Whats Left for Annika to Accomplish

RSS

STOCKBRIDGE, Ga. -- Annika Sorenstam seems to be running out of goals.
 
She's in the Hall of Fame (twice, actually). She won 50 times on the LPGA Tour, including a career Grand Slam. She proved she can play with the guys.
 
Still, Sorenstam stays motivated. When her goal of winning a true Grand Slam fell by the wayside at the first major of the year, she simply adjusted her checklist.
 
'Now, I want to win the next three,' said Sorenstam, returning from a three-week break to play in the Chick-fil-A Charity Championship that begins Thursday.
 
This is how Sorenstam stays on top of her game, with no sign of being toppled from the throne.
 
'She reached a lot of goals last year,' said Nancy Lopez, who knows a thing or two about dominating golf. 'To remain the player she is, she has to keep setting goals. She's a goal-setter. That's the way I was. You have to have something to reach for.'
 
Sorenstam first claimed the No. 1 ranking in 1995 -- her second full year on the LPGA Tour -- and she hasn't fallen lower than fourth since then. She's finished on top the last three years, and is headed there again after winning three of her first four tournaments in 2004.
 
Her only setback was a 13th-place showing at the Kraft Nabisco Championship last month, which ruined her chances of claiming a Grand Slam in 2004.
 
So, in true Sorenstam fashion, there was a slight adjustment. She now seems more intent than ever on winning three majors in a year for the first time.
 
'I really want to win them all, but it didn't work out that way,' Sorenstam said. 'It doesn't make me upset, but it makes me practice harder and makes me really appreciate what it takes to win a major.'
 
Her focus leaves competitors in awe.
 
When supplanted by Karrie Webb -- the only other woman to finish No. 1 during the Annika Era -- Sorenstam stepped up her training regimen, improved her shotmaking and left everyone else playing for second.
 
'Her drive, her will to win,' marveled Cristie Kerr, who won the most recent LPGA event at Las Vegas -- with Sorenstam at home. 'She probably hates to lose more than anybody out here.'
 
Along the way, her personality started to emerge. Lopez noticed a change in Sorenstam after the Swede's historic appearance at the Colonial last May.
 
While Sorenstam didn't make the cut playing against men, she didn't embarrass herself, either. If anything, she seemed to thrive in the brightest spotlight of her career, revealing a lighthearted side to her personality that rarely came through before.
 
'She's not as shy as she used to be,' Lopez said Wednesday. 'The Colonial was the best thing that ever happened to her. She learned that she doesn't have to be so serious between every shot.'
 
That said, Sorenstam still seems a bit uncomfortable in her role as the standard-bearer of women's golf. She's the one who lures the fans, satisfies the sponsors, takes a tournament to another level by her mere presence.
 
'I don't know if I thrive on it,' Sorenstam said, 'but I do enjoy being recognized for what I've achieved on the golf course.'
 
There were plenty of achievements last year. In addition to becoming the first woman since 1945 to compete on the PGA Tour, she qualified for two Halls of Fame -- World Golf and LPGA -- and completed the career Grand Slam with a win at the Women's British Open.
 
Lopez, who took the LPGA to new heights in the late 1970s, has a sense for what Sorenstam is going through.
 
'Your time is not your own anymore,' Lopez said. 'You have to sacrifice yourself for the fans, for the press, for the tournaments. Everyone wants you to play in their tournament, but you can't play every week. Sponsors actually become angry when you don't play in their tournament.'
 
The outgoing Lopez never had any problem with all the attention. For Sorenstam -- stoic on the course and a bit shy away from it -- this process hasn't been entirely natural.
 
'I don't know if I'm the best person to be in the center for the LPGA,' she said. 'It's a tough role, but I figure if I can just be myself -- which is what I was at Colonial -- and people accept that, then I can handle it. It's sort of tough when people
expect other things from you. That's where I find it very, very hard.'
 
As Sorenstam walked away from the practice range Wednesday, she patiently met every autograph request and even posed for a picture, flipping up her glasses and smiling while flanked by two young fans.
 
'I stand for good golf and good sportsmanship and someone who loves what she does,' Sorenstam said. 'And if that's successful, then that's what I want.'
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Chick-fil-A Charity Classic
     
    Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.