Annika Back in Contention

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Theres one day left in the 2006 U.S. Womens Open, and for yet another womens major, the situation is the same as it has been for roughly 10 years ' that is, Annika Sorenstam is solidly in the thick of it.
 
Sorenstam shadow-boxed with the Newport Country Club Saturday and came out even-steven with the par number. She shot a 71, with two birdies and two bogeys. In case youre wondering, thats pretty solid golf considering the course is soggy, the ball hits the ground and stops, meaning the course is playing very long. Throw in a very healthy breeze blowing constantly, and you have a recipe ready-made for high scores.
 
Annika Sorenstam
Annika Sorenstam is in search of her 10th career major championship title.
Example: Annika has averaged 267 in driving distance throughout the year. However, the sloppy fairways this week have cut down on any roll and she has averaged almost 20 yards less ' 248.8.
 
This is a tough golf course, declared Sorenstam, especially with the conditions we have. I mean, we're getting no roll whatsoever; it's a really long golf course. The rough is thick, and the pins, I think, are quite tough. You just come here for the biggest challenge that we have throughout the year.
 
You really have got to drive it well, got to hit your long irons well and you've got to putt well and have a good short game. This is a true test, and all parts of the game have got to work for you to score. Par sometimes is a good (score), especially when we have wind like we did today. It's two to three clubs at times, and it's really a true test.
 
Sorenstam has hit a speed-bump on her run to the 88-win plateau set by Kathy Whitworth. Shes been stuck on 67 since the first tournament of the year, which she won. She has nine major championships over-all, but none this year. That sounds like a very harsh analysis of Annikas play this year. But, after all, she has set the bar very high, and so much more is expected of her than an average player.
 
Well, she said, its been a good run for a few years, so I think everybody pushes everybody. I think Im pretty good at setting some goals. I think Im pretty good at pushing myself and trying to reach levels.
 
If you look at the game today, womens golf is better than its ever been. Im thankful for the people that paved the way early on for me and showed me how its done. And Id like to say Im one of the ones thats done it for the next generation.
 
She let it be known, though, that she still thinks she can do plenty to keep the present generation aware that she can still play - really play.
 
I don't think I'm over the hill by any means. I feel like I have a lot more to give and achieve, and that's really what keeps me going, she said.

If you have somebody like Juli (Inkster), when I was around she probably was in the same situation as I am now. You see new generations of young players coming. I think it's really great to see how many young good players there are. It's how good the game is and how much women's golf is growing and how popular the LPGA is growing. I'm happy to be part of it and I'm competitive as ever; whether it's Paula Creamer or Juli Inkster standing with me on the last hole, I have a chance to win and I'll give it my best.
 
She faces a 36-hole final day Sunday, since heavy fog wiped out the entire first day Thursday. Sorenstam engages in a concentrated physical fitness program, ensuring that she can handle the rigors of a 36-hole tour of duty. Mentally, however, there is that taxing little problem of whether the mind can handle 10 hours of concentration.
 
For me, its going to be the mental part more than the physical part, said Annika. Its just can you stay focused for all those shots. If its windy, then you have to think so much more about the different shots. So I think that by late in the day well all be exhausted.
 
The physical aspects of it, though ' rather she is better able to handle a 36-hole day ' do not necessarily mean she is the favorite. Can Annika at 35 years of age be more physically fit than someone who is in her early 20s? She doesnt think about that ' but she DOES know that she is ready at last to win another major.
 
When I come out tomorrow (Sunday), Im going to feel like Im ready, she said.
 
I know that its not going to be something that I cant handle. I know that Im not going to have to worry about the physical part. All I have to worry about is hitting good shots, picking the right clubs and making some putts. Thats all Im going to worry about. The other part is just going to come and Ill be fine.
 
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Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - U.S. Women's Open
  • Full Coverage - U.S. Women's Open