There ' right away I got a few of you. Tiger Woods may seem like the only one alive who actually does this for a living, but Im here to tell you that women do play golf. And Im not going too quickly, I hope, but Sorenstam is using this season to set some awfully impressive records.
She just won for the fourth straight time the past weekend, coming from so far behind that she wasnt even a speck in the rear-view mirror. Going into the final day of The Office Depot, she was out of it completely, 10 strokes behind. Yes, thats 10 - one and zero. And zero was about what her chances were.
So Annika went out for the final round and was sailing along until she came to the 17th, a 410-yard par 4. She hit a driver and a 7-iron ' and went over the green. Great shades of John Daly! It really was true, and when she bogeyed, she wasnt even a speck anymore.
The last hole is a rarity, a par-3. But she hit the wayward 7-iron again, covering 155 yards, and the ball died 12 feet away. She gritted her teeth and stroked home the putt, and once again became a blip large enough to cause a little concern. The leaders were five groups behind and still had a comfortable lead, but Sorenstam had at least given herself a one-in-a-million chance. No one had ever done it before, come all the way from 10 back to win, but you never know what will happen on a golf course.
After the round, she took care of her media obligations. She sat down for lunch. Then she glanced at the TV. She noticed that leader Pat Hurst was having a rough day. In fact, Sorenstam was now only one shot out of the lead.
Hmmm, something fishy might be going on here. Better forget the rolls and salad, Annika figured, and get back out there on the putting green. You never know what can happen. She left half her lunch and began playing the hunch.
I started putting and getting loose again, she said, hoping that the unthinkable would happen.
Then, they told me to get on the tee.
The person opposing her in the playoff wasnt even Hurst. It was Mi Hyun Kim, who had been in an even more unbelievable position ' 11 shots behind when the day began. Her final-round 65 and Sorenstams 66 were the playoff numbers. And Sorenstam won on the first playoff hole with a par when Kim airmailed the green and couldnt get up-and-down.
I asked for a miracle, said Annika, and it came.
Sorenstam, we thought, had already messed with the history books enough for one year. Good Lord, her 59 was a once-in-a-lifetime thrill! That came three weeks ago, when this four-tournament excellence was still in its second week. That day she set six LPGA records. The following week, she won the LPGAs first major ' the Nabisco Championship ' for win No. 3. Last week came the fourth win in four weeks. And this week she will try to set an LPGA record ' five wins in five consecutive weeks.
Its got to be destiny, she said. I mean, for anyone to come from 10 shots down to win ' and to think that was me. Its unbelievable.
Yes, it is. And to add just a little more of the unreal, this is not a good time to be doing anything in golf if youre name isnt Tiger Woods. This is Tigers time. Tiger has four straight majors and counting. He not only may be the best golfer of all time, but the best athlete. Corporations fall prostrate at his feet, showering dollar bills to prove their worthiness. There isnt time - or newspaper space - for anyone except Tiger in the sport of golf.
And to complicate things for Sorenstam, youve got a Swedish citizen here playing the game with a decidedly reserved personality ' not exactly the ticket for overwhelming success. Sorenstam, with four wins and two seconds in her six tournaments of 2001, has made just a smidgeon over $775,000. Woods, by the way, made about $250,000 more than that, a little over $1 million, with just one victory, the Masters.
Actually, the LPGA hasnt had a superhero since Nancy Knight, nee Nancy Lopez. Why her? Well, for one thing, she was good. Very good. Numbers two, three and four were all the reasons the LPGA prefers its women not be known for ' all regarding sex appeal. It didnt matter that Lopez didnt necessarily encourage it. She had a bubbly personality and she wasnt terribly difficult to glance at, which was all it took for the male species to embrace her as their hero.
Sorenstam would be a hero today if more women were sports fans. Unfortunately most arent, and men are most impressed by someone who wins mens sports. Couple that with the fact that Annika is married ' Lopez was single when she was setting all the records. And Sorenstam seldom is seen on a Wheaties box or hawking new Buicks. What you have, lords and ladies, is a regular old-fashioned Who-Dat?
Sorenstam, it seems, is just Sorenstam. Hopefully, that is good enough. She wont be an icon for womens sports, wont even be an icon for golf the 20 more years that Tiger is around. She is, after all, just Annika. If that isnt good enough to win admiring glances, it surely is good enough to win on the LPGA.
Share your thoughts on Annika and the LPGA here.