfChannel.com at Lake Nona Golf & Country Club.
 
Questions were posed and answers were thoughtfully and graciously given.
 
Annika Sorenstam
Annika Sorenstam in 1996 and in 2008. (Getty Images)
But for one question in particular there was a quick response, one given with certainty, authority, and no hesitation.
 
Q: Think you will have any interest in playing at all in 2009, if just for one event?
A: No.

 
The response wasnt rude; far from it. It was simply given with brevity, because no other words were necessary.
 
On May 13, 2008, in Clifton, N.J., Annika Sorenstam announced that she was stepping away from competitive golf on the LPGA. At the time she was coming off her third victory of the season ' this after an injury-plagued and winless 2007 campaign.
 
She hasnt since won on the LPGA; though, she did come close last week and did win an event in China on the Ladies European Tour on Nov. 2. So, five months after her initial declaration, is she still as confident in her decision?
 
Absolutely, she says. Maybe a little more.
 
Again: short, sweet and firm.
 
This wasnt a decision made in haste. It wasnt a late-night or early-morning revelation. It was actually something she figured out late last year.
 
I would say that my win in Dubai (in December) pretty much confirmed it, she says. Knowing that the coming winter I needed to get back to practice and I just couldnt focus. I knew then. And when I decide on something I dont really question myself; its the way it is and Im doing it.
 
Dont mistake her assuredness, however, with complete contentment.
 
I still have a little battle within myself, because I know I can still win tournaments, but then Im not putting in the time that it takes to be the best. So I fight that constantly, she says.
 
Sorenstam is stepping away on her own terms, if not on top of the golfing world. She is no longer ranked No. 1. That distinction has belonged for a while now to Lorena Ochoa, something she achieved while Annika was fighting injury ' and a bit of professional apathy.
 
It wasnt as if Sorenstam was sitting on her couch, elbow deep in Cheetos, unmotivated to play tournament golf. Rather, her drive had shifted gears. Instead of golf, her strongest desires centered on her Annika Foundation; her Annika Academy; her Annika course design; her Annika fashion collection; her Annika wine; her Annika fragrance; her Annika financial group.
 
Its in these divisions that Sorenstam has found a singular professional focus: the Annika brand.
 
Sorenstam, at 38 years old, has reached that time in her life: time to do something else.
 
For 12, 13 years I was content doing that [focusing solely on golf]. Then I started thinking about other things; it just all kind of presented itself at the same time. And the more that presented itself the more enthusiastic I got and I fell away from competition, she says.
 
Thats why I feel like I can step away, because another win or another award isnt going to change my career or change me. Id rather spend my time on these other priorities.
 
To this point, Sorenstam has won 72 times on the LPGA, second most in tour history. Shes won 89 times around the world and has collected 10 major championship trophies, eight Rolex Player of the Year awards, eight money titles, six scoring titles, and too many LPGA records to count.
 
But there is a price to achieving that kind of success. After all, if anyone could just do it without considerable expense, then everyone would.
 
There was a time where it didnt really matter where I went, if I didnt win or finish in the top-3 it was a disaster, she says.
 
Obviously to get to the top you have to be very hard on yourself, you have to be critical to improve your weaknesses. But theres a point where ' like when I say Im upset at not finishing in the top 3 ' thats not healthy either. One of the reasons I want to step away from competition is because I wake up each morning and I want to shoot 68. There are expectations. I just cornered myself into a spot where I have to do this and if I dont then I cant enjoy it. It would have been nice if I didnt have that (critical side), but I dont think I could have accomplished what I did without it.
 
About five minutes after saying this, Annika, without prompting, returned to this thought.
 
I wonder if there is a way that I could have smelled the roses along the way. I dont know if there is. Its not that I dont remember ' its not that I dont appreciate it; its a blur in a way. When you win your first, then its only one event; its different. But you win 11 or 13 in one year, there are so many wonderful memories, then you put another 60, 70 on top of that ' I know it sounds weird, but you know what I mean? You can only enjoy it for a little time and then its on to something else.
 
Now its time for Annika to stop, smell whatever it is she wants to smell ' perhaps her Annika fragrance, and enjoy whatever it is that she wants to enjoy.
 
Like family life.
 
Annika Sorenstam and Mike McGee
Annika and husband-to-be Mike McGee. (Getty Images)
Sorenstam admits that she doesnt have a timetable, but she wants to have kids. She and Mike will be married in January and theyll take things from there.
 
She will still have a regimented work schedule while building her brand, but there will be much more free time on her hands. Sorenstam cant wait to do more skiing, something that was a little too dangerous for her during her prime years, and an activity in which she really didnt have time to partake.
 
Shell continue to exercise, but says she wont be working out five times a week. And, every now and again, youll find her on the range.
 
Just dont expect to see her playing a leisurely 18 with a regular afternoon foursome at Lake Nona.
 
Ive already spoken to the ladies at the club and they want me to join the Ladies League, she says.
 
Im not a social golfer.
 
That, however, doesnt mean Sorenstam will seclude herself inside the many walls of her expansive house.
 
One of the things Im most looking forward to is joining a community, becoming involved, she says. It wont be: come home, pack a suitcase, four days later pack it again, and repeat for three weeks. Theres no living, theres no bonding with where you are. That is going to be great.
 
For more than a decade, Annika Sorenstam has been viewed as a machine replete with efficiency and depleted on emotion; as her fianc describes: the stoic Swede with the Oakleys on who is going to step on your throat.
 
That is Annika on the course, which is how most all of us know her. As that part of her life comes to an end ' or extended pause ' McGee expects people to see a far more attractive side of his wife-to-be.
 
Ive always said shes a better person than she is a golfer, he says. I know some people might say, Whatever, but thats true.
 
Adds Annika: When I focus on something its all I think about, and I dont smile or interact with people. I mean, Im there to work. Thats why Ive been able to have the success Ive had.
 
And now two events remain: this weeks ADT Championship and the LETs Dubai Ladies Masters, Dec. 11-14.
 
After that not even Annika really knows. But she does know its not the end-all to her playing days. Shes not retiring. She has a difficult time even audiblizing that word.
 
The reason Ive never mentioned that word is because Im not (retiring). Im still going to play golf. I might come back (to the LPGA). Im far from doing that [retiring]. I guess everyone has their own definition of that [retiring], but Im just totally changing my focus. What might have been an 18-hour day with practicing and business, I may now be spending just 12 hours a day focusing on my business. I dont call that retiring. Im just stepping away from competition.
 
Thats why I dont use the R word.
 
What began in 1993 comes to a conclusion, of sorts, 15 years later. And, in typical Annika style, there is no time for reflection, no time for nostalgia.
 
How can she be (nostalgic)? asks McGee. Sunday night (after the ADT) we fly to Singapore, play and captain the Lexus Cup, go from there to Kuala Lumpur to see a course design and then to Dubai for another tournament. How do you sit there and enjoy it?
 
After Dubai there will be time to do so. Plenty of welcomed time.
 
Related Links:
  • Annika: The Dominance
  • Annika: The Colonial
  • Annika Sorenstam Trivia
  • Annika Timeline
  • Best of Annika Photo Gallery
  • Newsmaker of the Year: No. 3, Tiger Woods

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 12:45 pm

    After returning to competition at the Hero World Challenge in December 2016, Woods started the new year with an ambitious slate of tournament starts as he eyed his first full season since 2013. But he made it only three rounds, looking rusty en route to a missed cut at Torrey Pines before withdrawing abruptly in Dubai.

    The “spasms” that led to that withdrawal turned out to be something far more serious, as Woods underwent his fourth and most invasive back surgery in April, a lumbar fusion. It brought with it an extensive rehabilitation, and at the Presidents Cup in September Woods humored the prospect that he might never again play competitive golf.

    At Liberty National he also faced some scrutiny for an off-course incident from months prior. In May he was arrested for suspicion of DUI, an incident that produced a startling roadside video of an intoxicated Woods struggling to follow instructions from the arresting officer after driving erratically.


    Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


    While he was not drinking at the time, Woods was found to have a mix of several prescription medications in his system, including multiple painkillers. He checked himself into a private drug treatment program in July to address his dependency issues, and in October he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of reckless driving.

    But the incident was barely a memory when Woods again made a return to competition in the Bahamas at the tournament he hosts. This time around he exceeded nearly every expectation, twice shooting 4-under 68 while tying for ninth among the 18-man field. Having re-tooled his swing following fusion surgery, Woods appeared relaxed, happy and healthy while briefly taking the lead during the tournament’s second round.

    What lies ahead for Woods in 2018 remains uncertain, as the stop-and-start nature of this past season serves as a cautionary tale. But after a harrowing arrest and another serious surgery, he seems once again focused on his game, intent on chasing down a new crop of elite talent, some of whom are barely more than half his age.

    Woods' initial comeback short-lived, leads to another back surgery

    Article: Woods undergoes "successful" fourth back surgery

    Article: Woods (back spasm) withdraws from Dubai

    Article: Players disappointed Woods withdraws from Dubai

    Really, again: Tiger undergoes fourth back surgery

    Begay on Tiger: Future is 'extremely uncertain'


    Woods arrested for DUI, enters diversion program after getting "professional help"

    Article: Woods arrested for DUI in May

    Article: Police say Woods had 5 drugs in system when arrested

    Article: DUI affidavit states Tiger asleep in parked car

    Dashcam video released of Tiger's DUI arrest

    Begay, Rolfing: Tiger's arrest needs to be wakeup call

    Photos: Tiger Woods' car during DUI arrest

    Tiger Woods at his 2017 DUI court hearing.

    Photos: Tiger Woods in court for DUI hearing

    Article: Tiger gets 'professional help' for prescription meds

    Tiger Woods at his 2017 DUI court hearing.

    Article: Woods pleads in court guilty to reckless driving


    Woods goes from unsure of his pro golf future to resuming full golf activities

    Article: Doctor clears Woods for full golf activity six months after back surgery

    Article: Tiger doesn't know what future holds

    Article: Woods back to making full swings

    Woods admits he might never return to competition

    Making progress: Breaking down Tiger's driver swing


    Woods returns to competition for first time since February at Hero World Challenge

    Article: Hero comeback a success for healthy Woods

    Article: Woods discusses his back: 'No issues at all, none'

    Tiger Tracker: Woods finished T-9 in return to competition

    Chamblee: 'I was wrong' about some of my Woods skepticism

    Tiger, if you were hurting, would you tell us? 'Yeah, I'd tell you'


    Woods out and about in 2017

    Article: Video, images of Tiger's round with Trump

    Article: Woods posts photo as 'Mac Daddy Santa'

    Article: Tiger at U.S. Open sitting in Nadal's box

    Article: Shirtless Tiger holds up a massive lobster

    Getty Images

    Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

    By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 14, 2017, 12:30 pm
    Getty Images

    NBC Sports' Coverage of LPGA Tour in 2017 Most-Viewed Season Ever for NBC Sports

    By Golf Channel Public RelationsDecember 13, 2017, 8:45 pm

    NBC Sports’ LPGA Tour Coverage Ties 2013 for Most-Watched Year Since 2011

    NBC and Golf Channel Boast Top-6 Most-Watched Women’s Golf Telecasts in 2017

    Beginning with the dramatic playoff finish at the Pure Silk Bahamas LPGA Classic in January and concluding with Lexi Thompson winning the $1 million Race to the CME Globe, nearly 22 million viewers tuned in to LPGA Tour coverage across Golf Channel and NBC in 2017. This makes 2017 the most-viewed LPGA Tour season across NBC Sports since Golf Channel joined the NBC Sports Group in 2011. Additionally, 2017 tied 2013 as the LPGA Tour’s most-watched year across NBC Sports since 2011. Coverage drew an average of 221,000 viewers per telecast in 2017 (+24% vs. 2016), according to data released by The Nielsen Company.

    NBC SPORTS GROUP CLAIMS TOP-6 MOST-WATCHED WOMEN’S GOLF TELECASTS IN ‘17

    For the first time ever in televised women’s golf, Sunday’s final round of the RICOH Women’s British Open (Sunday, Aug. 6, 2017, 1.1 million viewers) delivered the most-watched and highest-rated women’s golf telecast of the year. NBC’s Saturday (Day 2) coverage of the Solheim Cup in August placed second with 968,000 viewers, followed by Sunday’s Solheim Cup coverage on NBC with 946,000 viewers. Golf Channel’s live coverage of Sunday’s final day of the Solheim Cup drew 795,000 viewers, the most-watched women’s golf event on cable in eight years.

    Rank

    Network

    Event

    Day

    Avg. Viewers P2+

    1

    NBC

    RICOH WOMEN'S BRITISH OPEN

    Sunday

    1,100,526

    2

    NBC

    SOLHEIM CUP

    Saturday

    968,202

    3

    NBC

    SOLHEIM CUP

    Sunday

    946,387

    4

    NBC

    KPMG WOMEN'S PGA CHAMPIONSHIP

    Sunday

    839,983

    5

    NBC

    RICOH WOMEN'S BRITISH OPEN

    Saturday

    808,578

    6

    GOLF

    SOLHEIM CUP

    Sunday

    795,000

    ADDITIONAL VIEWERSHIP MILESTONES FOR WOMEN’S GOLF IN 2017

    • ANA Inspiration - The LPGA’s first major championship delivered thefifth most-watched LPGA final round in Golf Channel history with 551,000 viewers when So Yeon Ryu defeated Lexi Thompson in a playoff following Thompson being assessed a four-stroke penalty earlier in the final round.
    • KPMG Women’s PGA Championship – The LPGA’s second major was seen by 6.6 million viewers across Golf Channel and NBC, the largest audience for the event on record (2006-17). Sunday’s final round on NBC, which saw Danielle Kang win her first LPGA Tour event over defending champion Brooke Henderson, also was the most-watched telecast in the event’s history with 840,000 average viewers.
    • RICOH Women’s British Open – NBC’s Sunday coverage of the RICOH Women’s British Open delivered the most-watched and highest-rated women’s golf telecast in 2017 (.78 U.S. HH rating, 1.1 million viewers). In total, 7 million unique viewers tuned in to coverage across Golf Channel and NBC, the most-watched RICOH Women’s British Open in the past 10 years and the most-watched among the five women’s major championships in 2017.
    • Solheim Cup – Seen by a total audience of 7.3 million viewers across Golf Channel and NBC, the Solheim Cup posted the largest total audience for women’s golf since the 2014 U.S. Women’s Open on ESPN/NBC. Golf Channel’s live coverage of the final day drew 795,000 average viewers, becoming the most-watched women’s golf telecast on cable in the last eight years, since the final day of the 2009 Solheim Cup.

    GOLF CHANNEL DIGITAL POSTS RECORD STREAMING CONSUMPTION

    Golf Channel Digital posted record numbers of LPGA streaming consumption with 11.9 million live minutes streamed across LPGA Tour telecasts in 2017 (+563% vs. 2016).

    • Solheim Cup – Three-day coverage of the Solheim Cup saw 6.3 million minutes streamed across NBC Sports’ Digital platforms, trailing only the 2016 Rio Olympics (9 million) as the most-ever for a women’s golf event airing on Golf Channel / NBC.
    • RICOH Women’s British Open – Four-day coverage of the RICOH Women’s British Open saw 2 million minutes streamed, +773% vs. 2016.

    NBC Sports Group combined to air 31 LPGA Tour events in 2017 and a total of 420 hours of coverage, the most in LPGA history. The exclusive cable home to the LPGA Tour, Golf Channel aired coverage of four of five women’s major championships in 2017, with three majors also airing on NBC: the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, RICOH Women’s British Open and The Evian Championship. The biennial Solheim Cup also returned to network television for the first time in 15 years with weekend coverage on NBC.

    Source: Nielsen 2017 Live+Same Day DVR vs. prior available data. Persons 2+ avg 000’s and/or Persons 2+ reach w/six-minute qualifier. Digital Metrics from Adobe Reports & Analytics. Details available.

    Hensby takes full responsibility for violation

    By Rex HoggardDecember 13, 2017, 5:28 pm

    The PGA Tour’s Anti-Doping Program manual covers 48 pages of details, from the pressing to the mundane, but for Mark Hensby the key section of the policy could be found on Page 5.

    “The collector may allow you to delay reporting to the testing area for unavoidable obligations; however, you will be monitored from the time of notification until completion of the sample collection process,” the policy reads. “A failure to report to the testing area by the required time is the same as a doping violation under the program.”

    Hensby, a 46-year-old former Tour winner from Australia, didn’t read that section, or any other part of the manual. In fact, he said he hasn’t received the circuit’s anti-doping manual in years. Not that he uses that as an excuse.

    To be clear, Hensby doesn’t blame his anti-doping plight on anyone else.

    “At the end of the day it’s my responsibility. I take full responsibility,” he told GolfChannel.com.

    Like Doug Barron, Scott Stallings and even Vijay Singh before him, Hensby ran afoul of the Tour’s anti-doping policy because, essentially, of a clerical error. There were no failed tests, no in-depth investigations, no seedy entourages who sent Hensby down a dark road of performance-enhancing drug use.

    Just a simple misunderstanding combined with bad timing.

    Hensby, who last played a full season on Tour in 2003, had just completed the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship when he was approached by a member of the Tour’s anti-doping testing staff. He was angry about his play and had just used the restroom on the 17th hole and, he admits, was in no mood to wait around to take the urine test.

    “Once I said, ‘Can I take it in the morning,’ [the Tour’s anti-doping official] said, ‘We can’t hold you here,’” Hensby recalled. “I just left.”

    Not one but two officials called Hensby that night to ask why he’d declined to take the test, and he said he was even advised to return to the Country Club of Jackson (Miss.) to take the test, which is curious because the policy doesn’t allow for such gaps between notification of a test and the actual testing.

    According to the policy, a player is considered in violation of the program if he leaves the presence of the doping control officers without providing the required sample.

    A Tour official declined to comment on the matter citing the circuit’s policy not to comment on doping violations beyond the initial disclosure.

    A week later, Hensby was informed he was in violation of the Tour’s policy and although he submitted a letter to the commissioner explaining the reasons for his failure to take the test he was told he would be suspended from playing in any Tour-sanctioned events (including events on the Web.com Tour) for a year.

    “I understand now what the consequences are, but you know I’ve been banned for a performance-enhancing drug violation, and I don’t take performance-enhancing drugs,” Hensby said.

    Hensby isn’t challenging his suspension nor did he have any interest in criticizing the Tour’s policy, instead his message two days after the circuit announced the suspension was focused on his fellow Tour members.

    “I think the players need to read that manual really, really well. There are things I wasn’t aware of and I think other players weren’t aware of either,” he said. “You have to read the manual.”

    It was a similar message Stallings offered following his 90-day suspension in 2015 after he turned himself in for using DHEA, an anabolic agent that is the precursor to testosterone production and banned by the Tour.

    “This whole thing was a unique situation that could have been dealt with differently, but I made a mistake and I owned up to it,” Stallings said at the time.

    Barron’s 2009 suspension, which was for a year, also could have been avoided after he tested positive for supplemental testosterone and a beta-blocker, both of which were prescribed by a doctor for what were by many accounts legitimate health issues.

    And Singh’s case, well that chapter is still pending in the New York Supreme Court, but the essential element of the Fijian’s violation was based on his admitted use of deer-antler spray, which contained a compound called IGF-1. Although IGF-1 is a banned substance, the World Anti-Doping Agency has ruled that the use of deer-antler spray is not a violation if an athlete doesn’t fail a drug test. Singh never failed a test.

    The Tour’s anti-doping history is littered with cases that could have been avoided, cases that should have been avoided. Despite the circuit’s best educational efforts, it’s been these relatively innocent violations that have defined the program.

    In retrospect, Hensby knows he should have taken the test. He said he had nothing to hide, but anger got the best of him.

    “To be honest, it would have been hard, the way I was feeling that day, I know I’m a hothead at times, but I would have probably stayed [had he known the consequences],” he admitted. “You’ve got to understand that if you have too much water you can’t get a test either and then you have to stay even longer.”

    Hensby said before his run in with the anti-doping small print he wasn’t sure what his professional future would be, but his suspension has given him perspective and a unique motivation.

    “I was talking to my wife last night, I have a little boy, it’s been a long month,” said Hensby after dropping his son, Caden, off at school. “I think I have a little more drive now and when I come back. I wasn’t going to play anymore, but when I do come back I am going to be motivated.”

    He’s also going to be informed when it comes to the Tour’s anti-doping policy, and he hopes his follow professionals take a similar interest.