88 a Definite Possibility Now

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Oh, Annika! She won early this year (six of her first eight), and late this year (two of her last three). She won by big margins (eight shots at Kraft Nabisco, 10 shots at Chick-Fil-A, eight at Samsung) and close margins (one at the John Q. Hammons). She won by coming from hopelessly behind (four down with three to go in the Safeway), she won half the majors, she won all seven times when she had the lead going into the final day.
 
But mostly, she just kept on winning. And when it was finally over Sunday at the ADT Championship, you total them up and it was the second best season of her career ' 10 wins in 20 attempts, 11 if you count a win in her native Sweden.
 
It gives her a career record of 66 wins, 22 behind Kathy Whitworths record of 88. But more importantly, this is where Annika enters uncharted territory for the LPGA.
 
Sorenstam just completed her 12th season. Whitworths last big-win season came in her 12th year. So did Mickey Wright, who stands second with 82 victories. Whitworth had 73 wins after her 12th, though she played on and actually won the final time when she was 56 years of age. Wright had 80 wins at 12 years, but shut it down abruptly and only won twice more.
 
Annika Sorenstam
Annika Sorenstam is just 22 wins shy of matching Kathy Whitworth's magic number of 88 career wins.
Both Whitworth and Wright suffered near-breakdowns in their 12th year because of the tremendous pressure put on them to continually play. Not Annika, though. She is seemingly at peace with herself, fortified by a steely disposition and, at age 35, looking ahead to many more years of fulltime play.
 
I mean, I am working as hard in the gym as ever, said Sorenstam, and I feel as strong as ever. And - knock on the wood - I haven't had any injuries.
 
I think most of it, I have learned so much the last few years. I think I've learned how to control my temper. I still get a little upset at times, but I'm better at converting it. I don't throw away shots as much as I used to. So I guess in a way, I matured a little bit and putting things in the right perspective when I'm out there
 
Actually, although Sorenstam now has 66 LPGA victories after 12 years, she has 13 more wins around the world ' mostly in Europe. That would give her 79 if all were to count ' nearly even with Wright and six ahead of Whitworth. Whitworth had no other medal-play wins and Wright had only a couple. The womens European tour wasnt formed yet.
 
Thats not to belittle Wright and Whitworth in the least ' their victory totals are indeed awesome. But it does show the enormity of Annikas win record, were she given credit for all she has accomplished.
 
Still, though, 88 wins is difficult for even Sorenstam to imagine. She tends to shy from any comparisons of her vs. Kathy, knowing the deficit is still imposing indeed.
 
Again, it's just so much, she says. But then again, I'm on my way.
 
You know, I started great; I finished great this season; I'm going to come out next year and see what happens.
 
She says her only goal is to win all four majors in one season. She presently has nine, including the Kraft Nabisco and the McDonalds this year. Sorenstam is still six behind Patty Berg, who has 15.
 
Twenty-two wins, when you think about it, still seems so far away, especially when you are already 35. A Hall-of-Famer such as Donna Caponi only had 24 her entire career, Judy Rankin 26. Laura Davies has only 20, Meg Mallon 18.
 
Previously, 22 more would have been out of the question. Now, though, it is definitely out there on the horizon. Her marriage ended last year, scuttling her talk of impending retirement to start a family. Annika has won 24 times in the last three years alone, compiling six in 2003 and eight in 2004 in addition to 10 this year.
 
Can she continue on the torrid streak for another 3-4 years? Well, this year was the second-best campaign of her career, following 2002 (when she was 32) when she won 11 times. On the other hand, more good young American talent is coming up through the ranks, and the South Koreans are beginning to emerge. Sorenstam will face that competition.
 
The entire world, though, has tremendous respect for Annika. Sorenstam wants to be remembered as a person who loved what she does and who is admired as a good person, more than she hopes to be remembered as a person who won many tournaments. And, she feels like she has succeeded.
 
Yes, I think I have, yes, Annika said. No, I do. I mean to me, I guess you can only alter your goals so many times, and I have done that. There is no doubt.

But I've also felt like the goals have to come from within. 88 wins is something that is out here and it's just, I've just never felt like that was reachable, and I guess that's why I'm saying or I'm not so driven to get there. It has not been a natural goal of mine.
 
So she has achieved her real goal. Her secondary goals are still out there ' both the four-majors-in-one-year and the 88 wins.
 
Can she do it? Well . why not?
 
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