You know, she was a good collegiate player (at the University of Arizona), starts Mallon, very diplomatically. Sorenstam, like Mallon, didnt qualify for the LPGA immediately, having to spend a year in Europe before she could make it in the U.S. I told her, Dont worry, you can make it as a conditional player, dont worry about it, youll get in tournaments.
What she is doing now, I never would have predicted that, but certainly I knew she would be a very good player out here.
Translation: Mallon had seen about a hundred rookies come ' and go ' in her career up to that point. Sorenstam had a pretty good college career, but she hadnt done it yet in the pros. Meg didnt know if Sorenstam would make a splash on the pro scene as she had in college. A nice person ' thats Mallon ' said all the right things (Dont worry, you can make it as conditional player.) But she never, ever suspected Annika would absolutely have the LPGA as a personal plaything.
She got a hint at the 1995 Open. Sorenstam was playing in her second season and, predictably, hadnt won yet. This was the year that Mallon should have won the Open, going into the final day with a two-stroke lead on the field. But Sorenstam timidly hung tough, poking her nose out front on 13, and despite two bogeys coming in (Ive never been that nervous, she said), outdistanced Mallon to the finish line.
Yeah, I was five shots ahead of her at the U.S. Open, and - it's a good memory, Mallon said at last weeks ADT Championship. I had a putt on the last hole to tie her, but Jerry Potter (of USA Today newspaper) said I'm the one that kick-started her career (Mallon missed the birdie try). So I guess I'll take credit for that. That's the one that sticks out in my mind.
Annika, of course, doesnt get nervous much anymore. She has become the epitome of the Little Golfer That Could, whacking tee balls on line and far off into the distance, striping irons right at the flagpole, outthinking opponent after opponent. Its enough to give the LPGA cause for a shudder or two.
Certainly, you know she's not going to make a mistake, said Mallon. That's why it's hard to play her. She minimizes her mistakes better than any player in golf - all of golf. She hardly makes a mistake. So that means that you need to go out and be mistake-free or make a ton of birdies.
You know she's going to bring her best, which is why she's No. 1, and you would have to go out and play really solid golf. She's had bad days sometimes, but you can't count on that. So your mindset would be to go out and be aggressive and make birdies, definitely.
Mallon has had plenty of time to view Sorenstam up close in their nine years together now on tour. And like all Annikas opponents, Mallon has come to realize that she has a front-row seat to a slice of history. Annika is different from any other hot-shot collegian ' in fact, different from any other pro.
You know, people go out and set goals to be No. 1, said Meg. She is, I think, gone beyond her expectations. It's pretty exciting to see in this era.
I've studied our history and know what Mickey Wright did and what Kathy Whitworth did, and those years where they won, 10,11, 13 times in a year, but they were playing against 20, 30 people. That's pretty impressive, what she's doing.
Sorenstam is impressive, indeed. What shes doing is making a career out of being nearly unstoppable.