All Annika Wants is More of Those Majors


OK, lets get to the bad news first. At the 1992 Womens Open, Annika Sorenstam shot an 80. Perhaps you didn't hear me. I said, she shot an 80!
That was the third round, incidentally. So was the 79 she shot in the 98 Open. No, she doesnt usually have trouble in the third rounds. Shes shot 65 or better eight times in the third round in her career. Last year at the McDonalds LPGA Classic, she shot 72 in the third round - the same McDonalds that is being contested this week.
And did I mention that her other three rounds were 70, 64 (yes, 64!) and 72 again? And that she beat Grace Park in a playoff?
Sorenstam, of course, is an athletic marvel. Shes what your neighbor Joyce could be if neighbor Joyce decided to concentrate solely on golf for 15 years and spent a couple of hours every day in the gym.
Sorenstam is so disarming because she looks a little like that neighbor Joyce. Shes not particularly big ' shes only 5-6, maybe 5-7 in her golf shoes. Her loose golf shirts conceal any hint of the tight muscular body that is the result of rigorous workouts. If you were to see her in the grocery store over by the yogurt, you would never guess she is, quite possibly, the greatest female athlete of her time.
She speaks in a subdued voice. She does nothing at all, wears nothing at all, that screams Im special! Shes just Annika. She does what she does in a most exceptional manner, then lets the sportwriters do all the praising. Self-praise is not what Annika is all about.
What Annika is about, though, is winning golf tournaments. And shes gotten very adept at it, particularly in the last three years. Shes won 20 times in her last 47 events ' almost a 1-in-2 average.
This week is a major. Sorenstam counts six majors among her 51 victories. Fifty-one is far and away better than any other active woman. The six, however, is not.
Karrie Webb also has six. She has 21 fewer victories over-all than Sorenstam, and the last three years her winning record hasnt been nearly the equal of Sorenstams. Se Ri Pak already has won four, and shes just 25 years old.
Annika had envisioned this, perhaps, as the year when she would win all four majors. In the first of the year, the Kraft Nabisco, alas, she finished 13th. And that has been the way the majors seemingly have gone for her whole career ' she wins all the other tournaments, but when it comes to the majors, Sorenstam has had problems getting over the hurdle.
What gives? Maybe its a case of feeling a little self-added pressure.
After I won the U.S. Open in 96, I won two Opens in a row (95 and 96), and I thought, Oh, I can do this, this is a piece of cake, Annika said.
And then I came out and I didnt win a major for five years because I tried too hard and I wanted it so badly. You know, I know how I react and how I swing when I felt that way, and thats kind of what happened at Nabisco and thats what happened at a few majors. It takes awhile for me to control it and change it.
After Sorenstam won the 96 Open, she then started a decline that would last for those five years before she would win another major. She would win 18 times before she again got a biggie, this time the Nabisco.
Last year, she seemed to again get the hang of how its done. She won this tournament, plus the Weetabix Womens British Open, getting two majors in a season for the first time in her 11-year career. Always, though, there was Webb, then there was Pak, there has always been Juli Inkster, and the first major this year there was Grace Park.
I always felt I had a challenge, says Annika. To find new goals and keep me motivated and keep on practicing, because Im getting to the point in my career where I feel very, very satisfied with what Ive achieved.
If you would have asked me 10, 11 years ago, if I would be happy (with 51) - I would say youre crazy, theres no way. But here I am. Theres a point where youre happy and Im getting there. Therefore, the majors is what I want. Yeah, when you get close on the money list, Player of the Year - I mean, I want to be the best, very close. Of course I look at that and that keeps me a little motivated. But its the majors I want to win.
She wants them so badly that she risked considerable criticism at the beginning of the year with her professed goal of winning all four majors in this calendar year ' a gargantuan task, incidentally. Thats everyones goal, by the way ' no one goes into a major with the professed goal of coming in 10th. But the normally reserved Annika came out and said it ' yes, her goal was to win all four.
It's a very lofty goal, I know that, she said before the Nabisco. I figure if I talk about it and feel I get more comfortable thinking about the thought - I know nobody else has done it, so it's a very lofty goal. But if you believe it in your mind, I believe I can do it. I'm going to take it a tournament at a time. (Its) a long ways to go, I love challenges and this is something that really keeps me motivated, something that makes me want to work harder.
She promptly tripped over her goal in the first major the year when she lost to Grace Park. But Sorenstam wasnt discouraged by the loss. Instead, she has poured all her concentration into winning the final three, including the McDonalds this week.
People say you're putting a lot of pressure on yourself, said Annika. I don't feel it this way - it's just me knowing what I want to do.
I don't know - this is what I'm like. Some people want to share their goals, some don't. This, to me - these are my goals on the golf course, and that's what I'm working hard towards achieving.
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