But she has one thing that no one else among women professionals has ' the record. She shot a 59 in the second round of the Standard Register Ping tournament Friday at Phoenix. Her sister, Charlotta, who won the tournament last year, was a most interested spectator on every shot, playing in the same pairing as Annika.
While 59 has been shot a handful of times on the PGA Tour and Nike (now Buy.Com) Tour, its always been a mystery why 61 was the lowest score shot on the LPGA Tour. Most people thought a big hitter would do it, since so many of the LPGAs courses are set up relatively short. Fire away at those par-5s, throw in a birdie or two on a couple of short par-3s, then whittle away at enough par-4s to do the trick.
Annika Sorenstam does not rate as a big hitter on the womens tour - shes not short by any means, but shes certainly no gorilla. And save length, when she reached the magical number of 59 at Moon Valley Country Club in Phoenix, she used every other bit of skill entrusted to her.
Interesting, isnt it, that the men who fired 59s were no gorillas, either. David Duval certainly qualifies as long, but he isnt in that animal category yet. Neither were Al Geiberger or Chip Beck. Ditto for the Buy.Com gents, Doug Dunakey and Notah Begay.
Sorenstam started with eight straight birdies on Nos. 10 through 17 ' her front side. She let No. 18 get by with just a par ' how could she do such a thing? But then she was right back at it again with birdies on the first four holes of the front with sister Charlotta Sorenstam and Meg Mallon watching ' Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 4.
By then she had birdied 12 out of 13 holes. The clincher was at the final par 5, the eighth, her 17th. The shortest par-5 on the course at 476 yards, Annika put it right in the middle of the green in two big whacks. Her putt for eagle was agonizingly short by an inch, but she easily tapped in for the magical birdie.
Fifty-eight was very much within her reach as she drove it on 18. She had just 112 yards to the flag after her tee shot. Her caddy advised her to play a little right of the pin, a safe area of the green, but Sorenstam refused. She went right at the flag, and was rewarded with a shot 15 feet away.
Her birdie looked good all the way. But it turned ever so slightly right at the hole, leaving a short little tap for the 59.
Sorenstam has strung together some pretty impressive scores in the past. She tied the previous low score of 61, 11-under-par, in 1999 in the first round of the Sara Lee Classic. But never had she approached the magical 59.
She did it all Friday. Several times she made putts from 20 feet and beyond. Her driving was pure perfection, and she was a precise machine with her irons. Along the way she also set a record for the low 36 holes on the LPGA, 20-under-par.
Her strong suit has for a long time been accuracy with the irons. Since 1996, she has always been around the top in greens hit in regulation. In `96, she was second; 1997, third; 98, first; 99, second; 2000, first again; this year, entering this tournament, she was second.
Her accuracy off the tee is almost as good. The last five years she has been no worse than 17th in driving accuracy. This year she was 12th as the Phoenix tournament began.
Sorenstams only downfall is her putter, which can go cold at times. She was among the best until a couple of years ago, when she began missing an occasional three-footer, last year dropping to 122nd on the putting charts. That primarily is the reason she was surpassed by Karrie Webb as the top player in the game.
A 59, though, is the absolute, that one special day when everything goes right, when every club feels like a feather, when every hole you aim at looks like a washtub. Annika Sorenstam had such a day Friday.
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